When my eldest and his cohort were very very little, the question that made the rounds among myself and the other moms I know is, “do you suppose it’s okay to buy my children’s Christmas gifts off Craig’s List?” or, “is it okay for Santa’s gifts to be used?” You see, we live in an area that has really high housing costs, and I’m sure you can imagine that this places a strain on the family budget, particularly during the early years of family life. My answer to this question is YES! I want to shout it from the rooftops. YES, while your kids are little enough to buy their gifts used, from Craig’s List or consignment sales, or by swapping with friends, YES! Give them gently used items. Put any extra money in the bank. (I know most of you are thinking, “ha ha! Extra money. What’s that?”) First of all, they probably can’t even tell if their gifts are used. But even if they CAN, so what? What if they ask you, “Why does Santa bring me used toys?”Let’s break this down logically. Santa and his crew of artisan elves have reportedly been cranking out gifts for centuries. I do not think and I have never thought that Santa and his merry band have any interest in being factory workers. If Santa and his buds were working in a sweatshop 364 days a year, I seriously doubt they’d be feeling all that generous on the 365th day.
So, obviously, Santa and his pals have more traditional skills. They create handmade items, some of them one of a kind. They take pride in their work. That takes time! For Santa and his elves to have a workshop big enough to hand craft unique, high quality gifts for every child on his list every Christmas, they would need a workshop so big you wouldn’t need to see it from space, because it would probably take up part of your town, or actually be renting your basement. (THAT would surely spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?) So, it’s logically impossible that Santa and crew hand make brand new items for every child who expects gifts from Santa. The resources just are not there. And there are a lot of mass manufactured items that they just aren’t equipped to make. There’s not room for that many pieces of industrial equipment, and they detract from the vibe.
The solution? (And I was delighted, years later, when I watched Polar Express, to find that Santa’s secret work process is leaking out,) Santa and his elves Repurpose, ReUse, and Recycle. They are the PERFECT skilled workforce to take broken or worn items and make them new again, to take things no one wants and make them into new and different things, or to clean and carefully match up gently used items with people who really, really want them. They know the secrets of lemon oil and mineral spirits and Mr Clean Magic Eraser (they love those things) for making something that’s been Already Loved look nice and shiny and new under the tree- for pennies on the dollar, and a much better outcome for our landfills, to boot. There’s no way Santa could have kept this operation going for this long without huge government subsidies unless he was frugal to the core, and fearfully clever.
And let’s be honest- if it’s good enough for Santa, it’s good enough for us. So go ahead. Hunt Craig’s List or your local FB yard sale sites or eBay. Arrange a swap of gently used items with other moms and keep your cash in your pocket. You can google “how to clean __________ off of _________” and make almost anything look practically new. (Be sure to check out our Life Hacks collection for cleaning tips!) Or paint and glue and fabric and staples and tape will turn that old thing into a brand new thing. Be not afraid! Frugal and fearfully clever can be outsourced. And besides… you know they will just play with the box, anyway.