This Thanksgiving weekend Evan and I spent a day organizing his room. I explained to him that our local homeless shelter would be coming to pick up items we didn’t need any more, and giving them to families who did need them. When I told him many of these kids had no books or toys, he suddenly became enthused about giving. After we finished his room, I kept on through the rest of the house. By the end, we had countless bags of clothing, books, toys, dishes and other things to give away, which made me realize, if I have this much to “stuff” to give away, first of all, I am a rich woman. Second, I would like to live with less “stuff”. And the holidays are coming…
Several years ago we made an agreement amongst our friends and family to adopt a FIVE-HANDS gifting tradition, and it’s not only been a huge financial relief, it’s given us the gift of time, and made gift-giving much more fun.


HANDmade : My favorite gifts are the ones that were thoughtfully and lovingly made by my kids and friends. I have a Christmas ornament from my family in Texas that means the world to me, and a collage on my wall made by my best friend.  I still have every macaroni picture frame and handpainted figurine made my kids when they were little. Now that they’re older, instead of macaroni art, they make me mix CDs of their favorite new music, or frame photos they know I’ll love. Even if you’re not “crafty”- you can make a copy of a CD you love, or share photos you’ve taken. I make my kids an ornament every year on which I write (in permanent marker) the big events of their lives that year. It is so much fun unpacking them and re-reading the ones from years ago. My daughter made me coasters out of old kitchen tiles- putting our family photos on them.
So cute, right?

For more great ideas, here is a wonderful blog : the36thavenue
Making gifts together is a GREAT way to spend family time!

HAND-me-down : My daughter had been coveting a Calvin Klein tshirt of mine forever, so one year I wrapped it up and put it under the tree. I can’t decide which she got more excited about that year, the old t-shirt or the Disneyland tickets we bought her. Similarly, there are family heirlooms, old photos that can be reproduced, secret recipes that can be shared, classic books and albums that can be handed down.
SecondHAND. The last couple years, we’ve made a game out of seeing who could find the most perfect gift from a thrift store or yard sale. That was a really fun one- the hunt was full of laughter. It’s even more fun if you can do the yard sale/thrift store day together with friends or family and make it an event!
Helping HAND (donations to charities). I often give gift certificates for KIVA micro-loans. You choose what country, family or person to loan the money to, and track the progress of the loan. For instance, $25 can buy a farmer in Africa a goat so she can make cheese to sell at the local market.
Another thing I like to do is buy gifts that are helping a community. Last year I bought Amy a hand-beaded ornament made by the Masai tribe in Africa. This helped to buy food for the tribe.
HAND-in-hand: the best gift of all is time spent together. a movie, concert, play, dinner  are wonderful, but time together doesn’t have to cost money. Museums, a special hike, a picnic, a snow day or trip to the beach will all create memories that will last long beyond an iPad or video game. Cute gift certificates can be made for these things- but the most important thing: Make a date and stick to it. (Nothing is worse than a promise made for time together that isn’t redeemed.)
One of the happiest holiday memories my family has is from 1995- a year after our home had burned down. We were bankrupt and broke. We had no money to spend, so we never set foot inside a mall. We stayed home and watched holiday movies, and baked cookies and did crafts with our kids. We went Christmas caroling. We made each other gifts, we made our own Christmas cards. We spent time with family and friends. It was the coziest, most sparkly holiday ever.
Maybe you’ll consider trying some of these ideas this holiday season. And please share any holiday ideas or traditions you have, too!

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  1. amy ferris

    and how amazingly perfect (and needed) this blog is.
    i love you.

  2. Hollye Dexter

    I love you too Miss Amy! And I'm so glad this was timely for you- it certainly is for ME!

  3. Anonymous

    Love these ideas! So cute :]

  4. matters that matter

    Love this…the last thing in the world i would want to do is SHOP on a Black Friday, or Terrible Tuesday or Sad Sad Sat. I love this piece. None of us needs anything…but love, peace of mind, contentment, relaxation. Our family gives one another "service" gifts. My husband loves the booklet of monthly foot rubs. I am so grateful for the "I will clean your entire house" chit from my daughters. Free babysitting, I will wash your car, homemade baked pie of your choice. We all look forward to these. Thanks for the suggestions. happy "stuffless" holidays to you and yours.

  5. Maya North

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kiva! I've made about 24 loans with the same more or less $100 to all sorts of people all over the world! I also like Heifer International and tend to buy people bees because they don't eat them. I realize that there's nothing wrong with buying people edible animals, it makes me feel like I'm offering up a life sacrifice I wouldn't personally make myself. Bees and trees and such–that works for me 🙂

  6. Judy N

    What wonderful ideas, Hollye! I've started the hand in hand tradition with my husband. It's the one kind of gift he really likes and it pays off in terms of our relationship.

  7. Mariel Gonzalez

    Thank you for sharing such a brilliant idea. I'm so inspired to make this a tradition with my family. Just craving simplicity and some meaningful time together.

  8. Hollye Dexter

    I'm so happy you like these ideas. It has worked out beautifully in my family. We all have a lot of fun with it.
    Wishing you a warm and sparkly holiday with lots of meaningful time. ; )


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