When you make any kind of lifestyle choice that you believe will lead to your happiness and wellbeing, it can be really jarring when family either don’t understand or disagree with said choice. It’s easy to go about your life as you so choose when you’re in the comfort of your own home, but throw family gatherings into the mix and it can get a little sticky.
Living an unconventional life takes courage because it means that you often face disagreement or confusion. Friends you can choose, but family are kind of there. If they don’t understand, that’s not a problem. Take some time and educate them, using whatever resources you found worked for you. Most of our confrontation comes from a lack of understanding, so you may find this will suffice. But if they disagree with your choices (which unfortunately is the case for many of us) then try to come to some sort of agreement where both parties can coexist amicably to keep the peace.
One of the most potent times of the year for said aforementioned conflict is, of course, the holiday season. Dinners, lunches, brunches, soirées, parties and more mean that there can be a multitude of opportunities for blood to boil. In my own life, this includes the shock of seeing others so carelessly use single-use plastics when in my house it’s a big no-no. Or, being mocked for having an ‘awkward’ diet when I have to cook my own little nut roast next to all the meat. Finally, being gifted things like beauty products from pro-animal testing brands and fast fashion that makes a little part of my soul die when I realise I must do the polite, British thing and graciously accept.
The thing that you’ve got to remember is that the choices we make are done so based on the belief that it will make us happier. This applies to everyone, So, while my logic might be: make less waste > save planet > enjoy beauty of planet > keep it alive for future generations to enjoy, someone else’s might be: buy convenient foods (packaged in plastic) > save as much time > get to hang out with the family. It’s all a matter of perspective.
But even when you’ve had the talks and agreed to disagree, problems can still arise when it comes to gift-giving. Specifically, when you’re on the receiving end and it’s something so not you. We all encounter these situations, regardless of our lifestyle specificities or not. It’s something that can actually, often, be laughed about years later. But if, like me, you’re trying to do the low waste thing, trust me, I know how frustrating it can be when you have the thought pattern of: man, she went and bought x which is supporting an industry that I totally disagree with, all in the hope that it would make me happy…It’s not easy!
However, of course there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those unwanted gifts can gain a new lease of life in the arms of someone else. It’s not that you’re ungrateful, it’s just that your beliefs resonate with a different kind of gift-giving. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty! You’re just trying to do a good thing. It’s something I have to remind myself of too.
Below are some tips to help you get things on track before this weekend’s New Year celebrations. Clutter no more.
- Donate to charity. Anyone who buys second-hand knows that January is the time to do the rounds. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. If you’ve got books, clothes, toys or whatever else that you know will simply sit and collect dust, support a cause close to your heart and donate the items to a charity shop or charity raffle.
- Give to a friend. Perhaps even more satisfying than donating to charity is re-gifting an item to a friend because you know that x,y, or z is right up his or her street. If you want to have a bit of fun, make an evening of it. Grab your girlfriends and some wine and host a swap.
- Empower women. Give a woman a head start in life by donating unwanted clothes to Dress For Success or a local women’s shelter. The latter is also a great place for those unwanted perfumes, make-up and skincare gift sets. While the shades might not be your taste, for a woman who might have had to leave everything behind, they could be just what she needs to develop a self-care routine.
- Distribute to the homeless. This is another great option for unwanted clothing. It sure is cold this time of year, so any extra layers are often gratefully received.
- Make some money. Finally, if you’re really strapped for cash, consider selling on those unwanted items. Choose eBay, a yard or car boot sale and raise some money to pay for something more meaningful instead.
How was gift-giving in your family this year? Do you and your family have disagreements over your lifestyle choices?