No Gifts, Please

January 12, 2011

One of the rules for the No Stuff Experiment is we will not accept gifts of new material goods. You are welcome to bake us sweets, or take us to dinner, or tailor a shirt from the consignment shop so it’s just our size, or otherwise shower us with love and affection, but please, don’t give us stuff. If we wanted new stuff, we wouldn’t be doing this experiment.

This rule has become a small point of contention between Channing (who went three months without buying anything in 2009 but who is not participating in the experiment this time around) and me. When I announced that we were out of aluminum foil, Channing said, “I can just buy some for you.” No, no, no!

Accepting gifts would simply ruin the point of the experiment, which is, more or less, to determine what is necessary and what is extraneous. How will I know whether I can live happily without aluminum foil if I don’t try living without aluminum foil? Further, if someone, anyone, buys a brand new replacement item for me from the big box store down the street, a certain amount of energy, time, and resources will go into that purchase—energy, time, and resources that I would prefer to save for another, more necessary use.

So, this weekend we ran out of firewood. We keep the heat at a reasonable 68 degrees, but in the downstairs living area of our condo, it is quite chilly (for two people who have spent all their lives in Virginia). We put on layers and wrap ourselves in blankets, but nothing warms the living room like a nice, toasty fire (in the fireplace, of course).

But, is a fire essential? Absolutely not. Like I said, we have central heating, plenty of t-shirts and sweaters for layering, and several comfy blankets. No matter how many hours we spend in front of the tube for Streep-athon 2011 (8 days, 12 Meryl Streep movies), we will not develop frostbite—or even be especially uncomfortable.

And, can Channing buy firewood for a fire I will benefit from as much as he will? I don’t think so. After a couple sit-downs on the subject, Channing seems willing to humor me. My arguments have at least made him more receptive to the idea of taking my dad up on his offer of free firewood—which needs to be split—by us. (If Channing can drag his bum away from Meryl long enough to wield an ax outside in the cold, I will be taking pictures and they will appear on this blog.)

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