Less guilt, less stress this Christmas

Wrapping illustration

Wrapping illustration

Christmas is a stressful time of year, of that there is no doubt. At a time where we are required to be jolly, full of good cheer and be having the time of our lives, we are also expected to cook the best meal of the year, buy the perfect gift for our loved ones, attend every show and carol service that our children are in and look our best at every opportunity.

I can’t help you with any of that, I’m sorry. But if on top of all that, you wrestle with a guilty conscience throughout the festive season as I do, then I hope that these tips may be of some use.

The Perfect Gift
Bombarded with advertising, faced with shelves crammed full of the latest must-haves, pressured to compete with our friends….it’s hard enough for each of us to know what we really want, let alone what anyone else may want.
This year, I have taken pleasure in buying gifts with ethical credentials for my friends and family – recycled, organic, fair trade, energy-saving – which I hope they will find pleasure in too. Gone are the days when we need to feel embarrassed about the quality of such products – look in any of the Sunday magazines and you will find ethical products holding their own against the best of the rest.
PS: recycling gifts, or ‘regifting’, is to be avoided at all costs, according to Bargainhunter Carol Midgley (The Times magazine, 29/11/08). Unless you are sure it will really be appreciated, then passing on a gift that you have been given lacks thought and imagination – and you will be found out!

All wrapped up
At this time of year, I am more conscious of waste than at any other time. I can already picture the living room covered in discarded wrapping paper, bulky packaging and cards barely glanced at, with presents buried far below.
We all have our preferred method of wrapping – reused gift bags, newspaper with gift tags made out of funny headlines, recycled wrapping paper with gift tags made from the cards we received last year or for the lazy, the bag that it came in.
But what to do with the wrapping when it is torn off to reveal the present within? With five kids and a cat, we have found organisation is the key. Boxes flattened and stored in the garage for a month to check that the product does not need returning. Separate plastic crates for cardboard and paper (envelopes go with the cardboard). Cards kept for making gift tags (the other half is very useful for shopping lists). All to be stored away and taken to the recycling centre (along with the Christmas tree) in the New Year when resolve is strong and making the world a better place is a priority.

Quality not quantity
This Christmas, I plan to indulge without over-indulging. The amount of festive food that is bought and then thrown away does not bear thinking about. What kind of mad world do we live in where half the world is groaning from overeating while the other half is groaning from hunger?
I don’t wish to be a killjoy. There is much to celebrate as we remember the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Buying fair trade and organic food and drink this Christmas benefits not only the consumer, but the producer and the planet as well. By cutting down on the amount bought, the extra cost of  making ethical choices can be accommodated. Waking up on Boxing Day without a bloated stomach and a heavy conscience will be guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.

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