Category Archives: shopping

Christmas Gifts – I saw this & thought of you / I thought of you… I saw nothing.

How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping?

xmas-shop.pngAs an anti-consumerist, each year I freak out a little about the Christmas Season’s enforced gift giving. Gifts and generosity are beautiful things to behold, but the push – the pressure to give objects on a particular date, feels driven by commercial industries that want to sell. It’s lovely to be able to say to someone “I saw this and thought of you”, down right embarrassing to say “It’s the thought that counts, because I thought you’d like it but you clearly hate it” and totally taboo to say, no matter how true “I thought of you… but I saw nothing”.

I am notoriously difficult to buy non-edibles for, as a minimalist, traveller and anti-consumerist. If anything, I’m hoping to reduce the contents of my backpack, not increase it! I even looked through “ideal gifts for Digital Nomads” articles and couldn’t see anything I wanted, so goodness knows how anyone else is going to fare.

Having said this, almost paradoxically, as a traveller I’m incredibly sentimental. Many things I own/use/carry are from loved ones. This helps me feel connected to my friends and family wherever I am. Right I’m wearing, pocketing or using 12 things that were given to me. Not all were necessarily “presents” wrapped up for a birthday or Christmas. Some were also given as an alternative to donating, or bought for me onthe spot. It really doesn’t matter to me if it was expensive, wrapped, or presented on the “right” date. What matters is being given something I’ll use, by a loved one, so I can be reminded of them every time I use it.

There are certain ideas surrounding Christmas gifts, largely from advertising, which I’ve always found odd. At their worst, they can make gift exhange feel like a form of tax. As follows:

  • It’s not a proper gift if it’s used (especially if it’s been used by you).
  • Something bought is better than something home made (I’ve heard home made cards referred to as “cheapskate”).
  • Consumables are not gifts unless they are a special “gift box” of soaps, biscuits, chocolates which often are over-packaged and overpriced. Honestly, show me a chocolate lover who would rather receive 100gms in the shape of Santa rather than 200gms the same stuff in squares!
  • The “how did you know” factor, is all that matters. Yes, it’s lovely when it works, but there’s also an assumption that if you can’t get someone a surprise gift they’ll treasure, there’s no magic (possibly Santa’s to blame for this one – but seriously guys, he had a list!).
  • Presents must be un-wrappable (although digital gifts are getting more normal now).
  • Cost matters. Seen exactly what your Gran would love on sale for a fiver? Well, better hope she doesn’t find out it cost you so little.

It’s exactly these ideas that left my mother despairing and simply buying everyone a white bath towel one year. “Well, they can’t say it’s not useful” she said, “and if they don’t like the colour, they can dye it”.

Returning to my original question: How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping? Many people just want to forget the whole thing, but my experience is that it’s a baby bathwater situation, in which loved ones are blocked from being generous. I would seriously recommend breaking the above taboos wherever needed, by having a talk with friends and family about reframing gift giving and receiving. Many people would be relieved by the suggestion of a “consumables only” rule, a spending limit, the “ok” to buy 2nd hand, or even guidance on what sort of gift you would like. Other ideas include agreeing to give handwritten personal vouchers such as “I’ll take you out for a curry”, “A massage from me”, “Breakfast in bed – redeemable Boxing Day”. Have whatever conversation it takes to take the stress out Christmas shopping/making, and free yourself from the pressure. After all, we all know the embarrassment of going to the shops, thinking of you, but seeing nothing!

Whilst this article is about attitudes, check out my next post on sustainable/anti-consumerist gift ideas at buymeonce.com, here: BuyMeOnce (stocks things that last a lifetime): Brilliant for Christmas Shopping!

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under christmas, christmas gifts, presents, shopping, Uncategorized

Find Out How Your Christmas Shopping Is Made

Shock horror – factory production isn’t always as bad as I thought. I spend so much time disapproving of mass-production that I decided to watch a “how it’s made” video. This one showed the factory production of jeans. I expected to be appalled. But as it turns out, factories are incredibly efficient, both in speed and use of resources. Only 7% of each sheet of denim is wasted. It’s we, the consumers, who are wasteful – chucking out the final product whenever we tire of it.

Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 11.27.03

Using a computer to create a pattern for jeans so that only 7% of the denim is wasted.

The only part of the video that sickened me was watching “designer stressing”. The methods take an hour, and add 5 years of “wear and tear” to new jeans. After seeing the cotton grown, dyed, weaved into denim, cut and precision sewed, it’s horrible to think that people won’t buy the finished article until 5 years have been taken off it’s life.

For the past 10 years I’ve only worn one type of trousers – Road corduroys. I’ve been wearing and repairing my current 3 pairs for 5 years now. They are literally wearing through. One of them ripped and died this morning. I can have peace of mind buying a replacement because Road boasts sweatshop-free production – but this means they charge £70 per pair. Wow! If I bought 3 pairs every 5 years that’s £42 per year on trousers. It sounds like a lot, even though we’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s normal to pay that same amount for a phone contract every month.

One rip of many - now unsavable

One rip of many – now unsavable

Yet, if Road’s workers are paid a living wage, why should I be surprised that they charge £70 for an item of clothing? In Primark, jeans are £10, giving most people that smug “bargain feeling”. But would you feel smug if someone made you a pair of jeans, and you only paid them a tenner for it?

One reason we feel ok about paying £10 for trousers is that mass production divorces us from how stuff is made, so it’s harder for us to value it. We waste things that are easy to come by and hold no emotional ties. But we don’t chuck away the mug our child made in pottery class or the scarf our gran knitted. Mark Boyle puts it neatly by saying “if we had to purify our own water, I doubt we’d shit in it”.

So that brings to the conclusion that even if factories are efficient, it can still be better to make stuff or buy from small local traders because this discourages waste. In some cases making things at home wastes more raw materials, but this is offset by the reality that you’re less likely to throw out what you’ve made. On the other hand, finding our how things are made in factories can also discourage wasting them.

Therefore this Christmas, I’d urge you to take a closer look into where products come from. Can you buy more ethically by using a company with a strong mission statement, like Road? Can you buy more locally, or from the actual human who made the damn thing? If you can’t afford it and will be shopping at Primark instead, then so be it. But why not watch a few “how it’s made” videos, so at least you’ll be better informed. Exeter University Human Geography lecturer Ian Cooke runs www.followthethings.com is a great tool.

Road-JeansThis year I am buying all my Christmas presents from local artists/writers/musicians. This way I can be sure to give people gifts they won’t find on the high-street, whilst also supporting grassroots creativity. This isn’t a plug for my album being the perfect Christmas gift (although it IS rather lovely, and available here: kimwei.bandcamp.com ): I believe in this cause strongly and will be performing at local arts & crafts fair this weekend (Exeter Community Center, all day, my slot is 1.45pm).

In the meantime, since I’m experimenting with a low-money lifestyle, I can’t afford that new pair of cords even if I do approve of the company that make them. Do you think I should write a letter to Road Jeans asking for a sponsorship? Look at all the pictures of me wearing their cords on-stage!

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