I love Christmas. I love the lights, the stockings by the fireplace, the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, thick slices of pumpkin bread, and of course, Christmas Carols!
Did you notice that I left presents off that list? It's because presents and I have a love/hate relationship. In theory, I love finding the perfect gift, wrapping it up, decorating it with a bow, and placing it under the tree. I love seeing the look of joy on someone's face when they open their gift, confirming that I have truly chosen the perfect thing.
In reality, the amount of times that I've actually found the perfect gift is far less than the amount of times my perfect gift has ended up being completely, terribly wrong. Like the time I bought my then boyfriend/now husband one of those custom coffee mugs with our photo on it for him to use at work. I knew he loved coffee, and I knew he loved me - best gift ever, right!?!? Wrong. Apparently no self-respecting 18 year old wants to bring an extra large coffee cup with a cheesy photo of him and his girlfriend to the construction site to show off to his coworkers every day. He used that thing a grand total of zero times before I finally ended up just passing it on to my parents. Now my husband has the joy of watching his father-in-law drink coffee out of it after every family meal. He'll never escape the watchful eyes of the happy 18-year old couple we once were. That's the problem with personalized gifts - they can never be donated to Goodwill because the thought of a stranger drinking out of a cup with my face on it is just too weird.
Now that I'm a certified decluttersimplifyminimalist-aholic, I ask myself these questions when Christmas shopping, "Will the person actually use this, or am I trying to force my tastes on them? Will this gift benefit them, or am I just adding to their clutter?" And of course, "Will they ever be willing to part with it once they finally give in and let me declutter their house for them (I'm talking to you, Mom!)?"
This year I'm trying to cut down on the number of gifts that I give people and stick to gifts that are useful and, if I know it wont offend the recipient, pre-owned. Amazon.com is a great source for used books, dvds, and video games in "like-new" condition, and you can get them for a great price.
Though I love giving Christmas presents to people, receiving them can be stressful for me. I like my house to be clutter-free and the thought of bringing in piles of new presents to find places for puts my OCD decluttering tendencies into overdrive. To combat this, I usually fill a bag or two for Goodwill before Christmas comes. I am a big fan of the "one in, one out" rule which basically says that for every new item that you bring into your home, you give away one item.
It can be helpful to create a wish list for family and friends to get ideas from, thereby hopefully eliminating some of the "thoughtful" gifts that people who, after braving the crowds at the mall for weeks in search of the perfect present, finally cave in and purchase; things like giant baskets of body lotion, or a membership to the Fruit of the Month club. I'm fortunate to have an overly generous family who love to buy me presents, however, they are usually not very excited by my requests for Whole Foods gift cards and dish soap. So now I direct them to my Amazon wish list where I keep a list of books that I want with a note next to each book that says, "Used copy, pls." That way, I get a giant stack of books to read during the Christmas holidays - which I love - and once I've finished reading them, I can pack the books up and donate them to my local library.
I then sigh a big sigh of relief at having removed the giant stack of books that was cluttering up my living room. :)
Wishing you all a wonderful, stress-free, Merry Christmas!