I had a eureka moment this summer. Actually that’s a lie, it was more of an aaaaaaaaaah realisation moment. One of those moments when stuff that has always seemed a bit out of kilter suddenly makes perfect sense.
I have always thought of myself as an autumn/winter person. The kind of person who loves snuggling up by the fire with the dogs and a good book; crispy winter walks; big rambunctious winter casseroles. And indeed, I do love all those things. But I love warmth and sunshine and long summer days more.
Perhaps because of our wonderful summer this year, following the dreadful excuse for a summer we had last year I have been outside much more. The garden has been more productive and the foraging has been superb. It’s been wonderful. I don’t want it to end, I don’t really want winter and darkness. I want the light to last.
I tried to cheer myself up with the prospect of Christmas. And that is when I began to panic. I have always gone full pelt at Christmas. Not necessarily spending money but in making, baking, preparing, decorating, gathering.
I don’t want to do that this year. Having spent all this time taking things out of our house I do not want to bring any back in. But that’s not all there is to it. It isn’t just a question of things or stuff it’s a question of attitude.
I want simple. I want a simple Christmas. Simple decorations, simple food, simple celebrations. It doesn’t make them any the less valued or special but the thought of a heavily decorated house and a freezer full of meals that will probably still be there in January makes me feel just a little bit ill.
I can’t stop the present fest on my own. The Boss and I tend to give each other things we need. Last year we both unwittingly gave each other saltpetre for preserving and smoked salt which we both love. Not perhaps the most traditional of presents but it made us laugh that we had both been thinking along identical lines. Or we give days out. That’s how I got to spend a weekend at Taste The Wild and a fabulous overnight at The Crab and Lobster. But I can wear the present fest down. I can do simple.
Today I tackled an AAGH zone. The present cupboard (as opposed to the future and past cupboards) is both a help and a hindrance.
Yes, it is useful to be able to pick things up for friends and family, that moment when you see something and go “Yes!” But there is also the temptation to buy random things in sales that you can “allocate” later. I am often guilty of this. There are a lot of children in our family and I have been wont to buy up books and toys in the sales and then wonder who to give them to.
Most things find happy homes, but there are a few items that have hung around for several years. But still I have kept them in the vain hope that suddenly somebody will want the rather lovely carving set that came free with our knives. A perfect example of the free gift you don’t want. I still buy things when I see them and know that the person I have bought them for will love them and use them. But all the other opportunistic purchases. No. Not anymore. All I was doing was fooling myself I was getting a bargain when I was still being sucked in to the consumerist “need to have/need to buy”. I bought two beautiful and very simple slipware tumblers for a friend. They will suit their lifestyle and will be used. They cost me 50P each in a closing down sale. But who cares what the cost is? They were bought with purpose and love not just because they were a bargain.
Then there is the wrapping paper. Many years ago my mother and I wrapped all our presents in chinese and arabic newspapers. Those were the days when Paris Match was exotic. Since then I have usually wrapped presents in brown paper with red ribbon. But that is still disposable. We have moved on to bags, but the problem there is that you need to get the bag back in order to refill it for next year.
This is the current present cupboard. The red box has presents that are allocated to specific people. The pink file is my Christmas file, lists of presents I have given people over the past 10 years (with a lot of people to buy for it is important not to give a similar present two years in a row), recipes and decoration ideas etc. Some crackers bought in the sale last year. I think this ought to be the last year of crackers. They are so very not zero waste. Need to find an alternative.
The yellow bag has various things collected and made for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoe boxes.
Soon it will be the Singers’ birthday. They will be 15. It is hard to have a mother who wants to stop buying when you are a teenager. But I am proud to say they are on board. Singer one doesn’t know what she wants for her birthday but she would like a really good pair of boots. So we will buy boots in the autumn because as she says “there is no point buying something just for the sake of it when there is something I would like and use and can get later.”