Why You Should Not Waste Your Money On Me This Christmas

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Christmas presents -- showing how I'll be donating your Christmas present
Chattrawutt Hanjukkam/EyeEm/Getty

I love you. I am not ungrateful or unmindful of your kindness. In fact, I am touched you thought of me or of my children. I am thankful we are part of your lives, that we rank high enough on your radar to merit Christmas presents. I assure you that my thank you’s are genuine.

But I’m still donating your Christmas present as soon as the fa-fa-la-la-las are finished.

Seriously, I did mean those thank-yous — but not for the present. I was thanking you for being a part of our lives, for thinking of us. I probably admired the gift, because I’m polite, and because it probably was admirable. (Most of) my friends and family have decent taste. But liking something isn’t the same as wanting to keep it. I can like ponies all day long, but that doesn’t mean I want to keep one. Your coffee mug is, for my aspiring minimalist household, about as practical.

So out it goes, sweetie.

If you know me, you know we’ve asked, over and over, for experiences instead of things. We’ve asked for some very specific things, sure: socks for my husband (I know, we’re boring), a few non-cluttery, high-interest toys for the kids that do not involve beeping or batteries. Babysitters. Small trips in town the kids will enjoy. But other than that, we’ve decked the halls, trimmed the trees, and hope the sheer mass of ornaments will disguise the paltry number of presents underneath them.

So when you give me useless stuff, I’ll be put in the awkward position of donating your Christmas present.

It’s not that I don’t want it. I probably do. But if you look around my house, you’ll notice a lot of … stuff. If you’ve read Harry Potter, you know the state of the Weasley household, which was nicknamed The Burrow. We live there. Between the books and the fossils and the toys and the papers, it’s already chock-full. We literally want for nothing. In fact, we’re actively trying to get rid of things we don’t need.

We are also actively attempting to wean our kids off toys that don’t foster imagination and creativity. We have a few noted exceptions, but for the most part, if you dole out three identical remote control cars, they will be phased out and given to other children. They will not be missed.

There’s another issue. With all my existing stuff, I don’t have a place to put this new stuff. And I refuse to let it clutter everything up just because someone else paid for it. You know our interests and want to buy my kids a mastadon tooth fragment? You’re awesome. You want to purchase three identical pairs of Christmas socks to stuff in stockings? Goodwill will have a use for them, because I don’t. I can find a place for the tooth fragment because it is unique and personal and very much wanted, but I refuse to make space for things I don’t want or need just because someone else shelled out cash for it.

And don’t give me something big without warning. That’s the height of rudeness. Check with me first. Or you’ll find that the giant hunk of plastic in the closet within a month, and sneaking into the back of my car not long after that. Yep, I’ll be donating your Christmas present, as much cash as you dropped on it. Because it’s too big. It takes up too much space in my house, and therefore in my psyche.

And who do you think has to clean up all the stuff you buy? Me. I am the family cleaner, the picker-upper. With three ADHD sons and a husband who works all the time, a disproportionate amount of the picking up falls onto me. And I don’t want to clean any more than I have to. That includes the mugs, the highly scented body soap you bought that I won’t use, the candles you purchased that makes my kids cough, the scarves I have too many of already, the coffee table books I’ll never read and have no coffee table to stick them on, anyway. All of these will be donated immediately.

And while I’m donating your Christmas present, I’ll feel like a jerk. I know you work hard for your money, and I know your intention was genuine, but I’m donating it anyway. For my own sanity. I can’t keep everything, and once I learned that, I felt a lot better about life. When I learned that donating your present isn’t rejecting you, a weight lifted.

Thank you anyway. You’re very kind. And I mean that. It really is the thought that counts, and your thought is counted. Your kindness means so much. But your cookies would mean more. Your card means a lot to us: we hang all of them in a garland. Your presence means the most. Come over, spin some records, listen to my kids lisp about salamanders and fishing trips, drink some good wine, but don’t worry about bringing a gift. We’d rather have you than some useless stuff any day.

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