Q&A series - part 1. how to reduce unwanted gifts

Welcome to my Q&A series. Throughout January, I will be answering questions that Chic Planner readers have submitted via the blog, facebook or by email.

Chic Planner reader, Mallory, asks what to do when you have adopted the minimalist lifestyle but people continue to give you gifts that are not congruent with your new way of living.

Mallory, thanks for the question! I think it's important to recognize that the most important change is the one that has happened on the inside of you. Just by adopting your new lifestyle, not only have you reduced your carbon footprint, but you have created visual creativity in your home and reduced stress. As an added bonus, you are now saving money, because you no longer mindlessly shop and bring things home to your newly pristine and de-cluttered environment.

I also think it's important to remember that people show you love by giving gifts. I think that the public in general and America especially, have become so caught up in materialism that they can't imagine giving a coupon for a service instead of a cashmere sweater at Christmas. However, there are so many wonderful ways to show love instead of a tangible item like: cooking a meal for someone, mowing a neighbor's yard, babysitting kids so an exhausted couple can have a date night, having coffee with someone who needs a friend or maybe it's writing someone a note to tell them how much you care for them. One of my most treasured possessions is a hand-written note from a friend that I received last year. In this note, she referred to me as a Proverbs 31 woman; the highest compliment in my book. I still pull that note out from time to time to read it and it encourages me and makes me smile every time.

As you continue to pursue your new lifestyle, friends and family will catch on, and become more sensitive to your needs and wants. But I encourage you to think outside the box as well when it comes to gift giving, as it is reciprocal. This Christmas, I gave my father a coupon for two hours of de-cluttering services provided by me and authorized by my husband. :) My father is in the midst of a major house renovation so that gift was timely, much needed, and not only will it give me quality time with him, but will help him in his current house project.

Don't fret about little odds and ends that enter your home on the occasional basis. Just set aside a shopping bag in your closet and then deposit unwanted items until the bag is full and can be donated or dropped off at a thrift store. I can't hold every person responsible for compliance with my lifestyle but the changes that I have made personally in the way I shop and run my household are enough for me. Best wishes!

The Q&A series continues through January so submit your questions on the blog or you can email me: lgthomas@mac.com.