Guest Post by John Cloonan. John is a marketing consultant and public speaker.
Every year around this time, we do a purge of my daughter’s room of items she’s outgrown or no longer wants in order to make room for what she’s going to receive for Christmas. It’s interesting to see what she decides to keep or toss as she gets older, and it’s a good, functional way to keep down the general level of detritus in her room. She has the final decision-making authority on everything – as she should, since it’s her stuff.
But this year, I noticed something different. Not sure if my perception has changed over time, or if it was really different this year, but I noticed that there were a lot of items from last Christmas that had been opened, used once or twice, and then never used again. So a lot of nearly new stuff got donated.
What I realized was this – we had been guilty of filling space at Christmas. Basically buying items that were marginally or questionably desirable to my daughter to make sure she received lots of things at Christmas. Both my girlfriend and I were raised in upper-middle-class families where Christmas gifts were piled high and deep on Christmas morning, and we both wanted that for my daughter.
But that pile, judging by the amount of use of much of it, was pretty much unappreciated. I don’t blame my daughter for this. She enjoyed the gifts that were of interest to her, and left the rest basically unused. I blame us for falling for the “more is better” philosophy.
But what to do about it? There’s an obvious short answer of “buy less stuff,” but what exactly does that mean? A former colleague of mine gets his kids one gift each. I’m not sure I’m ready to go down that road, but I’m trying to look at quality and desirability over sheer mass this year. Everything my daughter is getting this year is something she’s either directly asked for, expressed an interest in, or needs as a replacement for something she actually uses. And while the pile under the tree won’t necessarily be huge, neither will the pile in the back of the car next year when we purge her room.