We’ve successfully completed one month on the More Than Enough Stuff no buying challenge and it was pretty simple. Until last week, when we started receiving gifts. Before that, I had stayed out of stores almost completely, used creativity when we thought of something we needed. I had mended a couple pieces of clothing with interior patches, come up with a simple Jedi Valentine’s day card that didn’t require new toys or little stuff, and was really feeling like this experiment was going smoothly.
Then my parents came to town. They are generous parents and grandparents, and of course began showering us with gifts. First, some surprises my mom had brought home from a recent vacation to Mexico. A darling dress for Plum, and some fabric and food for me. I thought we would be able to maintain our experiment by using them as replacements for items we already had, and simply give something similar away, maintaining at least our base level of stuff, not adding to it.
Then, the day after my mom and dad came and watched the boy’s basketball games, we were pulling out of the garage and I noticed a couple Amazon boxes on the porch. I wasn’t expecting anything, and my cute mom kept quiet. When we opened the boxes, the kids were thrilled to see their very own brand new basketballs; one per child, color coded in their favorite colors.
I couldn’t help but be excited for them, too. Here was something we could use to spend quality time together, and encourage the kids to continue developing their talents. They immediately went over to the neighbors basketball hoop and began to shoot.
Now I was in a quandary. Mom smiled and told me “Well, you didn’t buy them.” Which was true, but the acquisition of more things during a time when we’re earnestly focusing on using what we already have was a paradox. I felt a little like a hypocrite, as silly as that is. The truth is that I really want to live with less, organize and reduce what we own, and love more fully what remains. Getting more wasn’t part of the plan.
It did open up the question that we hadn’t fully considered of what to do when we are given gifts this year. We can control the gifts we choose to give each other. We already outlined we will keep them handmade or gifts of experience.
However, we can not control those given us. How can we remain true to our minimalist goals and ideals this year while still being gracious and grateful?
What I’ve come up with is two-fold. We will receive gifts with love and grace. And we will give back in equal or greater measure.
A reader recently told me about the Amazon Give Back Box partnership between Amazon and Goodwill. I thought it was a great idea, but naively thought I wouldn’t have any new Amazon boxes this year, so I probably wouldn’t try it for a while.
Within in a week, I had these two giant Amazon boxes on my porch, delivering basketballs. The boxes begged to be filled up and sent back out, granting a sort of compromise to my idealistic heart. We will receive, and we will give.
Today, the kids and I went through the house, picking out items that we no longer need. Things that are still in great shape and will be loved and appreciated by someone new. In thirty minutes we had filled both boxes with books, boots, table linens, wooden blocks, kitchen items, and a few kids clothes. Stuff we will not miss.
For now this seems like a good system. We will not buy new things on our own. When we receive gifts, we will turn around and give away equal or greater quantities. Receive with gratitude and give with love.
Okay, okay, but what about swag? As a blogger, this was something I knew that I would deal with and the time came last week. My first blogger conference of the year was in Palm Springs, and when I checked-in at registration, I received a big box full of sponsored swag. Not gifts, exactly, more like stuff…
It was a beautiful pile! Stuff is so enticing, friends. It’s no wonder we are all so addicted to it. There were some things that I could obviously use and keep immediately. Gum, cookies, chap stick. All of those consumable items that I could open and use and know they wouldn’t add to my closets and cabinets full back home.
Next were some really useful but necessary items. A bracelet, stockings, water bottle, pool toy, craft paints, towels, pins, cocktail kits…not to mention the items that were given out freely at each of the sponsored booths. There was just so much cool, beautiful, wonderful stuff! But it is up to me when to decide that I have enough. And I have enough.
I decided to pack home only things that were consumable (extra packs of gum), or items I could use as gifts for others this year. That had been my original plan with swag; to give it away to people who wanted or needed it.
And after all this, I was faced with an unexpected situation that I handled all wrong and need to rethink. Often, at blogging conferences we not only connect with sponsors, but also connect with other bloggers and influencers to help each other promote small businesses or new projects.
Ironically, I had brought a small pile of Live Free Creative Company kitchen towels to hand out. I was giving out stuff along with everyone else!
And then the moment that I have felt bad about since it happened: I was congratulating a friend on the launch of her new, fully customizable planner company Golden Coil, and she offered to send me one.
I told her I already had a planner, and was really trying to not add any more stuff this year.
Ouch. No gratitude. No love. No grace. I was awkward, insensitive, and unintentionally unkind. I am thrilled for her new venture, actually think her planner idea is genius and of course I would LOVE to try one out! Both to better organize my life, as well as to support her in her endeavors.
I am embarrassed to admit what a fumble this was. I was a little unprepared, and a little self-righteous. No one refused a kitchen towel, the gifts I was giving were well received. This moment made me back up and rethink a little bit.
How can I support and encourage my friends in their business endeavors while still not actively adding stuff to my life? I’m still not totally sure, but I know the solution there lands in much more gratitude, acceptance, and flexibility than I offered in that moment.
I can accept gifts with gratitude, then turn around and give with love. Say yes to friends with small businesses, projects, and products they hope I can help promote. Not seek them out, but say yes to gifts when they feel personal, appropriate, and authentic.
Also, I can continue to be generous with what I give. I would love to be able to extend some of these lovely items and experiences to friends and family around me who will be thrilled with the swag, the stuff, and the love.
Whew, so that was the week. I learned a lot about the nuances of how our choices affect the choices of others, and how we must learn to navigate within the confines of what we can control. And always to lead with love and gratitude. If we loose that, we have lost perspective.
And, as I close this update, you’ll probably think it’s funny that as I was away, figuring out what to do with the swag and how to manage the stuff in Palm Springs, my mom added a basketball hoop to our driveway, stocked the kids up with a couple new outfits, and just this morning I discovered new swimsuits that she had tucked into the top of the boy’s closet.
I don’t think she understands our goal here, although I am grateful for her generosity and love. And we have some more thoughtful donating to do.