It’s a bit awkward to complain about the commercialization of winter holidays and then turn around and write articles encouraging readers to buy, buy, buy.
But do it I must. Once a year, our newspaper creates a special section dedicated to buying local gifts. It comes out in our Thanksgiving issue (which is HUGE because of all the store inserts inside), and it’s a big revenue generator for our little publication.
And I get that we need to do it, that the newspaper is expensive to print and create, and we’re all in this together, yadda yadda yadda. But on a personal level, living a minimalist lifestyle and aspiring to zero waste, and also because I hate Brown Thursday so much (yep, that’s actually a thing here) and Black Friday and the crassness and stupidity of it all, I feel like a big hypocrite every time I write a story extolling the virtues of some dumb trinket that nobody needs. Even though I also get why shopping locally is important to the general health and wellbeing of our community.
Wow, it’s complicated being an American.
Last year, even though I was deep into my Simple Year, it didn’t occur to me to offer to write a different kind of story — I just took my assignments (“gifts for every budget,” “coffee” and “socks”) and went with it. After it was all said and done, I remembered that I have a choice … and vowed to do it differently next time.
All of THAT is just to say that it’s already the next time. Our publisher casually mentioned in a staff meeting at the end of September that we’d be meeting with ad staff in early October to brainstorm story ideas, and I practically yelled, I want to do minimalist gifts! and everyone kind of looked at me, and my editor was like, will it be 15 words long?, and I was like, not even, all I need to say is, “Don’t buy anything.” And then (our publisher) will beat me up in the parking lot.
Our publisher pretended not to hear me. (She supports my coffee habit, so.)
When we had our meeting with ad staff, and we were all going around the table pitching ideas, I had mine sorted out — I didn’t want to say “minimalist gifts,” because no one would go for that, so I called it “gifts of experiences,” and rattled off my ideas: Museum memberships, acupuncture treatments, movie tickets, tickets to concert and theater performances, coffee shops (well, you knew I’d mix that one in, right?), swim passes, and spa services.
It’ll spotlight businesses that don’t normally get into the gift guide, I said to justify it, and was relieved to see all the nodding around the table.
It’s all in how you package it, kids. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
We have a new staff member who appears to love coffee as much as I do, and she was assigned “gifts of adventure.” She’s new in town — new to the Pacific Northwest, even — so I suggested we have a coffee meeting, not because we love coffee, OBVIOUSLY, but so we could go over ideas so our stories don’t overlap. She nodded sagely and said she definitely could see where I was coming from and that was a great idea.
I knew I liked this woman.
Her list contains more active experiences, so things like eBike rides, ski passes, zip lines, tree house rentals (I have to admit that sounds kind of amazing), and community ed trips. She suggested I add a sternwheeler cruise to my list, which I thought was a great idea. A half an hour later, we both had fat lists of possibilities. And I’m excited that there will be two stories in this year’s guide that focus on experiences over things.
Last year during my Simple Year project, I asked readers to brainstorm with me on the topic of zero waste gifts, and we came up with a great list, if I do say so myself. If you’re interested in further reading, click HERE and HERE. And my dedicated post on what I did for office gifts is HERE.
And if you have a minimalist or zero waste-ish gift idea you’d like to share, please add it to the comments — I would love that. It’s way too early to have to think about any of this — I like my holidays in proper order, thankyouverymuch — but on the other hand, it does take time to plan these sorts of gifts, so …