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I find it increasingly difficult to answer when people ask me what I would like for Christmas. There just isn’t really that much ‘stuff’ that I want these days.

At this point in my life these are the things I really want:

  • To sit on the sofa and read a novel uninterrupted for several hours.
  • For my three year old daughter to ask calmly for help when she needs it rather than screaming like a banshee with frustration.
  • For my five year old son to wipe his own bottom.
  • For both of my children to consistently go to bed at their bedtime without me having to go repeatedly up and down the stairs for what is, essentially, nonsense.
  • To eat a whole meal, while it’s hot, sitting down throughout.
  • For the members of my family to say “thanks for dinner mummy, that was lovely” occasionally.
  • To have just a bit more time on my road bike.

Obviously, world peace, for children worldwide to experience a safe and nurtured childhood, and universal respect for the environment would be nice too. However, as a stay at home mum, my world has shrunk in recent years to the day to day and mundane. As the children get older I am sure that these bigger issues will move closer on my horizon.

Unfortunately the things I really want are not really things Santa (or my husband) are able to deliver so this doesn’t really help them when they ask what I would like for Christmas.

In the past I used to ask for cycling kit (or running kit if it was one of those years) for Christmas. But I have now amassed an extensive collection of cycling kit and although I do find the time for cycling, that time is quite limited and there are only so many jerseys I can wear at once, even in the winter. I own a fair amount of running kit too and I think my running days are over now.

The thing is, these days I’m not all that bothered about ‘stuff’. I fact, since I have had children, sometimes I feel a bit like I am drowning in stuff. The more I think about it, the more I think that my children have far too much stuff. It’s not that they are spoiled particularly. It’s not that they ask for that much stuff particularly. They are actually pretty good in shops – if there are toys in the shop they like to have a look and they like to press every button on display, but they don’t really ask us to buy them stuff.

Yet we do buy them stuff.

I have found that this process starts very slowly and creeps up on you. When you have your first child you look around and think “but we don’t have any toys! Surely a child needs toys!”. So you buy a few toys. Just a rattle, and a couple of soft toys, and a few teething toys, and stacking cups, and a fisher price telephone, and a couple of toy cars, and some bath toys. That’s all.

Then as you get to know your child, you just pick up a few bits and pieces because they are developing their own personality so quickly and you know that they will love a ball pit, and a jumperoo, and a toy tractor, and a wooden jigsaw, and a sandpit, and those weird egg things, and some duplo, and some baby instruments. That’s all.

Then as they get older and the birthdays and Christmases pass, you accumulate a few more bits and pieces. Some more complicated jigsaws, every character toy from Toy Story, some princesses, a train track, a bit more duplo, some big boy / girl lego, a few my little ponies, a play kitchen, some play food for the play kitchen, a toy garage, a few more toy cars, some sticklebricks, the entire happyland catalogue, some more play food for the play kitchen, a fire engine or two, some dress up costumes, a few more toy cars, some more play food for the play kitchen, some baby dolls, a play house and a play tent. That’s all.

But here’s the thing:

They didn’t really ask for any of it. 

We just thought they would like it and we wanted the best for them, so we bought it. They asked for one or two things and we just ran and ran with those suggestions.

And here’s the other thing:

Their grandparents and their aunts and their uncles all want the best for them too so they picked up just a few bits and pieces for them too.

And then one day you look around your house and think, “oh my goodness, look at all this crap!!”.

Suddenly you feel hemmed in by plastic. You realise that there is not an ikea storage unit in the world which is going to contain this mountain of stuff. You realise that there is not a single room in your house which does not contain toys. And you realise that half of this stuff is not really played with. It is valued for a while and then discarded in favour of the next thing.

You realise that your children just do not need this mountain of plastic

Don’t get me wrong. On Christmas morning my children will launch themselves downstairs in an overexcited frenzy (hopefully some time after 6am) to find that Santa has been. They will be delighted by all their new ‘stuff’ and we will spend the day inserting batteries and trying to remove plastic ties. Mr Mummysgoneacycle and I will open presents from each other and will be pleased and grateful. Christmas Day in our house will be much like Christmas Day in other peoples’ houses and I hope you all have a fantastic one.

But I think it is a thought to keep thinking about as 2018 begins. Do we really need all this clutter in our lives? And now we have it, how do we get it under control?

How do we remind ourselves that it is the moments which are important, not the stuff

At the end of each year I put together and print a family photo album. My dad used to do the same when my siblings and I were growing up. This is a job I love. Partly because it means filing all the digital photos I have on my computer and I love a good file. But mostly because it is an opportunity to look back at the year. To relive all the wonderful places we have been and the moments we have had. Looking through the photo albums from when I was a child is the same for me. I love seeing the places we went and the things we did. Some of them I have real memories of, some I just know from the photos.

There are very few toys in the best of those photos.