simple, intentional giving

Christmas.  It's over and January is in full swing.  It feels great, doesn't it?!?  I love Christmas; it's one of my favorite times of the year, but when January arrives, I'm always so very ready.  I love the quiet, calm of January.  It's a great time to organize, purge, rest, and recoup.  It's a lovely month of solitude and reset, and a fabulous way to start the new year, if you ask me.  

And while January is here and we're actually nearing the end, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of my favorite giving moments of the holiday season.  The holidays can be so full of family and generosity, but they can also so easily be consumed by commercialism, consumption, and leave us with a feeling of needing to buy and spend more, more, and more.  As you can probably guess, if you've read even a little of my writing, that side of Christmas is not my cup of tea.  I love giving gifts, but I hate so much of what goes along with that.  Setting foot in a mall with a list in hand is nauseating to me.  I think malls should be reserved for leisurely window shopping with a best friend, coffee in hand, and babies in strollers...not for frantic Christmas shopping and navigating crowds of other desperate and rushed shoppers.  Gross.  

In the past, I've combatted these feelings by shopping online for as many things as I can, which is a great strategy for avoiding malls, but not a great one if you're looking to support your local economy.  So, this year, I tried a few other strategies (some I've done before, and some new to me as well) and I thought I'd share those with you today.  

  1. Shopping locally.  This was a new-to-me strategy.  I often shop at a few of our favorite small, local, independently-owned stores for gifts, but this year I made it my mission to buy as many gifts locally as I could, even if it meant spending a few extra dollars on them.  My reason for this was that if I truly believe that shopping locally can help our local economy and I truly value that (which I do), then buying a book for $21.95 at my local book store, rather than $16.99 on Amazon, should not be an issue.  If I'm looking at the value of my actions in the long run, then shopping locally better aligns with those values, even if it means spending a few more dollars now.  I'll share more on how I balanced that expense below.  However, buying locally also had it's challenges.  I ran into issues with things being out of stock, which meant I ended up buying a few last minute items on Amazon.  I also found that shopping at different stores in different parts of Minneapolis in December with a 10-month old is a pain in the butt.  Keeping winter hats and mittens on a baby, getting in and out of the car seat, pushing a stroller over unshoveled sidewalks, wishing I'd brought the carrier instead of the stroller, squeezing in trips to several stores between nap times and on my days was not easy, but I'm still glad I did it.  Next year, I'll start earlier and plan my errand routes and baby needs to better to improve efficiency.  
  2. Want. Need. Wear. Read. This was by far my favorite new strategy and I will keep using it for years to come!  Upon recommendation from a friend (thanks, Tina!!), we gave Oak four presents this year for Christmas, along with a few small stocking stuffers.  For the four presents, we bought something he wanted (well, what we thought he'd want), something he needed, something he'd wear, and something he'd read.  I loved this idea for a couple of reasons.  One, it made our gift-giving very intentional.  I love intentional giving, but sometimes I lack direction for that intentionality.  This solved that.  Second, it limited what I bought for him.  We buy very little for Oak on a regular basis, but I felt the urge to want to shower him with gifts at Christmas!  I saw so many things that were cute, fun, educational, but this model kept me focused and restrained, which helped me to stay on track with our desire for a simple Christmas and a simple house not full of unnecessary objects.  For his "want" we bought him a wooden pull-behind truck with wooden blocks on it, which we bought from a vender at the MN State Fair.  For his "need" we bought him a ThinkBaby stainless steel sippy cup, which I bought at our food co-op.  We are super happy with it and it was probably his favorite thing he opened, ha.  For his "wear" I knit him a new winter hat, with Malabrigo yarn from our local yarn shop.  And for his "read" we bought him the book Besos, for Baby, which he helped Daddy pick out at the local bookstore.  Four presents was plenty for him and I love the way this model gives us room to grow as he grows.  Bigger ticket items can easily be given for the want, wear, and need, and once he's older he will know what to expect with the number of presents, which will hopefully help guide and limit his Christmas wants...I know, idealistic, but it just may work. ;)
  1. Simplicity.  Buying locally did have some added expense, as I mentioned above, so to combat that, I just bought fewer things! For our sibling gift exchanges, we have spending limits and so instead of buying my brother a card game on Amazon for $14.99 and finding some other little gift for $5.00 to add on, I bought his game at a local game store (Games by James) for $19.99 and just left it at that.  Yes, in the spirit of giving, I could have given him more, but I also know that he values small, local businesses too, and so I trusted that if he knew my reasoning, he'd be completely onboard.  I did the same with our nephews.  I often feel like a good gift needs to include several things.  I'm not sure where this idea comes from, but it's a strong urge I have every time I wrap a gift.  However, for our nephews this year, I bought them each just one book.  The books ranged in price a bit, but I didn't worry about that.  I just carefully selected a book for each of them that I thought they'd like and I left it at that.  Both of these strategies helped to simplify my gift giving, in turn making shopping locally a bit more affordable.  
  2. Handmade.  I always give some handmade gifts at Christmas, and this year was no different.  This year's handmades included a hat for Oak, mittens for Dan, a cowl for my mom, felted wool balls and a felt chicken for Oak's stocking and my best friend's baby boy, and baby doll quilts and pillows for our nieces.  I love the simplicity and intentionality that go along with a handmade gift.  I'm not sure that the recipients always feel these things (especially when they are kids), but I love the love that I feel towards the recipients as I spend my evenings crafting away for them.  It makes giving so much fun.

How about you? Did you find any new ways for making your giving simpler and more intentional this year?