Gratefully and with much love, I’ll say, please, no more gifts.

I’ve been sitting here in front of the screen for about five minutes wondering how to start this article. Meanwhile I’ve chewed my way through three gingernut biscuits, when I probably should have chosen something out of the fruitbowl instead. I feel a bit guilty about making a choice of refined sugar over good fibre and I feel a bit guilty and squirmy over the topic of this post.

I’ll just come out with it. I don’t want any more physical gifts for my birthday, Christmas, for (step) Mother’s day, or on any other ‘special’ occasion.

There, I’ve said it and I feel terrible, particularly because my stepdaughter and my husband presented me with a small gift tonight for Mother’s day. The gesture was sweet and lovely and thoughtful, it’s just that, the act of the gesture itself was what got me thinking and realising I don’t want any more ‘things’. (So thank you, T & D, because your lovely gesture helped me figure out something about myself I hadn’t realised until today)

I have lots of things. Things I’ve bought myself, things others have given me, things I’ve given away, things I’ve lost, things that were freebies, things that cost me more than they should have. But, especially now, approaching 40, I feel like I have all the things I need and unless something should need replacing, like a pair of jeans or a pair of secateurs, I have no big desire for new things.

I think part of it is because I’ve not been working the past six months, in fact we’ve had no income at all for half a year and have been living, carefully and frugally, but not poorly, cheaply, or badly, off redundancy payouts. The concept of going to the shops to buy things as a form of entertainment has gone out the window. I no longer look at junk mail — if I need something, I’ll know that before a glossy brochure tells me so. I don’t get attracted by shiny new things, jewellery or gadgets, there’s no money in our budget for those anymore.

I’ve become super grateful for the things that I do have. How lucky am I to have a car to get me from place to place, a spade to enjoy digging in my garden, a selection of pots with lids to allow me to cook, which I love, a bookshelf of books that when I sorted through them last week I found at least a dozen books I hadn’t read. Bonanza! Rereading favourite books I’ve read before. Thinking over fond memories looking at photographs, old cards, old letters from friends, faxes that my younger brother and I sent each other with ridiculous drawings on them in the late 1990's when I was away in London and he was in NZ still in high school. Remembering hearing that fax start whirring when I was homesick as hell and smiling, thinking, someone is thinking of me!

I’m not just grateful for things, I’m grateful for people, and for experiences and for little gestures. Those are the things I would like on special days. A meal that someone has thought of, planned and cooked for me. A bottle of wine we can share together. A drive out in the countryside, somewhere new, or a favourite place. A drawing, a card, a handmade anything. Some of my favourite cookies the family will share together after a meal. Making a small gift to a charity that I care about. I’ve always wanted someone to give me one of those cards that says they have bought a chicken or a donkey for a needy community. I’d love that.

I’ve less issue with the idea of buying people I love a ‘thing’ just because. Not because it is a special day and a present needs to be handed over, but just because Isaw this thing and thought it would be perfect for you. Or just because they just felt like it one day. Not because it is expected. Because it isn’t expected, even on special days, not anymore, not by me.

Explaining to your family and friends that you no longer want physical gifts on special days is a bit difficult. Which I have to admit, is why I’m writing here first to try to get my thoughts in a row. This is because it would be easy for others to just say, you are being self centred, ungrateful, it isn’t all about what you want, it’s about what other’s want, and they want to give you a gift, and you are saying you don’t want it. Putting it like that, then yes, I already suddenly now feel like a selfish person for daring to presume I could ask other people not to buy me physical gifts anymore.

My grandmother, who passed away just recently on her 91st birthday, had said a few times in the last few years “There’s nothing I want or need dear” when asked what she would like for Christmas. I didn’t listen, or misunderstood, and bought her a tea-for-one set or some amazing gardener’s hand cream, because I thought, just because there’s nothing you need doesn’t mean I can’t get you something nice/sweet/thoughtful. Plus I can’t have my granny not having a present under the tree. But now I understand, now I really get it Granny — a houseful of stuff stays exactly that but experiences, thoughtful gestures, kind words, loving actions, these are the things you take with you, where ever you may be.