I cleaned out my closet yesterday and realized that I have three nearly identical black sweaters.

Now, if I owned three totally different black sweaters? Nothing wrong with that. But who needs three cardigan-wrap hybrids (is there an official fashion name for that style? I am outing my lack of fashion vocab here)?

Me, apparently.

On further inspection, conducted by rapidly pulling things off of shelves and hangers, looking at them, declaring them stupid, and throwing them in the Goodwill bag, I realized that not only do I own an excessive number of sweaters for someone who lives the desert of central Texas, I own an excessive number of items in the black, gray and navy families. I’ve unwittingly created my own set of Grown Up Garanimals. I also own lots of stripes (black, gray and navy stripes, of course), which is an odd choice for someone who is not six feet tall and is decidedly un-willowy.

The voices in my head had a field day with this little activity. One uncharacteristically cheery voice said things like,

You are so good. Look at you, cleaning out your closet and being so productive during this busy, busy season. You are super woman!

(Clearly, I’m easily impressed by my own, fabulous self.)

The other, more standard, Debbie Downer voice said things like,

You are wasteful. You waste money on 42 sweaters that you never wear; and then you waste valuable holiday time cleaning out your excessively full closet. You are all that is wrong with the consumerist culture.

When the voices got too loud, I told those whiny, obnoxious mean girls to SHUT. UP. But their words rattled around in my head for the rest of the day. I wrestled with the concept of excess, all the while feeling so excited about my latest purchase: a navy and white striped cardigan.

It’s natural to look at our excess during this season. Everywhere you go, the talk is about shopping, buying, giving, getting. And while Mark and I make an effort to teach our children about the meaning behind Christmas, the reason for the season if you must, we also do Santa.

And Elves on the Shelf.

And stockings.

And letters to the big man, requesting the toys of our dreams (“A big T-rex, what stomps and looks like Buddy from Dinosaur Train.”).

In the grand scheme of things, we do keep things manageable. My extended family is a reasonable bunch, and we don’t buy huge numbers of presents for each other or for the kids. There’s name drawing in some circles; there’s price limits in other circles; across the board there’s a sense of restraint, however subtle.

But that undercurrent of the I-Wants-and-the-Gimmies is still there. It sort of goes with the season. Personally, when the budget allows, I adopt a One-For-You-One-For-Me shopping attitude. Hence the new cardigan.

I don’t know how to eradicate that undercurrent of wants during this season. And, if we’re being honest, that undercurrent runs throughout the entire year.

Short of stopping all present giving and getting, I don’t see a solution. I’m also not certain I’m looking for a solution. I love the giving (and yes, the getting) part of this season. Finding the right gift for someone is one of my greatest pleasures. Getting the right gift doesn’t suck, either.

So Mark and I try to strike a balance. A balance in our own spending, a balance in what we buy for our children. We share our excess with those in need. We teach our children to give. We talk about the great disparity between those who have, and those who don’t.

But I wonder… am I doing enough? What message am I sending when I come home from Christmas shopping with a new pair of boots for myself?


  1. Oh, to shop for myself. Hubs cashed in some credit card rewards points to get me a $100 gift card so that I have no choice. Jokes on him, because the Gap has wicked cute kids’ clothes.

    Last year I was overwhelmed by how many presents my kids got, even though we tried to keep it light. We just kept finding things they HAD to have. Top that with everything they got from our families (despite my parents’ annual declaration that this will be a “lean Christmas” – they’ve said that every year since I was a kid and I have yet to see the “lean”), and we had a ton of toys that they couldn’t even make sense of at 21 months, much less play with. So this year I casually informed everyone that we needed to go a little easier on the presents, getting them things they would really enjoy instead of getting them things just to get them. Their eyes kind of glassed over, and I think they were offended! But nevertheless, hubs and I only got them a few things, and the baby as well, since she already has so many toys from previous years.

    So….I think I just wrote my own blog post in your comments. I wouldn’t be able to write that in my own, since my fam reads it. 😉

    And if I cleaned out my closet of everything I don’t wear, it would look as if I had moved out. I keep it all because I am convinced that someday I will have a job or reason to which I can wear something other than these cozy sweats.

  2. I’m sensing balance. It’s ok to have. It’s ok to give and get – and get for yourself. It is a joy to find that perfect present. Santa, and reindeer, and stockings by the chimney are part of our Christmas – so long as we don’t miss THE part. And I don’t think you are.

    Merry Christmas

  3. This post TOTALLY reminds me of what I just spent doing the last 45 minutes with my son – trying to teach him about giving his “outgrown” toys to children in need – but as we are cleaning up the toys, what I think he REALLY walked away remembering is, “I’m cleaning up our family room to make room for the new toys that Santa will bring me.” <—-I think that's tough NOT to think that as a kid when that's exactly what happens!!!

  4. Now I’m feeling all guilty, cuz I came home from xmas shopping with a pink wool trench coat.

    In my defense, it is to die for and I look like an angel in it.

    How are you?????

  5. I think it’s ok! You didn’t come home with 3 pairs of boots, or a pair of boots along with other things. Picking out something for yourself is ok in my book.

  6. Missy, I feel your pain. Thankfully, our budget does not allow for crazy spending, regardless if they want it or not.
    It does become exhausting though trying to explain why they can’t have this or that.
    Keeping it in perspective for them is one of our most important jobs as parents. Good luck to us all.

  7. I am right there with you — struggling about teaching my kids the real meaning of Christmas while I elbow my way through Toys ‘R Us to obtain the must-have items on their lists! Lots of mixed signals there.

    I’ve come to grips with the fact that consumerism cannot be avoided all together. Moderation is key. That and spending a lot of time talking about the true meaning of the season. The gifts are fun, but I need them to understand how blessed we are!!

  8. I cleaned out my closet this past weekend and I wondered why I had so many clothes that I don’t wear. You are right it is excess and with my young daughter I want to set an example that people, not things are more important. I try to practice moderation and try not to give in to all of her “I want demands.”


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