Chocolates and tea and minimalism

Yesterday was a long day; a long commute to work that was made even longer by a missed train that set me back by 45 minutes. Yes it was a blah sort of day- but then there was chocolate. The day started off with a piece of almond covered chocolate; then there were ginger cookies coated in dark chocolate; then brittles of dark Belgian chocolate with all healthy and organic nuts and sea salt; and finally there was the classic neuhaus Belgian nuggets. And in between there was warm raspberry lemon lined cups of tea to cleanse the palate.

And somehow on the way back home I found myself in front of the Neuhaus Belgian chocolate store at union station- a perfect ending to a long grey day. I bought six bags of small almond coated dark chocolate wrapped in rectangular plastic boxes with velvet ribbons on the side and one big box of classic chocolate dressed in the holiday red. These are all gifts for my friends and coworkers. Chocolates and sometimes tea, I find are easy gifts for almost any occasion. They represent warmth, sweetness, and care and unlike the ‘stuff’ that sits and accumulates dust long after the gesture is over; these can be shared with friends and family and are almost always instantly consumed.

I think these are how most gifts should be- light and gentle and sometimes fleeting. I am a minimalist at heart and I am on a quest to live with less. I live with an extended family, a modern version of a traditional South Asian family (yes an oxymoron and yes I can explain but some other time), where family values frequently trump individual values. So I try to do what I can to practice what I believe in– in small ways. One thing that I do have control over is where I put my money and outside of what is necessary to live on a day to day basis, I choose to spend my money on ‘experience’ rather than ‘stuff’. Personal growth classes and workshops, entertainment (theater or improvisation); dining experiences and travel is where I put my money. It is liberating and it also gives me a great deal of pleasure.

When I give gifts, I try to put myself into the receiver’s shoes- would I want that extra piece of gadget; or that piece of decoration; or that extra pair of whatever the latest fashion trend is —no I don’t. When I bring something into my home, I want to give it the attention and the care that it deserves, and increasingly I find that I do not have the time or space in my life for these extras. My time, energy, and resources are for my family and friends and especially myself.

I have always been conscious of the amount of resources that we take up and the waste that we create, but recently becoming a mom has propelled me into action. I am often reminded of growing up in Nepal, where we did not buy much of ‘stuff’ and whatever we bought we used it forever to the extent that there was not much left to throw out. My mother is still using the refrigerator that she bought 20 years ago; the sofas have been upholstered several times; and we constantly got hand me downs from family. For me, buying something no matter how cheap is a moral act and a responsibility. It is not just about minimizing items at your home but also using up less of earth’s precious resources and recycling as much as possible. I do not always succeed, there are plenty of times that I let go, but I do not stop, even little things matter like bringing a traveling coffee mug instead of buying disposable cups or choosing the type of gift that you want to give to people.  So yes chocolates and tea with as little packaging as possible.