Why I've Cancelled All Presents This Christmas
My mother-in-law came to visit last weekend.
“I’m making a Christmas list,” she said to my children, taking a notebook out of her handbag.
“Write down all the things you’d like. That way I won’t get the wrong presents.”
The kids’ eyes lit up. What a great idea! They often receive awful and/or age-inappropriate gifts from relatives. I mean, thanks for the plush rainbow unicorn great aunty Trish, but my daughter’s eleven. I’m pretty sure that whoever coined the phrase “it’s the thought that counts” was just a terrible present giver.
I was a dedicated Christmas-list writer as a child. My first ever note to Santa -- aged four -- went like this:
“Dear Father Christmas, can I please have six pipe cleaners? From Jean.”
Yeah, I know. Demanding.
Later on, my lists included pricier things like rollerblades, slinkies and hypercolour t-shirts. (It was the '80s, okay?) I never had trouble coming up with requests.
But when my mother-in-law also wanted me to write present suggestions on her Christmas list, I couldn’t do it. I tried. Honestly. But I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted.
My lack of desire has nothing to do with the classic working-adult “Well, when I want something I just go and buy it!” reason. Because I don’t do that.
If I say “I’m going shopping” I don’t mean “I’m just popping down to the mall to get myself a metallic bomber jacket and a couple of white-on-white mantle-piece knick-knacks and some other on-trend shit I’ll impulse buy without thinking.”
I mean, “I’m going to Aldi to get milk and toilet paper”.
The reason I can’t think of anything I want is because I already have too much stuff, and it’s SUFFOCATING ME.
Here’s an example: right now, on my desk, there’s a pile of notebooks, a dictionary, a computer, a modem, a radio, a telephone that doesn’t work, a canister of pens, several piles of “important” documents, a paper bag (unknown contents), a cardboard box that used to contain a printer cartridge, half a dozen charger wires, a bulldog clip, a dirty mug, a USB stick, a ball, four wooden magazine holders (full of magazines) and two in-trays (full of other “important” documents).
I feel sick just looking at it all.
So for Christmas, you know what I really want? Less stuff. Drop in for a cuppa and a piece of shortbread and leave with some of my belongings. I’d love to wake up on December 25 and find half my junk gone.
Okay, I’ll admit it. There are a few things I’d like to keep: my bike, my computer, the kettle, my box of letters and a selection of drawings by my children. Oh, and my tweezers – I like having two separate eyebrows. But that’s about it.
Take my books, my chipped crockery, my plastic Christmas tree (oh please take that, please), my shoe collection. (The word “collection” makes it sound good. It’s not. I have maybe six pairs of heels, most of which need new heels.)
Take my out-of-date medicines, my television, everything in my sarcastically named “useful things” drawer. As retailers say during stock-take, EVERYTHING MUST GO.
I know it’s difficult for generous people to deal with someone who says they don’t want gifts. It’s like birthday invitations with “your presence is presents enough” written down the bottom. Nobody really knows if they should follow that rule or not. Which was the point my husband made after my mother-in-law left.
“You can’t just tell Mum you don’t want anything,” he said. “She won’t know what to do.”
So, after much consideration, I have written a Christmas list:
- Personal visit from Marie Kondo (Would certainly “spark joy”.)
- Skip bin (Would look nice with a bow.)
- Box of matches and a packet of firelighters (Easy to wrap.)
- A burglar (Easy to find. And would look nice with a bow.)
And if my mother-in-law has difficulty with any of those gift ideas, she can always get me some milk and toilet paper. Or six pipe cleaners and a card that says, “It’s the thought that counts.”