Earlier this year my family decided we would exchange names and give only one gift rather than finding gifts for everyone in the family. This is a great way to reduce the amount of stuff given out at Christmas while keeping tradition alive. My family also has a Christmas stocking tradition in which we usually do not partake however this year since we're gifting junk we thought, "Why not?" I drew my brothers name and my spouse drew my mother's.
My mother received a beautifully framed photo mosaic of our family tree. We left the photos out so she could choose the pictures that mean the most to her.
The frame was found where one might expect to find discarded frames, behind a frame shop. It was within a box that had two frames, one frame was broken and the other was gifted to my mom. My partner cleaned it up and repaired a few minor scratches, reset the glass which had slipped back a bit and wrapped it to gift. In the same bin on a separate trip I located my mother's stocking stuffer.
This wall sconce was in terrific shape but it's mate was not so lucky. Stores figure you can't split up a pair so they toss both when one gets damaged. My mom has already picked out a wall for the frame.
My father was not one of the names drawn from the hat but we did manage a stocking gift for him.
My father smokes a pipe so some Christmas colored pipe cleaners seemed fitting. I also gifted to him a wooden puzzle I found on a trip to the dump. He spent hours trying to figure it out, he may not have it yet. Keep the faith dad.
My brother's gifts presented themselves in a strange way. My brother had me over to his house one evening to watch a pay per view fight with some of his close friends. I left early as I had made arrangements to meat up with the Trash Can Superman at the dump the next morning. That next morning while I was scavenging I discovered a brand new fire alarm bell still in it's box. I thought that it was a strange thing to find but couldn't think of any reason why I would need such a thing so I tossed it to the side. Later that same day I opened a bag which appeared to be full of scraped up underlay from someones renovations. The black foam was uninteresting but I could see a little red peaking out from under the debris. The first set of gloves were discovered. Alone these gloves would not make a good gift so I set them aside and continued rummaging when I discovered another bag filled with underlay foam and alas the second set of gloves.
When the gloves were reunited I remembered the bell and the gift completed itself. As TC Superman would say, "The dump provides!"
As a stocking stuffer I threw in a jock strap for ladies, after all I am his brother and I can't pass up a chance to make him blush.
I was going to stop here but I discovered this beauty amongst the scrap and couldn't leave it behind.All it needed was a cleaning, some air in the tires, and a little tune up and this machine was ready for the trails.
My family has one last tradition which is only a few years old, it's called the Pickle Gift. For those of you who have never heard of this it goes like this. First obtain an ornament shaped like a pickle, apparently they are available. One person hides the pickle on the Christmas tree while the others are out of the room. The person hiding supplies a gift suitable for any of the searchers. Everyone except the pickle gifter searches the tree until the pickle is found. The person to find the pickle gets the gift and becomes next years pickle gifter.
This year I was the gifter after receiving a set of boccie balls last year. My father found the pickle after a thorough search.
What he received from me was a Philips photo frame. I had discovered one in the trash and took it home only to learn the obvious, it was broken. For kicks I phoned the warranty line and discovered the warranty was still good. It took some work on the phone but after five separate phone calls I was finally directed to a service shop to make my claim. The new frame arrived on the 23rd, just in time to become this years pickle gift.
We all had a great time this holiday and a lot was learned.
1. Christmas is not about the stuff. It's a great time of year as you get to congregate with the ones you love sharing good times, plenty of laughs, and lots of fun.
2. We are a shamefully wasteful society. You don't have to look far to see we are squandering our valuable resources in the pursuit of a "better life".
3. Think twice before making a return. All returned items in opened packaging or slightly imperfect end up discarded by that store. They can't sell it out of its wrapper and if you returned it due to the damage someone else will too. If you can fix it or live with the flaw do so to keep perfectly good materials out of the landfill.
4. Make a reduction plan with your family. Drawing names, group gifts, handmade gifts, cards, and of course abstinence are all good ways to reduce the giving of stuff, reduce the stress of the season, and reduce the mindless consumption.
5. Enjoy yourselves. This season only comes once a year. Enjoy the time you have together, don't make it about the gifts.
There are plenty of other lessons to glean which we may discuss in a later post. If you have any great ideas on reducing consumption please feel free to post in the comments section of this or any other post on the squanderism site.