(Thinkstock photo) Up to 80 per cent of people actually don’t like the gifts they receive.

Untrending: Best gift of all is time

Many of us enjoy an overabundance of material goods.

I’ve written about managing holiday expectations and choosing to participate only in what truly brings you joy. So often, though, we do the opposite.

I get it – it’s tough to stand down from the desire to create a perfect celebration, and find the perfect gifts.

On the surface, it’s far easier to overindulge, overspend and get overwhelmed.

I was inspired by a recent email newsletter I received from local decluttering expert Conny Graf.

In her newsletter, Graf proposed that we reconsider both the motive and the meaning of gift-giving and she offered up the interesting statistic that 80 per cent of people actually do not like the gifts they receive. Eighty per cent. That’s staggering when you stop and think about the time, effort, stress, and cost that goes into shopping for the ‘perfect’ holiday gift.

Graf’s family stopped exchanging gifts more than 30 years ago, and she explains that, in her eyes, the best gift of all is time.

“The gift of time never creates any clutter in someone else’s home, it creates memories – even better, shared memories.”

In a related blog post, she expands on her reasoning.

“If you give somebody the gift of your time, that’s actually the highest gift you can give … Unconsciously, we do realize that time is our most precious commodity and we feel we don’t have enough to give some as a gift. It seems so much easier to just find a gift to give and the duty is done.”

Graf is a member of the Big Fat Yes Club, an online group committed to conscious living that I host on Facebook. Inspired by Graf’s insights, I researched group members to get their reflections on gift-giving and what’s important at this time of year.

Rebecca Coleman, Vancouver cookbook author and social media maven, offered up a recent post on her Cooking by Laptop blog, where she covered Christmas gifts for foodies. Nearly all her suggestions are experience-related rather than retail products.

Here is what she has to say: “As time goes on, I become more concerned about the state of the environment and more aware of what I’m doing and how it’s affecting the world. So, I’m trying to be more conscious of gifts that don’t create waste, are more sustainable choices and are better for the environment, ideally support local businesses, and/or are more about the experience and creating memories rather than stuff (that may or may not be wanted). Think presence rather than presents.”

Author Sylvia Taylor is also thinking about the bigger picture this season.

Says Taylor: “We donated money to two environmental groups instead of buying gifts. We figured that was the best gift we could give to everyone on this planet.”

Another Big Fat Yes Club member, photographer Jenn Co-McMillan, of Red Alchemy Photographic Arts, has decided to simplify holiday gift-giving for herself and her daughter, Maddi.

“This year, Maddi gets one present from me and one from Santa. I’m not buying any adults presents. Instead, I’m making plans for get-togethers and to visit different holiday activities during the season. I love the lasting impact of sharing time and experiences with the people in my life over the short-lived satisfaction of getting stuff.”

Member Tania Lafortune, Maple Ridge owner of Retro Mom Services, offered this reflection: “I am realizing with age and maturity, that the holidays are so much more than the day and the gifts. The gift is our time to others, with family and friends, volunteering to help those in need. This is the message we need to send to our ‘littles’ in our lives.”

Others in the group offer tips for simplifying and seasonal de-stressing, such as planning in advance for foodstuffs and libations, or preparing hand-made gifts or offers of practical help and services throughout the year.

Many of us enjoy an overabundance of material goods, crowding out cupboards and cluttering our homes. The one thing we don’t have is an abundance of is time. Let’s share our most precious gift this year.

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning

entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her

at vickimcleod.com.

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