My husband and I just returned from a 10 day vacation to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary where we attended a NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup race, visited many race shops, dreamed about what it would be like to be a part of the NASCAR family of employees, and experienced the ocean and a true beach for the first time in our lives. We spent a day at the beach. Hubby and I did what we call snorkling. We saw many fish and a crab. We went to the Miami Seaquarium. We went to the Everglades and took an airboat tour and watched a gator wrestling show. We spent time at Bayside. We ate alligator, crab, conch, squid and mahi mahi. The weather was perfect. We loved every minute of our time in Boca. There has been much talk of what it would be like to live in Florida.
What’s this got to do with minimalism? Everything, really.
For starters, we opted for a shared experience rather than buying each other anniversary gifts – highly minimalist! He has always wanted to see the race shops in Charlotte and has wished to take me to a race since we started dating. I want to visit my best friend every chance I get (she’s the reason we went specifically to Boca Raton, FL). I have always wanted to see the ocean and a real beach (all we have for beaches here are man-made lakeside beaches or sandbars in the middle of the river). We wanted to see the Miami skyline, and see gators in real life – not those we see in a zoo. Mostly, though, we really wanted to see the ocean and our friends.
Secondly: souvenir shopping! There’s nothing more anti-minimalism than buying a bunch of friends and family a bunch of stuff that really means nothing to them because they didn’t attend the vacation with you. Who doesn’t want to buy everyone they know something to commemorate a vacation they didn’t take? haha That’s how silly it felt to us as we were hitting gift shops trying to find things for the people in our lives. Additionally, buying everyone something gets expensive in a real quick hurry when you have 15 parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and children. Because buying gifts for everyone was cost prohibitive and silly, we opted to only buy gifts for his parents and our children. And we didn’t just buy them any old thing we saw. We ended up buying very little for these four individuals, which surprises me, to be honest.
Because his parents kept our children and tended to our pets for 10 days, we felt the need to buy them a thank you gift. We wandered through countless gift shops while in Charlotte, and spent some time in the gift shops near the beach. We evaluated everything we saw with different eyes than we used before finding minimalism. We didn’t want to just get them “stuff” that would sit on a shelf and get dusty. We wanted to find them something they’d actually use and enjoy. It boiled down to us buying one tshirt, two can koozies, a beachy candle, and two coffee mugs. We decided that none of this was an adequate enough thank you gift, so we ended up getting them a gift card to a local restaurant so they could enjoy a date night on us for helping us celebrate our first 10 years of marriage on such a grand scale.
What we bought our kids was different than it would have been a year ago as well. Ordinarily, we’d buy everything we saw that reminded us of them. Instead, we stuck with 3 tshirts each, a shark tooth and alligator tooth necklace for our son, a flower necklace for our daughter, a stuffed alligator each, a bookmark for our son, a refrigerator magnet for our daughter, and a shell adorned “treasure box” for our daughter. They loved all three tshirts. Our son is an avid reader and was thrilled with his holographic alligator bookmark. Daughter likewise loved her holographic alligator magnet. Son and Daughter have both worn their necklaces each day since we returned home. And both have slept with their stuffed alligators each night, naming them and dragging them with them everywhere they go. We sent home a few postcards because our kids just love getting mail – I’m still trying to figure out what to do with these now that they’re in our home.
It feels like a lot when it’s all written out, but each item was carefully considered for usefulness, enjoyability, and cost. If we thought they’d like it, but it would sit on a shelf unloved, we didn’t buy it. If it was useful but not necessarily enjoyable, we didn’t buy it. Looking back, we could have just done the gift card for his parents and called it adequate. Everything we bought will be used, but in hindsight, it’s more stuff for people who don’t necessarily need or want more stuff.
While we didn’t execute our gift buying flawlessly, our thoughts on gift giving have changed so much in the last year. We’re even rethinking Christmas and birthdays – asking for experiences rather than things. We’ve already decided that for Christmas 2017, we are loading our kids up and taking them to Florida to experience all the wonder and excitement we experienced in our 4 days there. We just have to decide what time of year we want to go that will result in the least amount of disruption from school without being hotter than blazes or overrun by tourists, that still allows for comfortable use of the beach and ocean. Florida has been, by far, the best experience I have ever had – in line behind marrying my husband and having his children, of course.
As I think about this upcoming Christmas and my new philosophy on gift giving, I have to admit I’m getting a bit overwhelmed and anxious about it. We live in an area that does not have a whole lot of experiences to offer. Our nearest marine aquarium is three hours away. Our nearest amusement park is two hours away. I’ve been scouring websites that offer alternative gift ideas trying to find some that fit in our area of the country, but each of them results in the parents having to fork out extra money to utilize the gift. I’m really coming up empty and it’s scary to me.
Are you a minimalist gift giver? What gift giving ideas do you have?