When I was a teenager, I used to request lots of books and CDs for Christmas. Over the years I have decluttered a lot, often by giving books away to the library and giving CDs to the charity shop. This year I have been putting books on Green Metropolis and selling CDs on Music Magpie or Ziffit. It was quite depressing to see how much they’d depreciated; £100-worth of books is now worth around £3, assuming anyone wants to buy them.
As I move towards less clutter in my life, I find it harder and harder to come up with a list of presents that I want, since I spend most of the year getting rid of stuff. This Christmas, my siblings and I stopped giving each other presents, which simplifies that element forever:) From my parents, I requested only useful things that I had been thinking of buying myself, such as black socks for work, warm trousers for wearing around the house and a special pillow for improving posture. My siblings thought it was hilarious that a lot of my presents were to do with getting or keeping warm, but our house is cold and these are the things I’ll use over and over.
My husband’s family definitely wants to keep exchanging presents, and my husband still wants a present from me (although I now ask him for time e.g. cooking a special dinner, rather than a material gift). Over the years I have given them very specific lists and vaguer lists, neither of which have been particularly well received. Quite often my husband badgers me for weeks to tell him something I would like his parents to get me, and I repeatedly give him an idea, only to find that they buy something completely different. They are also quite tied to the monetary value of their gifts, so sometimes I will get one large item and then a smaller, last-minute item like some hand cream “to make up the value”. His family also do something called “tree presents”, which I had never heard of before meeting them. When people are coming to visit you, you have to give them an extra, small present, for example a can of deodorant, a mug. This idea is a total clutter magnet, and even more incomprehensibly, you have to give yourself a present as well! My husband spent around £30 the other day, buying nine novelty presents to give to ourselves and to people visiting on New Year’s Day, and most of them will be used for five minutes, if at all. So I find this tradition a bit frustrating, but they are very attached to it.
In summary, I would recommend celebrating Christmas by spending time with people, rather than exchanging gifts if this can be avoided. When you do need to exchange gifts, try to request useful things for yourself, rather than items that will hang around your house and depreciate. When you don’t know what to get someone else, remember food and drink will usually get used and won’t leave them with more clutter. When all of this fails, evaluate your gifts carefully and remember the maxim “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or think to be beautiful”. As eBay says, if you don’t love your gift, someone else will, so instead of having something you don’t love sitting around and draining your energy every time you look at it, sell it or take it to the charity shop, where someone who will love it has the opportunity of finding it and brightening their day.