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Due to the bankruptcy of a South Korean shipping company, there are 80 tons of spicy Kimchee stranded on cargo ships that can’t dock right now. My son is Korean and has been known to eat the fermented cabbage dish right out of the jar, so we have slight reason to be concerned about this! But what really struck me about this story is that, in addition to Kimchee, these ships are holding items marked for the US holiday shopping season!

Really! Holiday shopping? School just started – I don’t want to think about the holidays yet. We haven’t even started the “What do you want to be for Halloween?” discussions yet. I know that retailers plan for the holidays well in advance – but do we have to?

Thinking of the holidays reminded me of some of the struggles my clients have the gifts they receive. Because something was a gift they feel obligated to keep it, even if they don’t want it and lack space for it. I ask them to think about giving gifts – would they want someone to keep something just out of obligation? And what is the appropriate amount of time before you can get rid of something guilt-free?

I wish we could all give and receive gifts without developing feelings of obligation to these material objects, but if you find yourself in this situation, now might be the best time to suggest changing traditions. Because the holidays seem so far away, we are less likely to be emotional about the idea of changing our traditions. You might suggest an annual theme of giving each other experiences –

  • Tickets to a play or concert

  • A day at the ball park

  • A picnic you would make and everyone would enjoy

Or pick a unique topic like “Things that won’t be here in 12 months” –

  • Food/fancy coffee/wine of the month club

  • Gourmet birdseed/Seeds for annuals

  • Cleaning supplies (this doesn’t have to be boring! Get the good stuff, wrap it up with bows in a nice basket or bag, select bottles that are the recipient’s favorite color – have fun with it!)

  • Compostable picnic ware

  • Sea Monkeys (actually, I am not sure how long they live…)

A creative family could have a lot of fun doing something like this. But the best time to bring it up is now, before anyone is emotional about the holidays. Of course, in my family we could just give each other jars of Kimchee, if those ships are ever allowed to dock.

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