For the holidays and birthdays I try my damndist to either make presents or buy from indie businesses/crafters I know. This way I know that I'm supporting an individual and/or creating an item that the giftee will use. Be it a knitted hat, taking them on a tour*, a collection of family recipes, going on a hike, a well-made dress, or homemade bread. Making gifts/creating experiences also helps me spread out the amount of money I spend over a period of time, rather than going into debt for a month or two trying to quickly find something suitable for the person. I bring this up because I recently found an old article by George Monboit that resonated with me. The article begins:
They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.
Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).
Read more of George Monbiot's article "The Gift of Death" (Originally published in Guardian 12/11/12). If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the purpose of it can be summed up by thte last line of the article:
Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.
It all comes down to experiences, which is why Donovan and I love letter writing so much. Not only is it an experience for the person who is reading the letter, it was also time well spent for the person who wrote the letter. They took the time to make something for you, even if it just their own words, and gift it to you.
I feel this way about the items I buy from indie shops as well. They crafted a piece with love. The bowls I have from Circa Ceramics, I know them and their son. I know the item was made mindfully, and I know it will last forever. The clothing I buy from Poppy Von Frohlich or Concious Clothing– although I don't know them personally, I know they are women who are trying to support sustainable or American Made practices and I know the clothes will last me for the long haul.
A meaningful item is an investement in either your time or your money, but I would rather have one great and long-lasting item or memory than a dozen cheaply made trinkets. I think who ever you are gifting to will feel the same way.
So while this article would be more apt in the winter when everyone is thinking about gift giving, I chose to talk about it now so that you can think about it and plan. Yes, considering gifts in late summer seems crazy, but I've done this for the past two years and have found my holiday "shopping" much less stressful and easier on my bank account. So, how are you going to show those in your life that you care about them and the world they are living in?
* One of my favorite birthday presents was when Donovan bought us tickets to do a "Servants Tour" of the Driehaus Museum. It was a great way to see a historic house I had never been to, learn some Chicago history, and spend time with a friend.