I went to a local department store to buy my great nephew a birthday gift. I passed the “pink toy” aisle when I heard a little girl’s voice say, “Get over here, Dad!”
She reminded me of bratty Violet in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (the old one, with Gene Wilder). There’s Dad, rushing over, taking a cell phone picture of a large-pink-toy-something. “Over here, Dad, I want this! They come in different sizes! I want the biggest one!”
A weary looking older couple ambled by, “No dear, they’re too little for Twister. They can’t reach the dots.”
I chose a book – “The Lost Dinosaur Bone” – and a little rubber T-Rex – German made – whose lower jaw opened to reveal pointy teeth. Score, as 4-year-old Austin loves books and dinosaurs.
I looked around at the beleaguered family units. Kids running all over, loudly exclaiming, “I want! I want!”
I almost found myself pitying the harried-looking parents, except that these demanding children are the by-product of a too-common ideal of accumulating to excess.
I recall my own childhood, when Christmas was a time of happy anticipation and experiences, such as choosing just the right tree at the Christmas tree lot, stringing popcorn, singing carols at school glee club, clay ashtrays made in school art class as “surprise gifts” for our parents, and sitting on the couch with my sisters, poring over the JC Penney toy catalog.
Only at Christmas could the ice cream snow balls from McCall’s Dairy be purchased: baseball-sized ice cream confections, covered in coconut flakes, with holly-leaf frosting and a real little red candle to light. I remember when our mother brought out a cake with lighted candles, and we sang happy birthday to Jesus.
I don’t even remember writing lists for Santa, except in the note on Christmas Eve, with a plate of cookies for Santa and his reindeer. We waited all year for the one night when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was aired on TV.
Granted, my childhood was in the ’50s and ’60s, but there is something disturbing about current holiday seasons’ pressure to shop and buy, as opposed to experiencing the joy and wonder of the holiday celebrations.
Fast forward a number of decades, and I have a profession as interior re-designer, where I specialize in redecorating, utilizing mostly what the client already has. Hands down, the foremost issue is “dealing” with “so much stuff”. I am often hired to help clients de-clutter their homes and lives of massively oppressive material accumulations.
Closets and drawers packed to overflowing, garages that can’t fit a car, children’s rooms with bins, buckets and toy boxes full of plastic stuff, usually made in China.
Kitchens are crammed with duplicates of gadgets barely used.
I’ve heard clients lament that they wish they could just walk away from the mess, and start over. Yet, here we are, at a time of year that is known as a Shopping Season. When did that happen? Shopping Season?
What happened to this season being a time of joy, traditions and good will?
In my own life, I’ve been methodically ratcheting down my purchased gifts for a few years. Instead, I made Christmas gifts of kahlua, jams, and even homemade wine last year.
My adult children agree that they don’t need or want any more stuff. Not to say that there won’t be gifts of experiences, which make wonderful meaningful presents, anything from cooking classes, theater tickets, art classes, massages, hang-gliding lessons, spa treatments and tickets to events, to gift certificates for services like house-cleaning or yard work.
I even know some families who bypass Christmas gifts entirely and take a vacation together instead.
As an artist and designer, I also see the value in giving art as a gift. It is lasting, it enhances your life, it wasn’t mass-produced, and it carries the story of artists and their message through creativity.
Likewise, this is true for treasures that survived the span of many years – a unique gift that has no duplicate – whether it’s an antique clock, a set of silver spoons, or vintage chair.
Once through the de-cluttering process, all the remains are things that are functional or meaningful, and the meaningful objects vary from person to person.
Take, for example, a large, green glass floating ball. It was a gift from my younger sister; homage to my birthplace of Hawaii, and recognition of my love of things oceanic.
But that’s me.
For you, I wish a holiday season filled with the comfort and joy that comes from creating a meaningful, peaceful home that reflects the essence of you, your family and generations’ of treasured traditions.
Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior Re-design Network certified. Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior “re-design” – where she transforms and refreshes clients’ living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator and muralist. To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at 530-276-4656 or firstname.lastname@example.org