Navigating The Holidays (as a minimalist or not…)

Recently I have been asked by quite a few friends and followers about gift giving and receiving. So with the holiday season quickly approaching, I thought I would take some time to give you some ideas and my thoughts around approaching the holidays with more intention and less stuff. This post I am sharing ideas on how to minimize the stuff!


Ridiculous amounts of gifts like this. I did this? WHY?


The holidays were always celebrated in a grand way growing up. My parents would always go above and beyond to get us whatever we had on our list and then some. I remember every year, walking down the stairs on Christmas morning, and finding a colossal amount of perfectly wrapped gifts.


If you were to ask what I got at Christmas, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me. Every year my mom made us write a list and took us to see Santa at the Cavendish Mall. I mean, sure, I remember the times I got a bike, a computer, and my ‘real’ Doc Martens; but all the other “stuff”…I can’t. I do know I was excited and happy every Christmas morning. However, as a kid, I don’t think it would have really mattered how much I got. I think the quality mattered more, “REAL”…Doc Martens…especially as I got a little older.

That brings me to my first tip for you. Quality versus Quantity. When considering gifts, you don’t need to fill the stocking with a ton of junky little things. You can skip the dollar store scrappy stuff, the knick-knacks from the front counter at indigo and the stickers or erasers your kids don’t really want. We all are guilty of it. Trying to fill the tree with copious amounts of THINGS! (all wrapped to perfection).

Instead, you can try this…over the last several days, I have seen this idea come up on several blogs. A cute way to manage gifts for your loved ones or children. Tip #2

  • Something they want
  • Something to read
  • Something to wear
  • Something they need

Maybe 4 gifts aren’t realistic for you yet and you want to do a few more…you can just double up on some of these above. You can ask your children to consider this when writing their lists to Santa.

When it comes to receiving gifts from friends and family, I know it can be difficult to speak up about not wanting more toys, clothes, toys, toys, clothes…TOYS! Here’s the thing….you get to decide what comes into your house and what doesn’t. Communicate to your loved ones that you don’t want more stuff, instead, you can ask for – Tip #3

  • experiences! (swimming lessons, Skis lessons, dinner gifts certificate)
  • season passes to things like the zoo, the science center, the museum
  • movie tickets
  • food (wine, cookies)
  • donation to a charity of your choice in your name

These can add huge value to our lives without bringing in more stuff to our home, STUFF that we don’t really need. 

If you can’ have this conversation with certain family members or friends, and you know you are going to get swamped with toys and clothing (grandma). Well,  you get to be in control of what to do with the gifts once they are in your hands. You can have your child decide to keep the new item and let go of something old. You can donate new toys to a local charity or hospital. You can take the clothing down to your local goodwill for a family in need.

However, I highly recommend that if you feel strongly about not bringing more stuff into your lives, I would just be honest with the people around you and consider having a conversation and suggest purchasing ideas like those listed in tip #3.

Last Christmas, when we had slowly just started on our minimalist journey, we decided to get away and provide the kids with an experience during the holidays rather than a bunch of gifts. We took the boys to Banff, on a horse-drawn carriage through the Rockie mountains and cross-country skiing. It was so magical and the boys still talk about our getaway to Canmore, Alberta. My parents and my little brother and his wife joined us a few days later. My parents used that opportunity to provide the boys with more fun in and around Canmore! It was the best!


For me, growing up, the holidays were celebrated with my enormous Italian family. We ate an elaborate amount of traditional food dishes, (we took the feast of the seven fishes to a whole other level).

There was a lot of music, singing, karaoke and a gaggle of instruments that often made their way into the hands of family members just after midnight.  (mostly intensified by the homemade wine, amaretto, and grappa)

Those were the best memories I have of Christmas. The amazing food.  The silver chalices my Nonna would take out just on Christmas Eve. The traditions. The singing of every single Beatles song ever recorded. The baccala fish (cod). Visiting with other family members at midnight. Monopoly games that went all night long. The passion. The love. The laughs and the tears when we were missing a loved one. During our triumphs and darkest moments my family still pulled together to celebrate. That was Christmas. not the gifts.

We need to make the holidays less about the consumer-driven ridiculousness and more about the moments and traditions.  Whatever you might be celebrating, if you approach it with intention and love, the memories will be unforgettable.


In the famous lyrics by The Beatles (all I can hear right now in my head is my dad, his cousins and a barrage of friends singing….)

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”

till the next post,





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