We all know the feeling. A longtime friend visits home and brings with her the newest scent from her grandmother’s candle collection in a fruity scent — and you’re a floral-scent kind of gal. A boyfriend gives you a surprise for Christmas, that — surprise! You have already bought yourself (Ooof!). A coworker gifts you a shirt from Tommy Bahama because she overheard you talking about your childhood dream of owning a surf shack (true story).
What once was meant as a meaningful gift to you sometimes ends as clutter in some area of the house. Don’t let it go to waste! Whether you are a practicing re-gifter or shun the idea altogether, there are ways to re-purpose and organize otherwise useful items that we may just, well, have no use for.
Let’s be honest for a minute before we get to the nitty gritty. Some gift giving fiascoes are a product of good intentions — trying to fill in parts of our personalities with what they know about us led to the Tommy Bahama beach shirt situation. Others are due to a lack of trying — like the year I was given a used curling iron at a youth group game of White Elephant one Christmas. And some are done intentionally to send a message, like sending you a vacuum cleaner when you move into your first apartment (yet I still use it, thanks mom!). You have to give them credit for trying.
Re-Gift: A Case for Giving Again
Don’t get me wrong; if I have the chance to use an object or tool that I am given for free, I am going to take it. Not in a hoarder-type of way, but in the sense that even things I do not “want” or “need” now, might soon come in handy for me sometime down the road. I have 3 pairs of unused Nike work out shorts for this very reason, yet they sit in a neat pile in my closet knowing I will not use them until someone drags me by my untied tennis shoes.
But when it comes down to it, I do live by the credo, “waste not, want not” and as such, sometimes you have to say your goodbyes to a gift and call it a day. But re-gifting isn’t just giving it to some random friend the next time you forgot their birthday! With a little planning and waiting you can pull off some very skilled gift-giving, leaving your friends to wonder what they’ll get on their next big day.
I keep a small part of my cabinet dedicated to gifts and the like, so when I get something I know someone could use better, I stash it away for a bit until I find the right recipient.
It works like this — to get the most out of re-gifting, you have to know how to organize a bit, know your friend’s and family’s style, and be able to map out the social connections you have between them. To explain, it would be a good idea to re-gift that fruity candle your friend gave you to a friend from a different social circle, thereby circumventing any chance that they will know you have been gifted it first. You must have an idea that they will like the gift somewhat, but from my experience, the odds are good that they will like it if the presentation is right. Paper, ribbons, the works. You know the drill. Marketing got it right when they figured out that packaging sells most products so make it sparkle, baby!
Another technique to employ when re-gifting is to give any unwanted gifts to your local thrift store, like Lake Travis Thrift Shop, which benefits many local causes in the area. This is a perfect way to ensure that someone who wants the gift will end up with it, and not just at the bottom of someone’s closet again. You can also donate useable and functional items to your local non-profits, many of which benefit the homeless, wounded soldiers and other causes. Keep the holiday cheer going and re-gift those clothes and home wares that you know could go to good use.
Return It: How to be Tactful When Returning
And then sometimes we have no choice — we either accept the gift as is, or exchange for something we could use. Yes, sometimes it is okay to return things. Not heirlooms or things that relatives expect to see you wearing in the future, but small things are okay. It’s easier to return if the gift giver doesn’t work at the same store at which it was purchased, so plan ahead. And return as early as possible, with the tags still attached, if you can. It’s much more likely you will end up with the full value of the item on a gift card and the staff at stores will be able to restock it more effectively. Have you ever tried to return a sweater in July? I rest my case.
Shop online before you head into stores to see what the value is, and you might even get a fair idea of what you would want to exchange it for instead. It’s nothing shameful, it’s just being honest and pragmatic at a time when you need boots and were gifted ballet flats. Your well-meaning grandma would do the same.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Hockley’s photostream on Flickr (CC)