NOTHING NEW: Obscene Christmas

If this blog gets a lot more hits than my first one, I guess we’ll know what buzz words our demographic responds to . . .

First of all, a brief disclaimer: I am truly grateful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of everyone who bought my small child something for Christmas. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That being said, I’ve packed up about 20 of his total of 60 presents on the top shelf of my bedroom closet to be doled out during the year. No child needs that much stuff, at once anyway.

My son is the only grandchild under the age of 18 on either side of the family. Plus, he is extremely cute, loving, has a huge personality and known by everyone because he is not in daycare and goes everywhere — even occasionally to work — with both his Mommy and his Daddy. He’s a proverbial love magnet and this manifested itself at Christmastime in the form of copious — no obscene — quantities of presents.

Part of the volume is caused by the fact that he divides his time between two, really three households. Mom, Dad and the best Grandma in the whole, wide world, whose house is better equipped than most preschools.

There were a total of three Christmas celebrations: Christmas Eve with Grandma and some of the in-laws, Christmas day with Dad and then the day after Christmas with my brother and his family.

One small boy received two bicycles, several stuffed toys, two train sets, puzzles, books, coloring and activity pads, Disney passes (which we’re attempting to trade or sell – not going back there), clothes, a kid-sized Snuggie, Nascar cars with a trailer, Play Dough, a craft and paint set, CDs, DVDs, and on and on and on.

This is on top of the fact that his bedroom already looks like Toys R Us exploded all over his floor. Lest you think I’m joking . . .

I even bought him the Scooby-Doo Chia Pet he wanted and asked Santa Claus for, so I’m as guilty as the rest.


I love my son dearly and don’t begrudge him any fun, but at this point feel like the best present I can give him is some small shot at a sustainable existence on a non-toxic planet. I also want to raise him differently than most kids today — thoughtful, appreciative and conscious of where things come from.

I had been toying with the idea (pun intended) of doing The Compact to buy nothing new for a whole year and this pushed me over the edge. Sign us up!

The good news is that I have four months in which to figure out how to tell all the family members and friends that my son’s Birthday Number Four in May will be low-key and that contributions to his college savings account would be more than appreciated.

The Compact to buy nothing new might sound like a crazy, impossible idea, but there are some exceptions to the rule. We are allowed to buy some essential things brand-new such as food, medicines, personal hygiene items, safety items, needed automotive items and underwear.

Some people try to go without using paper products but I’m not ready to go that native. We will continue to use paper towels (at a minimum) and toilet paper, but we’ll buy only the recycled kind, with the highest percentage of post-consumer waste as possible. After we finish the pack of paper plates in the cupboard, the paper plates will go bye-bye.

The goal of The Compact is to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible, with the end game being to diminish your family’s total impact on the environment. This includes buying locally grown food in season, reducing gasoline usage, cutting out unneeded packaging, generally thinking about everything you buy, use or eat and connecting it to its relative “cost” to the Earth.

We can get just about anything used from thrift shops, yard sales, Craigslist, eBay or Freecycle and I’ll be blogging more about some of this later on in the year. If we need a piece of equipment, we can rent or borrow it. We can still rent movies and use our Netflix instant movies online, so entertainment should be pretty easy.

Cooking at home is encouraged because you can use all your local produce and you don’t have to expend fuel to get there. Takeout food is a no-no, partially due to all the packaging. We already began to cut fast food out a few weeks ago, but did savor one last pizza this week as a last hurrah.

Vacations are not prohibited, but if we do go somewhere, I’ll try to incorporate something educational or environmental on the trip and we can’t buy any souvenirs.

Though our year will officially start on my 41st birthday, Jan. 15, we started doing as much as possible to reduce our impact right after Thanksgiving. Already we’ve trimmed our household trash from three bags per week to one bag by rinsing and recycling everything (even the yucky cat food cans), by being more mindful of packaging and by composting. We started buying produce only from local vendors at farmer’s markets and we’re using burlap bags to do our shopping.

A note on the reusable shopping bags, if you haven’t switched over yet or are looking to upgrade yours, Fresh Market on Miracle Mile has great ones for $3.99. They’re large and sturdy and the natural, beige color. I bought five of them and I find myself using them every day to manage life in an upstairs apartment. Occasionally I’ll forget to bring one into the store and I get mad at myself for using yet another plastic shopping bag.

In addition to the shopping bags, I made a few last purchases to help us get through the year.

Please post any suggestions or comments or questions you might have. I look forward to getting feedback.

Next time, some notes about what to buy when the world, as you know it, is about to come to an end . . .

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