A flurry of texting erupted a few weeks ago as my sister-in-law and I tried to make Christmas plans. The goal– to not fill up each other’s homes with useless Christmas presents. “We don’t really need more toys at our house,” Becky texted. That’s her very nice way of saying “Dear heavens, I’m drowning in crap and I just can’t take any more!”
Although I’m willing to bet Becky’s not alone, they did just move to a new house this year (here’s the blog post about their house), and space really is at a premium in this radical new way they’re living. We decided to do for the kids what we’re doing for the adults, which is bringing a small gift of something delicious. Quality coffee, good chocolates, that sort of thing. Easy on the wallet and no need to store it for long.
(We will not comment on how the presents might actually turn into fat and get stored for infinity on our waistline, because it’s Christmas and holiday calories hardly count.)
Jenny and I had a similar conversation over the weekend. We decided that although our kids have swapped presents in the past, this year we’re going to skip it. This conversation took less than sixty seconds and we were off to something new, but what if a situation is more complicated? What if a person is facing a tidal wave of well-meaning relatives and friends who come bearing gifts in an endless parade of holiday wrapping and bows and scotch tape?
Here are my ideas. I don’t know if any of them will work for you, but maybe one or two of them won’t be super dumb and you can benefit. If nothing else, at least you might start thinking about how to keep Christmas clutter from overtaking your house. If you have better ideas than these, share them in the comments below!
- Communicate. It’s only a few weeks before Christmas so you might be too late for this round, but maybe you can start Grandma thinking for next year. Say the words out loud: “Mom, the kids have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. We need to stop buying all the things.”
- Clean out the stuff you already own. Whilst the little dears are snug in their beds, start hauling stuff out to the garbage (or recycling bin, if you live in California). Dump the broken toys, the mangled stuffed animals, and the puzzles that only have three pieces.
- Ask for presents that result in experiences, not clutter. Art classes, zoo memberships, theater tickets, or trips someplace fun. Think outside the hot-pink, plastic box.
- Buy Legos. The Lego company is not paying me to say this, I just happen to think they have an excellent product that is well worth the money. My kids are playing with the Legos my husband owned as a child. Those plastic bricks are 30 years old and work perfectly with the ones we can buy now. Endless fun, endless options, not a waste of space. Way to go, Lego creators!
- Copy your friends who have some brains when it comes to Christmas. Some of our friends give gifts this way: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Each child gets four gifts, and I think those categories are genius. I might rephrase it like this: Something to read, something else to read, here’s another book, and oh yeah, I got you some underwear. But you get the idea.
- Remember that adults are adults, not super tall children who need $400 gifts to experience the magic of Christmas. Things don’t only go terribly wrong when it comes to the children. Sometimes we panic when we try to buy a gift for a beloved adult. “They already have everything, so maybe I’ll spend $75,000 on that new Mercedes like the commercial suggested”, we think to ourselves. No, no, no, no, no. This is madness and we shall refrain from it.
What else? What did I forget?