The American culture of disposable materialism seems worse every single day. It’s probably been getting worse every day more or less since the country was founded. So it’s not surprising that the older generation (of which, for the sake of this post, I apparently am a member of) would always see this going on and be disgusted by it. So I think it is safe to say that I am not the first parent to see this going on and object to it. Especially since people, as a rule, probably object to materialism in themselves very rarely. So it’s more when you see it happening to your kids that you notice it. After all, I want nice, shiny, new stuff as much as the next guy.

So all that being said, ho-ly crap! (and I mean crap in the “tons-of-stuff-we-don’t-really-need” sense of the word) If Evie continues to accumulate stuff at the same rate that she has thus far in her life, she will need a separate house to contain it all. And lets not kid ourselves, she’s not going to continue at this rate, she’s going to double it. Triple it. After all, she’s not even old enough to really want anything yet.

Evie just started preschool. I remember when I started kindergarten. There were two things that were particularly awesome to play with at my kindergarten: a parachute, and a set of giant cardboard blocks that looked like bricks. These toys were so great that you could get a fist fight or two, just by mentioning them. I wanted to play with those bricks so bad, I was willing to bleed.

Evie has both of these for her own personal use, a parachute and a set of blocks like that. Evie has her own slide.

That was part of what made school cool to me at that age. They had the toys that no individual person could possibly own. Now there is no such toy. In fact, kids today are probably like, “Why does school have all these lame, really old toys? They don’t even talk.”

In all of the time we’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie books, I am always struck with how little personal possessions they had, and how happy they were. I understand this is a fictional account, but I can’t help but feel that it was a better time. Laura Ingalls had more love and appreciation and happiness out of a little rag doll than most kids do out of an entire mountain of toys.

How can I inspire that kind of appreciation in my kids? How can I fight an entire culture?

Sara and I try to do what we can. And of course by that I mean that we bought her said slide, parachute and set of blocks. Because the problem is, we want her to be happy, and buying her things is such an easy way to accomplish that. In the short term. And don’t think I’m letting myself off easy for my role in all of this either.

The real question is, what the heck are we going to buy Oliver? Before he was even born, he was set to inherit all the toys, clothes, books, etc. that he could ever need. Not to mention all of his own random stuff he’s going to accumulate through life. We can’t not buy him presents for Christmas or something. But I honestly don’t want to. He doesn’t need any more stuff. Neither of them do.

I hate not having a choice about this.

10 thoughts on “Materialism

  1. For some ‘fun’ staff thing I was asked several questions, including:
    1. Best Christmas present ever given.
    2. Best Christmas present ever received.
    3. Most prized material posession.

    I answered:
    1. A year’s worth of home made desserts .
    2. Season tickets to Civic Theater.
    3. Um…I can’t really think of anything.

    So we have a house full of stuff, and obviously appliances and so on allow me to work without going down to the river and beating our clothes on rocks, but stuff is not what makes us happy.


  2. Yes, it makes me sick too. Maybe periodically you could go through their toys and give some things to those less fortunate than you and your family. Let me know how we can help.


  3. I should clarify above – it makes me sick all the clutter that I have accumulated so I can empathize with what you’re saying. Spending the past few mos. sorting through 30 yrs. of accumulated “stuff” to prepare for selling my house has been a real eye opener.


  4. Amen! Great post, Shane… we feel the same way in this household. Yet we still have an attic full of toys! I’m hoping my kids will grow up in a similar way that I did – I had some toys, but not the best and newest of anything. My FRIENDS had the great toys (that their parents blew the cash on) and I was able to enjoy them that way. My Barbies were from garage sales. I remember the day we found a used Barbie car for like $2 and I was overcome by joy.

    You and Sara will figure out how to keep Evie and Oliver grateful yet satisfied with a few new toys here and there! I’ve always liked the idea that when our kids are older and can no longer be pacified with gifts of crayons and bubble gum – that we can give more experiential presents. Forget Christmas under the tree, opening store-bought presents, let’s all go on vacation instead!

    And speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder – aren’t those stories true? I remember how her mother had to write letters to her family on old pieces of scrap paper. Oh, how things have changed! We’ll continue in the tradition of annoying our kids with stories of how “things were different when I was your age.” 🙂


  5. Pingback: Normalized « Is this thing on?

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