How about buying less stuff this Christmas?

I know, it's a radical idea. This time of year is so geared up to buying things for Christmas. Gifts, food, stuff. Don't get me wrong. I love this time of year. It's hot, holidays loom large, and my family comes together from far flung places to eat amazing food and ponder how the babies and toddlers seem to be growing up so fast.

But it's also a time that freaks me out a little. I'm not really into things. Never have been. I'm super into experiences, shared time, being lucky enough to cook and share and eat amazing food with wonderful people. But gifts and stuff - not so much.

Having kids was/is challenging to this. Kids attract so much love, joy, and well, plastic crap. Toys, gifts, and stuff they might play with for a short time (at least my boys) before wandering out to the garden to run around, dig up stuff, or you know, eat a snail (the 10 month-old yesterday).

Each year around this time I make a gentle plea to family and friends to not give us stuff. Instead give time. Or bake a cake and come around for a shared meal rather than exchanging gifts. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't, and I find myself awake at 3 am torn between recognising the sentiment behind the gift, and worrying about the stuff we've accumulated. How it will take billions of years to decompose (if at all), screwing the planet that little bit more. I know, I'm crazy-fun in the wee hours of the morning.

What to do? I firmly believe many of us can do with a little less stuff in our lives. I truly want my boys to grow up valuing the importance of people, connections and experiences rather than giving stuff, well, for the sake of giving stuff.

Yesterday I was driving, listening to ABC radio and trying to explain to my toddler why trees are green. I'd love to tell you what the program was, but I was too busy digging myself a massive hole trying to explain photosynthesis to a three year old *smacks herself in the head.*

Anyway, the gist of the program was: Half of all Australians will either buy and give gifts they don't want to but feel obliged to, or will receive gifts they don't want.

My goodness. Surely we all don't need the cumulative stress of running around trying to find gifts we don't really want to give, to only end up with things we don't want or need?

So, as much for my sanity as yours, I put together a quick list of things we can do a little differently. For us, for our loved ones, and maybe for our world and planet.*

  • Be brave. If you don't need stuff but would love an experience, or time, gently ask for it. One year close girlfriends and I gave each other "child-minding swap cards". While one of us had a sleep, or went for a run, or read a book in a cafe, the other looked after the kids for an hour. Priceless.

  • Instead of giving family gifts, save up for a combined beach holiday together - camping; holiday house, whatever floats the collective boat of everyone involved. Great for all ages.

  • Give gifts to other families in need. There are so many charities to choose from: World Vision, Red Cross, Oxfam, and the Smith Family are a few.

  • If you've got gifts you need to buy - check out the work of social enterprises as well as not-for-profit charities. Social enterprises are largely for-profit companies that donate all profits after costs to community projects helping those in need. You can support the social purpose of an organisation by buying from them. A good collective to check out (all online too!) is here.

  • In the supermarket? Check out the Thankyou brand: An Australian social enterprise that exists to fund life-changing water, sanitation and food programs in developing countries. I think these guys are doing good stuff. In Coles and Woolies, each item you buy has a unique code where you can track your impact, and see the project your purchase is contributing to. You can also sign up to get an evaluation report of that project once it's completed. Transparent. Innovative. Putting you directly in contact with the impact of your dollar. Excellent.

  • How about kids? One idea for extended family is to put everyone's name in a hat, and each pull out one person to give a gift to. My family did this, and set a money limit (under $25). It means everyone (adults and kids) gives and receives one gift, instead of many. Homemade gifts were much loved! Some gift ideas for kids (under 6) were: a homemade and handwritten recipe and apron; seedlings and little-people's trowel to plant their own garden; a handmade story book (I wrote the words and my toddler did the drawings).

  • Make gifts for other people. Food from your garden, a yummy cake, some biscuits, a recipe you think they might like. Something crafty. Awesome.

There are stacks more ideas out there and I'd love to hear them! Am I the only one who worries about stuff and its impact at 3 am?

*This post is in no way sponsored. These are just some of my ideas I thought I'd share with you all!

*Photo Presents via a Creative Commons license.


  1. LOVE this post Pia, am contemplating the very same things this week. Thanks for you great list and your gorgeous voice. x

    1. Thanks for the kind comments Kate, I really appreciate it. Good luck with navigating it all and here's to a Christmas filled with ace experiences and memories x

  2. Many wonderful ideas there Pia - and, no, you are not the only one who worries about these things at 3am in the morning, I am exactly the same !! Here's to more shared experiences and giving to those who need it rather than our world's frenzied consumerism ways ! x

  3. Hi Ing. Phew, glad I'm not the only one! May your festive season and beyond be filled with awesome shared experiences and love too.



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