This Saturday, December 2nd, we hosted a large tag sale at The Mariandale Center. Our tables at Mariandale were covered: we had dishes, decorations, and knick-knacks for sale galore. Yet, in such a season of abundance, we yearn to simplify our lifestyles to better connect with those around us and God.
The sale was a way to de-clutter, but it also had a spiritual aspect: the season of Advent is coming up, and we are especially mindful of Mary and Joseph having been told that there was no room in the inn. With that in our hearts, we’re donating all of the proceeds from our sale to help those displaced from their homes in New York this winter.
If you’re feeling the same call to simplify, eliminate stress, and feel more connected this Christmas, we’re here to help. Below, we list six ways to rethink gift-giving this Christmas.
1. Buy Second-Hand
Yes, we all love opening up a shiny, new present on Christmas day. But saving vintage or gently used goods from landfills is a noble cause. Before you buy brand new items, consider the packaging, fuel, and economic cost of the product. Usually, buying second-hand is better for the environment, for the cause you’re supporting (such as our sale here), and your wallet.
2. Consider a Spiritual Gift
Dominican Sister of Hope Jeanette Redmond says it best: she doesn’t need belongings in order to spend quality time with God.
“In order for me to be spiritual, I sit quietly with nothing” Sister Jeanette says. “If I see too much stuff in my space, I feel like I’m getting shut in. The less I have, the freer I am.”
This Christmas, consider giving a gift that will help your loved ones sit quietly with God. Devotionals or prayer email subscriptions are a great gift for your prayerful friend.
Dominican Sister of Hope Francis Irene Fair loves giving devotionals as gifts, and she keeps in mind the needs of the recipient. Occasionally, when she’s reading for leisure, she highlights a specific passage that she feels will be useful to someone she knows. She then tries to connect the person to the passage.
“Sometimes, I’ll even xerox a page that I have and send it to someone who I think could really use it,” Sister shares.
That nudge to spend more time in quiet with God may mean a lot more than anything in a big, wrapped box.
3. Utilize Technology
Newspapers, magazines, puzzle subscriptions, games, and books are all available online. Many sites offer a subscription service that gives loyal customers more access to content or other perks like recipes, quizzes, or crossword puzzles via email.
When talking about living clutter-free, Sister Jeanette lists being technology-friendly as one of her secrets.
“I utilize technology,” Sister Jeanette says.
4. Donate, Donate, Donate
Donating to a favorite charity in a loved one’s name is a simple but powerful gift. However, offering to help them donate some of their personal items to those in need is also huge gift of time, energy, and charity.
As Dominican Sister of Hope Joann Boneski says, “Your blessings can become a blessing for somebody else.”
“Our needs and our wants are met,” she continues. “But many people don’t have any of that. Some people have little more than a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. They can’t just go into a store and buy an umbrella because it’s raining. You give somebody an umbrella, they think you gave them a million dollars.”
As you go through your space or a loved one’s space (with them), what do you have that others could use? Even little items (think extra packs of socks, those small toothpaste tubes from the dentist, umbrellas) can be a great gift to someone in need.
5. Invest in Experiences
It’s no secret that many people prefer to invest in experiences over stuff and with good reason: experiences don’t take up any physical space and they’ll stick with you for the rest of your life. Even better if you’re able to join your loved ones for such an experience. Try putting together a picnic, taking a scenic drive, signing up for a local walking tour, or spending an afternoon exploring a new museum or cultural institution. It may sound cheesy, but time together is the greatest gift we can give.
6. Go Homemade
We’ve listed a plethora of ways to craft your gifts this holiday, including decorative wreaths, ornaments, knitted sweaters/gloves/socks, potpourri, origami, and baked goods. Whatever you decide to whip up, be sure to start with what you enjoy. Homemade gifts usually require a small budget but a large time commitment, so you’ll benefit, too, if you love making them.
7. Think of Role Models
Some of the sisters mentioned in this article are good models on how to live with little, but there are many more examples throughout history. For instance, in the fourth century the desert fathers and mothers left their lives of luxury to embrace living with little.
According to Atlas Obscura:
They’d given up their silk clothes and pearl earrings, the hairstyles and rouge and musk, even bathing, as signs of vanity, and were now wearing coarse robes made of goat’s hair. They never allowed themselves to rest on couches or cushions of any kind, and at night they slept on thin mats on the floor.
Hair shirts aside, this model of simple living still holds true today. Stuff can make us feel stuffed; simplifying your Advent and Christmas can help. With some effort and intention, focusing on joy and simplicity this season can yield gifts that will last well beyond the new year.