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Local minimalist gives gift-giving tips for the holiday season

Julie Sims suggests giving the gift of an experience rather than an object that may only be used once before taking up space permanently
christmas presents in boxes getty images
Presents. (Getty Images)

With the holiday season approaching and supply chain delays creating a frenzy across the country, a local minimalist is encouraging Nova Scotians to invest in experiences rather than gifts. 

It all started with Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, a book Julie Sims read that changed her relationship to her possessions forever.

“It reframed my focus to ‘what do I need, and then on top of basic needs, what adds value?'” Sims explained.

Sims believes the pandemic lockdowns gave people both the time and space to reevaluate what they need, and more importantly, what they don’t.

“I think there was a surge in minimalism because people were like, ‘this is too much.’ Just because of the volume, the amount of time people had to spend with their stuff,” Sims said.

When it comes to presents, Sims suggests giving the gift of an experience rather than an object that may only be used once before taking up space permanently. 

“There's this idea that children need to have a piece of plastic toy in their hands when really they're getting a lot of that,” Sims said.

Sims noted every gift she now receives during the holidays are things she “really wanted, needed, or cherished.” 

Sims is part of a minimalism group in Halifax. One year, a group member rented a stretch limo, put apple juice in champagne glasses, and gave his family a tour of the Christmas lights in the city.

“Those memories are going to last a lot longer than the newest toy being marketed,” Sims said.

One alternative is giving a gift certificate to a local farmers market or craft shop rather than spending at big box stores or through Amazon. Sims suggests gifting experiences like a season pass to a museum or tickets to the zoo. 

“You're giving them an experience because they're going to get out of their normal habit,” Sims explained. 

Sims pointed out that gift exchanges used to be out of abundance, where neighbours shared extra blankets, sweaters, onions, and other goods.

What once was “I had lots of this, I’m going to give some to you,” has become an overwhelming practice of consumerism to Sims, who noted that stores were decorating for Christmas before Halloween this year.

Another member of Sims’ minimalist group struggled with getting rid of unwanted gifts, even if they were just taking up space in a closet. 

“It's not about the thing. It's about the giving,” Sims said. Once the gift is received, she added, there’s a sense of obligation to hold onto it whether you want to or not.

“If you donate them or find a better home for it, it will be more valued, it will be used, and it can be treasured,” Sims said. “If your mother knew how much you didn't want that thing, she wouldn't want you to keep it.”

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