Trying to buy more ethically

This year, I decided to try and be a bit more ethical with my festive present buying.

So I decided that I was going to visit the Brighton Artist Open Houses which are open during December weekends as well as their traditional May weekends during the Brighton Festival.
It was also a way of getting over my anxiety about visiting Open Houses.
I’ve wanted to visit Open Houses for as long as I’ve been living back in Brighton, a good decade now! But I’ve never quite managed it. I am an avoidant anxious person, I am fantastic at avoiding things that make me anxious. So fantastic in fact that I often don’t even realise I’m doing it, the process has become quite unconscious. Each April, I would have every intention of visiting Open Houses, each June I would realise that I’d missed it again.
Buying festive gifts gave me the reason I needed to force myself to think about it, a reason to be there and a reason to leave again and move on if there was nothing there I wanted to buy. This gave me a reason to not be anxious. From time to time I need carefully thought out reasons like this, it’s soothing.

There have been many benefits to doing this…
I have discovered parts of my City that are closer to each other than I realised, this project has connected my City up to itself like never before.
I’ve walked down streets I’ve never walked down before, I’ve explored more of my city.
I’ve seen beautiful hidden grottos behind walls and hedges I pass frequently.
I’ve met and chatted with some of the many creative people that reside here.
All of those points above have resulted in me feeling more a part of where I live.
I’ve also seen truly spectacular works of creativity and wished I had an unlimited budget, ah the things I would have bought for you had money been no object!
I have found gifts for people that I would never have thought of getting for them, but once seen, had to be bought. Of course, I don’t yet know how they will be received.

It’s had it’s downsides though…
The aforementioned anxiety did linger, and that awkward feeling you get when you’re the only customer in a shop is magnified when the “shop” is also their living room…
Not having asked people what they want leaves the gift giver vulnerable. It brings into stark relief how well (or not) you know people… stripped of the high street stores, of the latest game/gadget/perfume etc what does this person like? Am I bad relative/friend for not instantly knowing what piece of arty craft work or ornament they would like?
WILL THEY LIKE THIS?!? The biggest anxiety of all! And of course, I don’t know the answer to that yet, and wanted to get this blog done before knowing the answer, this post is about the process, not the result.
I was brought nearly to tears a few times, standing in a strangers house, looking at items and feeling utterly lost about whether that would be a good thing to get or not.
I learnt not to mention that I also make things, it did seem to sour the atmosphere somewhat but when pressed to buy cards when I’ve made over thirty this year, it was hard to know what else to say!
It’s physically demanding as you’re walking between the houses that are sometimes a mile or so apart. In December, this can be tough going, and using a car won’t necessarily be better as parking in Brighton residential streets on a weekend is often a nightmare!

I have learned from this experience if I’m going to do this again…
You have to be prepared to change your mind about who is getting what. Several times, I have looked at my list matching people to items and I’ve swapped things around. This item here? This is suitable for 4 people on my list, so when I see THAT item there, which is perfect for precisely this one particular person, then things get moved around a bit. You HAVE to be okay with this.
START EARLIER – Brighton has Open Houses in May, probably a good idea to have a mooch around then, not as if these presents will become too old to give and it’s very doubtful that the recipient will have bought one themselves (which can happen with more common items). Trying to buy everything (especially with postage dates) in December is putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Going round Open Houses takes a lot of time and you need to give yourself more time to get it done. I was averaging about 5 open houses per day, after that I was too exhausted to think properly and knowing myself, knew that I wouldn’t achieve anything positive if I pushed myself any more.
Have some ideas – have categories in mind – food stuffs, natural beauty, bags, jewellery, something with angels, something this colour, etc etc. Each house has a list of the stuff inside, and it means that before even going in, you have some idea who on your list this will cater for (and whether that will mean moving things around)
Be prepared to fail – you might not get things for people. Some are easier to buy for than others. Anything you get is a positive step for buying ethically and supporting local artists/small businesses in your area.
It’s possible to buy more ethically online. There are many small artists etc selling their wares online. Not all of us have the time, energy, opportunity or inclination to potter around Open Houses. Facebook has actually been a good source of small artists businesses as many people will promote their friends, and I’m positive that asking your friends lists would supply you with many individual people to buy unique and unusual presents from.

Lastly, I do want to make sure I admit that I didn’t manage this with everyone on my present list. For some, I couldn’t find anything that I was happy with in the Open Houses, and I did enlist the help of my Mum for a couple of final ideas for my siblings. I did take a wander a couple of times along my local high street and will easily admit that Superdrug and WHSmiths filled in some gaps. We can only do what we can do. This time of year is often pressured enough on people, so there is little sense in needlessly increasing that pressure on ourselves.

Will I do this again? I’d very much like to. Let’s just see how well the presents are received first!