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
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 68,027 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...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 12,265 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Is Trump Purposely Sabotaging His Campaign?
Michael Moore · 10,425 views today · Friends, Donald Trump never actually wanted to be President of the United States. I know this for a fact. I’m not going to say how I know it. I’m not saying that Trump and I...
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Delivers Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance
4 min · 7,717 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
There May Be Two "Yous" in Your Brain
5 min · 7,396 views today · You may have heard about how the left side of your brain controls some things and the right side others, but what if these two sides are actually separate entities?
10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture
Kate Good · 6,552 views today · Plastic is so ubiquitous that it can be found in or associated with nearly every tangible item in existence. Just think about how many different things you used today that...
The Tragic Story of How This Man Learned What Love Is - and Isn't - Is Truly Heartbreaking
3 min · 6,234 views today · This is a clip from the beginning of the 3-part film HUMAN, which was released for free online in 2015. You can watch the series here. 
Brené Brown on How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative
Brené Brown · 5,705 views today · The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves, says Brené Brown. But beware—they're usually fiction.
Let's Stop the Wealth Hoarders
Joe Brewer · 5,135 views today · They mindlessly consume wealth — and destroy the planet.
The Anthropocene Is Here: Humanity Has Pushed Earth Into a New Epoch
Deirdre Fulton · 4,226 views today · The epoch is thought to have begun in the 1950s, when human activity set global systems on a different trajectory
I Wish for You... Jeremy Irons is a Grandfather With A Beautiful Message for His Granddaughter
5 min · 3,950 views today · 'War Horse' author Michael Morpurgo and actors Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake have joined forces to make a powerful new 5 minute film especially for you. Please watch and...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 3,649 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Revolt of the Natives: Britain After Brexit
Anthony Barnett · 3,299 views today · Brexit creates an opening for change in Britain, but who will rise to the challenge and how? Anthony Barnett introduces his forthcoming book.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,490 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways: Three Complementary Theories
Peter Gray · 2,095 views today · As regular readers of this blog know, I have in previous posts commented on hunter-gatherers' playfulness; their playful religious practices; their playful approach toward...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 1,786 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,774 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...
What Are Democratic Schools?
Alternatives to School · 1,508 views today · Imagine a school where children and teenagers are accorded all the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship; where students truly practice, rather than just read...
Understanding Patriarchy
bell hooks · 1,503 views today · Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life...
The Secret to Effective Nonviolent Resistance
9 min · 1,342 views today · We're not going to end violence by telling people that it's morally wrong, says Jamila Raqib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Instead, we must find...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Please Get My Kids Nothing for Christmas