It’s that time of year. And this year is different. The heaviness of the past months left many of us anticipating holiday connections and celebrations more than ever. Christmas trees and twinkle lights began adorning homes in October. And the shopping ads began even earlier.
In our family, shopping and gifts have never been the top priority of the holiday. We have other – my children might say “unusual” – family traditions. We choose experiences over things, and holiday gatherings often find us exploring new places and events together. We fill stockings, but only with practical and useful items, like toothbrushes and highlighters, instead of candy or trinkets.
Traditions have become the treasures.
Our family buys few presents for each other and rarely are they expensive. Books are a favorite, and homemade and thrift and passing along a no-longer-needed item are also warmly welcomed. In recent years, we have bought personality assessments for everyone and enjoyed the deep conversations and greater appreciation for each other that results.
If we do shop for gifts, we try to buy them thoughtfully. We’ve become much more aware of and concerned about commercialization, waste, and exploitation over the years and want to do our part in lessening these practices. And so we ask questions.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM? – We’re learning to buy organic, renewable, and sustainable whenever possible. We look for natural fibers, recycled ingredients, glass, metal, or wood and avoid plastic and synthetic products and packaging as much as we can. We also wrap creatively in cloth, brown or pre-used papers, and twine instead of ribbons.
WHERE IS IT MADE? – We look to see if the producers care about the people who make the product. Do they use fair trade practices – honest wages and safe conditions? We enjoy supporting small and local businesses, ethnically diverse shop owners, and those companies that help others improve their lives.
IS IT GOOD FOR US? – We have been on a journey to avoid toxins where possible, so we look for natural products without perfumes and harmful chemicals. We look for gifts that improve health, care for the environment, and refresh the soul.
It can require a good bit of research to access truthful information about a product’s origin and a manufacture’s practices, and products made safely in smaller quantities by well-treated employees usually cost more. Over time, little by little, we have come to highly value the investment in meaningful purchases.
It is so easy to get caught up by the marketing and the ads and the pressure to have lots of stuff. Especially when we are sad and discouraged, “retail therapy” calls out loudly to our hearts. Sadly, impulse buying never truly satisfies long term, nor does it fill our deepest soul longings. When I shop with purpose, I find I get the double joy of gift receiver gratitude and personal gratefulness for the opportunity to contribute positively to our world.
We are not experts and do none of this perfectly, but we are progressing from first steps to lifestyle. I would love to learn more from you. In what ways do you shop with purpose?