Saturday, December 8, 2012

Maryl presents: Gifting and Regifting Ideas

How's the Holiday buildup going for you?  I'm hoping not to repeat last year when it was touch and go up to the finish line.  It's the gift buying that I find the most time-consuming and frustrating.  How do you not repeat buying the same thing you bought for a brother-in-law last year?  You would think in my second life I'd have this down pat and not be panting my way to Christmas Day.  I'm streamlining the exercise this year though.

I have orchestrated a secret Santa arrangement with my siblings, added untold number of gifts to shopping carts all across the internet and succumbed to buying gift certificates for the nieces and nephews and making one purchase from someone’s Amazon’s gift registry. I'm not happy about this; being a perfectionist I like to find the most meaningful gift for each name on my list.  But what for? Research from Stanford University last year revealed that the extra effort that goes into finding a more unique and lavish gift makes us, the giver, feel better but not necessarily the recipient who prefers cash in the end or something specific from their wish list! 

Kid's Gifts

Also, kids aren’t as easy to buy for these day as my brother Don lamented. When we were growing up Christmas was a time to make a list of all the things you wanted all year. Now more families are able to buy for their children as they go. Don will not be buying an electric guitar for his son who couldn’t think of anything else to ask for. He’s not particularly musically inclined or disciplined and it will probably wind up in a corner of his bedroom under a pile of unworn clothing like the one I bought my daughter a few Christmases ago. Of course there was the young girl I just heard on the radio who called in to say she only wanted her mother’s love because her mother worked so hard to give her the things she wanted all year long. Sweet, but not the norm and I dare say that little girl might be somewhat miffed were she to find nothing under her tree Christmas morning.

Original Gift Ideas

I believe part of the gift buying fatigue is the repetition.  Is it possible to be original not just for the giftee but also the gifter?  One friend made all her gifts one year and they were beautiful.  I'm not as creative as her.  I read about someone who bought all her family and friends tickets to one event that they could all attend together as a group.  Caryl was very clever last year with her Christmas gifts.  She only bought gifts that supported sustainability and socially responsible environments.  I received some French bowls from our favorite antique shop in the village and my husband got a bottle of handmade whiskey distilled at the historic Tuthilltown Gristmill.  And quite by coincidence, I gave her an accent table made of reclaimed wood from salvaged fishing boats in Thailand. 

Souvenir Gifting?

Having just had occasion to visit quaint and inviting Frenchtown, NJ, I came up with the idea of doing most of my shopping there, kind of like souvenir gifting.  You can bet that's what Caryl is doing right now as she travels through Africa for the next week and a half.  I'm picturing her buying the most unique wood carvings, beadwork, motorcycle tread sandals and other recycled wares and art as she checks us off her shopping list. 

Gift of Self

However what really moved me to rethink gift-giving is what my friend Meg did for our other friend, Lucy, last year amidst the hustle and bustle of the season. Lucy, and her two daughters became very ill losing a critical week that would normally be devoted to their Holiday preparations. Add to that…all of Lucy’s digital communications devices malfunctioned at once – land line. cell phone, laptop. Meg dropped all she was doing to drive Lucy and her gifts to her country house where she was having her Christmas, helped her buy and set up her tree, finish her gift shopping and stock the house with groceries. Lucy called it a gift. Think about it – what possible tangible item could you possibly have given Lucy that would have made her feel anymore delighted and happy than what Meg had done for her. And I’m sure Meg felt satisfied herself in that her gift of time and thoughtfulness was so well received. 

Nice, huh?  I'd like to be more like Meg not just in my gift-giving but in my life.  I'd like to help someone cross a hurdle, move past a brick wall or go after a dream.  It could be as basic as preparing for Christmas, organizing a closet, downsizing a home, planning a neighborhood garden, and even more involved like starting a company, teaching English in a third world country, or spending a gap year in Bhutan.  A second life affords us the ability to recognize and do something for others and ourselves that we were previously too preoccupied with work and family to see or do anything about. We need to build new support systems to do this and this may be the gift we give to ourselves and each other all year long. Hope your Holidays have less hustle and bustle this year and please leave your gift giving ideas in the comments below or photos on our Facebook page.  This is just in case I don't make it back to Frenchtown.  Thanks.


  1. This year, by agreement, instead of giving gifts, we're donating to several charities in the gift recipients' names.

    So much easier! Plus, we all already have too much crap anyway...

    1. You make me laugh. More crap just means more to downsize later. Love it!

  2. I have to say, I love those French bowls from that wonderful little shop. And that's how I like to do my shopping, whenever possible —at small, local stores. I did a bit of knitting this year for people. Right now I'm making a pattern from Purl Bee called "Thank you hats" for a couple of people I want to thank.

    One gift idea is a stylus for those who use an iPad. Even if the person already has one, it seems like an extra would be good to have. ...

  3. Yes the small local stores have fewer of the cookie cutter items you find at the department stores. I knitted one year but don't know where to find the time now!! Thanks for your gift ideas Judith.

  4. This year I'm supporting local artists and buying all my gifts directly from them at craft fairs and green markets. I also had an artist design a special card explaining this approach. So far the recipients have been delighted and vow to do the same next year. Its so much more fulfilling, less stressful and free of the awful sense of commercialism I get wandering through a mall.