It’s the holiday season

With the holidays almost upon us it is a good time to start to reflect and plan for holiday shopping. It has taken a while, but I have come to realize that if I put more time and focus in to thinking what to get for a person, I feel more excited about the gift and likely the recipient does as well. One of my goals for this year is to avoid giving things that will end up unused and dusty, or quickly in a landfill. Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

  • As opposed to buying a bunch of toys or other typical gift items, consider giving the gift of experiences.  This could be tickets to the water or trampoline park, a zoo or Netflix membership, concert tickets, a music subscription, a date night, a vacation, or a variety of other events.  A friend of mine who is now an empty nester, talks about how he used to ask his kids what they got for Christmas last year and they would rarely remember.  But if he asked them where they went and what they did on vacation they could quickly recall with a smile on their face.  That was part of the catalyst that transitioned his family in to spending more on being together and less on unmemorable gifts.  I think this sums up the idea of giving experiences very well, people are a lot more likely to have fond memories of a thoughtful and personalized experience than a standard store bought item.
  • Stealing a line from Dick Enrico (2nd wind exercise), why buy new when slightly used will do? I have commented before on how it amazes me the things that I consider junk that people are willing to take off of my hands.  It also amazes me the things that are not junk that others are willing to sell.  This season consider checking out thrift stores, e-bay, play it again sports, and other second hand retailers.  Chances are if you look, you can find you might have your own version of a This and That or Reclaimed by Joy with unique gift items.
  • With the above in mind and the idea of investing more time and thought in to gift buying, try and avoid impulse purchases.  Make a list, have a plan, and stick to it.  And while you are it, bring a re-usable bag and avoid buying gift wrap.  In the U.S. alone, 4M tons of trees are turned from carbon absorbing entities to wrapping paper and gift bags.  Consider using part of the gift as the wrap (scarf, blanket, etc.) or making a unique gift wrap from ideas on Pinterest or similar.

Now that I have posted this, the pressure is on…. Time to go do some thinking about those on my gift list-

Sainted and Tainted: Furniture Stores

Sainted: Occasionally Yours – The store front sign says it best; “Our store is full of charming, unusual items that can’t be found in big retail stores.”  But that does not really capture the coolness of this store, they have artists and restoration experts who take beautifully designed, high-quality, sturdy and durable furniture that could last a lifetime, and re-purpose it in a fun and creative way so that it could be handed down to your children or passed on for generations to come.  Pictures and their story are on their website as well as their Facebook site.  It is one of those stores that you could literally spend hours in and leave knowing you likely only saw 75% of the items, not because of the size of the store but because of the overwhelming quantity of creative and unique items.  My wife and I had been looking for a bench at big box and furniture stores on and off for a few months and found one that was of incredible quality and construction for much less money than we had found elsewhere.  While the Mall of America might be a big draw for some, this store which is 10 miles south is worth the trip and there are few things more sustainable than giving new life to something old that was built with quality.

Tainted: IKEA – As most people know IKEA builds relatively easy to transport flat-pack particle-board furniture, usually very cleverly designed and often with some sort of cool product name.  The first core issue with the IKEA approach is that they embrace the discount culture of repetitive consumption; making items of the cheapest construction for the briefest interval the buying public will tolerate.  Even their marketing confirms this with commercials about how furniture does not have feelings and can and should be replaced at any time.  Despite being founded in 1943, when is the last time anyone passed something purchased from IKEA down to a next generation?  This mentality and the acceptance of that approach by our culture has led to the second core issue; IKEA is the third largest consumer of wood in the world.  They harvest the majority of it from Eastern Europe and Russian Siberia, where according to World Bank, half of the logging is illegal.  IKEA’s wholly owned Swedish subsidiary Swedwood has been condemned by multiple organizations for clear-cutting 1,400 acres a year of 200- to 600-year-old forest near the Finnish border.  The IKEA issues along with other consequences of the discount culture are outlined in the Ellen Ruppell Sheel book entitled Cheap.  IKEA has begun to create a plan for being a better steward of the environment but to date most of it appears more for marketing themselves to be a more sustainable company.

The takeaway here is quite simple.  When you are in the market for something new, see if it can be provided by something old or repurposed.  Before throwing something out think if it could have life as something else or to someone else.  It never ceases to amaze me the things other people are willing to take off of your hands.  This holiday season I plan to try and give gifts that are all used or repurposed which I hope will make the shopping season more interesting and make the gifts more personal in nature.