How to Help Family Stop Giving Too Many Christmas Presents

Inside: Grandparents are pretty notorious for giving too many Christmas presents. Here you’ll learn the best strategy for encouraging grandparents to give more intentionally this Christmas season.


You know that feeling of walking into Costco or Meijer in mid September to be confronted with a Christmas display? You came in for groceries and all of the sudden you’re face to face with Christmas trees, giant metal snowmen covered in lights and piles of wrapping paper. It’s really gut wrenching. You think to yourself, “I literally just got back into the swing of packing school lunches every morning, why in the heck are you shoving Christmas down my throat in September?

I recognize the irony, and you may be feeling exactly that way as you read through this article wondering why I’ve chosen September to talk about Christmas. #sorrynotsorry Stick with me, it’s important.

Our First Minimalist Christmas

Christmas, 2017 was our family’s very first minimalist Christmas. I’ll never forget it. It was full of hope, anticipation, and a lot of anxiety.

When you go from giving your kids way too many christmas presents to just a handful, you can’t help but worry that you’re ruining Christmas. I know, first world problems. 

Long story short, the day went flawlessly and you can read all about our Minimalist Christmas: Before and After Story here.

too many christmas presents

Every year the holidays come and go, and I hear story after story of people who wanted to have a more minimalist Christmas, but grandparents, aunts and uncles just wouldn’t listen. They asked for fewer toys, experiences over things, and consumables instead of appliances. Still, they drove home with a car so packed with toys they could barely see their children.

While yes, getting family on board with our new minimalist way of gifting is tricky, it absolutely can be done.

4 Tips to Getting Family to Stop Giving Too Many Christmas Presents

1. DON’T WAIT UNTIL DECEMBER!

I feel like I need to say that again. A little louder this time… DON’T WAIT UNTIL DECEMBER!

If you wait until December or even Black Friday to start trying to convince grandma that your family is becoming minimalists and would prefer fewer gifts this year, she’ll likely nod, smile, pat you on the head and purchase as usual. 

NOW is the time to start a conversation about the kinds of gifts you plan to give and hope to receive this coming holiday season. It’s not really fair of you to spring it on them while they are making their shopping lists. It’s an adjustment and they will likely need time to prep and process.

If you’ve just now stumbled upon this concept of minimalism and are working to implement it in your own home you’re going to want to pay attention to tip #2 and brace yourself for a little tough love.

2. It Starts With You Friend.

You have to make a dramatic shift in the way you purchase for your own children first. Even if that means your first minimalist Christmas is an absolute bust when it comes to grandparents.

You can’t ask extended family to give fewer gifts if you’ve done nothing to change your own spending habits first.

too many christmas presents

When we announced we were going minimalist, it was met with eye rolls from those closest to us. Frankly, I can’t say as though I blame them. They’d seen my home before and accompanied me Black Friday shopping in previous years. They knew just how much stuff we had!

Fortunately for us, it was January when we made the shift. Month after month my family watched as we consistently took load after load to our local rescue mission thrift store. My sisters came over to sift through my piles of clothes and we offered up many items we were done with to family first.

As the year went on, our family watched us give our kids fewer toys and more intentional birthday gifts. We remained firm in our refusal to accumulate the way we had for so long. They were able to see that we were in this for the long haul. When the following Christmas rolled around and we asked for experiences over things, they were more willing to accommodate.

3. Allow For a Gradual Approach

You’re going to need to keep your expectations in check. When I realized my stuff was the problem, everything changed for me. From my closets and counters, to my faith and sense of purpose. It all shifted significantly. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of “less” and assume everyone should comply to our new way of life.

Instead of a general cry for fewer gifts, get specific. 

Say something like,

“As you know, we are moving as a family towards a more minimalist lifestyle. We’ve gotten rid of a lot already and would so appreciate your support during the holidays. Don’t worry! You can totally still get our kids gifts, but we are asking for no ______ and no ______. 

Perhaps it’s stuffed animals, action figures or play kitchen accessories, but be very clear and specific about what you already have in excess. This allows them to make smaller, gradual shifts toward gifting more intentionally and it won’t be as overwhelming of a concept.

too many christmas presents

4. Offer Proof of Joy

If you’ve already gotten started with plenty of time to spare, and you’ve been joyfully modeling your new minimalist lifestyle, your next step is to offer proof of joy.

When someone gives your child even one gift that lines up with your minimalist values, go out of your way to let them know it’s appreciated. Take the time to document and share your child’s genuinely excited response with the whole family.

The goal here is to offer them proof that your children get more lasting joy out of experience themed gifts and toys that stand the test of time, than from piles and piles of the latest trending toys. Your family will need to know that this new kind of gifting is not just something you want, but that your children genuinely love it as well. 

As family members begin to make even the smallest steps toward replacing excess with more intentional, purposeful and experiential gifts, make sure they know how grateful you are. Tag them in a shout out on social media. Send a follow up photo of your child enjoying the gift. Offer them lots and lots of proof of joy!

When our family sees that my children respond so well to a gift that isn’t a flashy, new or trending toy, it motivates everyone to willingly dive further toward gifting more intentional gifts. Even me!

5. Companion Gifts

I wrote about this final tip last year, but it works wonders and is worth highlighting again.

A companion gift is something small the child can open along with an experience. For example, goggles to compliment a swim lesson gift certificate or cupcake ingredients with a homemade coupon to bake with Grandma. This way the giver still gets to wrap and give a present.

Giving an experience along with a small, tangible companion gift to accompany it, helps ease the worry of, “but is it enough?” Wrap something small to open that compliments and highlights the experience.

Read: 20 Experiences Gift Ideas for Grandparents (and You) to Give This Christmas

Use these FREE downloadable coupons to give experience gifts in style.

too many christmas presents

Freedom From Too Many Christmas Presents

My own mom has this to say about our family’s transition into minimalism:

“You have done a great job in freeing me from giving needless gifts, it’s all I ever knew to do. Besides, dad is way happier not spending the money. 😂 We all win! To be honest I love giving the experiences more!” -Janette, My Mom

This, from a woman whose love language is “gift giving!”

This isn’t an attempt to take away grandma’s freedom to give gifts to her grandchildren. I’m not a monster! We are simply looking to create a win-win-win scenario. It’s about leading yourself, your family, and extended family toward a shared vision of putting people over things. Always.

As Christmas Approaches

Remember that this shift isn’t an easy one. It may take your family a long time to come around to this idea. It’s counter cultural because it’s a well known thought that giving too many Christmas presents to the children you love is just what you do.

The biggest impact you can make in your home is the way you purchase, accumulate and maintain items yourself all year long. If you aren’t actively decluttering and purchasing less as a family, getting grandma on board won’t move the needle. For a more minimalist christmas start with yourself, start today and be prepared to offer loads of grace.


Pre and Post Christmas Toy Purge

Before and after Christmas is a great time to go through your toys with your kids and begin to let go of the things they are no longer using. For helpful strategies to getting uncluttered with kids, Download this FREE Declutter With Kids Cheat Sheet to equip you with 8 practical strategies to help your kids let go of their stuff.

decluttering with kids cheat sheet

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4 thoughts on “How to Help Family Stop Giving Too Many Christmas Presents

  1. This is great, but kind of kid specific. Would love to see a post for adult themes and experiences that are reasonably priced. I’m not super creative, so would love some ideas, please 🙂

    1. Shelly! Thanks for the feedback. ❤️ I do have a previous post with lots of ideas for adults. It’s called 100 Minimalist Christmas Gift Ideas. It’s one I’m always updating with new ideas and links.

  2. Great post with lots of good ideas! I could have written this post myself, especially the before Minimlaism and after minimalism part. It’s taken a few years for the avid shoppers of our extended family to catch on, but I think everyone is finally on board with a minimalist-ish Christmas. I would also add that shareable Amazon gift lists save us. It allows me to send people to one place to look at gift suggestions.

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