Let me let you in on a secret. (Anyone who lives with me will tell you it’s no secret, though.)
Secret 1: I am a hoarder. I compulsively keep things with no use and of no value. Just in case. I might need an obscure tool one day. I’ll get to mending that broken item soon. I’ll definitely need to refer to this tatty half a bill come tax time. Also, quite simply, I detest waste.
Secret 2: I am very sentimental. Irrationally, I quarantine gifts as tokens of love, friendship and familiarity, forever to be treasured as a memoir of those moments we shared together. It might be a total piece of crap; but you gave it to me. I will keep it and remember you by it.
Honestly, I have a serious amount of stuff. Just a peek into one box reveals very nice candle (how nice can a candle get?) that a close friend of mine gave me for my thirteenth birthday. I believe the last time I spoke to the bitch, we called each other some choice names. But this candle, itself now 13 years old… I can’t let it go.
(In fact, I seem, generally, to have a lot of trouble burning candles I receive as gifts. Because once you burn them, they’re gone forever and they leave a horrible mess. But I digress.)
By these secrets combined, I am Captain Crap. When you add the emotional overlay of my sentimentality, my compulsion to keep everything becomes catastrophic. Christmas is the hardest. At these times, it’s not just stuff; it’s stuff that is selected painstakingly and dressed all in bows and tinsel and fairy lights, and thrust towards me in because it is “just so you“.
The thing is, my family don’t know me at all.
Not only that, but we’re big on the surprise presents in our family, with an unsatisfactory track record on doing good surprise presents. (Since we’re talking about the family so much today, we’ll call them… “The Griswolds”.) The Griswolds tend to just miss the mark: some fabulous designer t-shirt is slightly too small; actually, the debut Matchbox 20 album has been in the CD rack since 1997; those vases are just flat out ugly. Don’t get me wrong – not all the presents deserve a Fail, but the Wins are hard to come by.
So, in my battle against the clutter, started keeping very, very specific wish lists. Who wouldn’t be delighted to receive a list of things that your beloved/friend/bloody sister lusts after, conveniently selected to offer a range of prices and store locations and make Christmas shopping for Louie fuss-free?
Believe it or not, the Griswolds do not like it. They are affronted by the suggestion that they cannot think of a present. They consider it a failing to have to refer to the list.
So, for the past few years I have been putting up with this refusal to play ball. And, true to form, I’ve been lovingly – compulsively – keeping these unwanted gifts. But it can’t go on. I’m running out of storage space.
I am close to issuing a mandate to apply to all gift-giving seasons as of Christmas 2010:
- You do not have to get me a gift. Ever. Again.
- If you do want to buy me a gift, please refer to the enclosed wish list.
- If you deviate from the list, please include the receipt with your gift (see, told you the list was easier).
- If you deviate from the list and do not include the receipt, I may choose to (a) regift the item back to you, possibly on the same day; or (b) sell the item on eBay.
Or… I could save the embarrassment, have a cleanout every now and then, and go back to treasuring “it’s the thought that counts”.