While the idea of giving something thoughtful, and receiving something (un)expected in good company and spirit is a lovely one, what of the practical implications of that same idea? A thoughtful present requires some preparation, of course. While that may often be the case (and I’m being very clement here), in view of some of the presents I have received and – I admit openly – have given on occasion, the idea of the perfect gift and its execution are two very different stories.
Let’s assume you had a brilliant idea for a present. Hoorah. Well done, you! You now have to venture out and get it. Even if you had a notion where you could get hold of this object, oftentimes you will not be able to find it any longer as it has been sold out already. Other people had the same idea! So now it’s back to square one: do you chase that thing across town, hoping to find it somewhere else? Or will you give up on the idea and find something else?
In the ‘scouring the town’ scenario you’ll likely end up pretty frazzled, exhausted, disillusioned by humanity as a whole, and with a small chance of actually having procured that elusive gift after all. More likely you won’t find that gift, and move on to scenario 2: find something else instead. And that is where things start to go down a slippery slope. You had a beautiful idea to start with, now you’ll have to settle for second best – and second best might be “just about anything” because at this point you just want to get it over with.
This whole experience sounds and feels like a lot of mental clutter, doesn’t it?
Multiply this little story by as many presents as you need and you’ll get a bit of an idea of the sheer madness you’ll have subjected yourself to pre-Christmas. How could anyone expect to be wrestling up any joy or happiness in this scenario? It’s no wonder Christmas often turns into a bit of a mess, with family members getting together completely stressed out! Maybe there’s a market for mindfulness meditation on the tv on Christmas morning rather than anything else?
Level two of Christmas clutter is the physical aspect of it all. How many gifts have you received that you didn’t really enjoy? And I’m talking full-on joy here: the kind of present you really, really LOVE to receive! The thing you were longing for and have hinted at a million times before Christmas? Those are the best, no doubt about it. However, let’s face it, most gifts – even many of the thoughtful ones – are not quite what you expected. They’ll just end up somewhere in a closet, on the exchange counter in a shop (now there’s a chance to get even more exhausted after Christmas!) or simply in the bin soon after the giver has gone home.
It’s STUFF, that’s what it is. And if you are prone to keeping things just ‘because it was a gift from a well-meaning friend’, it’s an extremely poisonous gift to start with. But that’s another subject altogether…
Another aspect of level two Christmas clutter is the packaging itself, all the paraphernalia of a ‘good present’. Any self-respecting present has to be wrapped in something beautiful: a shiny box, a thoughtful gift wrapping paper, coloured paper to fluff it up, a couple of nice and unusual personalised ribbons, some more decorations, stickers and a card with the name on it,… and then some. Most of this (if you are not package-conscious) AND all that plastic packaging material the gift comes in to start with, will make your bins overflow for the next couple of weeks at least.
Maybe it IS time for reflection?
Christmas presents for children are a given, of course, as long as it doesn’t go overboard in terms of number of presents. Also, there is such a thing as pooling resources and buying things together, limiting the sheer amount of stuff that is given. It seems to me that we have been told to take that idea of presents for the kids and extended it to our whole lifetime. As a grown-up, I wouldn’t expect to receive a present from everyone. And while a thoughtful gift is always welcome, I’d rather stumble across something that I believe would excite a friend or family member and give that as a surprise gift, than trawling the shops alongside battalions of other people to find something for everyone. Something I could just about imagine them not disliking enough to forget it the moment I have turned my back to them.
I believe that we need to find other ways to celebrate, and renounce that idea of rekindling our eternal childhood around Christmas. Speaking for myself, I’d rather spend a relaxed Christmas with family and friends without obligations, celebrating life and the joy of spending time in each other’s company. If we give and receive gifts as a way to achieve exactly these things, with the added pitfalls of receiving stuff we neither want not need, wouldn’t it make sense to cut out the middle man (the present) and go straight for the goal?
Give me a clutter-free Christmas any day! Have a merry Christmas, all!
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in our homes and in our minds.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.