The Thoughts That Count: Our No-Stuff New Year Philosophy

January 23, 2020

Can we go back to Christmas for a sec? In the constant warp speed that is parenting it feels like eons ago already, but there are still forlorn trees strewn across curbsides and rolls of wrapping paper that still haven't made their way up to the attic. Or is that just our house?    


My husband and I were very deliberate with the presents we bought our kids this year. There was no going overboard, they were thrilled for the most part and Christmas was an all-around jolly success. But a nagging feeling in the back of my mind grew at every consumer report mention of how much money Americans collectively spend over the holidays. It is an obscene amount. On Cyber Monday alone, we spent $6.6 billion. That's insane. 

 

It's not just Christmas presents, of course. There are Valentine's Day treats, Easter presents (basically a second Christmas now), Fourth of July gear, literal tons of Halloween candy and so on throughout the entire calendar year. 

A sampling of the Valentine's Day goods tempting shoppers to buy buy buy. 

 

Not to be all sourpuss about it, but when did we start including trinkets and snacks with every single valentine? Or assemble back-to-school goodies for the whole class? It's exhausting to meet these Pinterest-inspired expectations practically every month, but more importantly it's mindless consumerism. Why are we spending our hard-earned money on these unnecessary things?

 

I enjoy giving presents -- and getting them, of course -- as much as the next person, but it can be super stressful and now feels like we are just going through the motions and accumulating mountains of stuff with no genuine sentiment behind it.

 

So 2018 will be the Year of No Storebought Gifts. Our family will hand craft valentines together out of paper, glue and nothing else. We will have traditional Easter baskets filled only with candy to be devoured until bellies ache. We will put thought into how we celebrate our loved ones and get creative in our giving.

 

Our focus will shift from things to deliberately selected experiences and ways to make the people we care about happy. There will be horse lessons and ice cream sundaes. There will be boat rides and carousel tokens. Special dates and roller skates. The possibilities are endless, and they are all way more fun than crossing something off a shopping list. 


I'm hoping that our friends and family will play along, but we will be grateful for each and every gift that comes our way over the course of forever. And there is one tradition that I can't bring myself to give up: Every year for our anniversary, my husband and I exchange records. It brings me joy, so the vinyl tradition is staying put. Also not going anywhere are presents for the teachers. They deserve all the gift cards and coffee in the world.

 

But everything else? We are going to make the thoughts count again. 

 

Originally published 02/2018.

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