A Miminalist Holiday – I Got Nothing and More!

There was not a single present for anyone under our tree this year. In fact, there were only reverse presents. Instead of giving each other gifts this year, Mrs. CK and I rummaged through the house to find stuff to give away. We gathered our “gifts” and piled them under the tree. Then, instead of unpacking presents, we packed them all up into our trusty steed Lightning. And off to Goodwill they went.

In the weeks leading up to the holidays, we’re normally busy getting ready to host our annual holiday party. One of the best things about having guests over is that it forces us to clean the house. And for a big party, it’s not just about cleaning the toilet bowls. I’m talking bathrooms, living room, dining room, basement – everything gets cleaned.

The hidden costs of clutter

Last week, I was going through the basement theater room, wiping the dust off of a shallow built-in shelf that runs along the walls. I was obstructed by a dust troll – a giant candle holder with a glass globe – placed on the shelf between two windows. The glass had accrued a lot of dust, so I grabbed a rag and some window cleaner to wipe it down.

Then as I placed my hand on the globe, a feeling of doom passed through my body. I had a vision of my past and future – tethered to this candle holder, wiping it down year after year. It was a dark vision and there was never any light coming from the candle.

I needed to be set free, but the candle globe wasn’t mine, it was Mrs. CK’s. I asked her if we could be rid of this wicked thing, but she wanted to keep it around. “I kinda like it. It looks nice there.” I shared with her my troubling vision – the Eye of Mordor,Β hordes of Orcs, and the evil spell that bound me to an extra chore twice a year.

The queen of our lands granted me my freedom, “you can put it under the tree.” And with that, the dust troll was vanquished. I continued on and kept finding more of these trolls hiding in plain sight. There were rows of DVDs and CDs on the shelf that hadn’t been played in years. They got dusted and put under the tree.

The minimalist gift that keeps giving

While Mrs. CK was cleaning in the kitchen, she found another dust troll. I’d saved a piece of wood from notching a big tree that I cut down. It had been a difficult tree to put down – if it went down in the wrong direction, it could have taken out our house. I had some memories tied to this piece of tree, but now this memento was just another dust troll. “Cast it into the fire!” Mrs. CK pleaded. After taking a picture, straight into the fires of Mount Doom it went.

Cast it into the fire!

The hunt was on. We found some extra wine glasses that were untouched for so long, they had become cloudy. They had gathered dust inside of a cabinet – what kind of evil is this? Under the tree they went.

Emboldened by our new powers, we went through our closets as well. I already received the best gift ever earlier this year when I got to quit my job. And now I was left with half a closet full of khakis and polo shirts sitting idle. Under the tree they went. This opened up space in the closet for some luggage that was taking up floor space in the guest room.

This wasn’t the first time we gave things away this year, but we still managed to find enough “gifts” to make a pretty nice pile under the tree. With the shelves clear and the floors unobstructed, I got back to cleaning. The shelves got wiped down in one pass and the floors were swept up with ease. We had just given ourselves the gift of less chores and more free time.

A new holiday tradition

In many ways, reverse gifts are the best kind of gifts. The donation will go towards charity, and the items will get to see a second life. But we got more than just some good feelings and a tax deduction. The best part of the gift was getting more open space and less to maintain. We didn’t have to clean up wrapping paper, find space for new toys, or fight mall crowds to purchase/return stuff we don’t want or need. Instead, we can relax in our tidy home and be lazy while enjoying a Lord of the Rings marathon with the one set of Bluray discs that escaped the fires of Mount Doom… at least for now.

29 thoughts on “A Miminalist Holiday – I Got Nothing and More!

  1. Bravo for vanquishing the Dust Trolls!!

    I’m envious of your reverse gifting Christmas. πŸ™‚ I’ve always been a fan of just doing manageable gifts for the kiddos during the holidays, but Mr. Picky Pincher was *vehemently* against the idea of not giving/receiving gifts for Christmas. I’ll work on him a bit more for next year I guess. πŸ˜‰

  2. Atta boy! You won’t miss that wedge of wood; I’ve been there.

    A complete degifting will never fly in our family, but we’ve made real strides in recent years. I have been giving and requesting mostly consumables and experiences, and I love it.

    This year, I got beef sticks, homebrewing kits, completely brewed beer, a candy cane full of M&Ms, Cheetos — yes, Cheetos — and a much smaller pile of actual goods like socks and clothing.

    Cheers to a successful Christmas!

    • I’m over the chunk of wood, it was fun to burn πŸ˜‰

      I like the idea of getting consumables and experiences, some beef sticks and brewing ingredients would go quick in this house πŸ™‚

  3. My fondest Christmas gift was a silver dollar my Dad hid under the King carrying gold. I guess that’s probably where my cyber name came from. Memories and experiences shared with family and friends are the most precious. I’m also fond of simple handmade toys for kids. “Velveteen Rabbit” comes to mind.

  4. We give a small amount of gifts but the grand parents go all out every year. Much of what they wrought on our house will make its way to good will later this week as well as some of our older stuff.

  5. I love that phrase “reverse gift giving”. It drives me nuts when organizations have toy drives, but the toys have to be brand new. Really? I get the ‘gently used’ request, but does an underprivileged youth really care if he/she gets something used or new, as long as it is still relevant, useful and fun? Plus, to get kids involved to give away some of their own toys, and learn about sharing and equitable distribution, is a great lesson in early life. Win-Win.

  6. I love this article!!! A reverse gift giving Christmas is brilliant. My wife is really good about the one in and one out rule. (We can only receive a gift if I get rid of something).

    But I love the idea and it’s something we will definitely need to incorporate next year. Thanks for sharing such a great idea!!!

    • One must rule Middle Earth from somewhere. The fires keep it toasty and we’re well stocked with the Hobbits’ weed and ale, so aside from all the loud drumming, it’s not too bad πŸ˜‰

      Happy Holidays!

  7. At least you saved the Lord of the Rings discs…getting rid of those would be taking it a little too far. πŸ™‚

    It’s great that you guys were able clean out and donate some “stuff”! It’s good to do that now and then. I’ve gradually done the same over the years. Dusting is a breeze with nothing on the flat surfaces!

  8. Awesome idea, Mr. CK! But, uh, please don’t tell me you gave away that Dave Chappelle DVD without re-watching it a couple times!!

    I especially like the ghosts of Christmas past and future that channeled through the evil candle holder. Sounds like something out of Scrooged…

    Thanks for the great holiday-time read, and congrats on the excellent work. I have no doubt your contributions are making a big difference in lots of people’s lives already. Very thoughtful and powerful. Happy holidays to the CKs!

  9. Great idea for Christmas! We have a kid so we went the conventional route this year. πŸ™‚
    I hate those dust collectors, though. We don’t buy those kind of things anymore, but our place is still full of them. I think we’ll clean them out in one shot when we move… The family is too sentimental.
    Happy New Year!

  10. I love this idea! We didn’t give any gifts this year. After watching The Minimalists, it made me realize how much “stuff” I have. I’ve bought nothing (besides food) since watching this film a couple weeks ago.

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