The Gift of Not Giving

One thing most people don’t need is more stuff.

While there are, of course, many members of our society in desperate need of basic items, but those of us fortunate to have a middle class lifestyle generally have more than we need already.

I’ll save a diatribe on luxury goods for another day – stuff, you see, is a category all of its own.

It’s not a new pair of shoes or the latest gadget. It’s those miscellaneous items you don’t know what to do with but which you can’t bring yourself to throw out because they’re still in good condition or you hope they might be useful someday.

I have a whole box of miscellaneous wires.

I have a plastic lizard I’ve had since I was 10.

I have old protest signs,¬†tchotchkes from miscellaneous events and many, many things that I’m not quite sure where they even came from.

There might be things I need, but I don’t need more stuff.

And yet…

I’ll be out and about town and I’ll see something that makes me think of someone. Wouldn’t they enjoy that? I think. Wouldn’t that be a nice gift? And then I get distracted. In a bout of temporary insanity, I mysteriously transform into the consumer capitalism wants me to be, and all I can think about is how I should really spend money on this random, ultimately worthless item that isn’t worth the tree needed for its packaging.

So I try to have an intervention with myself. Is it really something the person needs? Perhaps they would be glad to receive a gift, but in a year, would they find it in a dusty corner and find themselves straining to remember where it came from?

Nobody needs that.

But rather than just walk away, my new strategy is this: I tell people what I don’t get them.

I’ll see something amazing that my niece would love – a person-sized dinosaur, perhaps – and I’ll text my sister. I didn’t just buy this for you!

Sometimes I’ll take a picture.

And ultimately, this accomplishes everything it needs to – the person knows you were thinking about them, you mutually enjoyed the item’s existence, and then you moved on. No space or money wasted. It’s very environmental.

I like giving practical gifts, sure, but stuff?

Who needs it.


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