Now before I start, I need to address what I mean by ‘crap’. Of course, any gift that anyone chooses to give should never really be deemed ‘crap’ – it’s the thought that counts, after all. But in the consumer-obsessed world we live in today, I believe there is a responsibility on us as both gift givers and receivers to reduce the amount we consume unnecessarily.
If you’re taking a more minimal approach to purchasing, you might have already become more of a conscious gift giver, gifting items with purpose rather than hoofing another spiced-vanilla-scented gift set from the shelves of a department store that provides no real usage value.
But no matter how purposefully you gift, you can end up over-consuming things you don’t need as a receiver. So, how did I survive Christmas without receiving one single gift I won’t use?
It’s simple – when people asked me what I wanted, I told them.
It’s often seen as greedy or selfish to respond to the question, ‘what do you want for Christmas/ your birthday?’ with anything but a candidly rehearsed chorus of ‘oh you don’t have to get me anything!’.
It’s all very well and it’s all very modest, but it does little to help the gift giver. In fact, it’s pretty much a licence for them to give you whatever the hell they like – you’re basically rolling the dice on getting a gift that has any place in your life whatsoever. Seriously, Auntie Margaret is halfway to the cross stitch emporium by this point.
And it’s not just you who suffers if your gift is misaligned with who you are as a person. The gift giver wastes their hard-earned money and probably feels plagued with worry about what to get – and spends far too long analysing whether your slightly-too-gleeful reaction was genuine or not. What’s more, demand has been created for something that the buyer and receiver do not want. Then, it sits collecting dust for as long as the receiver can suppress the guilt of wanting to chuck it out, it eventually gets taken to the charity shop or thrown in the bin – and thus ends another cycle of needless consumption.
So this year, I had a list, and I told people about it. A lot.
I’m an only child, so I’m often tarnished with the ‘selfish and spoiled’ brush, which didn’t make my decision to loudly express what I did and didn’t want any easier. I’m pretty used to it. It’s kind of part of the package, but hey, I never shared a bedroom and I never had to wear a soiled school blazer passed down by an older sibling, so you know, swings and roundabouts.
My Mum is the queen of handy little knick-knacks, so I didn’t really have to guide her much on getting things that have a purpose in my life. She’s never been one to take a swing at a top I’ll probably hate, and I’ve always appreciated that. She’s much more likely to get me pegs, or a food flask, or oddly shaped storage boxes for snacks – and this year she delivered with avocado-shaped containers stacked into each other like Russian dolls. On ya, Mum.
When it came to my partner’s parents, I decided to do much more guiding. They generously fill a sack of presents for me in the same way they do for their own 3 children, which is overwhelmingly generous and yes, it took me a while to grow a pair of balls big enough to deliver a Christmas list. It always felt wrong, and I honestly did mean it when I tried to say please don’t get me anything. But they’re a gift-giving family, and so I participate. I buy for them and they buy for me. And this year, I made a list. A long one, long enough for ideas to be passed on to other family members also seeking guidance on what the hell to get a 27 year old woman with an uncharacteristically strong obsession with the BeeGees.
On that list were things of all values and purposes – all things that I would definitely use. The key to having a crap-free Christmas is to be specific.
I didn’t simply say homewares. Doing so could see you fall victim to receiving a candle with a scent akin to cat urine. Or a yellow cushion cover when your colour scheme is quite clearly navy and white. Don’t simply say ‘moisturiser’ unless you really don’t care what moisturiser you get. If you’re not sure which one you want, research and find some you’d be happy to receive.
Writing a Crap-Free Christmas List
Creating a crap-free Christmas list takes time and effort. The easiest way to start is by compiling it throughout the year. Start by adding anything you’ve seen that you like enough to have considered buying for yourself. Maybe it’s a white shirt for work, or maybe there’s a new perfume out that you can’t quite justify your wages on. Writing these things down as you see them helps with recall. Chances are if you sniffed the new Chloé perfume in August, you’ll have forgotten by the time Christmas rolls around. Keep an up-to-date wishlist at all times.
Then, closer to Christmas when the requests for gift ideas are due to start rolling in, look at your everyday essentials. See what you’re running out of, and identify anything you’d like to see in your collection but haven’t got around to buying.
This year I needed mascara, and I passionately hate waterproof mascaras, so on the list it went – non-waterproof mascara. I wasn’t fussed on brand, but I was fussed on the waterproof thing, so all that detail went on the list. I needed a new moisturiser, and fancied an Aesop one, and I needed fake tan and dry shampoo, so those little stocking-stuffer-worthy bits went on the list too.
The next layer is fancy versions of everyday essentials. I talked about these in my Minimalist’s Guide to Christmas Gifting, and I popped some of these on my list, too. Boring things that you use everyday like toothpaste, dish soap, air freshener, face washers, sponges, garlic crushers, chopping boards – could any of your essentials use an upgrade?
Have a peek at some luxury upgrades to some of your most-used essentials, and maybe, if you’re the right side of 25 (read: the older side), a fancy $15 bottle of washing up liquid from William Sonoma might just get your heart fluttering in the same way a Baby Choo-Choo would have done back in 1996.
My list this year included a rice cooker, Bondi Sands gradual tan, non-waterproof mascara, dry shampoo, William Sonoma cleaning products, a navy linen shirt, face masks, an iron, Aesop moisturiser, a waterproof Rains backpack, and gin. Yep, gin.
So here I am, on December 29th, with nothing glaring at me from the corner of the room breaking me into a cold sweat about where the hell I’m going to put it or when the hell I can wear it and pretend I don’t hate it. Not one single item came home with me on Christmas day without a place in my life.
Some might say that this mentality ruins the spirit of Christmas, and if that’s how you feel, then take what I say with a grain of salt. This is my personal experience, and how I’m choosing to reduce my unnecessary consumption. It’s just what works for me – please do what works for you and enjoy the festive season of giving in any way you wish.