Last week I caught a glimpse of my son’s Dear Santa letter before it embarked on its long journey to the North Pole. Amongst the Christmas wish list requests for this year were a drone with a camera, a shock pen, the ‘biggest’ mega nerf gun and a torch ‘as long as a bat’.
Yes it does look like the Christmas list of your common home burglar, but that wasn’t even my concern. It was the thought of having more stuff in our house. Opening our toy cupboard is already a near-death experience and I cringe at the thought of another season of Christmas presents being crammed in there. Toys destined to become dusty and abandoned after the novelty wears off.
For the past few years, the Santa that comes to our house has favoured experiences over toys so a drone certainly wasn’t on “Santa’s” mind when he (she) got in early and purchased the Ed Sheeran concert tickets for this years gifts. The toy giving has been dwindling over the years as my kids grow and I was hoping for it to be phased out completely soon.
Over the Christmas period most of us are going to have more material things encroach on our homes. In trying not to sound like a Grinch and ruin the spirit of Christmas, do we really need more stuff?
As a psychologist I don’t think I have ever seen anyone who has had issues with not having enough stuff. In fact, I predominantly see people who are overwhelmed with too much stuff going on, both in mind and in reality. There are too many things to get done, too many thoughts, too many hats to wear and too much of pretty much everything.
Often part of the process of clearing their minds is clearing the environment in which they operate. When you think of it like that, simplifying life is the perfect treatment, and is often part of the plan of recovery. Making room in our lives so that our minds can have a little space and we can think straight.
Whether it be our work desk, spare room or for some people, their whole house, an excess of things in our surroundings can have a negative impact on our mind. Research has shown that physical clutter in our surroundings competes for our attention, resulting in increased stress.
So decluttering our lives of material possessions and bringing less stuff into our homes is going to have the opposite, rather positive effect on us.
We also know that experiences are good for us. Travel broadens our minds, being out in nature helps ease stress, adult play makes us more creative and trying new experiences gets us out of our comfort zone and decreases anxiety.
When I reminisce about childhood, I don’t think about the toys that I played with, but rather the weekends away, new parks, beach adventures and playing with my neighbours for hours.
As an adult I don’t want more things, and if there is anything that I crave, it's usually more time out in nature or sharing experiences with friends and family. It’s never stuff. And perhaps reducing my material possessions even more will allow more room in my life for me to find out what I do actually want in the future. As Marie Kondo, the author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up suggests, “the best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t”.
We think we want more material possessions, but what you will find is that we really don’t. It’s something else that we are craving.
My son thinks he wants some flash toys for Christmas, including the odd drone with a camera of course, but really he doesn’t. He wants the more important things in life that you can’t buy. We all do.
But on the other hand, the drone would probably have given him some great aerial footage of the Ed Sheeran concert experience he is going to get instead.