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
Related
Load Comments (6)
Trending Today
These Are The Voices From Syria We Should Be Listening To
5 min · 8,168 views today · For 5 years the media has silenced the people of Syria, and given their voice to politicians from all sides. Time for that to end!
Love Liberates
5 min · 6,427 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
DISOBEDIENCE: The Courage To Break Free (2016)
41 min · 2,803 views today · Disobedience is a new film about a new phase of the climate movement: courageous action that is being taken on the front lines of the climate crisis on every continent, led by...
The Greening of the Self: The Most Important Development of Modern Times
Joanna Macy · 2,735 views today · Something important is happening in our world that you are not going to read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time...
Corporate Media Admits Bernie Sanders Is a Strong(Er) General Election Candidate
4 min · 2,685 views today · The blackout on Bernie is starting to end.
Deep Anger: We need to rediscover something we lost along the way
Darren Fleet and Stefanie Krasnow · 2,658 views today · In a better world, there’d be no reason to write this. In that world, plastic bags would be outlawed, rednecks would voluntarily stop driving those obnoxious Ford F-350s and...
For First Time Ever, a Majority of People Identify as 'Global Citizens'
Nadia Prupis · 2,632 views today · People around the world are increasingly identifying as global citizens, according to a new BBC poll that shines a light on changing attitudes about immigration, inequality...
Marx Is Back - A fictional mini-series based on the Communist Manifesto
55 min · 2,612 views today · "Marx Is Back" takes place in todays' Argentina, which suffers like other countries the blows of economic crises. Workers of a printing house are facing suspensions and...
Yes, It's Okay to Talk About Climate Change Right Now
Nicholas Ellan · 2,566 views today · With the largest evacuation in the history of the province of Alberta displacing nearly 100 000 people as large sections of Fort McMurray burn to the ground in the middle of a...
What Is Addiction? - Gabor Maté
3 min · 2,180 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté talks about the root causes of addiction and how to deal with them.
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 2,172 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...
Why the Economy Should Stop Growing-And Just Grow Up
David Korten · 2,149 views today · “How do we grow the economy?” is an obsolete question. Local initiatives across the world are looking for maturity instead as they rebuild caring, place-based communities and...
Hacking Planned Obsolescence Through the Art of Repairing Not Replacing
Ute Scheub · 1,724 views today · At the Repair and Service Center in Vienna, the long-term unemployed retrain to be "mechatronic engineers" and repair electronic devices. Founder Sepp Eisenriegler tirelessly...
27 Honest Questions for Hillary Supporters
Kris Seto · 1,242 views today · To those who are supporting Hillary Clinton, I love you. And while I know that we’re technically on the same side fighting against a terrifying Republican reality, it seems...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 768 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...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 737 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
2016 Presidential Election Reality Check
2 min · 668 views today · "It IS class warfare and first class is winning."
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 619 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...
Lawrence, KS Mayor Declares Oct. 12 Indigenous Peoples' Day in Place of Columbus Day
Jessica Larson · 594 views today · After years of protesting, the Native American community can officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day in place of Columbus Day in Lawrence. At the City Commission meeting...
Why Men Are So Obsessed with Sex
Steve Bearman · 472 views today · Have you ever encountered a baby whose gender is unknown to you?
Load More
Like us on Facebook?