It’s the time of year again when you know Christmas is only a few weeks away and you realize you have no idea what you’re giving. You did funny socks last year, or cases of wine or tickets to a concert or whatever else. But this year, your mind is blank.
Or maybe you don’t really like the way Christmas has turned out to be more about who gets the best or the most presents, instead of about spending time with the people you love.
For me it’s always a challenge to try to find a gift that people will like, that they can use (yes, I actually buy or make presents that are useful!), that will not make me go bankrupt and that I can more or less defend as being not too bad for the environment. I have an issue with presents that seem nice or funny, yet get thrown out as soon as the holiday season is over. Because really, who is actually going to wear a pink and yellow striped tie?
So here are 5 ways of doing it differently
Nothing says ‘I love you’ in quite the same way as a pair of pyjama’s you spent nights sewing, scarfs you knitted, or as cookies you baked in people’s favourite flavours.
Making a present used to be ‘not done’. At least, I remember when a good gift was a store bought gift, preferably quite expensive, because if you made something yourself you risked ‘looking poor’. Thankfully, those days are over. In our consumer society more and people choose to do things differently. And DIY is supertrendy!
So what can you make?
2. Give an experience or an education, not a ‘thing’
This is of course an excellent way to surprise people. Do you know someone who always wanted to do a pottery class? Your dad wants to learn how to paint? Your sister would like to learn French? Your brother loves music, but he’s too young to go to concerts by himself? Your mother loves opera, but she never thought of buying tickets?
The thing with an education or an experience, is that it lasts a lifetime. It doesn’t get more sustainable than that.
3. Give your time
Everyone has talents. Everyone has a particular set of skills that he or she can help others with. Do you know anyone who’s in bad health and could use some help in the garden? Maybe your grandmother has trouble reading now that she’s getting older, make the time to read her a book. There are so many ways we can do something for someone else. These things don’t cost money, they cost time.
These days, it seems that the truly rich person is not the one with the most money, but the one with enough time to enjoy life. How many times have you cancelled an outing, a visit to family or dinner with friends because you didn’t have time? This holiday season, buy yourself a personal calendar and plan. And make time.
4. Shop local
If you’re not much of a DIY-er and you have to buy something, shop local. Don’t be anonymous and shop with the masses. Most of the products you buy at shopping malls or big stores are produced and sold all over the world. There is nothing original, nor sustainable about buying something that has to travel all around the world to get to you and costs the planet more than it costs you.
So shop local. Look for local, small shops, the ones that really need you as a customer, that support their communities and take care of their products and the environment. Shop with love, go local.
5. Shop quality, not quantity
I guess this is closely linked with shopping locally. It always surprises me to see every year just how many things people buy. It’s not enough to buy just one good present, it’s become a sport to buy as many things as possible. And because we can’t spend as much on every gift, we tend to buy cheap things, just to be able to give more.
What if you would change that? Take all those different, smaller gifts, and buy one good present. Why not see if you and your siblings can buy one good present for your parents? Instead of each of you trying to look for something they would like, put your resources together and buy your parents a weekend get-away or something else they have wanted for years.
Less is more. The only way to be truly sustainable, is to buy less, and that means focussing on quality.
I hope I gave you some good ideas! If you have any more suggestions, let me know!