I know it’s a well-trotted trope to complain about the commercialisation of Christmas and the encroachment of the holiday season, almost into the summer holiday season, but I was particularly shocked this year at the volume of decorations and the fact that they are piled high next to a similar voluminous pile of Halloween decorations.
Last week, I spotted a 4ft plastic skeleton for sale for €120!
The marketing messages of homeware retailers suggest the making of a home involves filling it with mass produced paraphernalia shipped halfway around the world to your house.
But we really don’t need this amount of ‘stuff’.
The Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo has written books and made a Netflix series about de-cluttering our homes and finding peace living with a minimal amount of objects. Her modus operandi is to only keep objects in your house that “spark joy” - you have to really, really like a pair of shoes or a handbag or an expensive life size plastic skeleton to keep it in your gaff.
To me, the most the plastic skeleton would spark is a half smile, a singular ha, or a mini yelp, if it even managed to raise a fright. And then where do you put it for the other 50 weeks of the year?
If I was to write a Marie Kondo-esque book it would be called ‘If In Doubt, Feck It Out’. If you’re humming or hawing about keeping something, it needs to go to the charity shop, recycling or the bin. The ‘bargain’ that never fitted will look better on someone else, a charity will earn some money and you will clear space in your home.
Any time I do a clear out, I ask myself, “Do I ever want to look and hold this foot spa/novelty mug/herb chopping device and think about whether or not I will use it again?” If I haven’t used it the last 12 months, I’m unlikely to use it in the coming year.
Before you think I’m gone full cranky monastic minimalist, I’m all for decorations. I’ll carve a load of pumpkins and a lob up a load of lights. Decorating the house for Christmas is one of my favourite parts of the season.
But I’ve had the same decorations for years. I love the trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, eating barmbrack traditions of Halloween (although the hyper chewy sweets that stick your teeth together go straight in the bin - don’t tell my kids!)
The constant push by retailers to amass more and more of these decorations is lost on me.
We’re going to be hearing a lot about climate action between now and Christmas. The government is going to be publishing its first carbon budget soon, the UN climate conference COP26 will be running in Glasgow during November, and there will be a lot of discussion about how best to react to the ‘Code Red for humanity’ warnings from the UN.
So I’m issuing an early plea to resist buying ‘stuff’ for Christmas. Resist the bath sets, socks, selection boxes and novelty toys. Resist buying a small unnecessary, and maybe even unwanted, gift for every member of your family.
Consider having a conversation now with your family about presents and perhaps doing a Secret Santa, or not so Secret, present exchange. This is where every member of your family or group of friends buys just one good present for someone else. All the money that you would have spent on numerous aunties or siblings gets pooled into one amazing and much wanted gift for your Secret Santa recipient. And it doesn’t have to be a ‘thing’, it could be an ‘experience’. A break in a fancy hotel, a voucher for an expensive restaurant, a membership for an Open Farm or Fota is used all year long - there are so many ways of treating someone you love than buying a present that is unwrapped on Christmas morning and forgotten about by St Stephen’s Day.
Talking about something that sparks joy. If you like to engage in the quintessential autumnal activity of searching for horse chestnuts, don’t bother looking in Ballyphehane’s Tory Top Park. My four year old has picked them all up!
We have carried bags of them home in recent weeks. Like a sophisticated heat-seeking missile, she can detect a glorious glossy chessie at 50 paces, emitting delighted squeals as if she has found her first. It is very cute.
And there is something wondrous in these brown shiny lumps dotted along the autumn ground. She particularly likes when they are still stuck in their spiky green casing and gentle peeling reveals the brown gem within.
I was worried that we were removing an important autumn food source for some creature, but a quick Google assured me that horse chestnuts are poisonous and no-one is interested in them.
We have dishes and vases full to the brim dotted around the house. They are sparking joy for now but they’ll be in the compost bin by Christmas.
Again, don’t tell the kids!