Conscious Consumerism & the Holidays: 5 Tips for More Intentional Gifting
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
This post includes a few referral links that I or the Oxford Toy Closet benefit from. These links are not shared to encourage MORE consumption, but rather to encourage intentionality in sourcing any gifts that we do choose to buy. As always, use your discretion as to whether these resources actually fill a need for you!
A Shift in Perspective
Holidays are characterized by generosity, often demonstrated through gifts. And, a thoughtful gift can bring joy to both the giver and the recipient. But many of us also realize just how easy it is to be caught up in the seasonal cycle of consumerism.
Package after package piles up on our doorsteps, and items no one really needs are added to the cart. And oh, that Target dollar spot! It gets me too. The packaging alone at Christmas can be astounding, and in the weeks and months to come, many of those gizmos ad gadgets will gather dust or make their way to the landfill.
Our family is definitely responsible for engaging this cycle. But I think that we, both as individuals and as a society, can do better. Here are 5 places we can start. As a bonus, I think these shifts are opportunities for more intentional and thoughtful gift-giving.
1. Gift Experiences
For Memphis families with children ages 0-6, the Oxford Toy Closet offers gift cards for our toy library membership. This experience not only provides children with new (to them) play things throughout the month, it also encourages responsibility and care as children learn how to navigate a lend-borrow system.
For older kids, dance lessons, a sports team, or cooking classes can equip them with skills that will benefit them long after toys or electronics have broken. The Museum of Science and History could also be a great option.
Teens and adults can also enjoy the gift of experiences! Gift cards for a massage or tickets to sports games or concerts are great options. In fact, my Christmas gift is coming a little early this year: my husband bought tickets to a Hamilton showing at the Orpheum!
If a membership or tickets are outside of your budget, smaller experiences can bring just as much joy. A hand-written coupon for a dinner date, a walk through the park, or the opportunity to stay up late are all sweet options.
2. Make Gifts at Home
I've been working on a post with 27 gift ideas that kids (and adults!) can make themselves. I'll link it here when I'm finished! But for now, let me say that there are so many meaningful gifts that are easy to make. Homemade play-dough for kids, a photo album for Grandma, a thrifted basket containing a collection of favorite snacks or art supplies for a teen, cookies in a jar for a neighbor or teacher: the possibilities are infinite!
3. Shop Second-Hand
While second-hand gifts may be taboo or considered tactless in some circles, they can be a great way to care for the environment and share gifts that may otherwise be out of reach. Obviously, culture plays a role in determining whether regifting is acceptable, but we also have the ability to influence culture. Both my family and my in-laws have openly conversed about gifting used items, and we agree that this practice helps us live out our values.
Shop your home
For my toddler's Christmas stocking last year, I utilized a practice that Kat of the @junkyardjournals has termed "shop your home." Several of the presents in her stocking were toys she already owned, or random objects from around the house, like a wooden spoon and orange. And, being a quintessential toddler, she loved it.
For kids past the age of two, you might have to be a little more creative with this practice. But many of the items already in your home can be repurposed as stocking stuffers.
Those fruit snacks? Stocking stuffer. Unopened box of crayons? Stocking stuffer. That package of muffin mix? Pair it with a coupon for a "daddy and me cooking date". It's a gift. This principle can be applied to adults as well!
Last year, I learned that one of little sisters had requested a pair of air-pods for Christmas. It just so happened that I had received free air-pods when I bought my laptop. I didn't actually need them, but I had made the mistake of engraving them with my last name. This made them nearly impossible to sell. (In hindsight, how clever was Apple to offer free engraving?)
At first I was hesitant to gift something with my name on it, especially since our other siblings were receiving new gifts. But I also know that my sister and I share similar values, and I ended gifting her the gently used air-pods. She was delighted!
Shop Second Hand (Local)
Above: Some of the toys in our toy library collection that were purchased through FB Marketplace!
In Memphis, my favorite places to shop used are:
City Thrift on Summer Avenue : My daughter's entire fall/winter wardrobe came from there!
Repeat Boutique on Summer Avenue: Great for house-wares and women's clothing!
Goodwill on Union Avenue : Their clothing collection is NOT my favorite, but the housewares collection is full of treasures, and they have the BEST basket selection, which is helpful for Montessori parents.
Facebook Marketplace: Many of the toys in our toy library (and in my child's personal collection) were purchased second hand through facebook marketplace. I've even seen Montessori toys and larger gifts like Pikler Triangles in the Memphis area! You can always set notifications for particular search terms if there is something specific you are looking for.
Shop Secondhand (Online)
Above: Just a few of the many toys in our collection that were purchased used on Good Buy Gear.
(Use our referral link for $25 off!)
Most of use want our gifts to feel like a luxury to the recipient. And when shopping second-hand, this can be more difficult. But secondhand shopping doesn't have to be tactless, and it can be a lovely way to meet a wish that's otherwise outside of your budget.
My three favorite places to shop second-hand online?
Good Buy Gear (referral link): Many of the toys in the toy library were purchased secondhand from Good-Buy Gear. This is my absolute favorite place to shop for kid stuff; I only wish that I had known about them when I was pregnant. Many of the items are gently used, while others are new in box returns or item versions from past seasons. Use my referral link for $25 off your first purchase!
Kidzen App (referral link): This app is a peer to peer marketplace. While it does offer some gear, it's primarily used to sell gently used kid's clothing. If any sort of clothing item is on your Christmas list, I would encourage you to check them out! Use my affiliate link for $5 off your first purchase.
Thred Up (referral link): Thred Up offers both women's and kid's items, both gently used and new with tags. You can also save filter searches by brand, size, and category on the app and receive notifications when new items are inventoried. They even have curated second hand subscription boxes! (I would love a gift card for one of those if anyone asks!) Use my referral code for $10 off your first purchase.
4. Shop Local
My first Memphis Mural Photo, 2015
In addition to the local second hand options above, there are so many sweet small shops all across Memphis and in the surrounding area.
We live near the Broad Avenue Arts District, so of course I'm partial to those shops. Mbabazi House of Style, the gift shop at City and State, Muddy's Bake Shop and the Fiber Arts Shop are a few places our family has shopped for gifts in the past.
Of course, there are so many options across the city as well! But rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll share this post by the Memphis Mom's Collective, which offers a great index of local options!
5. Shop Small
When we can't shop used or local, we try to shop small. Here are some of my favorite small shops that offer beautiful and unique toys!
Maple and Lark (affiliate link) offers beautiful rope baskets and wooden and acrylic toys.
(Photo from www.mapleandlark.com and used with permission)
Maple and Lark (affiliate link) is a brand I love for both moms and kids. They sell beautiful rope baskets made by women who are fairly paid. They also offer a gorgeous collection of wooden toys, unique to their site! Tip: subscribe to their email list before your first purchase to receive a $10 off coupon!
Puzzle Huddle is a great black owned business that sells beautiful children's puzzles with diverse characters! We also love the reflection of women in STEM careers.
Little Likes Kids is another black owned business with card games that would make great stocking stuffers!
Chickadees Wooden Toys is based out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and I love everything in their shop! It's a great place to shop for sensory materials, playdough tools, and loose parts for counting, color sorting, etc.
Treasures From Jennifer is a family owned shop that offers beautiful wooden educational materials and household items made to order here in the US.
My Toy Wagon (referral link) is a great place to find many small, classic and luxury brand toys all in one place. They carry brands like Connetix, Holtziger, Plan Toys, Q Toys, and the Himalayan Felt Co. I'm hard pressed to find anything in their collection that I don't love! This is one of the places where we purchased our Connetix Tiles. Use my link to receive $10 off your first purchase!
Woodberry Toys is another shop I love for finding the classics! They carry high end toys that are designed to be passed down for generations.
There are so many more options that I could have listed here. I'll have to do a follow up post some time on our favorite small shops!
Wrapping It Up
Conscious consumerism is comprised of many factors: the need for an item, longevity of that item, the environmental impact of the materials, the ethics of the supply chain and how workers and employees are treated, the social impact of the company, and the list goes on!
None of us are going to do this perfectly (I had 3 packages on my doorstep today! Yikes!), using these tips can help us both reduce our consumption and support our communities.