Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom
I hate to be a cynic, but I think I might be becoming one when it come to this oxymoron* ~ Useful gifts. More specifically, useful generic gifts. My mother gave me a drip irrigation system for Christmas. Let me tell you, that’s a useful gift, and I am so appreciative. (Thanks Mom!) But what about these “useful” gifts that have recently come into my home:
- water bottles and bandannas from a child’s birthday party.
- water bottles as a “finisher’s prize” for a book reading contest
- water bottles given to the kids when they went to camp for a day
- bandannas as a party favor at an adult party
- cheap backpacks given as a promotion for Lemonaid Day (a fundraising event for kids)
- expensive backpack given to my daughter when she was in the hospital
- expensive backpacks given to my husband annually when he attends a conference
- tote bags given at conferences and as promotions in stores
- soap, lotions and other toiletries
- and let’s not forget T-shirts for registering or participating in nearly any event
Sure, on their own, each one of these items can be useful. I’m not going to argue with that. A water bottle, a bandanna, a back pack, a tote bag, a t-shirt – all these items can be useful. But I went from having a just-right number of water bottles to having an explosion of them. My kids have backpacks, and each one lasts for two school years. I’ve already decluttered a half dozen bandannas; now I have more. As for t-shirts, let me just say that when I started decluttering, my husband had 100.
What’s a declutterer to do? First off, I try to leave these things behind when they are offered to me. Yes, you might have to step out of your comfort zone to say “no thanks” rather than just accepting what’s handed to you. This helps with clutter, but unfortunately, there is still the larger environmental impact of that item’s existence. We don’t need these things (or even want them), and the fact that they exist means that the raw materials have been gathered, and they have been manufactured, transported, etc. – a waste of perfectly good energy.
To make my small impact on these larger issues, I have resisted gifts more and more. (As Colleen once wrote, Don’t the very words “stocking stuffer” = “unnecessary item”.) If it’s not truly a want or need of someone in the family, we don’t buy it. We make gifts. I shop at the thrift stores, Craiglist, and Ebay first; local stores next; the mall last. This year I vowed to give no material gifts to my children’s friends. For my own friends, with whom I rarely exchange gifts anyway, I give something very practical, like a homemade frozen meal. (Way more appreciated at Christmas time than more candy or a Santa trinket, I guarantee you!) If there’s nothing I really want, I ask for a gift certificate to my favorite online store, Amazon.com, where I can buy practically anything when the need does arise.
When did “I love you and value your friendship” start to equal “so I’ll give you some cheap crap to show it”? Or “I’m so grateful that you came to my conference that I’ll load you up on items you can’t possibly use” become a standard business practice? Only by becoming conscious of choices in all areas of our lives can we start to change and to change the people around us. I know I’ve had an influence on my friends and on you, our readers, and I know you have too. Let’s be like water on a pond sending ripples of wisdom outward instead of thoughtless consumers of more, more, and more.
*For those of you who are not native English speakers, an oxymoron is a figure of speech where two apparently opposite ideas are paired.
Today’s Declutter Item
I have looked forward to this day from the very beginning of my declutter mission and it has finally arrived. This is the hutch section of an entertainment unit that is no longer suitable to fit the TV into. It is big and dark and bulky and held a lot of stuff I never really used or loved. By slowly decluttering spaces in the bottom section of this unit, in the kitchen cupboards and the bookcase it is finally empty and a man named Brian will be recycling it to create other pieces of furniture. It was picked up today by Brian and his brother Bob and I am glad to see it go.
My Gratitude List
- Something that made me laugh ~ My husband poking fun at our daughter because her favourite baseball team lost again today. It is an ongoing love hate relationship between them during the baseball season, mostly love though of course.
- Something Awesome ~ Learning to say no when you really don’t want to do something.
- Something to be grateful for ~ The three people who picked up Freecycle items from me today.
- Something that made me happy ~ How light and airy my living room looks without the big display cabinet.
- Something I found fascinating ~ Watching the big storm front build up to the north today. It is now rumbling overhead. Weather is interesting and so different here than it was in Seattle.
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow