Let’s admit it, at some point during perhaps a not-so-distant holiday season we’ve all received a gift and said something like, “oh, this is lovely – thank you so much – how thoughtful – can’t wait to use this, wear it, etc.” Of course, what we’re really secretly saying to ourselves is more like, “This doesn’t fit my lifestyle or my fashion style — I don’t have a purpose for this – what am I going to do with this?” Thus, begins the dilemma – return it? Recycle or donate it? Re-gift it?
So many difficult choices. No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, yet no one wants to waste a gift that may be useful or even desirable to someone else. Some choices are easier than others. Certainly, clothing items that will not fit can easily be explained and returned. However, other less conventional gifts can create more of a quandary. One recent example relates to a handcrafted nutcracker given to a teenager who is allergic to nuts – lovely, but so inappropriate. (True story!)
To share a personal example, a friend of ours who lives out of state sends us a box containing a variety of surprise and often questionable gifts every year – some useful, some …well … not so much. While we eagerly anticipate its arrival, we’re never really sure what to expect. For example, my husband received tiger slippers one year. While these slippers may fit others’ fashion styles, it’s not something he would purchase on his own or wear — he chose to donate them. This year, I received a beautiful necklace and jacket, while my husband also received a great pullover that he’s worn to numerous casual events. In contrast, however, we also received a toy/treat stocking for our puppy with items that would have been great when she was 15 pounds, but now that she is 35 pounds — the toys posed choking and other health concerns for her. Solution? We gave the cute little sweater and treats to a friend whose dog is much smaller – simple, and much appreciated. We also received a large candle in the shape of a church – nice and thoughtful, but we’ll donate this item to decorate our church for the upcoming holiday. Again, another easy solution.
One item, however, that she sent “just for fun” was a Spam cookbook. My husband and I do not eat Spam — this cookbook was certainly a funny surprise! Therefore, we decided to borrow a tradition from another friend whose family wraps a container of Spam and disguises it to give on an annual basis to different family members. We copied this idea and re-gifted the Spam cookbook to an unsuspecting friend (a true “foodie” no less) who next year, will return the favor by wrapping it and giving it to yet another innocent recipient. In this way, it will truly be as our friend intended — “just for fun.”
When you receive a gift from a friend, family member, colleague, or another individual, consider these tips when determining if you want to return, recycle, or re-gift:
- Of course, some gifts simply need to be returned (size, style, appropriateness, etc.). In this case, you need to know where the gift was purchased. Online? In-store? This is easiest with gift receipts, although many retailers have become less stringent with this policy, especially right after the holidays. Also, bear in mind that the item is not on your charge card since you did not purchase it yourself, so you may receive “store credit” rather than cash.
- Some recycling can be fun and even cost-conscious. Each year we separate our holiday cards, cut off the covers (if they have appropriate holiday themes without writing on the inside), use pinking shears on the edges, punch a hole in the card and use them for labels for next year’s gifts. I’ve even gone so far as to bundle and label these by themes – snowmen, scenery, or by color to match the wrapping paper. The same can be done with beautiful handmade bows or ribbons – simply store them carefully and recycle them as needed.
- If you choose to re-gift, the tricky situation is to remember who has given the gift and to know if they will expect to see it displayed or worn. This also relates to anyone who has seen the gift given – will they remember or expect to see it magically reappear? If so, it may be necessary to label these names on the item, then either store it and resurrect it for the short time such individuals will be visiting, or re-gift it to someone unrelated to this cohort.
Whatever you decide, remember the easiest option is to recycle the gift and donate the item to a favorite charity, while maintaining the holiday spirit. What you may consider worthless may be valuable to others, or as written by the Roman poet, Lucretius, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.
Enjoy the post-holiday season and celebrate by sharing your favorite Spam recipes!
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