Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gift Giving for Minimalists

Relationship issues naturally seem to follow a decision to make a major change in one’s life.
When a career change hits, it impacts on more than the person whose work path is redirected. It impacts on a spouse, on family members, and on one’s social life. Similarly, a change of residence means school & friendship reorientation for the children, a probable job change for a spouse, and a shuffling of extended family interactions due to distance. Obviously, a change of religion brings unique relationship realignments.
My decision to live a minimalist lifestyle occurred well before my remarriage. My spouse has done an amazing job of adjusting, accommodating and even aligning her value systems to meet my preferences. As I indicated, though, in one of my earlier blogs, I felt compelled to live as a “closet minimalist,” in order to maintain my image as a successful business consultant. That changed when I retired.
The most difficult relationship adjustment has come, not from those immediate family members such as my own children and my spouse, but from “extended family” and friends. Even my “new” children (a friend calls them “bonus children.” I love that expression!), after a couple of years, learned to accept that my value system was not something they should try to leverage or modify, in the same manner that I respected their way of looking at life. We share ideas, but do not strongarm our ideas on each other.
My new in-laws love to give gifts; for Christmas, at Easter, at every birthday and anniversaries. Regardless of how I protest, they simply laugh it off. Regardless of how I try to encourage them to, at least, spend less (they are in their late 70s), they ignore the requests. So how do I get them to understand that I do not want these excesses, without being exceptionally blunt and perhaps offend them?
Long-time friends of my spouse, and friends of mine who love to socialize with us insist on bringing dinner gifts for every occasion. They remember special occasions, and provide gifts. They look at our dearth of furnishings, and bring knickknacks and superfluous decorations. Yet, they all know my preferences. So, how do I deal with them?
A simple solution: let everyone know you appreciate their thoughts and generosity, and let them know. Each time they bring a gift, who or what charity you have donated their gift to. Let them know how valued those donations are by the recipients. Let them know that, regardless of their attempt to “fatten me up” while I am on my minimalism diet, I will continue to appreciate their generosity, and thank them for their charitable nature by giving gifts that they know I will prudently donate to the appropriate charities.

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