Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving gifts: for minimalists, connoisseurs, and those who have everything

I was al-most a complete non-shopper on Friday. Living in DFW--the Land of Happy and Endless Consumerism!--I avoided the malls, and (although I thought about it) Costco and Ikea. I ended up buying only a little something in CVS.

Nowadays, in any case, I do most of my shopping online. I buy gifts through sites like Etsy, Heifer, World Vision, and, not only to take advantage of getting them shipped to the recipients directly, but to stay the heck out of the malls. Really, as a person who hates crowds, why would I go shop at the banal and annoying landscapes of local malls when I can stay home and run up my credit balances in peace and quiet?

There is no compensation.

Seriously, pepper spray? Midnight openings? Trampling people? Sigh.

One of the great problems is that Dallas for all its malls and outlet malls does not boast an urban area like New York, Chicago, or Paris that includes a holiday spirit of lights, decorations, and gorgeous windows. Or even people watching. The malls do feature constant choirs, bands, and other groups, but there is little to no opportunity to simply sit and watch people go by; the only cafes (like Starbucks) are always crowded and short of seats, with people impatiently waiting by your elbow. Yikes!

So strolling from shop to store to study the decorations, to watch families or shoppers enjoy is impossible. Ugh--it is hideous. The entire notion is to buy, as quickly and thoroughly as possible, to spend and save at the same time, and to get back into the SUV and drive home. In this situation, the flaneur (or flaneuse) is wasting her time.

Now, on the other hand, I highly recommend Etsy for shopping locally or simply "small businesses" --shoppers can buy vintage or handmade, and the crafts for sale are myriad. From computer cases and decals, to jewelry to knitted scarves, mitten, hats, to handmade books and ties, to photographs, prints, and sculptures, to soap, the beautiful things about Etsy is that one buys directly from the artist, thereby supprting creativity and craftsmanship.

The other glorious thing is that if you have no idea what to buy, Etsy can help you find the right thing. Or, on the other end, you can create a list of gifts you'd like yourself (as I did this year and send it to your family and friends. Hah! No more hairdryers.

If you want to give something to a minimalist or someone who has everything (and seriously needs nothing more), try World Vision or Heifer. My father wants nothing: every year, he gets a goat, given directly to a family in African. My mother gets to sponsor a woman starting a small business. Give a goat or chickens, give a child a backpack full of school supplies, give a piece of a well for a village, sponsor a child for three months... whatever. These two organizations are legit. No matter what your notions, you can give locally or globally, gifts for families, women, girls, children, or villages, and feel great without contributing to the clutter or chaos of our Western world.

Another way to give is through Kiva, an organization where you lendmoney that is given to small entrepreneurs as start-up funding and so forth. You can put as little as $25 in on a shrot-term loan,a nd when it is paid back, loan it out again to another small business; surprisingly, that is a HUGE amount in parts of the world... and you'd just spend it on one hardcover book no one will read! Or a gift card your nephew will use for one video game.

And there's no pepper spray involved.

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