Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fighting the Battle against STUFF this Christmas

I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF in our house. For at least five years (my memory of life before kids is hazy) I have declared myself to be fighting a battle against all the stuff in my house. I confess, I usually call it the "War on Crap." But that sounds a little crass. Either way, by "stuff" or "crap," I'm not meaning to insult the quality of objects filling my house, much of which has been gifted to us—and increasingly, to our kids—by kind, generous, thoughtful people.

"Stuff" is the excess, the clutter, the unneeded and often unused things that fill our homes. Stuff doesn't just take up space, but energy as well as we maintain an increasingly cluttered space.

Judging from the number of articles I see to this effect on Facebook these days, and the response when I share them, I know I'm not alone. A lot of parents of young children feel this way. Kids aren't great at picking up after themselves, parents tire of picking up after them, and generous people are always eager to add to the collection of toys and other things, especially at Christmas. I've seen articles from the angle of how to purge the stuff once you have it, and I try to thin the herd as I can, but it's hard for me to part with things a loved one gave so kindly, and I'd rather find ways to free ourselves from the excess and consumerism in the first place, rather than enabling a "revolving door of stuff."

As one other mom asked me when I shared one such article, "how do you tell these generous people to dial it back a bit, without hurting their feelings?" I don't have a great answer. The time I've spent trying to get every word of this post right shows what a touchy issue it can be.

First rule of thumb, I don't say anything to the people outside our family (except on birthday invitations, when I've started saying "no gifts please"). I do tell my kids' grandmothers over and over how much the kids have already and how hard it is to keep the house neat with so much stuff, etc., but I also know how the giving of gifts is special for the giver as well as the receiver. So while I say, "Don't get them anything; they have enough!!" I know that is not realistic and that I need to make some reasonable suggestions.

Rather, I think suggesting alternatives to stuff-gifts is a good way to introduce new ways of gift-giving that kids love, parents can appreciate, and (in some cases) the giver can enjoy alongside the child. Things that won't wind up scattered all over the floor of their room—and every other room! Or, at the very least, bring a fun twist to things we need anyway.

So here is my list of non-stuff gifts one might consider this Christmas.

Experience Gifts
  • passes to go roller skating or ice skating
  • tickets to a kid-friendly concert, play, or sporting event
  • restaurant date to a fun place like Rainforest Café or even a fast food place with a playground
  • movie date with a big tub of popcorn
  • gift card for an ice cream shop
  • visit to a museum or science center
  • registration for a season of soccer or a series of swim lessons
  • subscription to or a magazine like Highlights
  • ingredients for a recipe to make together
  • seeds to plant and watch grow
  • art supplies, bubbles, chalk
  • supplies and instructions for a science experiment
  • a fun food like the ingredients for s'mores or cookies the child can decorate
  • stickers or temporary tattoos
  • balloons
  • a disposable camera
  • a notebook and fun pen
Fun Necessities
  • socks or tights with a fun pattern (even underwear if you're a close family member!)
  • a light-up or character toothbrush
  • lotion, body wash, or bubble bath
  • hair accessories
  • shoes or clothes
  • room décor (a bulletin board, special pillow, or art for their wall)
  • a cool box in which to house all their little "treasures"
And for the grown-ups...
  • restaurant gift card
  • gourmet food items (wine and cheese, a fancy dessert, etc.)
  • free babysitting
  • tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event
  • mani/pedi gift card
  • overnight at a hotel
  • gift card for something they wouldn't ordinarily get for themselves

What do you get someone who already has too much?

Something they keep in their hearts and memories, not on their shelves.


Noreen said...

Wonderful ideas, and after having moved numerous times in the past several years (we are older which means we had an incredible amount of stuff to purge), these ideas make great sense. We really can do with a lot less stuff, much as we enjoy the initial excitement of something new. Thankfully, society is now re-gifting and donating to charities etc. much more than those years when everything went to the dump. Adults and children alike, really enjoy the memories of a special, quality time spent together doing something special. Kudos to you for writing such an excellent post!

Anonymous said...

This year I turned 60 and when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday I realized that I have enough. Enough stuff to dust, enough clothes, enough money if I'm careful. I asked for hugs and memories and was richly rewarded.


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