No-buying challenge at Christmas Pin Image

Remaining Present: A Christmas Update

Author: Lisa Soeno

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of over-spending at Christmas. Over the weekend I couldn’t help wondering if I should buy a couple more presents for Lyra and Jenson, even though their stockings are already full to bursting. And then I read Jess’ update on her no-buying challenge and it reminded me what Christmas is really about. Over to Jess.

I’m almost a quarter of a way through my no-buying challenge and without wanting to sound dramatic, it has been utterly game changing in my life. Firstly it’s made me really think about my buying behaviour. I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to buy when I’m tired or emotional, when I’m stressed or hurting in some way. I’m more likely to want new clothes when I’m covered in breast milk, haven’t slept and I’ve eaten all of the chocolate for energy – basically when things are hard I reach for the card.

And yet despite this, I haven’t really missed it. Sure, a few times I’ve wanted to buy something but not enough that I’ve cared about it the following day. And the payoff has been more than worth it. I have more time, I have more space and the impact has spiraled into other areas of my life also. I’m finally getting rid of the excess. I can see clearly now what I want in my life and what I’m holding onto for no good reason (usually because it was a gift, it cost lots at the time or “I might need it one day”) – I packed up loads to take to a charity shop the other day and in there I put a hairband that “I might want to wear one day” – I’ve owned it for seven years and worn it zero times. Every time I get around to de-cluttering I keep it because of the “what if” factor. You know what? I’m sure I can find another better hairband or perhaps borrow one from a friend.

When I recently went shopping for a birthday gift I loved every second – I actually enjoyed the experience of shopping: of buying independent, of browsing, of having it nicely wrapped, paying a bit extra for small special gifts and supporting my local shop (shout out to Willow & Stone, the finest gifts in Falmouth). What I loved was having the space to browse and buy a really considered gift for somebody without being lured in by 3-4-2 or sale signs. And then when I had finished I bought myself some flowers (flowers are allowed) because they make me feel fantastic.

I’ve been really hot on buying from independent brands and really supporting the maker’s movement. This year I’ve bought my daughters each a hand stitched animal head from Ella and the Roo which I adore and is something they can treasure forever. I’ve also just discovered new toy company Whirli who I think are truly innovative – basically, customers pay for a monthly subscription so that you can swap toys out each month, avoiding accumulation and keeping things fresh and fun. Another gift I’ve found and fallen in love with this year is the This Grateful Now Journal. Beautiful and simple, what better gift is there than the gift of gratitude this Christmas? Of looking at what we already have and feeling truly thankful. If I buy just one gift for friends and family throughout 2019 this will be my go-to gift. I adore books as gifts but for those like me, trying to declutter possessions I cannot recommend Nurture enough. Full disclosure here, I’m one of the writers for this magazine but I receive no money for this and I have found it such a soul-enriching read full of inspiring stories and photography. A digital magazine owned and run by Kate Cullen (of beautiful wedding styling fame), it is the epitome of hygge and a proper cosy Sunday curl up companion. A subscription to this would make a wonderful gift for any creatives in your circle.

Mr C and I don’t really do gifts but I know that he has got me a new changing bag (functional but necessary right now) and also he’s commissioned a piece of jewellery handmade by an incredible jeweller on our doorstep (The Coral Grove) for the birth of our daughter which isn’t really for Christmas, it just took him this long to sort it out! I can’t say what I’ve got him because even the walls have ears (although I will say that it’s an experience, not more stuff). Other children in the family I’ve bought either books or toys from smaller independent brands. I’ve also chosen experiences over gifts for adults and children alike – animal adoptions, day passes, spa treatments, basically – buying less but buying better. That’s the moral of the month. This whole experience has made me reduce clutter, reduce chaos and appreciate connection in a way that I never did before and I’m only three months in.

I thought December would be when I would crack. When I would feel I was missing out on all of the festive spending: the gifts, the oh-so covetable Christmas that Instagram promotes. But I don’t. I don’t miss it one bit. This Christmas I’m looking forward to an abundance of candles, the fresh scent of a tree, fairy lights and fun with my family. And that’s what really matters. Not the money, not the marketing hype, not the mayhem. For the first year in a long time, I’m seeking a bright Christmas and not a White one – sorry Chrissie and Co, I’m a changed woman!


Image by Adam Crohill

Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
Follow Lisa on instagram @lisa.soeno
This post may include affiliate links.

14 thoughts on “Remaining Present: A Christmas Update

  1. What a fab post Jess, totally agree with your Christmas sentiment. It’s how I’ve felt the last couple of years, it’s not what Christmas looks like it’s how it feels. That magical feeling is what I remember from my childhood and what I want my children to have ✨ And I honestly believe through experience that less is more for kids!
    Have a fab Christmas RMS team, it’s been a pretty incredible year for you all so enjoy a well earned rest x

    1. Thank you Ella, exactly my feeling! We had presents as kids but not in excess and my memories of Christmas as a child are of food, drink (Babysham!) and family (and Noddy Holder! Haha) This year is about less stuff, more love (now I just have to get the grandparents on board!) 🙈 Have a wonderful Christmas and thank you for commenting!

  2. Are you using whirli or on the waiting list? It looks brilliant! I’ve often wished there was a toy library available.

    1. Hi Jade,

      Neither yet! I have just discovered them and planned to sign up in the new year but had no idea there was a waiting list! Eeeek! Will be signing up for sure though!

  3. Love these posts, Jess. I moved house on 1st November and I did minimal unpacking of my clothes, shoes and toiletries – seriously just the bare minimum of what I need to make myself presentable for work and to nip to the supermarket – and the only things I have pulled out of my boxes since then have been my hair curlers, one nice dress, two other pairs of shoes, a hand cream and a bottle of bubble bath. I have not missed any of the clutter I usually have around me. I’m taking some annual leave on top of my Christmas break and I am going to take a day to have a clear out.

    For Christmas presents I always try not to get stuff that will hang around too long – restaurant or cinema vouchers will be used and there are so many lovely food and drink options around. My best friend lives in Wales and when he comes home for Christmas we never give gifts, we just organise a day out together – we love cake and a cuppa after a winter walk.

    1. Ah thank you Claire, I’m so glad it’s resonating with you. That’s such a good idea to only unpack what you need, especially since I think our eyes get accustomed to all of the clutter so we forget how much we actually own already. I do love a good clear out, one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon (God, what has happened to me?!) And yay for experiences – things that we never treat ourselves to. We’ve bought our little girls tickets to an incredible outdoor woodland theatre experience for Boxing Day and I’m hand making them little tickets for entry. It’s also something lovely for us to do as a family. Have a wonderful Christmas and good luck with the new house!

  4. This is a great article! It makes you realise just what Christmas is about and what do we need? Minimal really! After having literally thrown most of my possessions away as well as clothes due to a terrible incident at home I have come to realise that I don’t need much to survive with! It’s easier to keep tabs on where things are, to keep the home tidy and so much easier to decide what to wear. I don’t need presents, nor does my husband. We wear our minimal amount of clothing until it literally wears out or gets damaged. We only replace when we need things. It’s nice to have an uncluttered life! All our possessions live in airtight boxes carefully labelled for when we need them!

  5. Well done sticking to your challenge Jess! Think next year I will opt for more experiences than stuff for the sake of it.

  6. Yes to less stuff! As an adult, if I really want/need something I buy it for myself. If someone wants to buy me something I prefer something I can consume (food, drinks, Neals Yard handwash etc). I am so glad we’ve agreed with my partner’s family that we’re only going to buy for the little one – it’s not so much the money but the buying things for each other that no one really wants anyway!

    A local town to me in Somerset has a toy library run by volunteers – there might be more of these out there?

  7. My 3 year old and 10 month old are getting one present each (both wooden toys) from us, they really don’t need anything else. I want them to enjoy the magic of Christmas day and being with family, not spending hours opening a ton of presents that they’ll have forgotten about in a few days. We also have a rule for the grandparents: 3 presents max: something to wear, something to read and something to play with. Whether they’ll stick to it or not remains to be seen!

    I’m really inspired by this series Jess, I’ve put the books from your first post on my amazon wish list (although mildly ironic to be buying books to declutter but…!) as it’s something I’d like to try to do more of. I’m a fairly minimalist and organised person anyway but I do get sucked into buying things, particularly on Instagram, so I must stop! Merry Christmas to you and all of the RMS team, hope you have a lovely time and all the best for 2019.

  8. I found this fascinating – its something I definitely want to try more of in the new year. I have spent the last month using up all the teeny tiny samples of shampoos / conditioners / face creams etc that I have received over the years when purchasing larger sizes of the same items. I have never used them & I don’t know why. I ran out of my usual face cream in November & still haven’t had to buy a new one yet whilst I use up all the samples. It feels liberating! I’ve tried to scale down Christmas this year too – no enormous piles of presents for our 3 kids. I’ve set a budget and stuck to it. I’ve also bought minimal new clothes for Winter, I really have enough knitwear to start a woollen mill! I know I’m a sucker for offers / feeling like I ‘deserve’ a new jumper etc. But my aim is to go into 2019 without that attitude. Wish me luck!

  9. I felt like I had a lightbulb moment reading this! I am such a sucker for a sale, but am also fed up with clutter and feeling like I am constantly buying little things here and there. Definitely going to be more mindful of what I am buying this year and will try saving up for things I love, rather than “saving” money on bargains! Thank you Jess, great post x

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