Opinion: Struggling with ‘stuff’ during the holidays
WHY WE LIVE HERE
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Every Christmas, I struggle with how much stuff to buy the kids. There’s a fine line between going overboard on the amount of additional and unnecessary stuff we bring into our lives and maintaining the “magic” of Christmas.
I clearly remember the shock, awe, and unbridled excitement of running downstairs on Christmas morning to see the tree brimming with presents — so much potential and excitement in one small place. And yes, I know that Christmas is about so much more than presents and Santa, however, with so little magic left these days, and with kids growing up faster and faster, I’ll maintain our belief in Santa and the magic of Christmas as long as I can.
Which brings me back to the dilemma of how much to buy. My husband, Jason, and I have made a modest effort at living simply. Having lived a rather nomadic lifestyle until we moved to the valley four years ago, we were forced every few years to clean out the closets and cabinets, make multiple trips to Goodwill and host a number of yard sales. As a result, we finally came to the realization that we just don’t need that much stuff, especially since we’ve landed in a place where we spend most of our free time outside.
In an effort to simplify, we bought and renovated a small house with a big yard within walking distance to Connected Lakes. We moved the walls around so that the kitchen, where we spend most of our time, is the biggest room in our house. In almost 14 years of marriage and thousands of meals, we’ve gone through every kitchen gadget you can imagine and have finally widdled it down to what we really use and need. We got rid of cable television and don’t own any video games. Our kids don’t have a lot of toys with the exception of Legos and art supplies. We spend a lot of time fishing and exploring.
Before I start sounding too self righteous about our spartan lifestyle, there are definitely places in our lives where the opposite is true. Jason has too many fly rods and I own too many shoes. Also — full disclosure — we are on our eighth couch in 13 years, but I’m sure this is the last one for a long time … I’m sure of it.
As much as I like to think that we’ve reached a “zen” state where stuff isn’t important, I can’t get away from the fact that the things we surround ourselves is in fact very important. Our stuff is what makes up our history, our memories, and the very archaeology of our lives. I love our stuff.
Recently, after Jason opened a bottle of wine in our kitchen, he declared that if the house was on fire, the one thing he would save (aside from living creatures) would be the waiters’ corkscrew he just used. I laughed and agreed. When we were first married, we spent an afternoon in a wine bar in Wilmington, North Carolina. Probably due to the amount of time we spent in that bar, we misunderstood the bartender when she told us that the Laguiole corkscrews they were selling cost $25. They were beautifully crafted and inlaid with carved horn, so we told her to put one on our bill. They were actually $125, and when the bill came we were too embarrassed to ask her to remove it; so we splurged a ridiculous amount of money on a simple corkscrew. Thirteen years later, we’ve opened every bottle of wine we’ve ever shared in our home with that corkscrew. It’s an incredibly well-engineered tool, beautiful to look at, and comes with wonderful and funny memories from when we were newlyweds.
A perfect coffee mug purchased on a road trip to Portland, a set of Danish modern chairs found in a friend’s hunting cabin in Louisiana, an imperfect painting that we bought on our honeymoon in Santa Fe, our collection of books — some of these things are valuable, some worthless, yet these are the backdrop of our lives. They are the things that surround us and bring us pleasure each day, the things that when put together in a house create a home and a life well-lived.
This year for Christmas, Jason bought each of the kids their own world atlas so they can track all of the places they’ve been and all of the places they will go. In their short lives, they’ve already been to so many places: Oregon, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, and Virginia, not to mention all of the places we’ve played in Colorado. And I bought the kids more Legos and art supplies, which they don’t really need. However, Christmas morning will be magical, a new piece will be added to the puzzle that makes our family history, and then we’ll go outside and play.
It’s why we live here.
Robin Brown has much to be thankful for and wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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