Minimalism during Christmas Time or: Was there more tinsel in the past?

In the old days, there was plenty of tinsel at my best friend’s Christmas tree.

Same with us, as photos from my early childhood prove. And gifts. Lots of gifts. So many that I would have to walk several times with a laundry basket to bring them all to my room. Then, I loved it. Now I am glad that times have changed and so has the amount of gifts we give and receive.

I don’t know about you, but I hear more and more friends and family complain about “too much stuff”. Closets, kitchen cupboards, shoe racks, everything is filled to the brim. Toys spill out of the kid’s room into the house. And now there’s Christmas coming, and the relatives, and oh so many gifts. Oh no. Many people I know would gladly pass on Christmas.

On the other hand, it feels as if everything starts earlier and earlier and with every year, there’s more of it. Christmas sweets are ready to buy in October, Christmas calendars are available stuffed with toys, juices, cosmetics, parfums, alcohol, or sex toys. No joke!

Bling-bling, Christmas decoration, Santa’s, reindeer and Christmas trees dominate the cities. There’s no chance to escape from consumerism. Or is there?

A few years ago, I started to hate Christmas. It had become the most stressful part of the year, and I dreaded it. No silent night… Within my family, the gift-giving had evolved into an orgy. My grandma couldn’t and wouldn’t buy any gifts herself, so she asked us to get the gifts for the other family members. So each of us did not only have to buy the gifts we wanted to give, but also the ones she wanted to give. Sometimes, an uncle would join us spontaneously for Christmas, so we had to buy gifts for him last minute, too. To add to the mix, each and every one of us had all they needed.

Furthermore, we always had a big dinner. My mom was busy days in advance with all the preparations and cooking. Somehow, we had gotten used to having two days with a festive meal. We loved it, but for my poor mom Christmas meant a lot of work.

When my grandma passed away, we decided to stop this and take more relaxed approach to Christmas.

No gifts, no drama, just spending time together. And we really managed to change it! We escaped consumerism or at least it’s in control now. Meanwhile, I have two kids myself, and I actually look forward to Christmas.

Here are my tips on how to use minimalism and simplicity to enjoy a relaxed, happier, less expensive and more environmentally friendly Christmas.


Buy less.
  • Don’t do gifts. If there is any chance, agree with everyone not to get gifts for each other. For some people this is extra hard as they use gifts as their love language. In this case:
  • Try to get the right gifts. Ask for a certain item that you really need and wanted to buy anyway, or prepare a (online) wish list with several items to choose from. You could also suggest a membership or gift voucher (think movies, theater, zoo, restaurant, museum). This is also great for kids, especially when the giver also gives time and joins them.
  • If you have to give a gift yourself, follow the suggestions above or give something consumable. How about a cake recipe and the ingredients in a jar? Or homemade bonbons? You could also gift time, for example taking granny out for coffee and a walk or babysitting for a friend.
  • Kids and gifts. Since I like to reminisce about my own childhood Christmases and have also seen the happy faces of my own kids twice now, I didn’t completely quit gifts. We stick to the rule of four: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This year, it’s gonna be a fire truck, a bike light, new gloves and a Gruffalo book. Too many gifts easily overwhelm young children, and they don’t have enough time to explore them properly.
  • Opt for a simple dinner on Christmas Eve. A long time ago, it was usually potato salad and sausages in our family. We reactivated this tradition. Nobody has to work for hours in the kitchen, it can be prepared upfront, and everyone can enjoy the tree, music, conversation, and handing out of presents.
Decorate less.
  • Our Christmas decoration fits into a single box, slightly bigger than a regular shoe box. We have a beautiful star with a light inside, some felt hangers for the tree, a string of lights, and a few wooden stars. This year, we will add some fir sprigs, dried orange discs, and a few stars made out of salt dough. Looks nice, smells nice and does not need a lot of storage space, attention and taking care of. Additionally, you can get crafty and make garlands from paper, popcorn, cranberries, use mistletoe and ivy (both are poisonous, handle with care when kids are around), and other natural materials. There are plenty of environmentally friendly ideas online.
  • Tinsel is probably either old and made with lead and then even dangerous, or it is made from plastic and also bad for the environment. Rather opt for natural materials. On Christmas markets or online you can find plenty of beautiful decorations made from wood, felt, wool, glass, or ceramics.
  • When it comes to packaging, printed or even glossy paper is not sustainable. Try using reusable bags from cotton, linen, or jute (burlap) that you decorate with a sprig or a cone.
Enjoy and share.
  • The time that just became available because you had to do less shopping, packing, and decorating can be used for some really Christmassy activities. Have some mulled wine with friends, go to a concert with your kids, or bake christmas cookies. Watch a Christmas movie with your partner and eat all the cookies! Get into that Christmas mood and share it with your beloved ones. Meet with a friend you didn’t spend enough time with lately and catch up while walking through the decorated town.

I hope that I could give you some ideas. If you have any questions, you can always find me on Facebook or here. I am looking forward to hearing from you, and I am here to help you minimzing your Christmas stuff.

Oh, and I promised you some tinsel.

Well, my mom, who nobody would call a minimalist, has hd the same treee decorations for 30 years now. They are red glass baubles and – red tinsel pom poms! Whatever the correct term for these things might be. They get unpacked, hanged, unhanged, and packed very carefully every year. That’s minimalism and frugalism, too! Not a single cent was spend for tree decorations within the last 30 years.

What is your approach to Christmas and gifts this year? Leave a comment below.


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