In October of 2009, my husband and I moved out of our Venice, California, apartment and into our converted Sprinter van.
Paring down our belongings to fit in a 250-square-foot space was a challenge, so when December rolled around, my husband was at a loss for what to get me for Christmas. We no longer had that back shelf in the garage to politely house unwanted gifts, so he really wanted to make sure I loved whatever he bought.
By the time the holiday rolled around, he still hadn’t found that "perfect present." Instead, he handed me a homemade card that said, “This card contains a golden ticket that can be redeemed for one pair of boots!”
The card was adorable and the intention was sweet, so I was happy. Plus, I liked having a golden ticket I could redeem when a good shopping opportunity arose. But then Valentine’s Day, our wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Christmas came around again, and I got more adorable cards filled with more golden tickets. This went on for four years, on every occasion. I had golden tickets coming out the wazoo, and let’s just say the law of diminishing returns starts with the second one.
My own solution to the gift-exchange-in-a-van problem was to buy my husband graphic T-shirts. After all, they’re inexpensive, lightweight, and practical. Consequently, he soon had one in every color for seemingly every day of the year, yet only his few favorites remained in the laundry rotation. The rest were buried in a drawer, as unused as my golden tickets.
My husband and I wanted to indulge each other with gifts and make each other feel special, but our choices were detrimentally constrained by space and utility.