The last thing most of us need is more stuff ó we already have plenty. I have an attic, a garage, a basement and a toolshed full of so much stuff they have their own gravity; they are starting to attract things from other places.
We have more kitchen gadgets, many of them never used, than Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay combined. I still have yet to touch that chocolate fondue contraption that someone gave us 12 years ago. If it was from you, donít be offended. You probably never took the Make Your Own Jerky at Home machine we gave you out of its box, either.
Our pantry looks like an outlet store for Things That Will Never Be Used. Remember all that ice cream we were going to churn at home? All that beer we would brew ourselves? All that cheese we were going to smoke? All those dried fruit snacks we never made?
Some things we did use ó once. The deep-fat fryer worked fine, but so does a frying pan, and itís much easier to clean. The banana slicer also worked, but so does a knife. That thingy that lets you make perfectly round fried eggs? It really does make perfectly round fried eggs that taste remarkably, if not exactly, the same as not-so-round fried eggs, yet gives you one more thing to wash.
The electric mixed-drink whisk? We already had one of those. Itís called a spoon. Someone got us an electric wine cooler. Turns out we already had one of those, too. Itís called a refrigerator.
Years have gone by, and we still havenít felt the urge to use the sausage maker someone so thoughtfully gave us. Nor have we made our own pasta, sliced our own deli meat or used the snow cone machine. The waffle maker, the machine that makes only cupcakes, the juicer, the sushi kit, the rice cooker, the kimchi fermenter, the raclette grill, the cotton candy machine, the nacho cheese dispenser and the electric yogurt maker take up an enormous amount of space on the shelves. While we love juice and rice and sushi and cupcakes and yogurt and waffles and nachos and kimchi, and while we love the people who gave us these presents, we donít have the time or energy to use them.
Others must have this same problem. Doesnít the sports fan in your house already have enough memorabilia to open a store? His favorite jersey, the phone in the shape of a football, the baseball cap with the team logo? Iíve been in houses where you can tell what the owners enjoy before you step on the porch. The doorbell is in the shape of a golf bag. The boot scraper is in the shape of a corgi. The only surprise would be to find out the wife is the golfer and the husband is the dog breeder. The temptation is to give them what they like, but trust me, if they have a boot scraper in the shape of their hobby, youíre not going to find anything they donít have.
Besides, studies show we donít remember things as much as we remember experiences. We shouldnít be giving our friends and families things, but things to do. An Alaskan cruise, tickets to a hot concert or a game, a gift pass to the movie theater. Those wonít be sitting on a shelf 10 years from now, waiting to become obsolete.
Dinner and a movie is still a great present for those who have everything and those who have next to nothing. Itís so much better than buying a nose hair trimmer. Trust me, youíre not going to get a thank-you note for that. No Christmas present should remove hair, and that goes for men and women.
So throw out the catalogs and start thinking about things to do, places to go. A trip to the amusement park, a photography course at the local college, a lesson from a professional chef. Happy thing-free holiday!
Jim Mullenís newest book is called ďKill Me, Elmo: The Holiday Depression Fun Book.Ē You can reach him at JimMullenBooks.com.