I returned from Norfolk with fewer than half a dozen gifts, which is how I like it. Two of those gifts are edible, so likely won't last the week. One's half drinkable, and comes with a glass I can stick in the kitchen cupboard. And the other two are proper things, so will linger rather longer, but two is hardly a hefty amount.
I gave up on Christmas presents a while back. Abandoning gift purchase makes life hugely easier before the big day, with no need to trawl round the shops or tick bland boxes on Amazon. I don't know what people want, I can rarely second guess, so this strategy avoids buying people expensive crap they have no interest in. Trust me, it's not miserliness, it's a crippling inability to resonate with others, plus a deep-seated anguish at judging incorrectly.
It helps not to have a large circle to buy things for. The immediate family get money rather than stuff, which goes down better, and my Dad has the same attitude as me so we simply enjoy each other's company on the big day for free. My brother's inlaws aren't quite so understanding of my leftfield approach so they always get a thing, and I get a thing back. BestMate gets stuff because his birthday is today, which is a different reason altogether. But generally at Christmas I watch from the sidelines as gifts are swapped, content to sit outside it all.
On top of which I have quite enough stuff as it is, it seems.
"You have a lot of stuff," said my Christmas visitor. "All that stuff in the hallway, and all that stuff on the table, and all that stuff on the shelf, and all that stuff in the spare room. Seriously, why do you have so much?"
By rights I shouldn't have a ton of stuff. I'm not one for pointless shopping, nor do I hang around online gagging for fresh deals. I buy new clothes no more than once or twice a year, I don't top up with endless utensils or gadgets, and I never ask Amazon to send me a single package. Stuff dribbles into Geezer Towers at a ridiculously low rate, so how can there be so much of it?
It's not Christmas either, as I've explained. For many people Christmas is a time for the receipt of must-haves and always-wanteds - stuff to make home life better or more fun. And this is usually alongside stuff they neither asked for nor needed, hence this time of year invariably initiates an annual invasion of clutter. But my festive gift tally is minimal, insufficient to make a significant difference, or so you'd think.
It appears my issue with stuff isn't with the receiving, but at the other end of the process - I have a problem getting rid.
I buy clothes only rarely, but my wardrobe never empties. I buy books when I think fit, and read them generally only once, but an entire library has accumulated. I don't go on holiday much but I tend to bring stuff back, and this sits around in piles of memories I won't destroy. I have old plastic bags I knew might come in useful one day, and which a bag tax totally validates. I still have shelves of cassettes I will get round to digitising one day, but haven't yet. I have DVDs that fit a box not currently attached to my TV, which I'm sure I'll reconnect soon. I have CDs I daren't destroy in case streaming technology changes, and which anyway I still totally listen to. And I have 50 years of not many Christmas presents, which nevertheless is quite a haul because 50 years of anything is totally lots.
Rest assured my accumulation is nothing anti-socially serious, no insanitary hoard worthy of a TV documentary. But if you lived with me you'd likely demand I got rid of lots, either to make room for your own stuff or because you thought my haul was unnecessary. It helps to have a critical finger pointed every now then, if only to keep the accessory/memento mountain under control. And I always mean to get round to throwing stuff away, but without urgency there's always something better to do, and so my lifetime's pile simply grows.
Perhaps this Bank Holiday Monday I'll finally do something about it, filling some binbags for the refuse collectors or local charity shop. But there is a lot of iPlayer to catch up on, and a stack of unread books waiting to be devoured, and a capital outside the door worthy of wider investigation. Indeed I even hear the sales are on, and surely it wouldn't hurt to take a look.