I was once a somewhat materialistic girl. I think we all are to an extent. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never been interested in name brands or personal items meant as status symbloys. I adored things that showed a bit of flare, a hint of the personality hiding just below the surface. I loved my stuff, I grew attached to it, and as such, I always struggled to part with it. And then I moved- and vowed to never again buy another unnecessary item that I would have to cart around with me for the rest of my life. If I ever had to move again, I was just going to burn everything and start over, yep, that seemed like a reasonable remedy. So much easier than packing box after box to haul to the next home. As it turns out, when all is said and done, I am a bit of a liar.
This last time I moved I became introduced to that dreaded three-syllable word: downsizing. It was a painfully therapeutic tool that was a necessary evil in my life. Severing ties with physical objects was difficult for me, far more so than I am willing to admit. I grew up beilieving that even the most trivial items can be repurposed, and that if I decided to finally let go of something, I would enevitably need it immediately. Couple that with the fact that I don’t own things that I don’t like. And if I like it, well I want to keep it. I’m was a recipe for disaster, and a constant frustration for my fiancé who grew up with the ‘get one, lose one’ philosophy; meaning if he wanted a new toy, well, something needed to be traded. As always, he is the yin to my yang. The problem was that we didn’t have room in our new living quarters, nor did we have the funds to dedicate to a storage facility. So we sliced things out of our lives. I combed and purged, combed and purged, over and over again until I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore.
I’ve always wanted to embrace the life of a minimalist. I have read the books, I have started the work. But I’ve never been able to truly belong to the movement. I love color and variety too much to feel comfortable living with only bare essentials surrounding me. I embrace my creative nature in my living space, I don’t feel at home without at least a tiny sense of chaos, of odd juxtaposition, of inspiring objects that leave your mind reaching out for more. So no- I cannot be a minimalist. But I have learned not to bring more into my life than I can handle.
Which is why this particular season can be a bit tricky for my. It is the season of giving and receiving. You see, I am very careful about what physical possessions I bring into my life now. And I am perfectly content with what I have. There is not a single thing that I need. And at this point, I don’t have any extra room to dedicate to superfluous objects. For the first time in a long time I can say that everything I own enriched me in some way. Which is why I find it rather difficult when others demand to know what I want this holiday. The answer of ‘nothing’ does not seem to go over well, many believe it’s just a modest answer that I don’t really mean- you know, one of those tricks us women like to play on the unsuspecting men in our lives. Last night I overheard a conversation between two people that I found rather interesting. The man was like me- he didn’t want or need anything, and he would rather any extra money be spent on his grandkids instead. His wife, however, had a different view of the matter. She got upset that he wouldn’t say anything, and finally yelled, “it’s not always about you. The gift giving isn’t always about you, sometimes it is because other people want to do something nice for you.”
I can’t tell you why I found this so interesting; probably because I know a number of people who show their affection through the physical act of buying things for those that they love. And perhaps it’s also because I do genuinely understand the desire to do something kind for a person that you care for. We all want to see their eyes sparkle when we had them the perfect little item they never would have asked for. We get our own satisfaction in the giving; I’m like this as well.
So this year, I am trying something a bit different. For those in my life who still feel the need to pay for a gift (though I am always quick to tell them that I would rather they spend their money on themselves)- for those that don’t like this answer, I am asking them for something a little bit different. Either a picture of us or something important to us- no frame needed- for me to put up in my office to look at all year round and remind myself why I go in there everyday, something that will make me smile during those moments that test my patience and my kindness. Or else the gift of simple time- this is perhaps the thing most often neglected. We are all too quick to replace our own presence in someone’s life with a memento of us instead. As thoughtful as the item itself may be, nothing can replace the actual time we spend with one another. It could be something as simple as a walk down the street with a cup of coffee looking at Christmas lights, or a lunch at a new restaurant. Or even (as my sister did this year) a little Ugly Christmas Sweater Party with friends and family). This year I would rather we spend our money on experiences to bring us closer together. I am not an overtly social person, and I struggle to get out of my box and join the world some days. So the greatest gift for me is a shared experience with someone willing to give me the greatest gift of all- a few minutes of their precious time. That is all that I need. Not more trinkets to put on a shelf or keep in a box until I move to a bigger house. Just a couple minutes of your time, and perhaps a smile or two. This year I want memories, not merchandise. I want a Christmas to look back on always with the fondest of memories that will outlast anything you could buy in a store.