Notes on Moving Sustainably: My Awkward Plea About House Warming Gifts

Filed in Personal  /  May 19, 2020 /

Welcome to my two-part series about trying to move homes with sustainability in mind. No, I’m not cool enough to be a zero-waster just yet, but I’m trying my best, okay?

My next post will focus on how to actually pack your life up and move without being a total D bag to the planet while being mindful and intentional about reducing your footprint and waste.

Right now I’m going to write about something that feels very awkward to address: Gifts. Housewarming gifts, to be exact.

*Let this be my acknowledgment that, yes, I understand how privileged a life I lead to be nit-picking about the gifts I receive.

However, in recent years my husband and I have put a lot of effort into living life more simply. We very rarely shop for new clothes, and when we do, we buy quality pieces made to last and thrift when possible.

We’ve also been very fortunate in accumulating great furniture handed down by our families. We have everything we actually *need*, and we have very specific goals for what little we would still like to obtain.

This is what has led me to write this post.

Since we just completed yet another move, this time much closer to our families and into a house we will actually own, we anticipate our very generous and loving families blessing us with far more than we want or need.

^ Actual footage of my hard attempt to kiss some serious butt before inevitably offending or peeving at least one family member.

So, here comes the sauce.

If you don’t know us intimately, please do not give us a gift.

Our goal is to only collect material things that tell our life story. We sincerely want to live rather minimally and only surround ourselves with things that truly bring us joy. (Tryna make Marie Kondo proud over here.)

We know that one day we will inherit sweet mementos from our families that we will certainly want to keep, but I don’t want to be guilted into cluttering up my home with other peoples’ well-wishes.

And, just to be blatantly honest and clear, it’s more likely that people don’t know what we would truly want and appreciate, and we would WHOLEHEARTEDLY rather you just spend quality time with us than spend your resources on a physical gift.

Isn’t it a sweeter intention to move into a space and think about the things that will fill it over time, rather than to move in and fill a space just to fill it?

We don’t want plastic. Please don’t give us plastic.

I’m trying (and definitely occasionally failing) to consume less plastic. I hate single-use plastics, and I sure as hell hate the thought of someone giving me plastic anything to put on display in my home to make them feel good for giving me a gift, a gift they’re giving me because it’s the culturally polite thing to do.

We have more than enough Tupperware, and if we need more, we want to be sure it’s either glass or metal with a sustainable top like bamboo or silicon.

Unless you have made a very thoughtful gift from a local artist made by upcycled plastics and you’re being VERY intentional about the purchase and you KNOW with 100% certainty we’ll love it, please just do not.

We don’t want to live in a Pottery Barn catalog.

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and thought of something you recently saw at a department store that you think will go nicely in their space, so you go out and buy it for them because you’re trying to be kind?

Well, I understand that might be your intention, but it’s not how I receive it.

I don’t want whatever cute nicknack you saw at Pottery Barn. I’m making my best efforts at accumulating things that are sustainably sourced, even if that means getting an old Pier 1 vase at a local consignment shop.

If you know us well, you know we travel a fair amount. We tend to buy things that we know will remind us of a place and its people, and we really enjoy supporting local economies.

These gestures matter to us, and we just want to make sure you understand our “why”.

If you think I’m being ungrateful, I’m here to challenge you.

I’m an extremely grateful person. While my realistic mindset can sometimes make me pessimistic, I’m more of a glass-half-full kinda gal.

I know how fortunate I am.

And it’s because I know how much I truly have that I want very little.

When someone gifts you something, it’s typically because they care for you (or feel societal pressure to give you crap #familyholidays…Michele, if you’re reading this, I still want/love my yearly soy-based lavender essential oil candle).

What a beautiful thing it is to be loved and thought of.

But, why does that mean you feel the need to give someone something? And, if you do truly want someone to feel loved and cared for, wouldn’t you want to be sure you gifted something truly unique to the individual? Don’t you think it is much more significant if the person feels truly known, seen, and heard, rather than to make them feel like an obligation that increases your own social ranking or bring yourself joy?

Some thoughtful gifts for the generous hearts that can’t refrain from gifting.

I can’t speak for every human trying to cut back on their consumption of material goods, but here are a few ideas for the folks in my life who I know for a fact will never stop gifting me:

  • Hand-written notes or cards. I keep every single one of them. What more intimate gift can be given than a person’s true thoughts, feelings, and unique handwriting?
  • Cold hard cash. If you’re a family member who truly loves a person and just can’t help yourself from gifting something to them, money is a great resource. It can be put towards savings or a good time. It may seem impersonal, but if you pair it with a lovely card (as mentioned above) it can really go a long way.
  • An experience. Ya know, like a nice dinner or concert. Facials and massages are also an excellent and ever-appreciated gift. Let. Me. Tell. You.
  • Donate something in their honor. If you know someone cares deeply about sustainability (cough cough, hi), you could always donate funds to local green initiatives or organizations and, again, write them a note to tell them what you did and why.
  • Booze. Okay, I understand you shouldn’t gift recovering alcoholics adult beverages to flow through their home, but that doesn’t apply to us, and we would gladly accept all the beverages, especially dry wine, gin, and bourbon.
  • ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED. If you’re adamant enough, they’ll probably tell you, and then you can feel good knowing you actually contributed to their daily lives instead of insisting it’s okay if they return it for something they like more.

Okay, okay. That’s enough for now. I hope if nothing else, this little post at least made you think a little bit more intentionally about the way you choose to bless others with gifts.

I feel strongly about the footprint I’m leaving behind and the world I’m contributing to, for better and worse, and I think it’d be a pity not to be honest about that.

If you have any advice or stories to share about your own thoughts on moving or sustainable gift-giving, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

I’d also love if you followed my #THLsustainablesundays on Instagram where I offer random tips and tricks about my own imperfect journey to sustainable living. It’s always encouraging and for every sustainable win I share a loss as well so you know every action counts, and it’s okay to be gentle on yourself when ya fail.

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