The holiday season is full of joy and cheer. But the flipside? A lot of paper and plastic waste. We sat down with Jamie Martin, editor in chief of Experience Life magazine, to discuss easy ways you can go clutter free this holiday season.
How do you define "clutter-free"?
Exactly how it sounds, though it’s not that straightforward in practice. In our consumer culture, we’re surrounded by stuff—some that we need, some that we want, and some that tempt us because of tried-and-true marketing tactics that tap into our “must-have” instincts.
Choosing to be more clutter-free means intentionally deciding to live with less of the non-essential stuff that takes up space in our physical and emotional lives so we can make room for more of what really matters. Every time we worry about organizing or cleaning up all of our stuff, we’re devoting a lot of time and energy to managing it, rather than enjoying it or the people around us.
Why is being "clutter-free" important, especially during the holiday season?
Gift-giving is a beautiful holiday tradition, but it can also drive a tremendous amount of waste. Just consider all the presents you buy, all the wrapping paper and packaging needed to prepare the gifts, and then everything you and your family receive each holiday season. It creates a lot of extra clutter. We throw away 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and Christmas—or 25 million tons of additional trash. That’s a big reason to be more thoughtful about the clutter we’re creating and to choose a different approach to the holiday season.
What are a few ways that people can go "clutter-free" during the holidays?
There are so many great ways to show your loved ones that you care without creating more clutter. For my own family, I always request experiences instead of things—movie or restaurant gift cards, museum passes, lessons of all sorts, ticket vouchers, you name it. It’s something that creates a memory for all involved, including the gift giver if they make experiencing the event together part of the gift.
Subscriptions are another great option. Gift a subscription to a loved one’s favorite music or video streaming service, or an app that they’ve been wanting to try. You could also consider covering the annual cost of a membership to their go-to grocery delivery service or online discount grocery retailer.
Another option is to completely opt out of actual presents and instead decide to spend quality time together. Gather your close friends together for a much-needed, catch-up lunch, or help your dad with the yardwork that’s a lot for him to handle on his own. In our “Gift of Giving” guide, we also suggest making donations to a loved one’s favorite charity or cause. Volunteering with friends or family is a great way to spend time together while supporting a good cause. There are so many worthy organizations that need our support more than we need more stuff.
What are the best alternatives to traditional wrapping paper or plastic?
There are several alternative options to wrapping paper. My first go-to option is reusing gift bags I already have. I have whole bin from over the years. You can also use scrap fabric available at many fabric stores (watch for three cool methods inspired by the Japanese furoshiki in the December issue of Experience Life!).
Newspapers and paper bags are also great options. For the latter, simply cut off the handles and open the bag so it lies flat and the unprinted side is down. Then, let your kids add their own fun decorations with markers or stamps. The upside is that both the newspaper and paper bags are recyclable.
For consumables or homemade body-care products, you can use Ball jars, which come in a wide range of sizes. You can also use decorative tins, which can be regifted year after year.
The simplest approach is to opt out of wrapping altogether—just add a gift card tied on with a pretty ribbon, twine, or raffia that can be reused.
What are the best homemade sweets and treats that would be considered "clutter-free"?
Things that get eaten or used can also be considered clutter-free because they only take up space for a period of time. Homemade cookies in a tin or infused olive oils are great examples of giftable, consumable items. Use packaging that can be reused and you’ve got a great, clutter-free gift.
For loved ones who are trying to stay healthy and may not appreciate the temptation of sweet treats, search online for DIY ideas to make personal-care products like lip balms, bath salts, and facial oils. They make nourishing and thoughtful gifts for those who are in need of a little self-care.