Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amy's Anti-Stocking Stuffers

When I started this blog, I set up some patterns that I like to follow from week to week. For instance, on Wednesdays I post about food items, on Fridays I have luxury gifts, on Saturdays I write a more general post about something to do with stocking stuffers, and on Sundays I feature an Etsy item. Not surprisingly, the Saturday "general posts" require the most creative thought, and I don't always know what to write about until the last minute. But for some time now, I've wanted to write this "anti-stocking stuffer" post.

What do I mean by an anti-stocking stuffer? Well, for almost a month and a half I've been posting items that I wouldn't mind either giving or receiving as stocking stuffers. But I thought it might also be interesting to mention some things I generally never give as stocking stuffers, and -- more importantly -- why. (This certainly isn't meant as criticism of anyone who does give these items, because only you know your loved ones' tastes and interests!)

So here it is: things I generally don't give as stocking stuffers, and why:

  • Ornaments. I actually love ornaments, but my problem is that we already have enough to cover a couple of Christmas trees every year -- and I'm afraid we've essentially given up on having any tree because of our overzealous cat situation. It's not that they were breaking ornaments, because I started putting only the unbreakables on, but when I had to set back up and essentially re-decorate the tree for the fourth time in one day, well, I'd had enough.

    My parents and sisters don't have cats (in fact, they're all highly allergic), and they're very much into Christmas trees. But my mom began a tradition of getting us each an ornament every year, so that when we grew up and left home we'd have a starter collection of cherished ornaments. I love that tradition, and I still love those ornaments. But even if I were still putting up a tree, I now have way too many ornaments. I've gotten them in workplace gift exchanges and as souvenir gifts from friends and family who travel, and of course over the years I've bought many of my own. Alas, I have officially overdosed on ornaments.

  • Christmas knickknacks and household items. The other day, we pulled out five large boxes of Christmas decorations from the storage space under the stairs. And I do love Christmas decorations, but in general, I'd rather not give someone a gift they can only use one month out of the year by definition. Also, I think the stores have gone a little hog wild, trying to convince us we need to replace our regular things with Christmas dish towels, Christmas hand towels, Christmas soap dispensers, Christmas salt and pepper shakers, and so on and so on. I've also seen some adorable things like a zippered "mitten" manicure set with a Christmas motif, but I can't imagine using that in July (especially in Houston!).

  • Disposable cameras. This is just a personal bias, but I like to stay away from "disposable" where possible due to environmental concerns. I can see that a disposable camera at each table is a great idea for a wedding, so guests can take fun candid shots of each other while the bride and groom are busy briding and grooming. But I wouldn't want to give disposable cameras regularly to children, thereby "training" them to think that it's OK to value convenience over the environment.

  • Mugs. I find mugs to be a bit like ornaments -- they've been the default workplace exchange gift for so long, plus banks and other companies give them away in their attempts to advertise us all to death. And I'm convinced that mugs, like wire hangers, secretly reproduce in their dark cupboards and closets when we're not looking. There is one exception I would consider giving, though: a photo mug. Many years ago, before digital cameras made such things so easy, I received a certificate that let me mail in two photos of my choice and get a mug (plus my photos) back. I thought this was a terrific present, and I got a "before and after" mug with one of my cats as a kitten and then a cat, both taken in the exact same position. I adore that mug, which I use to store pens and pencils because I don't want the dishwasher to fade the pictures.

  • Notepads. I actually love cute little notepads, but since I use the back of every piece of junk mail I get (well, after shredding all those silly credit card applications), I accumulate note scrap paper faster than I can use it, and I assume that's the case for friends and family too.

  • Scratch-off Lottery Tickets. This is nothing more than personal preference. I don't like the mess they make, so I don't enjoy them. But lots of people do, and that's just fine!

  • Neckties. If I were giving a stocking to a person who had to wear a tie to work every single day, I actually would consider a tie as a stocking stuffer. Well, maybe I would -- I'd feel a bit bad about giving something so "work-related" instead of something fun. But in any case, my dad is retired and my husband's workplace is quite casual, so neither of them wear a tie more than a half-dozen times a year, if that.

  • Table Topic sets. I've seen these in lots of catalogs this year -- table topic sets, with a box holding cards that ask questions, like "what was your favorite vacation?" (from a general set) or "what's your best Christmas memory?" (from a holiday set). Call me old-fashioned, but I would hate to think that my husband and I need something like this to have a decent conversation, and I think it's even more sad if parents need this kind of crutch to talk to their kids. Have our attention spans really gotten that short? (Or am I just taking this a little too seriously?!)

  • Keychains. See above re: mugs and ornaments. Honestly, are these things breeding in my house?

  • Soap and other scented items. For this last item, it's not so much that I won't include these in stockings for anyone, but I think it's something to be careful about for several reasons. First, perfume and cologne give me a headache every time, so none for me and my husband. Second, a lot more people have allergies than used to be the case, so you need to be sure your gift won't adversely affect the recipient. Finally, while I'll sometimes give fizzy bath stuff or scented soap to my mother or sisters, I'm very careful not to put it in the same stocking as chocolate, which can pick up the scent and therefore the taste. I got a stocking full of very soapy-tasting Hershey's Kisses one year....

So, do you have any "anti-stocking stuffers" that you don't give? And if so, what's the reason?


Tommy Day said...

This my me and my wife's first Xmas as a married couple so we're starting the tradition of giving onraments to each other on christmas eve.

Amy's Stocking Stuffers said...

I do think that's a nice tradition especially when a couple is starting out -- it just wouldn't have worked for us because I came to the marriage "table" with dozens upon dozens of ornaments already.

Enjoy your first Christmas together!