I’m relatively unusual amongst my friends in that I actually like my family and enjoy spending Christmas with them.I do however find choosing presents for people very stressful, and I’m not really that interested in receiving them (I’m also really hard to buy for, so I imagine other people find me gifts for me particularly stressful). So, this year my parents and I decided to get each other a great Christmas present: Not having to worry about Christmas presents.
My brother and his girlfriend were out of the country visiting her family for Christmas, so it was just me, my parents, and my sister. My sister opted out of this opting out of presents thing, so basically all the presents under the tree were either to or from her. As a result we basically just had the one round of presents and were done in ten minutes. Normally with 5 of us it takes more than an hour (the present opening algorithm runs in \(O(n^2)\)).
And… you know what? It turns out I missed the experience of us all opening the presents. I really didn’t expect to. It’s not the getting gifts that I missed (I can buy the things I want generally speaking, and I probably tend to spend about as much as I receive), but there’s something pleasant about the shared experience of opening presents together that it felt weird not having.
So, I wondered, how can I combine the lack of stress of not having to buy presents with the enjoyment of giving and getting presents?
And thus I formed a stratagem! Stress can be reduced using tried and tested techniques:
- Advance planning
- Constrained options
- Focusing on my areas of competence
So I have predeclared my intentions for Christmas 2015.
Everyone I buy presents for (which is strictly the set of people present at my family Christmas. Christmas scope creep: Just say no) is getting one of the following:
- Items of my choosing (parameters accepted) from one of a short list of things I am good at choosing for people: Books, board games, booze, tasty foods.
- Any extremely specific request they would like me to fulfil (within reasonable price bounds)
- Socks, if they fail to express a preference amongst the above
In exchange I am of course willing to provide similar parameters to people on request, but will also be sending out a Christmas list at the beginning of October providing a rough “Here is how to buy presents for me if you don’t have any better ideas, but I’m happy to accept anything you want to buy instead” guide.
I have sent out a Google form asking for peoples’ preferences amongst the above (people will be able to edit their responses), and I have created calendar reminders for when to send out my presents guide (October 1st) and when to send people a reminder that they should consider their Christmas preferences and maybe submit/edit them (November 25th).
A slightly belated or extremely premature, yet nevertheless highly organised, Christmas to you all.