Experiences Over Gifts And Slowing Down: Our Christmas This Year
Let me begin today with a little confession: for those of you who don’t know me personally, I am a planner. And what I mean by that is I AM A PLANNER - like down to the very last second of every day type person. Trust me, I know how annoying this is because there are so may times (much more recently) that I get annoyed with my own self with the hustle and bustle of it all, it truly takes the joy out of so many things. Well, as luck would have it, I was finally fed up with it all around this time last month so I made a promise to my husband and to myself that I would start to slow down, beginning with the holiday season. At first I thought I was setting myself up for failure because, let’s be honest, the holiday season is not the time to “slow down”. But I have backed out of commitments, spent less time on social media and more time with my family, traded sending out holiday cards for calling friends and catching up over the phone, and spent less on gifts and more on family experiences together. And my friends, it has been beautiful so far so I am sharing in hopes that any of you feeling a little burnt out on this season can gather some tips (no matter how small), on how to slow it all down. And just writing this I am laughing to myself because here I am, trying to give out advice on how to slow down, and well it’s kind of comical (my husband is DEFINITELY laughing right now)! But let me say, I am getting quite addicted to this way of living so for what it’s worth, here is our season in a nutshell.
In years past I have hosted things at our home over the holidays, planned outings for family and friends, and quite frankly over scheduled our holidays. This year, in part to the fact that we are sharing a home with my in laws and we are still meeting new friends, it made it a bit easier to lessen the amount of social gatherings I felt the need to plan and prepare for. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about hosting and having friends and family over for a good time (and we will still be hosting a cookie exchange at our home), but when it begins to lose the fun because of all the preparations and details… this is when it becomes a problem I am seeing. We recently met up with some friends for a quick weekend trip (more about this in a bit), and in the spirit of simplicity that I described above, I took this as the opportunity to “host my friends”. They came to our hotel room, I had simple breakfast options, decorations, and of course mimosas and we all had a fabulous time. No mess to clean up (well minimal at least), no real preparations, just fun + memories.
As we head to Kansas City next week I am certainly getting all sorts of anxiety to be able to meet up with and spend time with so many of our loved ones. Yes, we are going to make every effort to see as many people as we can, but at the end of the day we are choosing to simplify as much as possible so that we don’t feel rushed and so that we can actually spend some quality time with people as opposed to hurrying from place to place. Also, letting go of the guilt of not being able to do it ALL has been huge. We are very family and friend oriented people and this is the time of year that we truly enjoy, but again, simplifying the gatherings themselves and the number of them has really led to much more meaningful times shared.
And holiday cards were given the nix this year. I do love holiday cards and enjoy receiving everyone’s but this year with our move and my recent motivation to slow down I just didn’t want another to do on my list. What I really want to begin doing is sending out more of a newsletter than a simple photo card, with us being so far away from family and friends now I want to be able to give more of an update on our lives and all the nitty gritty that a simple, perfect family photo can’t convey (let’s face it, there is always SOOOO much more going on behind those perfect photos!). So, maybe next year I will get to that, but for now we will forgo the cards and instead I am calling all my close friends and family to have a phone chat with them which I think is even better!
Experiences Over Gifts
Growing up with four kids, we didn’t have a ton of money in our family, but by golly my parents made sure to absolutely fill underneath the Christmas tree every single year. I have so many fond memories of Christmas Day growing up and of all the gifts we received. When Arshia and I had kids of our own (and even before that, basically since we finished dental school), we set out to build the same kind of Christmas morning experiences for our family and our girls and presents were spilling out from every nook and cranny under the tree. But the more I thought about it, there was one BIG difference between my childhood and life 30 years ago and the life that my family and I lead now. We are lucky enough to not be without the things we want and need, if Arshia or I want something we will buy it (within reason of course), and if our girls want or need something they will usually get it (spoiled within reason I call it). The same goes for our parents and siblings, we all no longer need Christmas Day to get something new - and that I am realizing is truly a gift in itself, and a wonderful one at that.
So, I have not turned anti-presents by any means, but we are definitely pulling in the reigns on gift giving this year. We are doing a few gifts for our parents of course, we drew names amongst our siblings so we each buy one person a gift + a few other small gifts for family members. That decision alone cut out a lot of unnecessary stress, cost, and time from the season. I always spent way too much time looking for that “perfect gift” for someone, only to have to make a last minute decision that usually I wasn’t happy with and not even sure the recipient liked. The gifts we have chosen this year have been simple yet thoughtful and they were all purchased before December even began so that is a win in and of itself!
For the girls we have chosen to be more “experiences over gifts” oriented in all our celebrations this past year and I think we will continue this moving forward. For their birthday we got Disney annual passes (the gift that keeps on giving LOL), and for Christmas their big gift was going on that weekend trip that I mentioned above to Scottsdale Arizona to see their besties. It was so sweet, these girls went to the same school and dance class together back in Kansas City and were always such good friends, so when the moms decided on our recent mom’s weekend away that we should get the girls together for a trip I was all on board! We stayed at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess which is a dreamy place over the holidays. They have the “Christmas at the Princess” where they have lots of rides and attractions throughout the property that really bring the magic of Christmas to the kiddos. We had an absolute blast and I am confident that the girls will remember this trip for quite some time to come!
Now, we are going to be doing traditional presents as well but just a few and within a much stricter budget than years past. From Arshia and I the girls will receive four gifts that fit into the Minimalist Christmas categories: Something They Want, Something They Need, Something To Wear, and Something To Read. We kept to total of these gifts to about $60 per girl (although I diligently shopped the Black Friday deals online and got some awesome prices to be able to stay within budget). Here were our choices for those gifts (and while some of the following links are affiliate links, this is not the true point of this posting- I just always try and make a small sum for my time spent on these blog posts so I always throw them in and I truly appreciate your support!):
Want: Bubbleezz squishy ball
Need: Hanna Andersson undies
Wear: Taylor Joelle dress (the girls absolute favorite dresses)
We then budgeted about $35 a piece for stocking stuffers (again, shopping the sales helped tremendously with staying on budget). I have always been ALL about the stocking goodies because it’s so fun to see what’s in there, it always seems like the gifts don’t end, so I always allow enough budget to stock the stocking! Here is what the girls will be receiving in theirs:
Zozu Baby headbands (sold out of the one we bought, black and white polka dot)
Then of course Santa has to bring a few things right!? As I am typing this all out I am beginning to think I am not a minimalist at all LOL! But trust me, this is so much less than we used to do!
So this year I happened to be shopping at Target (of course!) after Halloween and saw all of their costumes were at 90% off and an idea was instantly born! The girls love playing dress up but all of their things are shoved in a box and a basket sits on top of the box so they don’t play with them as often as they would like since it is hard to access ( we had to make a lot of space compromise with our move to California!). Well I decided that I wanted them to have a true dress up area for Christmas (and since they still are wishy washy about what they want to ask Santa for I took this as an opportunity to gift them what I want to LOL)!
So, with a budget of $100 total I got 4 costumes, two wigs, and a dress up vanity. I was looking for the vanity for a while and toyed with the idea of building one because I wanted shelves and cubbies, and then I just happened to stumble across the perfect one on Amazon. Amazon Prime always wins! For the costumes and wigs I was able to get a Jasmine, Elsa, Moana, and Ice Queen (I’m telling the girls its another Elsa costume) plus an Ariel and Poppy wig all for $13 (I love you Target)! The vanity was $80 (on sale on Amazon for Cyber Monday) so that meant Santa could also bring some colored pencils for the girls!
Dress Up Vanity (the exact one we bought is sold out but a similar one is linked here)
Now, as I sit and type this, it is December 10 and all I have left on my holiday To Do List is to call a few more friends, bake some cookies (and help my MIL clean and host the cookie exchange on Sunday), and pack for our trip home. Presents are all bought and wrapped and all that’s left is to enjoy the season! Wishing you all a very merry, happy, and meaningful holiday season - and if it’s our intention to slow down this season I truly hope that stillness finds you!