OMG, can I just have a bit of a flip out here. I can’t do another Christmas like this. I can’t go to the big chain stores and spend everything I’ve ever saved or earned on a shit-tonne of cheap crap that the kids will get excited about for five minutes then I’ll spend the rest of my life cleaning up after, or won’t see ever again because it’ll sit at the bottom of the toy box. Or, worse, I’ll find in bits all over their bedroom floor on Boxing Day and have to shovel straight into the bin. I feel like I should just set my wallet on fire now and save us all the hassle.
If your kids are like mine they have maybe three toys that they actually play with. My daughter carted around an old bear that used to belong to my dad when he was the same age. I think back over the years and the only toys I can actually remember are the ones that lasted. The wooden train that was passed down from one generation to the next, going through several siblings before I passed it on to the kid’s cousin.
The aforementioned bear that I made a severely lopsided waistcoat for when I was a kid because the mechanism that made it growl was starting to stick out. This made no difference to my daughter when she got it, though I did sew the eye back on so it looked more of a teddy and less like a grizzly bear. As I write this I can see the wooden desk my grandfather made me when I was seven in the corner of the playroom, stuffed to the gills with the kids art work and still stable and functional and well and beautiful, he was a builder after all. Back then things were built to last.
I wonder what my grandfather would have made of the plastic junk for sale in the shops now. Not much I should think. He was a good judge of character and would have found them soulless. He’d have known at a glance that they wouldn’t last, and despite the cheap price tag, still wasn’t worth what I was paying for them.
In light of that I’m looking for a new way to do things. I can’t stomach watching all the waste, and being such a big part of it. I want to do what I can to be part of the solution. To not just pass on the family toys that have lasted, but to buy ones that will also last long enough to be passed onto the next generation. I can’t think of a single thing that I’ve bought my kids in the last five years that will still be functional and beautiful and able to be played with by their kids.
They won’t be able to say to their son or daughter, ‘That was mine when I was little,’ and that makes me sad. Does the tradition stop with me? Will my parents be the last in our family to buy gifts that don’t get thrown away?
I know that doesn’t have to be the case. I just have to invest in something that I know will last. Something that has been made by someone who actually cares, and not a machine, or worse, someone being paid so little that they don’t even have enough to live on. I could buy something pre-loved that I know will last because it already has spent years being played with and has not only survived, but thrived. Then someone else who cares has come along and refurbished it, refreshed it, and made it just like new. Just like new but better, because no trees had to be cut down to create it, no fossil fuels burned, and it won’t sit on a landfill well after I’m gone, but instead, will be being played with by children in my family that haven’t been born yet.
That’s why I’m going for upcycling. I want to be the one to pass on the family traditions and the family toys, and not just another disposable person, adding to the pile of broken plastic in the world.
I want to be remembered the right way.