Mountains of stuffed animals. Overflowing buckets of dress-up clothes. Scattered building pieces and countless figurines. If your house is anything like mine, it often looks like a toy store threw up. Everywhere. And my kids haven't even lived through four Christmases yet.
So, with the holidays fast approaching, you may be like me and singing a similar refrain to all your relatives-- NO MORE TOYS.
Yes, I know, good luck with that.
But, really, if you want to put the brakes on too much stuff you have to start with your own habits. Are you buying other people more crap they don't actually need for Christmas, too?
We moved a few months ago and I was a little bothered by our consumption habits. Truthfully, we could benefit from permanently losing our Amazon password. So many things we hardly used cluttered our closets and garage, not to mention my older daughter's bedroom floor.
In the end, I had to close my eyes and throw countless items into donation boxes. Ironically, I don't even remember the things I had such trouble dumping. I haven't missed a single sweater or kitchen utensil... or toy.
And, as Christmas looms on the calendar, I'm worried about re-accumulating more of the same space-hogging garbage. It was hard enough to get rid of stuff under the pressure of fitting our life into a storage unit, (Sorry, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I'm not good at giving away things when I think we might possibly use them again six years from now). Pathetic, I know.
Accordingly, I've given myself a challenge this year. All Christmas presents my family gives must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:
- Be homemade
- Be consumable
- Be experiential
- Be used
- Be a practical item someone would buy anyway
While this may seem like a lot of categories, it really does cut back on the choices. Pretty scarves and jewelry, my regular go-tos for friends, for example, no longer make the list.
Instead, spoiler alert, friends (and quite a few relatives) are getting homemade body products and health remedies which fall under multiple categories and also take a lot of pressure off my bank account. Another pro: a touch of "I care so much about you that I gave you my time to make this."
See? Rethinking Christmas presents really isn't as painful as you might think. Those difficult men to shop for in your life? Alcohol. Homemade peanut butter cups. Tickets to some event they like. Your kids? Passes to do fun things, practical items like cool water bottles, and used toys.
Now I know what you're thinking, toys?!? Didn't we just talk about NOT needing any more of those?
But if you belong to an online buy, sale, trade page, you know they're filled with cool items your kids would love for long enough to make the deflated prices worth it. And, because they're used, you won't feel as guilty about passing them along (or reselling!) when they've lost their luster.
So if you stick to the big ticket items, (think playhouses, sandboxes, water tables, bicycles... the list goes on), it's a win. And, when you're the one picking more toys for your kids, you're more likely to select things that actually get used and aren't just tripping hazards in the middle of the night.
After all, buying Christmas presents shouldn't be anxiety-inducing. We don't need to strain our finances each year to buy a bunch of junk for a huge list of people. If you really must give presents to a long list, think homemade and pick a project that's easy and affordable to mass produce. In this case, Pinterest really is your friend!
After all, our kids don't need a thousand gifts to open on Christmas morning. While the temporary high of all that ripped wrapping paper is undeniably fun, what are we really accomplishing by overdoing it? We just get trapped in a cycle of having to overdo it again and again, adding to the pile of junk and the pressure on ourselves to orchestrate it all. Let's not pass that endless loop onto our kids.
A few good, well-thought out gifts are enough. If you're afraid of backlash, explain to your kids this year is going to be more about experiences and shift the focus. After all, the holidays shouldn't be just about getting a million things and feeling overstressed in the process. They should be about time together and enjoying the experience of giving. Because, really, that's priceless.