I’m feeling kind of conflicted.

To begin with, I’m not a fan of “stuff”. As you probably know. Objects, clutter, junk, things, possessions. Whatever you want to call them. It’s not my deal.

Partly because of the “I’m a nomad who’s moved countries three times” thing. Partly because of my yoga-centric obsession with simplicity and simple living. And maybe mostly because of the environmental thing.

Yes, I’m a big hippie. And yes, if it were up to me … well, never mind. I don’t want to get into a discussion of my dictatorial tendencies.

Let’s just say that a. the “holiday season” here in North America brings up all sorts of junk for me, and b. if you haven’t read World Without Us, read it now.

At the same time giving feels good, of course, and giving can also be a huge part of a spiritual or self-work practice. We like the giving. Lots.

But I’m going to consciously rein in my philosophizing tendencies and just try and come up with some useful thoughts in response to some of the questions I’ve been getting about gift-related holiday stress.

Actually, skip that. I’m just going to give you the abbreviated Philosophy of Giving that Selma the Duck and I live by, at least when we remember to.

Also, one or two or three semi-quirky personal recommendations. Just because.

Selma and Havi’s Gift-Giving Philosophy.

Understand this principle:

You can’t get out of it, but you can get around it.

Basically, you’re probably going to have to give people stuff even if you personally happen to think this whole exchange-of-stuff tradition is a terrible idea.

And since the holiday giving tradition is hard to get out of — and it’s actually really fun when people are all excited to get stuff from you — the trick is to find things that are good to give.

The things that I can feel happy about giving (or at least okay about) pretty much fall into three categories.

1. Gifts of knowledge.

Books, ebooks, audio products, anything that has Useful Information.

Stuff like World Without Us. Is it depressing? Yeah, a little. But it’s also uplifting. And it makes people think about the world we live in.

Also, Alan Weisman is a very kind person, and actually wrote me a sweet email in response to my gushing fan letter. It was the kind of fan letter that should really have elicited a good, old-fashioned restraining order, but he took it very well.

Other recommendations?

And really, for Useful Information, it’s sometimes most satisfying just to browse your local (independent!) bookstore and pick the brains of the tome-lovin’ people who work there.

2. Gifts of inspiration.

Beautiful things that people can enjoy and reflect on. It’s a great way to support artists and musicians too.

In my mind, the real gift is going to the creative person I’m supporting, and the “getting to give it to someone I like” part is totally for my own pleasure.

If it’s art with some practical function — such as “you can drink from it” or “you can wrap yourself up in it”, so much the better.

Music is one of the best and most inspiring gifts possible — and in that regard, I like mp3s instead of CDs. You know, the whole packaging thing.

Recommendations?

  • I really like Miya’s beautiful ceramic stuff — both wacky and very affordable. Plus, she actually works in a real, live cheese shop (which, by the way, is Jennifer Louden’s sick, twisted fantasy). Also, I love her.
  • If you know anyone who makes stuff from yarn (uh, I think that’s called knitting?), the most gorgeous stuff ever is at the Blonde Chicken Boutique.

    You probably know Tara from the comments. She’s one of our very own Fluent Self-ified fans and she rocks. I know you’re thinking yarn?! It’s not like that.

  • Not a jewelry person at all, but I did buy a very pretty plate from Stacey, another Twitter connection.
  • I also just ordered music on CDbaby.com (oh, how I love them). Calvin Marty and the Sunken Ship. Also some heal-the-world lullabies from Eliana Gilad.

3. Gifts of meaning.

I guess this is already a theme of this post, but seriously, what about supporting your small, scrappy local businesses or giving something that’s good for the world?

Greenish gifts. Stuff you make. Stuff you can eat.

You can’t really go wrong with edible — and it’s a great way to opt out of the “here’s some more stuff for you to put on a shelf and have to dust” kind of thing, but still show you care. Nourishment! Symbolism! Happy memories!

Also, who doesn’t like food? Yum. Food.

Recommendations?

Find something in your own neighborhood. If yours is inhospitable to small and localness (and there are so so many that are), then how about:

  • Alima, of course. Alima is the name of an amazingly great (read: integrity like crazy) Portland company that makes natural cosmetics.

    I’m assuming you don’t want to get caught in the middle of one of my rants about the toxic cosmetic industry. Let’s just say that if you’re going to put stuff on your face, get the kind that isn’t evil. Aside from not being evil, Alima’s stuff is beautiful and very affordable. I love this company.

  • Sock Dreams. This is where I get all my socks. Portland business. Woman-owned. If you are a stripey sock addict (i.e. a girl), this is the best place ever.
  • If you know people with babies who (the people, not the babies) are earth-friendly types (or aren’t easily offended), you can get sweet and adorable cloth diapers from the lovely Renee at Sweet Cheeks Diapers in Vancouver, BC.

    They’re paying for shipping during the holidays too.

Ooh, another thing (three things?) I forgot to mention:

Jennie will kill me if I talk about gifts and then — oy vavoy — neglect to mention No Limit Texas Dreidel. So I’m mentioning it.

Jennie is on a mission to make Hannukah less lame, and she’s doing a fine job. No Limit Texas Dreidel, people.

The other thing I should mention is that Modern Tribe, her gorgeous and surprisingly hip Judaica shop, is also doing holiday sales.

Amazing stuff there. Jennie helps a ton of small-studio artists put their stuff out into the world. And FYI, she gave me a discount code. It’s HAVIBFF and gets you 15% off whatever you order through December 31. Rock on, say I.

The last thing I’m mentioning is just that I really, really am not into receiving presents for Hannukah.

I’m not kidding. Please don’t get me anything for Hannukah, okay?

In fact, my recommendation would be that if you want to get jew-ey presents for any of your jewish and jew-positive friends, get stuff now while it’s on sale, but then stick it in the closet for a few months.

I know it’s totally sweet that you think of us while you’re having a holiday and want to include us in the celebrating — thank you! — but it’s totally one of our least significant holidays. Right up there (or down there, I guess) with the birthday of the trees.

If you’re not wishing me a happy new year on Rosh HaShana and commiserating with me while I’m scrubbing the house top to bottom for Pesach, and praising my blintzes on Shavuot … there’s really no reason to randomly get me something for Hannukah.

Though you’re a schweetheart for thinking of me. Still, I’d much rather that you just hang out with me here while I rant about stuff. Ohmygod, you’re doing it right now. I adore you.

That’s it. Nothing more to see here.

Thanks for letting me share my gift-giving philosophy.

Now you’ll be slightly less offended when Selma and I show up at your next birthday with home-baked bread, the link to an ebook and our dog-eared copy of World Without Us.

This just in: I just read Naomi’s post about what she’s doing to help this abused woman get out of an awful, awful situation.

It’s one of her clients. And I would do the same for one of mine. So scrap everything and go spend your money there. Or do something for her in addition to whatever else you’re doing. But come help.

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