Things Don’t Make You Happy

‘Tis the season of frenzy. Those who celebrate Christmas are racing to the finish line as the clock is ticking. Did you purchase every gift that you feel you “need” to? Did you attend every event? Are your travel plans still intact? Your holiday feast planned out to the last key ingredient? Have you mapped out your exit plan if things start to go south with your extended family? If you are hosting, is every corner of your home spotless and ultra presentable – counter to the way you actually live?

Let’s focus on all of the stuff that comes with this season and why perhaps we need to consider toning it down a bit. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that this is no way intended to pass judgement on anyone for the number of gifts around the tree. I’m a huge fan of liking your reason for any decision that you make and sticking by that reason. I encourage all of us to do this. If you like your reason for splurging on all of the things and all of the people you love, fantastic! If doing so causes you emotional and financial stress, I would ask you to take a deeper look at your reasons and question whether you are still served by them or whether you are simply going along with societal expectations.

Many of us like to take this time right before Christmas and clear out the clutter to make way for the new stuff. Some even encourage their children to do it as well. This can be a valuable lesson for young ones to learn: letting go of attachments. Clearing space to make room for new things. Bonus points if those items are in good condition and are donated to those in need.

I personally feel that is one of the best acts of giving. My husband and I rarely sell items we no longer want or need, most often opting to donate. Our family feels that there is a greater return than money when we simply gift our items. That’s why you will never, ever see us holding a garage sale. Nope. Not going to happen for two reasons:

  1. Time is our most precious commodity. I’m not going to spend 10-15 hours overseeing a sale of stuff and celebrate that we “made” $250 from it. First of all, we spent way more than that over time accumulating that stuff to begin with. Also, our time is far more valuable than that. That’s simply how we view the world.
  2. It is far more rewarding to give stuff than to sell stuff. When you know in your heart that your trash has become someone else’s treasure, that’s another thing that you can’t put a price on.

I’m also a huge fan of re-gifting. We often guilt ourselves into holding on to items we simply no longer want (or never wanted in the first place) but since it came from our dear, departed Great Aunt Sue ten years ago, we need to keep that item to honor her memory.

Stop that thought because it’s bullshit. Your dear, departed Great Aunt Sue gave you a gift. It’s that simple. It was a sweet gesture that doesn’t hold meaning for you. Acknowledge that.

Maybe it came from her heart or maybe she didn’t even put much thought into it all. Maybe she was simply going along with those societal expectations and grabbed the first thing she saw so she could check her mental box. You don’t really know and you never will. What you do know is that you’ve had this item tucked away in a dark corner of your closet for a damn decade and you just don’t want it. Someone else does. Take it to your local donation source. Do it tomorrow. Let go of the story you’ve created around it and just honor the memories that you have of her. You don’t need a thing in order to do that. You just need your attentive mind.

assorted gift boxes under christmas tree
Photo by Deena on

We have become a society driven by consumerism. We have lots of stuff and we continue to accumulate more. We have two-car garages that we can’t utilize for their intended purpose because we have so much stuff stored in there. If we don’t have the garage, we might even rent a storage unit to hold the stuff that we can’t fit comfortably in our home. We might even have both!

And every year around this time, we add to our accumulations in bulk. Throughout the year, whenever the fancy strikes us, we click “add to cart”, sit back, and wait for our latest prized possession to arrive at our doorstep. Why are we doing this?

We do it for several reasons. Everyone else is doing it, so that’s where the societal expectations come in to play. We do it because we are easily swayed by savvy advertising that sells us hook, line, and sinker that this latest gadget is going to be life changing. And mostly, we do it because we think it will make us happy.

Listen, I like nice things too. I like things that will save me time and yes, time is money. I like new clothing and shoes from time to time, and I try to clear out things I don’t wear anymore when I buy new things. But I have also discovered that as much as we have purged over the past three years, we still have more to do.

We purge every time we move, and because the last time was a job relocation to another state, we had the opportunity to purge on each end of the move as part of the package. We were able to have a service pick up our unwanted things that we didn’t even bother to pack. As we unpacked on the other side, we found even more things that we simply didn’t need to hold on to anymore. Yet three years later, we are still purging!

How many of those perfect gifts that you have obsessed about, stressed about, and wrapped perfectly will still have meaning in three years?

Our son’s big gift this year was that his dad redecorated his bedroom. It was time. He’s a fifth grader now and while he let go of a huge pile of prized stuffed animals a year ago, there were still a few more that he was willing to part with last week. Every single thing was removed from his room, the slate was cleared, and Dad started over.

The only piece of furniture that we kept was his dresser, which received a fresh coat of paint. He even gave away every one of his Nerf guns! It felt like there were 50 of the damn things and I was honestly shocked that he was willing to let go of the thrill of ambushing me when I turn a corner. Yet, there they were in the give away pile. Sweet!

His room looks amazing. It is so clean with a minimalist’s style. He loves it and it’s hard to get him out of there now. It was hard to get him in there before. I did hear some drama during the process but for the most part, he was willing to let go of attachments to things. It makes me want to do this with every room of the house.

I also want to take a moment to plug the Buy Nothing Project. I recently became a member of my local group and that’s where most of our things are going. It’s a more direct way to support your local community through giving. You can also ask for things you are in need of. The idea is that there is already so much usable stuff out there that is good condition that instead of buying new, see if you can get it from your neighbor first. I haven’t received anything yet because I have more of a need to purge than to acquire right now, but I enjoy the process of giving through this group. It’s a big step up from dropping things in a donation box. It also supports the environment which makes my tree-hugging heart happy because there is a defined radius in which exchanges take place, so there is no shipping impact or packing waste created.

Here’s what I want you understand. Visual clutter also clutters your thoughts. When you have stuff everywhere, it’s hard to focus effectively. When my work desk is stacked with clutter, I am distracted. When it is clear, I am far more productive. Intellectually, you already know this. I challenge you to begin practicing doing more with less.

I also want you to remember through this holiday season and every one that follows that giving comes in many forms beyond the approach of consumer-driven frenzy. Giving your time and talents is a gift from the heart that can have a far deeper impact on your fellow humans. If you must spend money, my vote will always be on experiences.

More stuff will never make you happy beyond that moment in time. There is not a single Christmas toy that our son recalls receiving when he tells stories. Instead, it is always around the places he’s been and the things that he has done. He recalls every single one of those in detail, all the way back to age two! But ask him if he recalls the moment he received Nerf gun #16 and he will draw a blank. That should tell you something.

Everything you need to experience contentment, happiness, and joy lives inside of you. It lives in the people that you are drawn to spend your precious time with. Gifts of things are wonderful and we should be grateful for them. Gifts of people are glorious and that’s what we should be celebrating. Every single day.

Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Email me to schedule a free consultation:








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