I'm so glad you're here.
Below is a version of a letter to your loved ones about over-giving. Copy and paste it into an email or whatever word processing program you use so you can make it your own.
I'm rooting for you.
Dear [relative name],
I’m writing this to you with a mix of appreciation and apprehension. Appreciation for you and how much you love my family, apprehension because I don’t want you to view me as ungrateful or unkind, and I have no desire to offend or upset you.
You have gone so above and beyond with my kids - I love that you love so big! It’s beautiful. I look at that and feel so honored that my kids get to have a [relatives title, grandma, grandpa, etc.] like you. What I want to say has nothing to do with your love… it’s about my own limits.
Over the past few months, I’ve been on a really important journey that’s involved a lot of learning. It started with the Google search bar - I was looking for some help because I was feeling so overwhelmed at home and in life.
It felt like all I did was maintain our physical space. I was constantly cleaning up and it was constantly being undone behind me; it was never-ending and sort of depressing! All I want is to run a home I enjoy being in and spend quality time with my family. It felt like I was always choosing between those two things rather than living them out in any sort of balance.
I found a study done at UCLA, which found a distinct link in women between the amount of clutter in their homes and their cortisol levels. More stuff, higher levels of stress, automatically.
This study also found that women relate how they feel when they walk into their home to how they feel about their family. That’s intense because of what clutter makes us feel (stress). So to willingly create an environment that makes me feel that way about my family? That didn’t sit well with me.
I found multiple studies showing the effect of too many toys and options on children - it’s honestly alarming and sad! I want the kids to grow up knowing how to play… really play. I want them to use their imaginations, go outside, thrive!
As I was reading this research and more like it, it all started to hit me. It made so much sense that I’d been feeling so heavy and burdened in day-to-day life… we had so much excess in our home. It was a lot to maintain - too much! I talked to [spouse name] and we made a decision to clear physical clutter in hopes of lightening things up a bit.
What happened was so much more than that! It was like we literally created more time in our days, just by removing some excess. We got rid of some dishes, clothing, and toys that were simply not being used, plus the random “stuff” hiding in our closets and drawers, and that was all it took for things to get better.
I found that I had more energy, more time, more space for things I actually like and use. I noticed an improvement in my marriage and the way I spoke to my family (must be the decrease in stress!). I also felt like I looked forward to my days a little more. This process was doing so much good for us!
Here we are now, at [Christmastime or child’s birthday or whatever other holiday/event you’re facing], and I know you want to give so big and love on the kids and I so much. Can I be honest and just say that I’m anxious about it? I’m hoping I can be transparent because I want that relationship with you. I have no desire to offend you or take any joy from you!
It’s just that, I feel so much lighter these days, and I’ve seen how “stuff” takes a toll on our home, our kids, on mental health and happiness. I know you love our family and your giving comes from a place of expressing that love, so I want to be honest about where I’m at and ask if we can find another way to do [Christmas/birthday/holiday/event] moving forward. I would love for you to feel like you get to love the socks off all of us, and for me to not feel anxiety about this happy time of year. I’d love your help in raising the kids to know how to play, how to create, how to imagine and be present in the sweetness of childhood.
I’m really excited about the possibilities with this new way of giving and celebrating… I feel like experiences and really amazing gifts can come from this.
There’s a new zoo less than an hour from our house that the kids would love a membership to, there are a few toys they really want and would actually play with I can tell you about, [child’s name] has been really into painting and would just flip if you got him an art kit… there are so many gifts that would be not only worth your financial while, but great for our family and aligned with my vision in raising the kids.
I love you, and I want us to both enjoy this [Christmas/birthday/holiday/event]. I am happy to hear your thoughts as well, and to help you purchase things that will be good for the kids and actually get loved and played with. I want us to be on the same team! Thank you for hearing me out and for being the kind of person I’m glad to have in my family.