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Minimalist yet magical Christmas?

(60 Posts)
clearsommespace Tue 23-Sep-14 08:20:05

Maybe your house is bursting at the seams with toys already and your children don't play with half of them?
Perhaps you feel Christmas has become excessively consumerist?
Or simply you're on a tight budget?

Whatever the reason, please use this thread to share ideas for how to cut down on the excess and still keep Christmas magical.

evertonmint Tue 23-Sep-14 09:46:14

Thanks for starting this clearsomme!

For the benefit of new readers ;) this thread comes out of the minimalism threads on Good Housekeeping where we're all trying to rationalise our stuff and move towards more minimalist lives - that doesn't mean no possessions unless you want it to, just a more streamlined home less focused on accumulation.

I have 3 DC, 6, 4 and 3mo. Although I have minimised a lot of their toys, don't buy outside birthdays and Christmas other than things like craft basics, they still have way too much. It doesn't get played with. And when I recently confiscated half of DS's lego as he hadn't tidied it, he didn't even notice as he still had so much to play with... That got me thinking about Christmas presents and how I don't want it to get crazy.

So here are a few things I'm buying for them:
- new placemats for the table. We do this every Christmas anyway and they're put on the table for Christmas Day breakfast as a little treat. We find the wipe clean ones get wrecked over the course of a year of spilt, caked on weetabix so this is a nice tradition but also a practical present that gets used 3x a day. We use old ones for messy crafts like playdough rather than bin them.
- photo books of their year: more the snapshots from my phone of when they won a football trophy or put 30 hair clips in their hair rather than the more traditional photos of the view on holiday
- cozy dressing gowns which they both love and both need. I'll eke out the old ones until Christmas rather than replacing in October. This will go nicely with the new pyjamas which are also a Christmas tradition.
- I'm pondering the rest. We normally set a budget of £100 per child and I'm happy to stick with that but just spend it more on things that will be appreciated year round. Toys will need to pass quite a high bar!

We've got to ponder a few other things:
- what DH and I do for each other
- not being too practically minded and ensuring there's a little bit of present magic in Christmas Day (you can only stare delightedly at a placemat for a short amount of time!)
- whether we do a pre-Christmas treat with the DCs
- how we minimise the excess of food purchased - better planning? Less focus on a Christmas 'season'?
- how we attempt to minimise the excess of present giving from relatives. Question for everyone - do you think you should say "we're minimising, don't go overboard" and risk offending, or should we let relatives do what they do and focus on minimising ourselves, I.e. not contributing to the excess?

Umlauf Tue 23-Sep-14 10:49:13

great idea! DS is only 1 and we have a tiny flat but so far doing well escaping too much stuff. I am seriously considering the ikea kitchen for his main present though, as at the moment no toys leave his room and it would be nice for him to have something to play with when we're all in the kitchen/living room.

The photobook is a great idea - mine's nearly finished on photobox so will keep it until Christmas and not even look at it myself - can be a whole family present!

DH and I have agreed a 10 present max rule for DS - including stocking. So maybe 1 from us & 9 in stocking.... we'll see how this develops. It is supposed to include practical things too..!

It is the enormous plastic tat style gifts from well meaning relatives I have no idea how to work around.. :-S

clearsommespace Tue 23-Sep-14 11:27:42

We are always 11 on Christmas day, 4 children and 7 adults. For the last few years, we've organised a Secret Santa for the adults. We pull names out of the hat at Easter, the other time of year when we are all together. It came about because none of us are into 'just for the gesture' gifts and it was becoming exhausting all finding inspiration for everyone. Now people can concentrate all their thoughts into just one gift for one person.

One of the special things is that all of our generation and some of the older and younger generation play a board game in the late afternoon after the meal and kitchen clear up while the others doze or play with their new toys. There are two board game geeks in the family so often one of the secret santa gifts is a new board game.

I feel so fortunate that we all agree this is a great way to spend Christmas.

fuzzpig Tue 23-Sep-14 12:06:28

Hurrah, thanks clear! smile

I have been trying to reduce the excess for a few years.

Everton I love the photo book idea! I've taken lots of photos since we got our first digital camera when I was pregnant with DD... Never done anything with them! DD is now 7! blush

Present wise it is mostly down to us anyway as our family is small. DSCs each get them a little something and they'll probably get a few simple clothes from PIL.

My parents and grandma don't like choosing anything and prefer to give money. Normally we use it to pay for something else we have chosen (so still less cluttery than random tat from well meaning relatives which seems to happen on many MN threads!) but this year we are planning to ask if they would mind if we used it for an after school/weekend activity instead. Although DD really needs a new bike. Sigh.

As for what we get them, there will be a few toys but even less than last year. We've never done Xmas lists, I just tend to add stuff to my amazon wishlist throughout the year and then decide. They aren't really faddy yet and don't see adverts (don't watch commercial telly) so they aren't wanting lots of stuff.

Make it magical by starting family traditions (ones that don't involve more stuff, obviously).

In our family, we started a Christmas eve tradition of sitting down together, just before the dses' bedtime, to read 'T'was the Night before Christmas' together. We also read some of the 9 Lessons, from the 9 Lessons and Carols, and sing a carol or two. We do this by candle light.

Initially, it started as a way to calm the boys down before bedtime, in the hope that they would go to sleep more quickly, so dh and I could do the stockings and get to bed at a reasonable time ourselves, but now the boys are 17, 19 and 21, and we are still doing it - I fully expect to do it this year too.

fuzzpig Tue 23-Sep-14 12:17:20

I love board games. My parents never want to play though, they are killjoys. I wish I'd stuck to it just being us four on Xmas day (it was previously because my parents would stay with my nan because she couldn't travel for the few years before she died) but can't really go back on it now sad

TBH the 'extra Xmas' which is when DSCs come and stay is always much more fun and festive. Loads of board games and we have started taking turns doing a quiz too.

CurlsRUs Tue 23-Sep-14 12:22:22

STDG, that's a great idea about asking relatives to contribute towards an after-school activity - DS has just started judo and he loves it but we're about to move house and we're not sure if we can afford the fees next term sad

Thank you for the kudos, Curls - but that wasn't me. I am soppy Christmas Eve readings tradition woman, not bright ideas woman! grin

7Days Tue 23-Sep-14 12:26:57

Just marking place for ideas, great thread to start.

I think I'm going to start doing things rather than buying things with the dc(3)
Panto, make decorations, visit lots of people.

We will have the 3 children and 4 adults for Christmas. Food is a big one for me I always go overboard and feel guilty about it

LokiBear Tue 23-Sep-14 13:42:57

I tried asking relatives not to buy too much last year and got shot down in flames before being ignored completely by the grandparents. As a result, there aren't any age - appropriate 'big ticket' items the grandparents can buy this year because she has so much already. DH did a very good job of telling pil that if they buy 3 yr old dd a tablet for Christmas he will throw it out of the window. I'm not a 'minimiser' so to speak. I just do not like to see money wasted and would sooner the gps bought dd one or two nice things rather than a pile of stuff that she doesn't want for need. Last year mil bought her, aged 2, the entire Disney Princess doll collection. DD wasn't interested in the slightest so they got put away. Would love to hear how others control the gps!

TheWoollybacksWife Tue 23-Sep-14 14:25:12

I must be very lucky as I have never had the GPs buying half a toyshop at Christmas. My side give money that I use to buy the Christmas PJs (opened after the Christmas Eve service) and there is usually enough left to go out for a festive lunch too. MIL buys National Savings bonds to be cashed in when they are older.

I'm not a huge fan of big plastic toys. In fact the big garage DS got one year was like new when we passed it on. Lego sits in boxes under his bed gathering dust. We are down to one small box of toys in the living room these days.

Older (teen/twenties) DDs get useful stuff that gets used up fairly quickly grin iTunes vouchers, perfume, handbags, clothes etc. We always try to have a charity shop clear out during half term so that I know what they need and that they have made room in their wardrobes for new items.

A friend gets money from her mum and siblings for Christmas and buys a Merlin pass with it. Her DC get year round fun from that.

Waitingonasunnyday Tue 23-Sep-14 14:44:40

I've spent the weekend helping my almost 8 year old clear out her room. I don't know what to suggest to relatives but she really doesn't even Want more toys let alone need them. She is really happy now her bedroom is uncluttered. I don't want to foist stuff on her, seeing her enjoy her space and able to play with one thing 'properly' is lovely. I think I am going to suggest book tokens, DVDs and if the inlaws want to moan then tough!!

IssyStark Tue 23-Sep-14 15:43:59

Ah, the annual battle against the avalanche of presents. To make it even worse in ourhousehold DH's birthday is 12 November, DS1 7 Dec and DS2 16 Dec - not good planning on my part!

We have problems with GP and aunt on DH side (luckily mine are more practical Scots who will happily put money in the bank and get a small present if asked to). On the ocassions we've asked the PiL to reduce the birthday presents, because we wanted dc to begin to understand the value of things, they ahve then gone all out at Xmas because "well you said not to get much for birthdays so we just saved it with the other stuff for Christmas". Missing the point by a mile!

Stuff we've tried to do to reduce the mountain of toys:

- started Amazon wishlists for both kids so grandparents (none of whom are local) have an idea of what they would really like and also to stop duplication (it did seem to help last year).

- did a declutter of the playroom when we decorated this summer. DS1 was happy to go through his stuff, much of which was in good nick and sort out toys to take to the charity shop (we've done this in plenty of time for things to get into the shop in time for Christmas as we live in an area where many parents are struggling)

- last year we wrapped ds1's toys which had been in the loft for ds2 to open on Xmas day (there's five years between them and ds1 had forgotten he'd ever had the toys and quite frankly at 2yo DS2 was all about the unwrapping, so win win).

For food, I plan the menu from around 22 Dec (my half birthday and usually our last day at work), and try to make sure I have planty of leftover dishes. I tend ditch about a third of the planned dishes as experience has taught me I always over-cater and then make up the shopping list from the remaining menu items. We make our own cake and puddings with which the whole family always gets involved.

IssyStark Tue 23-Sep-14 15:56:17

Oh, and following a Delia Smith suggestion, I make mincpies with the kids on Christmas eve while listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols on the radio.

We also play Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony when present opening and I try and re-watch Box of Delights with DS1 in the run up to Christmas.

BeCool Tue 23-Sep-14 16:01:41

ooh what a dreamy perfect thread!! Great idea.

This is most likely to be our first Christmas at home in our small flat, since I've had DC. So I am going to need to apply every rule of minimalism to make to work & make it magical.

Will read thread properly this evening.

HELLO ALL!! <waves>

ernesttheBavarian Tue 23-Sep-14 16:48:04

how do you do minimalist with teenagers?

I would like to, esp as they are now getting to an age where they are plain fussy. But just binging them money seems sad.

I can't imagine my 15 year old son would be too impressed with a plastic placemat and a pair of pjs.

I'm absolutely not ridiculing anyone. I think it's lovely when they are young and you can get sweet little simple (and cheap!) things. Any tips for cheap and simple teen Christmas?

I want to declutter before Christmas. We have FAR TOO MUCH stuff. Am v. keen on minimalist 2015.

TheWoollybacksWife Tue 23-Sep-14 17:10:13

Ernest my teens are DDs and it has been relatively easy to do minimalist. They still get a decent sized pile of 'stuff' but it is either things that they need (clothes etc) or things that get used up (perfume, make up etc)

DD2 (15) has already asked for a watch and will be getting a new dressing gown too. She was extremely happy with a Nando's card as one of her gifts last year and I bought her sister (impoverished student) a cinema gift card. I also buy calendars - relatively big parcel, reasonably cheap and vital to get my DDs organised grin

Tommetipsy Tue 23-Sep-14 18:17:35

Great thread!

I must admit to lurking on the minimalist threads quite a bit...

I'm lucky that the in laws always give us cash which this year I am going to put towards some horse riding lessons. Both DD's went pony trekking on holiday and are keen to have lessons. My mum has asked about presents and i've suggested a board game. I'm thinking junior pictionary so i can get the dd's trained up as me and my younger dsis are crack pictionary players.

For their main presents DD1 is getting some harry potter lego and dd2 a new scooter. They'll get stocking presents too which will be a mix of things like a harry potter notebook, pens, wind up torch and chocs/sweets.

I'm choosing presents really carefully though as they already have lots of toys.

I have done a lot of decluttering this year and our house is much much easier to clean and tidy.

I just want a low key xmas this year.

Tommetipsy Tue 23-Sep-14 18:18:54

IssyStark - i loved box of delights as a kid. Wonder if my DD's would like it this year?

MollyBdenum Tue 23-Sep-14 19:06:24

A poster last year described a tradition in her family where teenagers get themed stockings containing good quality household items that they will need when they leave home. So one year, a complete sewing kit with a box to keep it in under the tree. The next year, kitchen utensils, or tools, or cycling gear and a bike maintenance kit. It's not exactly minimalist because it needs to be stored, but it's still a nice practical idea.

My children are still little (5 and 8) and we tend to give quite a lot of practical clothes/ sports kit etc of a nicer variety than we would normally get, with a couple of books and toys that we know they will really love, and then get some family shared stuff - board games, Lego etc which belongs to everyone. We encourage relatives to give theatre tickets, trips out, clubs etc.

My best friend asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. She drives and I don't so I asked for her to take me out for the day to an art gallery with poor public transport access. She would never have thought of that as a present, but it was a gift I really treasured.

Mrsgrumble Tue 23-Sep-14 19:25:59

Brilliant thread.

I have no major ideas yet but want a minimal Christmas. I have a baby and another on the way. Buying some trofast soon. We have a lot of toys but I am thinking of a scuttlebug this year as it can be folded. Also thinking white for a minimal look grin .. Joke!

I am thinking of an aqua doodle, foldaway farm mat and CDs instead of 'big' things.

I don't give friends children presents and we send money to nieces and nephews so siblings can buy clothes, put towards shoes. Only one I buy toys for and so will probably get back but it's my brother so if I said to him a little farm mat, he would be delighted as saves hassle for him.

In terms of food, we tend to buy very little junk- sweets, etc. I teach and often get a few boxes which do the job and some I pass on. We buy a free range turkey, I make my own mincemeat for pies. I might get a stash of alcohol in but live next to an of license so might not and just buy as I need. Fruit and veg we buy on Christmas Eve. No big shop as such.

Don't be for friends anymore, we treat ourselves type of arrangement. So it's not overkill here.

MollyBdenum Tue 23-Sep-14 19:57:55

Our stockings tend to be a mixture of practical (underwear, fancy toothbrush, lip balm) and consumable (chocolate, salami, oranges, nice drink) things with toys which are reused in stockings from year to year (finger puppets, fortune telling fish, kazoos, Swanee whistle).

erin99 Tue 23-Sep-14 20:54:36

Checking in from the other minimalism thread. Thank you clearsomme.

Mrsgrumble the aquadoodle was a big hit in our house. Much anticipated and played with from age 1 to 5.

For the last couple of years I have made a gingerbread house with DCs. Great fun, good centrepiece and tastes delicious! And although it's not exactly healthy, it isn't as much of a bottomless pit of calories as a christmas cake.

I'm really not sure what to do about DCs' presents though. Both have christmas birthdays so there is the combined pressure of having to get something 'decent' for each event, and for them not to miss out because of being Christmas birthdays, and the pressure of having to provide a year's worth of 'stuff' to keep them going through a whole year of maturing.

They are not madly into 'stuff', either of them, but DS is only 5 and I think he would benefit from some "boys' toys" for playground toys and playdates. But so much of that kind of stuff is just character stuff that doesn't really do much. DD is just a bookworm.

Chillycamper Tue 23-Sep-14 21:28:39

Our kids are a bit older now but when they were small we used to go and see a kids show at the local theatre after Christmas. Now they are older we can all go to a bigger show. My mum sometimes buys us tickets for later in the year which is nice to have a Christmas present to look forward to - War horse, Fiddler on the roof, Mary Poppins

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