Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I'm sorry for not posting for a few days. As I may have mentioned before, I'm selling my home of more than 20 years in Boston and finally have an imminent closing, so that's made me very busy, not least of all with getting the last of my stuff out of there. In the process of closing down the old homestead and moving, I think I've gotten rid of about 50% by volume of all the crap I had. As much as possible, I talked the thrift store into taking stuff or found a way to give it to someone directly, but the piles of trash are still immense.

How did this happen? How did I end up with mass quantities that I don't need, don't want, don't even want to store? And why, since I actually have more crap than I want, do family members insist on giving me yet more crap that I probably don't want every December 25? For years now I've been trying to break them of this habit. I make a contribution to charity -- specifically Oxfam but it could be any charity that gives to people who actually need it. I send everybody a card saying I did that. They all seem happy with that and not offended by it, but they still just have to give me something.

I asked my mother what she wants for Christmas and it turns out she's as sensible as I am -- she said she wants people to come to her house and take stuff away. But even the combined influence of the two of us can't overcome the deeply felt need to have a mass celebration of buying and having stuff, more and more stuff, more and more useless and superfluous stuff, every December.

With the planet in peril from overconsumption, and literally billions of people who actually could stand a little of your generosity, this makes no sense at all. Including if you are a Christian. Lillies of the field and all that, remember?

So let's win the war on Christmas. Enough stuff.

Update: Almost forgot to share Tom Lehrer's Christmas Carol. (Full lyrics here.) Final verses:

Relations, sparing no expense'll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
"just the thing I need! how nice!"
It doesn't matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What's important is the price.

Hark the herald tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.
God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

So let the raucous sleigh bells jingle,
Hail our dear old friend kris kringle,
Driving his reindeer across the sky.
Don't stand underneath when they fly by.


roger said...

"she said she wants people to come to her house and take stuff away."

hear hear and amen to that.

it is amazing how stuff just piles up. i suspect that there is a critical mass which begins to attract more stuff by gravity.

kathy a. said...

yes. we have a no-present rule, but my sister just gave me a set of sterling silver from our late mother's possessions; i'm pretty sure it came from grandmother's rich aunt. it is not technically a gift, but my share of the general stuff that hasn't been disposed of.

we aren't sterling silver kinds of people. we aren't people with extra space, given the pilup of stuff from all these years and the kids and work.

one irony is that i held this very set of silver in my home for the 6.5 years i cared for my grandmother, then sent it to my mother, who was the sole heir. and here it is again.