Just say no more stuff

Yes, Virginia, there is a Sanity Clause.

This time of year, when we're all so full of holiday cheer that we keep finding bits of tinsel trapped in our teeth, some of us (namely, you) tend to go a little crazy.

People become slavering shoppers, hustling breathlessly through malls, snatching up any product with a bow on it. Doesn't matter if anyone can use this item. It matters only that one more gift obligation can be met. And the credit card isn't maxed out yet.

You should spend less this year. Not because of the economy. Not because we're worried about the economy. No, you should spend less this year because you don't need any more stuff. And neither do your relatives. Or your friends.

Most Americans I know are full up with stuff. We've got stuff to the rafters. We can't park in our garages because they're full of overflow stuff. The trunk of the car is full of stuff, and the floorboards are filling up fast.

And yet here we all go trooping off to the mall, grabbing up expensive stuff like it's going out of style, so we can give it to people who already have too much stuff and secretly don't want more.

I recently visited a local mall for my annual Christmas gift safari. Three hours there and my head swam from the cheery Muzak and the dizzying onslaught of sights and sounds. By the time I was done, I was so overwhelmed and tired, I almost fell on my pah-rump-a-pum-pum.

Yet I'd made little progress. Bought a couple of gifts and some new socks for myself. (I know, I know. Someone will give me socks from Christmas. But the need was dire.)

I barely made a dent in my gift list, which means I still have more shopping to do. I don't know if
I can face it.

Here's the problem: I wander the cheery department store aisles, browsing the goods, and nothing much slows me down. If I see something that might make a suitable gift, I pause and think: Does anyone I know really need this gizmo? And if they need it, don't they already have one? Is this an item that will end up stashed in the recipient's dusty garage?

These are reasonable, sane questions, which is, of course, where I'm making my mistake. To get into the true holiday spirit, you must be willing to buy any kind of random stuff willy-nilly, just to beat the Dec. 24 deadline. Which is why so many men end up making their Christmas purchases late at night at convenience stores.

We should be choosy about what we buy. We ought to find out what our loved ones really need rather than giving them stuff that'll end up on a floorboard somewhere. We ought to spend less of our money on the traditional holiday madness.

Talk to your family and friends about this. It's probably too late for this year, but use holiday gatherings to quiz them for next year. See if they really need any more stuff. Maybe you could agree to set some limits, give only what's needed, spend less.

Make a contract: No more useless, unnecessary stuff. Tell them it’s the Sanity Clause.

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