It’s birthday week for the two kids in our house. I have hit the retail world hard, covering the big box stores far more than I would like to admit to. As birthdays come and go through the years, I do my best to find meaningful gifts for my kids that wont end up as attic fodder. Yet somehow yesterday, I ended up wandering long aisles looking for a retail miracle. The predictability of box stores is nauseating. They all have the same layout, sell the same stuff from China and make shopping a chore on par with cleaning bathrooms. I wrote an entire blog yesterday griping about my box store experience that brought me to my knees. It made me completely lose my faith in humanity. I didn’t post it because I didn’t want to ruin your day either. I worked in a mom and pop bicycle shop for 4 years. People didn’t come in just to buy a product; they came in for the personal experience. To purchase a $7 bicycle tube, a customer left with 30 minutes of true retail therapy. A tube would be sold, but each customer received enough time and energy to make them feel special. We were merchants, but we were also seasoned personal therapist and cheerleaders for whatever the customer's cause. People liked walking through our doors because they left genuinely happy. Christmas is coming. After the birthday shopping debacle, I came home thinking that this year, Christmas season shouldn’t make me into a scrooge. Gifts should be created and not bought out of desperation or from a feeling of requirement. But how do we break the pattern? I have started to wonder if Christmas has become too big to fail. I was reminded yesterday of this as I heard the familiar hum of Bing crooning White Christmas while walking through the cavernous stores. The big stores are already desperate and they want us to jump on board the runaway train. Here are some thoughts on how to take control of the holidays:
Make something. Get some ideas off of Pinterest.com. Whether you’re making a craft out of Shrinky Dinks or knitting a sweater, it's really is the thought that counts. If you start today, there’s a pretty good chance that by Christmas, you’re craft will be a masterpiece. Give it a whirl.
If you’re a hopeless crafter, Go to Etsy.com. Thousands of people that seriously know how to use a glue gun sell their wares here and you’ll come out looking like a champion. You'll also be helping cottage businesses and American individualism thrive.
Give the gift or refinishing a room in your home. Last year I constructed Kate’s Harry Potter room and it was the most rewarding gift I ever gave. It also gave my shopping purpose once I came up with a theme. Put up the keep out sign for the week or two before Christmas so it's even more of a surprise! When Kate opened the wrapping paper covered door, she was so excited that I cried.
Use your hard-drive full of photos. I have thousands of them and there’s a good chance you do as well. The ideas are endless, but pick up the book, “Photo Craft”, to get some more advanced ideas.
The gift of an experience…my perennial fall back. My husband loves this and it always takes first place in our house. In our journeys, he usually gets to go to a race, I get to play with my camera in an unexplored place and the kids get to have an adventure away from the XBOX.
Support someone’s hobby by purchasing materials that allows it to happen. By doing this, you’re supporting their dreams. You never know what successes will come of a hobby unless someone supports it.
Shop at the Mom and Pop store. Creativity runs rampant in these little gems. They’ll help you get a smile when colorful wrapping is opened. If it’s local, you’ll also get the scoop on what’s going on around town. I may write an entire blog entry on local ideas soon.
Donate time. It may sound corny, but giving feels as good as receiving. We all have a bag of tricks that’s unique and useful. Open up this bag and your heart will feel better.
Please feel free to comment and share your holiday ideas, we can all learn from them. You have less than two months, you better get moving….