27 Aug Being a Conscious Gift Giver
I love giving gifts! In my younger years, I would buy little trinkets for friends whenever I would travel, so they’d know I was thinking about them. I spent way too much money on gifts that my friends and family might not have even wanted or kept. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I was really gifting was clutter.
After getting involved in the professional organizing industry, I became even more conscious of the types of gifts I gave. This was only apparent after I started looking into my own collections and belongings, and realized I had a lot of stuff: things that people had bought for me, or I had bought for myself. Most of it wasn’t adding anything to my life, and in fact was creating clutter. I came to terms with the fact that while I loved the gestures behind the gifts (and of course the people who gave them), I didn’t always love the gifts themselves. I decided that if a gift wasn’t adding to my life, I would let it go. This new rule freed me from clutter, and allowed me to live with less. This is when I shifted my focus on givings gifts that people would truly want, love, need or use.
In today’s society, we are bombarded with messages of consumerism. We are urged to buy too much and over-fill our spaces. It’s no longer acceptable to give one gift, you must give an abundance of gifts to show you really care. Objects now define our identity more than ever before. We’re led to believe if we own certain brands or expensive items, we’ve made it; we’re somebody. This more benefits the economy than it does our individual lives. We’ve been tricked: living with more doesn’t make our lives better, it actually makes our lives more complicated. Objects don’t define our identity – our values, experiences and relationships do. But it’s hard to separate ourselves from our stuff, and that’s why there are so many issues of hoarding, or cases where a psychiatrist is needed to help people let go of their physical belongings.
In the past, if I knew someone really loves pigs and had a collection of little pig statues, whenever I saw a pig statue or something similar, I would buy it for them, without hesitation. While some people like this and appreciate the gesture, I’ve come to realize others do not, but cannot say so due to fear of being labeled ungrateful. Take my Hard Rock Guitar collection for example. The point of my collection was to highlight my travels across the globe. People then began to buy them for me on their travels, but they were from places I had never been. I loved the sincere thoughts behind these gifts, but the gifts didn’t quite fit into the scope of my collection. These are things we don’t think about when we’re buying gifts for others. This is what I mean by being a more conscious gift giver.
I’ve been told by several people that I should be a personal shopper, because I always think of great gifts ideas. Maybe it’s a special talent, or maybe it’s a skill I’ve honed over the years. I’d like to think it has to do with being a mindful gift giver. This doesn’t mean just being thoughtful, but really thinking through if the gift is a good match for the intended giftee. Here’s how I put the theory into practice.
The other day I was in a car wash of all places, and saw one of those inspirational quotes on a mini-canvas that immediately made me think of my best friend. It was horse-themed and her birthday was coming up so I decided to buy it. I started thinking about her style and where she’d put it in her home, and I realized it was not a great gift for her at all. I knew she’d appreciate the gesture – and certainly the quote – but she wouldn’t have loved the object itself, nor would it have gone with her chic decor. I only want to give gifts that people love or will use; things that will add to that person’s life in a positive way. I don’t want to add to the clutter that weighs people down, simply because I had to give a gift, or worse yet, feel obligated to give.
So how else can we become conscious gift givers? One way is to lead by example. It’s rare for someone to ask you directly if there’s something you want (what are we so scared of?). My family does this so I tend to ask this question to friends and co-workers. Most people do not have a wish list, unless they are newly engaged and getting married. I created a ’Things I Want’ board on Pinterest and if people ever ask me what I want, I send them the link. I urge you to start a wish list: a lot of retail websites have them (like Amazon); you can do one on Pinterest; or you can try a site like www.wishlistr.com. People would much rather buy you something you actually want, so help them out.
I used to be against the idea of gifting money or gift cards, because it was so impersonal. But I realized that it makes perfect sense: let people buy what they want or need. Plus gift cards do not expire, and are re-giftable (or sellable) in the event the giftee doesn’t use/want it. Another great idea is to stop buying objects all together and start investing in experiences and relationships. People will never forget great experiences. And in this day and age, all people really want is time with you, and to be more specific, your undivided attention (put that cell phone down!). That is a true gift in itself.
My last bit of advice is to follow the rule of quality over quantity. It’s ok to just give one, small gift. This doesn’t mean you love the person less. Remember, it’s the gesture that matters, not so much the object itself. Keep it simple, and make sure it doesn’t break the bank. I used to spend too much money buying for others when I was struggling financially. Once I started consciously gifting, not only did I budget better, but the quality of the gifts I gave improved. I feel good about the gifts I now give, knowing people will really love them. And whenever possible, I give the gift of my time to people, creating lasting memories that take up no space at all!