A New Way of Giving and Receiving à la Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood)
Every once in a while you read a book that changes you in some way. Books inspire in many ways; they can help you find inner drive, self-love, or acceptance. They can make you consider the way you treat yourself and the world around you, prompting you to take positive action. They can even open up new ways of being and understanding. I have read several books that have done all of the above for me, and, recently, I read another—but the title may come as a surprise.
The most recent book that positively changed me was Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. I have always loved the Shopaholic books; I love reading about Becky’s fabulous finds, wardrobe, style, and life. The books typically have left me with two strong yet opposing feelings: first, I need more high-end fashion in my life, and second I need to stop spending money on material things. The latter is what I felt most powerfully as I finished Christmas Shopaholic. If you haven’t read it yet and intend to, stop reading here!
The book finds Becky in her usual state of doing everything, except this time, it culminates with Christmas. As predicted, there is a large family gathering with food, drinks, and presents. However, it was the actions of two characters that spoke to me and caused me to view gifting differently.
The first is Becky’s sister Jess. Jess is very nonmaterialistic, and, this year, decides that she and her husband are going to gift everyone with a word. At first, this sounded ridiculous to me. Who, in their right mind, would be happy giving or receiving a word for Christmas, or any occasion for that matter? But as Kinsella unfolds the gifting of each word, the reader understands this gesture on a deeper level.
What started out seeming ridiculous and silly turned into something beautiful and intensely meaningful. Kinsella does a masterful job of describing the process used to choose each word and how each person felt before and after receiving their word. It turns out that words are more eloquent and thought-provoking than tangible items.
The second is Becky and her friend Suze. Inspired by Jess’ announcement of word-gifting, they decide to give each other gifts that they already own. Becky digs through her closet and finds items that she decides Suze will love, and vice versa. While different than giving a non-material gift, this method does reduce consumerism and impulse buying. Becky and Suze are each thrilled by the items they have received and given. Gifting your own items to someone you know will love them speaks louder than buying something off a wishlist.
These two actions got me thinking: what if I could do one (or both) of these for the holidays? What if everyone did just a little more gifting of already owned or non-tangible items?
We have so many possessions as a society that our basements are packed and we need storage lockers to hold our extra STUFF. We require large closets, several dressers, storage bins, and shelves upon shelves for all our items. As a society, we have a plethora of clothing, shoes, jewelry, decorations, knickknacks, books, dishes, appliances…the list goes on and on. Would it really be so bad to eliminate some of those items?
Items, just like people, hold energy. And, just like people, negativity builds up if that energy isn’t cleared regularly. Eliminating some (possibly) unnecessary items from your life will free up energy, physically and spiritually.
I am not by any means encouraging you to give up all earthly possessions and live off the land (unless that’s your cup of tea!). I still do a fair amount of unnecessary spending and eye shop on Vestiarie and The Real Real. However, I am intentionally putting more thought into purchases and gifts, including non-tangible and pre-loved (by me!) ones.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are some ideas for you:
- Time: As I get older, time with family and friends becomes increasingly more meaningful. Instead of purchasing, consider spending time with the person you want to give a gift to. This could be cooking a meal together, window shopping, or going for a walk—whatever feels right. Added bonus: it’s free!
- An experience: There are lots of ways to spend time together which require money, too. Spa days, amusement parks, or taking a class together are all very meaningful. One year we gifted my mom with a penguin encounter at the Shedd Aquarium and she loved it! I guarantee she will remember that experience much longer than physical items.
- Do something in someone’s name: Plant a tree, bush, or garden as a gift for someone. Donate to a worthy cause or organization that they support. Volunteer at an event with them or on behalf of them.
- Write a poem or mantra: Words are very powerful. Carefully consider the person you want to give a gift to: what mantra do you think would guide them? If you are choosing a word, what word do you feel expresses who they are?
- Regift: Are there possessions of yours that other people have coveted? If so, consider giving it away as a gift in lieu of purchasing something new. I already have a handful of ideas for family if I decide on this option, and I bet you do too!
Finally, if you are going to shop, consider shopping small, consignment, or thrift stores. I realize this is a contradictory statement coming from someone who sells things. However, part of my growth is moving away from this aspect of materialism and focusing on the nonmaterial.
However you go about blessing the people in your lives with gifts, I hope you find ways to make it a deeper and more meaningful experience as this new year unfolds.