‘Tis the Season
Today is the last day that the USPS will guarantee mail delivery by Christmas. This, of course, made me panic and reminded me that I have more than a few cards left to write. It’s easy to see how November and December are the most wasteful times of the year. In Southeastern Wisconsin we generate an extra 5,000 tons of holiday trash each year. This includes gift wrap, gift boxes, cards, and ribbon. America alone throws enough ribbon away each year to tie a bow around the earth. The sheer amount of catalogues alone is ridiculous. I actually got a catalogue for old people’s health stuff. Walkers, canes, bedpans. Really. I am 24. A little bit of prescreening would have went a long way with that company. A hundred years ago when catalogue shopping was new and necessary for people on the frontier, people kept their used catalogues in the bathroom for reading as well as toilet paper. Of course, this was prior to glossy paper, but at least back in the day there was a use for these ridiculous holiday junk mailings.
Now, anyone who knows me would tell you I will do just about anything to get the perfect gift. It has become a competition to see who can come up with the most perfect gift. Things usually are themed, the wrapping matches the gift, and even if I spent 30 minutes shopping online, it appears as if I was on a lifelong quest for the holy grail of gifts. However, this year for a plethora of reasons, my typical excess is not going to work. My sister recently got back from Africa and has sworn off all earthly possessions and my best friend (whom I am fairly certain created this holiday gift giving competition extravaganza) has moved into the worlds smallest apartment halfway across the country and has no need for anything larger than a thumbtack. Even more awkward, my new husbands family doesn’t ‘really do the gift thing’. I don’t know how I am supposed to respond to that. So, being quite out of my element required me to think creatively. Here is what I came up with:
* Everything must be useful. No wasteful gadgets, gift wrap, or one more item of clothing. My dad has plenty of coffee mugs and my mom is full up when it comes to smelly lotions. I don’t need to wrap stuff in paper just to have it tossed. My goal is 99% useful. (I figure the gift tag is a fair exception)
* Everything has to fit the person. No more useless gift emporium for me. There usually is a person or two on my list that even I can’t think of something the person would like. My husband pulled a name in the office gift exchange. He just started a new job and is not even quite sure who the person is. I suggested lotion. I think I may still have 73 bottles I received last Christmas that he could use. Now, I appreciate these people thinking of me. But honestly it’s the thought that counts. If I can’t think of something that the person can use, I have decided to make a charitable contribution in their name or give them a gift card to a place I know they frequent.
So after considering these 2 criteria, here is what I came up with…
My Dad: A certified book addict I got him several used books (they look like new) and am wrapping them in a reusable tote from his favorite used bookstore.
My Mom: Always in need of a break, I got her a new robe to replace her threadbare one and some slippers that I am wrapping in a holiday fleece throw.
My Sister: Despite shunning worldly possessions, she has a weak spot for old jazz records so I found a site online that takes old vinyl records and turns them into bowls. I included a bag of microwave popcorn and a DVD of her favorite musical. Instant gift basket.
My Friend: A tote bag that rolls into itself so she can keep it in her purse for whenever she needs a bag. I slid in a gift card to her local grocery store and the whole thing is as small as a tennis ball so I wrapped it in a tiny gift bag that she can give someone else a gift in.
My Husband’s Coworker: A day-by-day calendar for the office. We found one generic enough to be enjoyed by anyone and, personally, I like them because you always have a stack of ready to use scratch paper.
Grandparents: One set is really into the local art museum so I got them a membership there and my other set really loves PBS, so I made a donation in their name.
The Hubby: Lately he has been having car problems. Commercials on TV tell me I should buy him a new car with a bow as big as I am on the roof, but it is a little out of my price range so I got him a survival kit. In a rubber container I put a little blanket, a nice car jack, road flares, jumper cables, and an air freshener for the gift tag. My parents did something similar for me the year I got my license and it has been one of the best gifts I ever got.So that’s it. How I managed to still give creative, themed gifts (including the wrapping) without making extra waste. If you have some other ideas, I would love to hear about them because I have a few birthdays coming up that have me stumped.