Every year, I dread December.
Not only because of the dangerous summer heat and subsequent bushfire season that passes through Australia every summer, but because of Christmas. For many, this time of the year is magical, but for me - Christmas brings anxiety. It's like the anti-minimalist holiday.
As time goes by, the importance of minimalism in my life has grown exponentially from a concept that reduces stress and increases the quality of my life, to a guiding principle that determines almost all outcomes of all of the things that I do on a daily basis. Every year, Christmas shakes this up and forces me to 'play the game'.
It's incredibly difficult to tell people not to give you things, and if you don't give things to other people, you're scowled at by a society that expects you to spend and give. We only need to look at the lines at return counters in the days proceeding the holiday period where we can see that not only that people don't want the things that are given to them - but the givers don't understand the needs of their loved ones in the first place.
Shouldn't this be a warning sign that perhaps you don't understand your loved ones as much as you thought you did if they're returning your hard-thought gift?
I think this best highlights my problem with this time of the year as well as what's wrong with the message that this time of year brings. Our expectations should not be reduced to what we buy - it should be what we do.
Ask the person you want to give to what it is that they would like - and if they're unsure, arrange a more intimate experience with them. Go out to dinner, have a drink in a nice bar with great scenery. Do this for two reasons: You can get to know your loved ones at a much deeper level, and more than likely if you feel the urge to buy them something down the track you will have a much clearer understanding of what it is that they'll get some use out of! The last thing you want to do is send your loved one to the returns counter.
I guess I can be grateful for this season as it reinforces my appreciation for the minimalist lifestyle I have - living with less brings more joy than any gift could. And the only gift I could ever want is the love and joy that the most important people in my life around me bring.
Especially over a few drinks in the warmer weather.