Please Get My Kids Nothing for Christmas
Please Get My Kids Nothing for Christmas
By Greg Hanscom / grist.org

Dear family and friends,

I hope this Black Friday finds you well. I also hope this reaches you before you head for the mall …

I’m writing to send a heartfelt thanks for all of the wonderful gifts you’ve given my girls over the past four and eight years of their lives, respectively — and to ask you to stop. Really. It’s not that we don’t love each and every one of these hand-picked gems. We do. It’s just that at this point they have one of everything. In some cases three or four.

You don’t believe me? Go ahead, shoot.

Stuffed animals? Har. The girls have hundreds of them. Dolls? Dozens. Legos? Crates full — both the big ones and small. Bikes? Yep, and scooters, too. Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, blocks? Check, check, check. Pillow pets — do they have those yet? They each got two of them last Christmas, and they’ve somehow acquired more since then.

Marbles, playing cards, pick-up sticks, jacks, pre-packaged arts and crafts projects. Crayons, paints, toy cars, tops, board games, sand shovels. A monkey suit, a kangaroo costume, a pink octopus outfit, at least four fairy dresses, and several pairs of plastic high heels with Disney princesses printed on top (I throw them in the trash every time I find them — the girls fish them back out). A miniature piano, a drum, a recorder, a plastic trumpet, two harmonicas, and a pair of pink plastic guitars.

These, dear friends, are the kids who have it all — and then some. And you know about my pathetic housekeeping abilities. It’s really becoming a problem.

Last summer, Tara and I bought a house just across town from the one we’d been renting, and we took the move as an opportunity to root through the kids’ stuff. One Saturday, we sent the girls over to their cousins’ house for a sleepover, giving us 24 hours to whisk everything unneeded or unloved or outgrown off to Goodwill, with their owners none the wiser.

The first hour was great. It was immensely satisfying — de-cluttering our lives of all manner of neglected knickknacks. We piled them in the living room and began to divide them between boxes that would come to our new home, and boxes that would soon clutter some other family’s house.

We were having fun! We were listening to our own music! We were getting away with things that would have elicited howls from the young Hanscoms if they knew what we were up to! Tara cried, “This is better than sex!”

But my god, the stuff! The sheer volume was mind-boggling! Two hours in, Tara looked at me: “You look like you need some food.” An hour later, she stood, staring wonderingly at the mountain on the living room floor. “And think of it,” she said. “You’re married to a woman who doesn’t shop.” Four hours after we started work, as I descended from the girls’ room with another box full of goodies, she grabbed me by the shoulder and said, breathlessly, “I had no idea.”

The stuffed animals alone were a wonder. Some, we knew would be missed if we got rid of them, but we stashed 34 of them in a box for recycling. (I got some good advice from Umbra Fisk on how to do that.)

But it was the “treasure boxes” that really blew our minds. You see, Chloe, the 4-year-old, is a collector. Each day after preschool, she stomps into the house, kicks off her pink furry Uggs, and quietly goes to work. She finds a purse from the dress-up box, or a yogurt container, or a plastic bag, and she makes her rounds, going room to room and through the backyard, picking up small items along the way.

A Lego, a marble, a miniature rubber cupcake, a shiny rock, a piece of broken glass, a seashell, a shred of polka-dotted ribbon, bits of garbage, our silverware — the little blond-headed hoarder puts them all into her bag or box. When she’s done, she looks at my wife or me and says, sternly, “DON’T do anything with this, OK? This is my treasure.” Or she just quietly hides the day’s take in a corner or a drawer where she thinks we’ll never find it.

Occasionally, Tara or I will find one of these collections and put all the pieces back where they belong. It can take a good 20 minutes to unpack one because you have to retrace Chloe’s tracks — and she covers some serious ground.

Can you find the rubber penguin?

That weekend, preparing for our move, we must have found 50 of them. To make cleanup easier, we spread the contents on the floor — and before long, the floor had all but disappeared from sight. Walter Wick would have been proud. No really, here’s a small sampling. –>

Eight hours after we’d begun, we were finally sweeping up. We’d packed one of our cars to the roof with giveaways — and the work wasn’t even done. Tara spent two more hours that evening rifling through the “crafts” cupboard, and found three more bags of odds and ends that she would sort through the next night while the kids slept.

Since the Great Clean Out, life has been just fine. We’ve settled into the new house, which is tiny and, thus far, blissfully uncluttered. In the three months since the move, the girls have missed just one thing that we tossed into a giveaway box — a Piglet costume that I’d deemed too small for Chloe — and by some miracle of motherly intuition, Tara had spared it at the last minute and stashed it in a box that made it to the new basement.

We’re doing our best to buy as little new stuff as possible, and focus on having fun adventures instead. (Although Tara did break down the other day and buy a $10 “Smackers” lip gloss kit to keep Chloe happy for that last part of a five-hour car ride. “Whuuuut?” I said. “You weren’t there,” she said. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”) And you know what? I think the girls like living with a little less stuff around, too. On occasion, they even play with the toys we spared, which fit nicely into a few small bins Tara bought to organize them.

So please, this year, do us all a favor and get my kids nothing for Christmas. And me? I’d like nothing, too.

Sincerely yours,
Greg

Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.

 

Recommended by Films For Action:

Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that now sells kids and their parents everything from junk food and violent video games to bogus educational products and the family car. Drawing on the insights of health care professionals, children's advocates, and industry insiders, the film focuses on the explosive growth of...

 

 

Religion aside for a moment, there’s a terrible addiction that has swept across this country, and it’s one of the nation’s best kept secrets. Mostly everyone will tell you that it’s a really bad thing, but nobody can seem to stop doing it. And it doesn’t come cheap, nearly sixty percent of us are in long term debt because of it. No, we’re not talking booze...

 

 

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us...

 

 

4.3 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 26,258 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 15,412 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 14,445 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 13,657 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 10,340 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
Forest Man
16 min · 10,114 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 6,465 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 6,345 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 5,405 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 5,277 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 4,275 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
American Cartel: How America's Two Major Parties Helped Destroy Democracy
Frank Castro · 3,560 views today · Cartel: An association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.
The International Criminal Court May Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment
Tara Smith · 3,340 views today · The International Criminal Court is not known for prosecuting people responsible for huge oil slicks, chopping down protected rainforests or contaminating pristine land. But...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 3,238 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 3,156 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
A Woman Who Makes This Statement Today Needs Revolutionary Courage
Sabine Lichtenfels · 2,427 views today · I want to live in a community with men and women, with children, animals and plants so that I am not continually forced to hide my actual being from the others. Perception and...
Do You Have Time to Love?
Thich Nhat Hanh · 2,421 views today · The greatest gift you can offer loved ones is your true presence.
“You Can Have Your Weak Nominee If You Wish” – the Sanders Endorsement Backfires on Hillary Clinton, Empowers Sanders in One Masterstroke
Saib Bilaval · 2,158 views today · Ultimately, what the Sanders endorsement has proved is what the candidate was arguing from the beginning – that it was not Sanders and his campaign that was holding Hillary...
Humanity's Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical, They're Human
8 min · 2,144 views today · Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is incomplete as we commonly know it. Later in his life, Maslow wrote about a stage beyond self-actualization. Nichol Brandford explains how to...
Better, Not More
5 min · 2,094 views today · As we assess the current state of our world and consider together the elements that are essential to a ‘just transition’, and ultimately, a just economy, we are called to...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Please Get My Kids Nothing for Christmas