It’s Not Even Thanksgiving and I’m Already Worrying About Christmas

LeavesWe didn’t manage to clean the house before my father-in-law’s visit but on Sunday morning when the kids got up we did a big family clean-up.

“Everything needs to be neat and organized before you go trick-or-treating” is an amazing incentive. I’ve never seen such a scramble to do chores, such neatly made beds, or such a quick house makeover.

The room my three older kids share was a mess! I brought the vacuum into it and closed the door so I could sort through the piles of stuff on my now 7-year-old son’s desk in secret. I filled a bag with broken robot parts and plastic baubles and all sorts of junk that he likes to collect.

The bag went into the trash and the trash went into the can in the garage.

Landfill: I am sorry. Landfill: I know how overstuffed you are already. I know how bad you smell. I know you don’t need anymore trash to be added to you. Landfill: does it help to know that I can’t sleep at night? Landfill: Will you forgive me?

As I was vacuuming their room, I found some of last year’s Christmas presents untouched and unplayed with under my 9-year-old daughter’s bed. I noticed figurines collecting dust and toys she’s never once played with on my 11-year-old daughter’s shelves.

Last week on Mothering Outside the Lines we were talking about how living with less gives more joy but the truth is that our house is still filled with clutter and with too much stuff.

My name is Jennifer and I’m a stuff-a-holic.

So now you know why I have a hole in my stomach when I think about Christmas.

I’ve recently discovered SimpleMom, a super popular Website by a mom of three little ones named Tsh Oxenreider. Tsh has a post up today about redefining simple living, where she reminds readers that simple living looks different for every family and that it’s good to enjoy the things you love, and to emphasize quality over quantity.


We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our family but for each night of Hanukkah we exchange poetry, not gifts.

No matter how hard we try, Christmas often feels to me like a free-for-all of plastic packaging and toys made in Chinese sweatshops.

One Christmas my friend told her three children they were going to celebrate “Enough Day” and not exchange gifts. That idea did not go over very well with James, who remembers actually seeing Santa Claus in his house in the middle of the night when he was three years old, and who really loves Christmas.

Still, I want to find a way to have a simpler, more meaningful Christmas this year. Maybe that means we will give one quality gift to each child? Or exchange homemade presents? Or do community service as a family on Christmas Day?

Do you feel like your family has too much stuff or do you find yourself wanting to buy more? Do you have any suggestions for ways to make Christmas less materialistic and more manageable?

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11 thoughts on “It’s Not Even Thanksgiving and I’m Already Worrying About Christmas”

  1. I can commiserate. When I clean out, I apologize profusely to the landfill gods. In fact, that’s what keeps me from cleaning out – not wanting to throw it in the garbage (no, not parting and letting go, but contributing more garbage). Sometimes there’s no other choice. But I do so like the idea of Enough Day. Wish I had done that when my kids were younger and certainly had MORE than enough.
    .-= sheryl´s last blog ..Domestic Violence- You Are Not Alone =-.

  2. Me too. I would love to clear out some stuff in our basement and attic. My daughter and husband both tend to keep things forever, regardless of utility. I want to rent a dumpster, but I can’t imagine sending that much junk to the landfill. I should freecycle everything usable or recyclable too. So I’m stuck, not moving on a major clean out. And Christmas, yeah, that’s tough. I try to at least get mostly handmade and local things but I was just looking at my daughter’s room and she already has way too many toys, handmade or not. I have proposed a family holiday shopping outing to a large local handmade bazaar and hope to give each of us a small cash budget to spend. My husband will have to make an obligatory trip to a big box for some stuff, and I will also search out some special things on Etsy. I’m hoping to DO more family outings like a train trip up to the mountains in the snow.

  3. I love Christmas and I love giving gifts. That being said, my husband and I try very hard to give meaningful gifts and not just gifts for the sake of giving gifts. We try to consider a couple of things when we choose gifts. How long will it last and be used? Especially for our daughter, how many phases of interest will this withstand and how many uses does it have? Is it beautiful? Would someone want to keep this? Could it be an heirloom? Did I make it myself? Lately we’ve been giving food. We either buy things from the farmers’ market and put together baskets or make things for people. The food doesn’t last but it doesn’t go in a landfill either. The biggest problem we have is people giving to us and to our daughter who aren’t coming from the same place as we are. It’s hard to tell them that we’d rather receive fewer, more meaningful gifts than just be heaped with stuff or cash. In all honesty, I’d rather receive nothing at all than a gift that doesn’t really come from the heart and acknowledge who I really am.

  4. With a large family on a small income, over the years I tended to Christmas shop (usually at thrift stores) beginning in, like, July. But we’re all agreeing to cut down down down this year, and limiting ourselves to what we can stuff in our stockings. Even our 13-y-o is happy to do this, which surprised me a little. But kids can be so generous!

    I confess I love Christmas so much that I’m tempted to break out the music as soon as the leaves start to turn, but I’m really trying to resist the temptation. Shakespeare has a great line in one of his plays about how if everyday’s a holiday, then playing becomes as tedious as work. Too true.

    And we’d like to come up with a family present for some worthy cause or needy family.
    .-= Debra´s last blog ..Join Debra at the 2010 Southern Oregon Book &amp Author Fair =-.

  5. For me, Christmas and the holiday season has been about family. It has also presented [what is now] a natural opportunity for gift giving. Questions of quality and function come to mind. Will this person use and appreciate the gift? I also ask myself, “If I spend $xx.x on this item, will it be used? Will this person care?” Over the years I have gone to a holiday market that has goods made by local crafters. I’m a fan of functional art, the unique that cannot be easily found elsewhere. Heirloom quality is a definite bonus.

    With a 3-month old sweetheart of a little guy, a 17-1/2 year old step-daughter who I’ve known for 15 years, and a year-old marriage, we are beginning to shape how family celebrations will be celebrated. The “lots o’ stuff” theme is alive and well here, as is the sensitivity to garbage = landfill. Free-cycling and Goodwill are always considered, although our attachment to stuff itself remains as a struggle.

    Overall, with gift giving, the gift needs to be meaningful to the person, given a little room for risk. In addition to gift giving within our immediate families, if possible, I think giving a meal/gifts to a family who would benefit, or an organization that does the same, would be a constructive way to approach the holidays (larger societal issues of poverty aside). In whatever form it takes, gift giving is like “sharing the love.” May it be so.

  6. Moira, I just have to say that I really enjoyed reading your post. I love the idea of giving a meal or presents to a family who would benefit.

  7. How about each child choose a favorite charity? I know that sounds very un-appetizing, but it would need to be presented in a different way. I’m thinking of supporting an elephant that has been retired from the circus or a goat that will help children in Africa. I also think poetry is great. My brother and I used to give our parents the present of a book of poetry that we would make. We were so proud of our effort. It made giving a present more meaningful to us, and receiving one more meaningful to our parents. I hope you will report back here on what you decide to do this Christmas.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..B&ampB Etiquette- When Is A Hug Appropriate =-.

  8. I’ve come to love the idea of ONE nice gift per person. We usually have a few random little things in stockings, too, but just one big gift. It is much less stressful than trying to fill up all the space under the tree.

    Also, this year I went through all my kids’ toys and sorted out the ones they haven’t played with for a long time. I know they will be getting plenty of replacements from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc, so I don’t feel bad about giving away the ones that aren’t used. As they get older (right now they’re only three) I want them to do the sorting and pick out things they would like to give away. Probably we’ll take the stuff to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Then someone else can use it since it’s not being used here.

  9. Christmas doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. I think you can still enjoy giving presents (as a *part* of the holiday, not the sole focus) without it being stressful, expensive, or filled with a lot of things no one needs. We incorporate giving to charity as part of the gift-giving (our two traditions are giving new books to the literacy foundation which are then distributed to children in need and giving food to the food bank).

    We focus on fewer presents and not a lot of money spent. The usual things are books, handmade and second-hand items, and delicious treats. We tend to do a lot of our Christmas shopping at a special food market and buy interesting locally made chocolates, jams, ice cider, etc. For kids, focus on a couple well-made toys rather than a pile of cheap plastic stuff that they’ll tire of quickly. I prefer toys that leave lots of room for imagination since those have more lasting interest. Buying one, more special present that everyone can enjoy is also a good strategy (easier if your kids are close in age). You can also plan a special outing or activity as a present. Presents don’t have to be “things” necessarily. For us, the focus is on family and food and other traditions rather than the presents. We eat certain special things, decorate the house, and enjoy spending time with our loved ones.

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