scorecardresearch
Yvonne Abraham

All I want for Christmas is less stuff

Dear Santa,

Merry Christmas! Now, could you be a love and come get the stuff you left here last night?

I want you to know, I am very grateful for my gifts. I even asked for some of these things specifically, and I will treasure them.

But that is also the problem. I like stuff too much.

I long to be a minimalist, like those handsome people on all the mindfulness websites I’m obsessed with — the living-with-less-ers who can go a year without buying anything and spend a whole month looking fab wearing just six items of clothing.

Advertisement



I want to be like the unclutterers whose homes are spare and serene and shot in black and white, who sit on their pristine stairs, or on their only chairs, laughing, their heads thrown back, ha ha ha, because their lives are light and airy and full of clean, white space.

Instead, Santa, I live in a house jammed with things. Tell me, why do I need two slow-cookers? Is a vintage snow-cone maker absolutely essential? How can I possibly wear 13 black dresses (too scared to count the other colors)?

And don’t get me started on the kid. I vowed he’d have only tasteful wooden toys, environmentally and ethically sound playthings with a mid-century aesthetic.

Yeah, nah. At this point, he owns enough plastic to make his own Pacific Ocean garbage gyre.

But I don’t have to tell you any of this. You’ve seen it. In fact, you’re responsible for a lot of it. I know your heart is in the right place, Nick, but you’re not helping. Christmas is the High Holy Day of Stuff: We herald the birth of the low-income, at-risk savior in the manger with The Feast of the Acquisition.

Every year, I try to make like Linus from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” standing alone in the spotlight, blanket in hand, reciting the biblical passage about the true meaning of the season. Instead, I end up like his avaricious sister, Lucy. I give too many things. I get too many things.

Advertisement



I know I’m not the only one. Last year, Americans spent $600 billion over the holidays. The average shopper blew $767 on Christmas gifts and décor. Not to bum anybody out on this most delightful of days, but a lot of the people scooping up goods are going into debt to do it.

And then there is the trash: Americans generate 25 percent more waste — 1 million extra tons per week — between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Those numbers come from the Center for A New American Dream, a national nonprofit aimed at reducing consumption. One of its founders, Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor , is an expert on how we came to get so much stuff — not just at the holidays, but always. We have been meticulously trained by retailers, she says, to “buy more frequently, and discard things more rapidly.”

We have way more than we can afford, more than the planet can sustain, more than we can use. There are a mind-blowing 50,000 self-storage facilities in this country — 2.3 billion square feet of space beyond our closets, basements, and garages where we park our surplus stuff.

That is pretty messed up. But it’s not like Americans don’t know there is a problem. Schor’s polling finds that we are very critical of materialism. It’s just that we think other people are the offenders.

Advertisement



Americans also say they want the holidays to be about something besides shiny new things. But too many of us can’t bring ourselves to make it happen.

Well, that’s not me, Santa. It ends today. I’ll keep all of my lovely gifts, thank you, but after this, I am getting out of the consumption game. So long, beloved flea market. Farewell, disposable trend pieces. Adieu, crazy outlet store markdowns.

It’s over. Just as soon as I’ve bagged me some post-Christmas bargains.


Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com.