Once Halloween has gone, it’s a free pass for the internet to start advertising holiday gift guides and black Friday sales. Honestly, sometimes I get a little gift fatigue before the Thanksgiving turkey is slid into the oven.

A few years ago I realized that there wasn’t really much that I wanted for Christmas. I was renting an apartment, had a planned move on the horizon, and felt like I had more stuff than I needed. Not only did I not want presents, but the idea of shopping and wrapping just didn’t feel like how I wanted to spend my limited time off from my job. I decided to embrace a different type of holiday: a minimalist-ish Christmas.

I didn’t set out to shun gifts that year, but at that moment the hours I spent shopping and wrapping were taking away from the hours spent enjoying time with friends and family.

I decided to take an alternative approach to gift giving that year and haven’t looked back since. My minimalist-ish Christmas Not only did I spend more time doing things with people I love, I saved some money (which was an unintended, yet welcome, result).

My minimalist(ish) Christmas evolves each year – some years we travel and enjoy big experiences. Other years we keep things mellow and relax with family nearby. But the one thing that hasn’t changed each year? The focus on mindfulness and intention with my money and my time has made me enjoy the holidays even more.

If you love buying and giving gifts, don’t feel like you need to stop cold-turkey. But by adding in a little more mindfulness and a dash of creativity, you may find that some pieces of a minimalist Christmas (or holiday) make the festive season feel that much more bright.

Here are some ideas to add a little more mindfulness, and minimalist(ish)ness into your holidays:

Have the conversation beforehand:

Before embarking on a mindful and minimal Christmas, I wanted to get everyone else on board. Who wants to be considered the cheap person that shows up empty handed (when that’s not the intention at all).

I suggested the idea to my husband Jordan, and he was immediately on board. When I broached the topic with my mom and sister, I came armed with activities and ideas that we could do together that would still make the holidays feel festive. Again, little to no arm twisting had to happen to make them open to trying this new approach.

But the conversation with my Dad? It didn’t fly. He’s a little nostalgic and views Christmas as a time for opening presents under the tree. Rather than force my new experiment on him we compromised. We agreed to just exchange a couple of small wrappable things and then have one of our “presents” be an activity we did together.

Having the conversation beforehand lets you set expectations for your friends and family and also gives them the chance to add their ideas to the mix.

Schedule meaningful activities before the holiday:

Since my shopping and wrapping was reduced to practically zero, I decided to use that extra time and money to plan those fun activities that I always want to do but never seem to have time for. Some things that I scheduled in for the week leading up to Christmas included:

  • An ice-skating date with my sister
  • Jordan and I getting hot chocolate and looking at Christmas lights
  • A festive tea with my Mom
  • A cookie baking bonanza where everyone brought their favorite recipe and we baked dozens of treats
  • Wreath Making, which proved my creative skills are practically nil



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Make the day-of meaningful:

My holidays don’t include church, which can be a great place to make the day meaningful and special. Since the present swapping wouldn’t really be happening, I didn’t want the day to feel empty. Some extra planning in advance (which I had time for!) made the day even more special than it usually is.

Here are some of the things we added in to make up for the lack of gifts being opened:

  • A festive brunch that everyone cooks
  • A marathon of movies with a warm fire
  • A long walk, hike, or activity outside (weather permitting)
  • Yahtzee and other board games with hot chocolate
  • Baking (can you ever have enough cookies & cakes?)

Focus on the little things:

Sometimes going completely present-free isn’t really an option. But I honestly feel it’s the little things that make the day big – including presents. If you’re focused on fewer, better gifts, try stuffing a cute stocking with exciting little gifts. I always love more beauty goodies like nail polish and face masks or an amazing 2018 planner.

Or do like the royals do and give a cheap and cheesy bobble or a homemade gift. Kate Middleton reportedly gave homemade jam to the royal family. If it’s good enough for a princess…

And if you’re a guest at a holiday dinner or party, the best hostess gifts aren’t necessarily the ones with the biggest price tag. If I’m going for dinner I usually bring a breakfast basket for the hosts to enjoy the next morning, complete with some pastries, fruit, and juice. A friend once brought homemade biscotti that was wrapped in butcher paper with a bow. And I’ve seen baguettes and jam wrapped in a linen dishcloth given at another party.

Do you do a minimalist(ish) holiday? What’s your strategy for making sure it’s still special?

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash


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