A rough illustration of the to-do list. Photo credit: Stef Schrader

Grandpa had a chair. Our family always joked that any presents we bought him would end up behind this chair, as he was a true child of the Great Depression: he made do with what he had and didn’t want for more. I didn’t just inherit this chair—I seem to have inherited his lack of enthusiasm for extraneous stuff. Just buy me a track day or something instead.

I’ve really, truly started to dread this time of year. My disdain for random knick-knacks almost bubbled over into last year’s gift guides, as I originally pitched a gift guide solely consisting of different types of Truck Nuts. I’m so over the annual ritual of giving things that I felt the need to mock the mere thought with a collection of composite ballsacks. (My editors didn’t go for it.)

There are Christmas presents from several years ago hiding in a pile in my floor that I’ve never gotten around to unpacking. There are boxes, too, that I never unpacked when I moved into my apartment nearly five years ago with similar items inside. There are decorative baubles, things I’ve never found a use for, things that simply weren’t to my tastes that I couldn’t return, and sometimes duplications of things I already have. This extra stuff is a scourge on my relatively small living space, and no, I don’t want or need a bigger apartment unless the extra size is all in garage space.

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the gesture more than anyone will ever know. I’m not ungrateful for these gifts. They’re a sign that people care about me, which means far more than the actual present. If there’s anything that’s deeply and painfully obvious this year, it’s the people who you miss once they’re gone. Yet I’m never quite sure what to do with this stuff. Eventually, I need to donate, sell or regift the pile, but by now, it’s grown into a rather large pile that’s daunting just to look at.

It’s gotten even worse now because I work from home. By the time I’m through putting words on the Internet, I’d rather be anywhere else. I don’t see other people at work, so I have to fulfill that basic need for human interaction somewhere else.


I’d much rather do anything else than organize my ever-growing pile of gifted stuff. Take road trips. Enter races. Run track days. Arrive-and-drive other peoples’ race cars. Hike. Camp. See new places. Eat weird stuff. Do new things. In other words, go very far away from my stupid apartment. Do not add to the pile of things. Behind the chair is full.

Here’s what I would really enjoy as a gift: to go do stuff. I don’t think I’m the only one, either. Something I understand less and less about the holidays is this emphasis on buying things for things’ sake.

Maybe I’m just this boring now, but I’d rather get my stupid race cars fixed so I can get more track time than receive a kitschy thing that sits inside my apartment. Renew my memberships to the usual car clubs so I can keep doing track days and racing. Help me wrench on the car. Toss some money for travel, gear or tools in a box, and wrap that up as fancy as you would anything else if you really have to. Knock yourself out with all the shiny paper, bows and whatever you want—but get me things to do, not stuff to own.


So, here’s my suggestion for that one person you’re still stumped on gifts for: get your insufferable, un-gift-able friend or family member some experiences they’ll never forget, or the things to make those happen.