There is a box in the closet near my front door. There are also a lot of other things, but on the top shelf there is a box. This is the reason why I never arrive empty handed at a graduation or a housewarming party. It also makes the planet a little greener.
It's filled with stuff that other people have given me that I don't want.
Regifting gets a bad rap (pun intended). He is mocked on television and taunted in magazines. It is always a taboo subject to pass on a perfect good to someone else simply because it was given to you first.
But without regifting, these unwanted gifts will be thrown away or tucked into the back of a closet. When I was a child, my parents took out almost forgotten sweaters and toys so that we could wear them and play whenever the parents who gave them to us came to visit us.
You can, of course, donate to those who need it, like me, but many are not practical and useful items that charities will accept. The sophisticated set of salt and pepper shakers currently in the box, awaiting their new home, was refused by a group helping the refugees.
I sincerely believe that the act of opening gifts is fun, even if the content is disappointing. And the idea that someone loves me and cares enough about me to give me a gift makes me happy.
I hate trash, however. Someone I care about wasted their hard earned money on me. And there are so many things in the world already that I hate to think of unused objects ending up in a landfill.
Follow a system
Whenever I receive a gift that I do not want, that I do not need, or that I have no use for, I thank the donor first. They tried!
When I get home, I take it out of its packaging, grab a sticky note and a marker – both also kept in the box – and write down who gave it to me and on what occasion. I put it on the gift and put it back in the box.
It is essential to know who gave you the gift. Despite my moral philosophy that there is nothing wrong with regifting, many people in my life don't feel the same, and I don't want to force the discussion by giving my father something that my brother gave it to me last year.
Personally, I never messed it up, but I once received a set of beanie and mittens for my birthday that I had given to the sister of an ex-boyfriend for his birthday. They made a desirable gift to my company's white elephant party a few months later.
Some close calls – I have had a few – can easily be dropped: "I liked it so much that I thought Brenda would like it too."
Complete your gifts
The box contains a few other essentials, including gift bags and packaging. Gift bags are particularly useful. Whether you take a bottle of wine from your own shelf on the way to a friend's house for dinner or take one from the store along the way, suddenly putting it in a gift bag gives you the impression of really making an effort.
Cards are also crucial, and there's a stash in the box for almost any vacation. I catch them when they are on sale or whenever I see a cute one. It is also important to keep a pack of blank cards. You don't want to be stuck in the direction of your cousin's graduation with only birthday cards on hand. I prefer blank cards with birds on the cover.
When it works, it works. My sister's scarf which is in a color I never wear made a nice birthday present for my boyfriend's aunt. The most recent graduates of my life got a nice pen and a notebook. Like most writers, I have more notebooks than I know what to do, and many deserve to find a nice home with someone who doesn't already have 56.
Beyond regifting, I try to make gifts more effective. I have a Goodreads account, where everyone can see what I have read before I buy a book that they know I will love. When I am the donor, I try to surreptitiously test the waters before I buy. “What flavors of tea is she drinking right now?” I asked my brother, before choosing a Christmas present for his wife.
A month or two ago, my boyfriend and I had an in-depth discussion about the usefulness of physical cookbooks. He probably thought I was philosophizing on the written word. In reality, I was trying to see if a cookbook from a chef he loved would make a good birthday present.
This year, I also kindly asked her to tell her mother that I was not using the shampoo and conditioner from a particular skincare brand that she loves. Each year, for Christmas, she receives all of us gift boxes and mine often come with a few products that I will not use.
Even if the message does not get through, none of this will be wasted. A friend of mine loves these hair care products. And her birthday is in January.