The G Word

Gifts. It’s the topic of this month’s Small Family Homes Blog community and I tried to write this post, many times -typing and erasing over and over again. Even the word gives me a bit of anxiety. It’s silly really this thing that is supposed to be a form of kindness and generosity causing stress instead.

Let me explain.

Adam and I come from families of gift givers who we’ve asked to rethink how, when and what they give. Over and over and over again. While the obvious reason for this has been that we haven’t had (and still don’t have)  a lot of space for things in general, the other reason is that we place value on experiences and relationships over things and want our daughter to as well. We are trying to be intentional about how we live our lives (our values) and this means being thoughtful about what we choose to bring into our home – whatever form home may take.

Sometimes I am convinced that our views and requests around gifts has been more difficult for our family to wrap their heads around then us living in a home on wheels and traveling the country.

Navigating this topic has been way more challenging then I expected – in fact I didn’t really expect it to be a challenge. I thought we could explain our thoughts/feelings on the topic and it would be done. Naive on my part. Over the last three years how we have broached the subject and our requests have varied in attempts to help folks understand, compromise and make the topic a bit less stressful. We’ve tried the “no gifts” request, the curated list of items, the buy only one item, and give an experience approaches.

I wish I could provide you with a “how to” guide on getting your family to understand your gift receiving policy (whatever that may be)  but I don’t have a magic wand and I am convinced that is what it would take.  So three years in this is what I am working on. Maybe it will help you know you aren’t alone or rethink your approach a bit or maybe it won’t do anything but make me sound like an jerk for complaining that our family gives too many gifts. Whatever the case here you go.

Knowing it’s a work in progress.  Gift giving is something families have been doing – well forever. It is a societal norm.  A behavior that has been learned over a lifetime. And just like anything that has been learned over a lifetime people’s desires to give gifts won’t just go away overnight. Hang in there and try to be patient. Enjoy the baby steps.

Personalizing my approach. Just like every family is different ever member within a family is different. Some family members may have an easier time adjusting to your requests than others. Some you may need to put your requests in writing, some will do better with a heart to heart discussion. Some will feel hurt or angry by your request and some won’t be bothered by it at all.

Explaining instead of reminding. You might feeling like you are repeating yourself or providing regular reminders around certain times of the year. Talk to your family about the choices you are making, and explaining not just in the context of gifts what is important to you,  what your values are and how all the choices you make impact that. Maybe having a fuller, more regular picture will help them to see that you aren’t just trying to be controlling or a pain in the ass.

Giving thanks. As much as you might end up reminding folks or requesting things of them in regards to how you want to handle gifts in your family remember to thank them. Thank them for not going crazy buying a ton of gifts for a birthday, or taking your suggestions about what is needed. Even if you still feel frustrated that their go to is to buy something instead of do something try to find the positives and pay attention to them.

Let it go. This is something I am really working on. I am not saying to let your values go or your requests even but at a certain point it feels like its not worth the stress it causes. Allow yourself to be okay with donating items that you don’t have room for, aren’t being used, or simply that you just aren’t okay with having in your home. Let people know that this is something that happens in your home. Don’t feel bad about it and use it as a teaching opportunity for your kiddo. As frustrating as it can feel for us to manage the gifts that come in to our homes in the long run its not really about how many gifts or what gifts our kiddos receive it is about what we do with them and the behavior we model for our children on a daily basis around giving and receiving that counts.

Remember the intent behind it. Sometimes I have felt like I have repeated the same thing over and over again and that our requests are purposefully ignored and/or our views are not respected. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “ I know how your feel but I just couldn’t help myself.” BUT I am trying to remember they want to buy gifts to show they care and out of love and because really maybe as many times has we have made suggestions they just don’t feel that there is any other way. So I am working on remembering the love because in the end that really is what is important.

Do you have any struggles around gifts in your family? How are you managing it? I would love to hear.

This post was written for inclusion in the December collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!
Little Bungalow– “A Very Minimalist Christmas to You” : It took some help from some talking squirrels, but I’ve finally made peach with receiving Christmas gifts. 
Fourth & West– “The Gift We Give” : How our children remember the holidays.
Tiny Ass Camper– “The G Word” : Navigating gifts in a family of gift givers. 

About Jenn

Jenn has created 27 entries.


  • Victoria the Justice Pirate

    Ahhhh I missed two of these posts now!! I would have loved to have posted this topic too! gah!
    Oh man gift giving is a big thing in my family (not so much my husband’s family, which makes me glad hahahaha). I so agree about not being upset about donating/letting things go that people may give to you or your kids.
    Put it this way, my younger son will be having a birthday party later this month and I told all the people invited to NOT give him any gifts, but that if they want to, give him money as he is saving for a car (perhaps I’ve said this to you before about my older son who has been saving for a year so far). haha.

  • Kendal

    Ah, this! I’m in the “Let it Go” stage — not letting go of values, but letting go of the stress that giving and receiving creates. I honestly feel like my family has improved so much (Grandma and Grandpa still buy gifts from a store, but it’s two or three gifts instead of twenty). Being consistent on our end has really helped. That is, we weren’t minimalists for one year the way that I was a vegetarian for three months in grade 9 — this isn’t a phase we’re going through, but something we commit to every day, even on Dec 25.

    • Jenn

      Yes, definitely not a phase. I am hoping to get better at the let it go. I thought I was there until a family member bought about 12 gifts for our kiddo, cue anxiety. Haha. Practice makes perfect, right?

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