Occasionally, people ask me why don’t I make my life easier and simply put stuff in storage. This article I came across today sums up why putting things in storage sucks. In short, a lady paid $8000 to put her crap in storage, only to have it all sold off when she couldn’t keep up with monthly payments. That just adds insult to injury. If she had sold all her stuff on Craigslist, she would have saved the $8000 fees, made some extra bucks and avoided herself much headache.
I think people are just addicted to stuff. We seem to associate physical matter with an approximation for love. That’s why we exchange physical objects as tokens of our love. If it’s a gift that is perfect for them, that’s one thing. But quite often gifts seem to be given just to conform to our culture of capitalism. Look at “Secret Santas” for example. I think the dirty little secret is that most Secret Santa presents are fucking useless. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in gifting but my philosophy with gifting is perhaps closer to Burning Man culture. You give someone something they need, not just for the sake of giving. Mind you, lots of people offered me useless swag at Burning Man, so perhaps this philosophy is not as widespread as I thought. Seriously, I rather be offered a sip of water in the middle of the desert than a fucking fridge magnet.
So, this Christmas why not give the minimalist in your life something meaningful? And I don’t mean just a hug and a bottle of wine. Seriously, if someone gave me a hug for Christmas and made a big song and dance about how that was my Christmas gift, I would offer them the gift of not taking a shit on their bed. Of course I love hugs but it’s a bit patronizing to call it a gift (unless it was a hug from Megan Fox). And giving wine or some sort of food or drink just seems well…superficial. Why not just give them cash then?
I think people who “don’t do gifts” are misunderstood. They are perceived as some sort of reincarnation of the Grinch who stole Christmas. Sure, some people are Scrooges. But I think the vast majority of minimalists simply appreciate something much more meaningful: the gift of quality service. I define this as: a significant amount of time that you sacrifice in service of another. It could be an hour massage or a manicure/pedicure/facial or doing their income taxes or setting up a website or cooking a 4-course meal from scratch or walking their dog for a week or cleaning their apartment or laundry or any one of a plethora of chores. The only proviso is it must be a promise that can be “cashed in” within the next 24 hours or it loses it’s value. The only thing worse than a bad gift is a broken promise of a gift.
I think we should also remember to give ourselves a gift. I gave myself a shiny MacBook last Christmas and it was fucking awesome! (It’s probably the best present I’ve ever received.) No really, I mean more like a gift back to society. I’ve volunteered a couple of times at shelters on Christmas Day and it’s so rewarding to be part of the karma economy. I can’t do that this year obviously but I’m going to “give myself” a Kiva gift card for Christmas. I used to think Kiva cards were fantastic gifts to give others but now I realize it’s kinda lame and self-serving. You might as well just say “I bought you this awesome present but then gave it to someone who needs it more”. Rather, I’m going to give myself a Kiva gift card which I will use to micro-finance a small-business in some remote part of the world. It’s probably not going to be as exciting as last Christmas’ present though.