The Guilt-Free, Needless-Gift-Free Christmas


It’s time we freed ourselves from needless stuff, needless calories, needless spending, needless guilt and needless derangement.

My Mom, bless her heart, drove a stake through the guilt-ridden, retail-riot needless-gift Christmas madness: “Let’s not exchange gifts this year–none of us need more stuff or calories.” Done! We are having a gift-free party, where the “gifts” will be the experience of conviviality and the memories.

No matter how “small” the gifts may be, the guilt-soaked onus to buy something, anything for everyone in the family/enterprise is deranging. What most households need is not more stuff but someone to haul stuff away.

Is Anybody Else Tired of Buying and Owning Stuff? (September 7, 2012). The real gift to loved ones would be freeing them of stuff they no longer use.

We as a nation are awash in stuff. Dumpsters are crammed with perfectly good food (an estimated 40% of food in America is thrown out), perfectly good electronics, still usable furniture, and on and on.

As for candy, confections, cakes, etc.–as Mom said, none of us need more sugar-fat calories. If we do give sweets this year, they will be homemade so we can use real ingredients and cut the sugar used in the recipe. We can also trim the portion sizes. Less is better in so many ways.

Part of the guilt of Christmas is the constantly repeated message that our economy will collapse if people don’t buy more stuff on credit, even if the stuff is needless. Please, Santa, Let This Be the Last Christmas in America (that’s supposed to “save” the U.S. economy) (November 23, 2010). Recall that holiday retail sales are a mere 3.4% of the U.S. GDP.

Well guess what, America–if your economy is based on buying useless stuff on credit, then it shouldcollapse, and the sooner the better, because there is another, better way to live: without credit, and without needless stuff.

In a largely loveless, technology-distracted, burned-out society, then the guilt of self-absorbed emotional miserliness drives us to salvage an expression of caring from a needless gift. Too busy to actually listen to your kids? Lavish them with a gift. Ditto your parents, colleagues, etc.

If time is the ultimate gift, then what better gift than time spent together enjoying a home-cooked meal or other conviviality?

Yes, children expect multiple gifts, even if their rooms are already warehouses of consumerism, and a gift may be expected in certain business settings. But is there no other way to express caring than a frantically purchased retail-riot gift? How about sharing some item that is somebody else’s surplus? This is now a business model: yerdle – why shop when you can share? “Sharing is more fun than shopping.”

If you are in a position of responsibility, then how about ending the gift-exchange charade in your enterprise/division? Or if you face a full-blown rebellion in the family or company, then why not place a $5 limit on all gifts? Or require the gifts be home-made, or consumable?

If you must give gifts, then how about making them useful tools? This is the idea behind our list of practical kitchen tools: Favorite Practical Kitchen Tools (All Under $23, many under $10, most made in U.S.A.): if you feel you must give a gift, or want to help stock a new household’s kitchen, then for goodness sakes, give something that is useful on a daily basis, not an electric pasta maker (or equivalent) that collects dust in a closet until the owner moves or has a garage/jumble sale.

Yes, we will give a few gifts to children, friends and key clients; but the gifts will be small, handmade or consumable. It’s time we freed ourselves from needless stuff, needless calories, needless spending, needless guilt and needless derangement.

Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds