For the past three years, there haven’t been any gifts under the tree.
It started innocently enough. As my brother and I got older and the toy store no longer had a mythical pull, Christmas began to lose that heart-fluttering excitement and the desire to come peeling out of my room at 5 a.m. to see what was waiting for me. Our wish lists slowly got shorter and our requests more practical.
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After experimenting with minimalism in college, as one does, I came home for break determined to only give and receive things that added value. I thought it would reduce my guilt around consumption and help us all avoid some extra clutter. But it was difficult. If anything, finding the perfect, useful item for each person in my family actually added more stress to my holiday shopping and wish-list making. It wasn’t just me. My entire family struggled to come up with things to ask for or give.
And then on the fateful Thanksgiving three years ago, we came to a family decision. Instead of buying each other gifts that year, we would take a vacation together during the summer and adopt a family through a local charity and check off their Christmas list instead.
The holidays have never been the same—they’re so much better.