Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten into simple living. I’m far from being a minimalist, but I’ve worked at living more minimally…not really in terms of never buying anything or not having any stuff; but more so being happy with what I have and the simple things in life. And this isn’t just during the holiday season, but all year long. I don’t want to be a consumer, because in my heart it just doesn’t make me feel right. But I know that this approach to consumerism is not the norm.
We live in a very materialistic society. There’s nothing wrong with liking material items; but we live in a society which determines our worth by what we have and how much we have…especially during the holiday season. Consumerism during the Christmas holidays has gotten so out of control; and as a society we’ve become so focused on material items, to the point of it either making or breaking the holiday season. People spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on unnecessary gifts for others, just because that’s what’s considered customary. People go into debt year after year, just because it’s been so ingrained in us that the only way to have a good holiday season is to give and get gifts. Holiday shopping has become such a stressful and important thing in our society, that it leaves many of us feeling that the only way of showing someone that we love them is to spend money and buy them stuff.
Not only does excessive holiday shopping create unwanted stress in our lives and empty our wallets, it creates so much waste, makes multi-million/billion dollar companies that much more wealthy (while their employees are earning close to minimum wage and have no protections or benefits) and, frankly, it teaches our children that being materialistic and a consumerist are things to aspire to.
As a society, we need to start focusing on what really matters to us. We need to move away from consumerism. Just because we’re constantly bombarded with ads and marketing telling us that we need to buy more and that happiness lies in material items, doesn’t mean we have to comply.
So what can be done instead? To start, if material gifts really are important to you, try looking in thrift stores. There are so many great things to be found, but — by buying second hand — it’s not contributing to the waste…and it saves a lot of money. There’s also the option of purchasing from local, small businesses and from ethical businesses. Your money will be going to families and individuals, rather than large multi-million/billion dollar companies and corporations. Then, there’s homemade gifts, which are also great. I love giving and receiving homemade gifts; they’re so much more thoughtful and heartfelt. But, really, the best thing we can do is focus on experiences and creating memories instead of, or to minimize, physical gifts. Do things you and your loved ones enjoy doing together — watch a holiday movie, go walking in the snow, do some (vegan) baking, take pictures, laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company. Because that’s what really matters.