Why ‘Want, Need, Wear, Read’ Should Be Your Holiday Motto This Year

Do you anxiously await Christmas all year? When Yankee Candle releases its holiday scents, you do a dance and buy in bulk? But do you also start to panic as Dec. 25 actually approaches? Let me guess. You’ve bought five presents for one kid and none for the other, you’ve spent too much money, and you’re cringing thinking about exactly where you’re going to find space for any new toys, period.

Sound familiar? Luckily, there’s a way more streamlined way to do the holidays. And all you need to remember is: want, need, wear, read. Here’s why that should be your gift-giving motto this holiday season.

More: These Will Be the Hottest Holiday Toys of 2018

We get it. The holidays, especially for kids, tend to be all about the presents. But kids certainly don’t need all those gifts, and anyone who has felt like they’re drowning in wrapping paper once everything is unwrapped can tell you this whole holiday mess ain’t exactly eco-friendly. Aiming to give kids four — yep, just four — gifts in the categories of want, need, wear and read means you’re not killing Christmas and canceling gifts altogether. However it’s a far more streamlined gift-giving approach than is traditional. And what does it mean for parents and kids alike? Less chaos, less money, less stuff.

Giving kids only four gifts also helps the environment by reducing all those toys your kids are going to play with twice before some tiny irreplaceable part gets broken and the whole thing winds up in a landfill. “A non-chaotic Christmas?!” you ask, baffled. Yep, it’s possible.

If it sounds too extreme, keep in mind, plenty of minimalist-minded parents out there are skipping kids holiday gifts entirely (whether in favor of travel, activities or a simple family staycation). But if that sounds nuts to you, you can rest assured four gifts — four really wonderful, useful, high-quality, dreams-coming-true gifts — are still more than your child actually needs. And four gifts make those gifts even more valuable in your child’s eyes.

A “want” gift is something your kids have been actively talking about wanting or pointed out to you in a store. Sure, you might think your kiddo would love a hilarious tiny Star Trek uniform with a button that says, “Live long and prosper,” but have they said those exact words? No? Put it back. Think about all the times you’ve gotten something from your well-meaning mother who insists, “But you love throw pillows!” Are you rolling your eyes? My point exactly. Don’t be your mother. A want gift should be something that will make them genuinely happy, not just the hottest toy of the season.

A “need” gift is something they need. It might not be fun or fancy but if they needed a bigger pair of rain boots, voilà, wrap that shit up. These gifts are usually practical and functional, but if your kid needs new bedsheets, get ones with a sloth in a party hat pattern on it. Practical doesn’t have to be boring.

A “wear” gift is pretty self-explanatory based on the pattern we have going, but it is an opportunity to take into account each child’s unique sense of style. Have a kid who turns their socks inside out so they can’t feel the seam? (Looking at you, baby bro.) Now’s your chance to get them a pack of seamless ones. True, socks for Christmas is traditionally a bummer, but if he doesn’t have to turn socks inside out every time? Win. Or you can customize socks or pajamas with your pet’s face on them. (Or your face. Go with your face.)

A “read” gift is also self-explanatory, but don’t feel the need to stick to traditional reading material. Cookbooks are still books, y’all. If your kiddo would rather curl up with a graphic novel than the next installation of Harry Potter, so be it. If an audiobook for the car or their smart device is what they’re into, make it happen.

More: I’ve Never Bought My Kid a Christmas Present

By using want, need, wear, read as your motto this holiday season, you’ll spend less money, not be bogged down with piles of gifts your kids will only use a couple of times and feel better about the gifts you’re giving. And it also means clearer expectations and less disappointment for the kids. Anyone else’s kids have zero poker face? If they didn’t like a gift, there’s no hiding it. Or worse, the super-fake smile and trailing, “Thank you…” they’ve been taught to mask uncomfortable gift-giving moments just like this. Even with fewer gifts, your kids will be happier because they know they have a direct say in what they get.

Don’t think this means writing out those holiday wish lists is off the table; now, it’s just simplified. Write a column each for want, need, wear and read and have kids write their gift wishes under the corresponding category.

Worried all this simplification and minimalism will get thrown out the window when it comes to relatives? Well, it might. But the best that parents who fear too much plastic can do is send along your new motto, include a copy of the kids’ wish lists and hope for the best. You might have a few people who don’t pay attention to it, but I’m willing to bet Great Grandma will be thrilled she doesn’t have to come up with the hip new thang kids are playing with these days.

So take a load off and enjoy the holiday season with less. It might even turn out to be — dare we say it? — easy.

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