Friday, December 25, 2009

Are You OverSTUFFed Today??

A few months ago, I watched an excellent documentary about our STUFF - all those things we accumulate in our environment. I learned some very interesting things, and was shocked by some of the statistics. For example, in one year, we won't be using the majority of the stuff we bought this holiday season. I don't mean half, either. Over eighty percent. Next Christmas, 80% of the stuff we bought this Christmas won't be in use. We either threw it away, replaced it with better stuff, or decided it wasn't really that necessary and threw it in the junk closet. Most of the stuff we bought this Christmas has been engineered to fail within eight to twelve months! Most of the stuff that won't fail this year will be replaced by a newer, shinier model with better features by next year.

For some reason, our society equates "more" with "better." "Value" has taken on a new meaning. Being able to get more quantity for a dollar seems to be a better value, but it is really, if that quantity only lasts a few uses? I think replacing your $20 gadget every six months makes much less sense than spending $80 on a gadget that lasts ten years.

Yesterday I braved the last minute stuff-seekers at the local big-box-mart while tagging along with my mom and sister. Among all the carts filled with whosits and whatnots, I looked for a single representation of the kind of toy my perspective children will play with. A simple toy that fosters imagination, creativity, and open-ended play. Anything that didn't flash, beep, have a limited scope of play possibility, walk on its own accord. It makes me sad that so many children are having their imagination stamped out by supposedly enriching "learning" toys. It's shocking how very much stuff small children have, but I suppose it's only a reflection of how much stuff grown-ups have.

I went into day 2 of our "Four Days of Christmas" feeling a little down and shaken about humanity, but my faith in the innate wisdom of children was restored today as I watched my five-year-old niece play with her treasures. She eagerly showed me her newest whatnot (a hot-ticket-item and smarter-than-your-average-toy fuzzy hamster that rolls around and bounces off your feet), then promptly invited me and her cousin to a tea party featuring invisible tea and dessert served on little tea set that probably carried a price tag in the neighborhood of $5, but was worth so much more. I smiled inside and out.

As I sat down in front of the tree at my parent's house last night, I was pleasantly shocked at how few gifts were piled under its branches. Most years, it takes an hour or more to open gifts, but this year was a mere 20 minutes or so. And this year was just as much fun as years past. POSSLQ and I will be able to transport our gifts to our house in one trip, and maybe it won't take me weeks to find a place to put all the new stuff. (Of course, I do have to say good-bye to my trusty red Vileda broom - she's served well for six years, but the new yellow O-Cedar with attached dustpan seems so shiny and lovely!)

Of course, I still ended up with more stuff than I wanted this year - and we have a few days of Christmas left! So this afternoon, I'll be replacing old stuff with new, and boxing up the old to take to Goodwill. I encourage you to do the same - a post-holiday purge is good for soul, and donating to a good cause is as well.

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