I have an odd relationship with physical gifts. I know- you’re wondering what I am talking about. ‘What does she mean by physical gifts’ you think. Who doesn’t like gifts?
I am not a minimalist in the true sense of the word: I do not go full Gandhi and own a bowl, a spoon and a sari. I have material possessions. I have way too many possessions- an apartment filled with stuff. But I am constantly trying to reduce what I own- there is always a donation bag in the corner of my dining room which gets dropped off on a bi-weekly basis. Before I buy something I mentally go through the following checklist:
- Do I need it?
- Does it fit my lifestyle?
- Do I have a place to store it?
- Do I love it?
- Will I regret not buying it?
- Am I only buying it because it’s on sale/good price?
If I have answered “yes” to the first five questions, and “no” to the last then I probably buy it. But every purchase I make has to pass the test.
So, let’s jump to physical gifts. Someone gifts me a vase. I look at my mental checklist and the answer to my questions is “no”. What do I do with the vase? Well, first I try to exchange it at the store for something I do like. If that is not possible I donate it. Honestly, I didn’t need the vase entering my life. Honestly, I didn’t need the gift.
“But it’s a gift” you are all thinking. “Someone gives you a gift out of the goodness of their heart” you say.
I say bull.
Personally, I think many people receive gifts the that giver thinks they should have. I think many gift givers are somewhat selfish. I’ve seen many people receive clothing that they would never wear: completely different style than what they normally do. When the giver was buying the gift, did they think about what the person wears, or are they thinking about what they want the person to wear? I will use my Mother as an example. When my daughter was three years old, and my social life consisted of Gymboree classes and group dinners with other parents, my Mother bought me a hot pink, silk blazer. Lovely item. It did not fit my lifestyle at that time: it was way too formal for anything I participated in. My Mother said to me “You can wear it to a PTA meeting.” Now, I’m sure there are people that get really dressed up for PTA meetings. I am not one of them. PTA meetings at my daughters elementary school were held at 8:30 in the morning, after drop off. I was lucky to be showered at that point, much less wearing an outfit that consisted of a hot pink silk blazer. My Mother didn’t understand that I didn’t spend two hours getting dressed in the morning to attend a PTA meeting. She gave me a gift that was something she wanted to see me wear, not something that was good for my lifestyle. (To be clear- my Mother has done this with every present she has ever given me- she thinks about what she wants me to have, not what I want. Honestly, rather just have a card) Also, I have seen my guy friends do this with the women in their lives. I have seen them purchase heels, and sexy clothing, as well as hiking gear. I have see my woman friends buy their husbands fancier clothes because they don’t like what their husbands wear. These are all nice things: they just weren’t nice for the people receiving them. Have you ever received an article of clothing that wasn’t your style at all?
I think gifts can be seen as an obligation, sort of like, I spent money on you, so you need to like me. Someone gives a gift, and they expect something in return. That’s not why you give a gift. That’s not why you do anything. You give something to someone because you want to. You give a gift that will please the recipient, that has meaning to the recipient. When you give a gift, it’s not really about you. Well, it shouldn’t be anyway. Have you ever given a gift because you wanted something in return? Have you ever received a gift that came with strings attached? (and I don’t mean bows and ribbons)
I will tell you the gifts that I do cherish and love. My birthday always falls around Mother’s Day, so every year my daughter writes me a letter. I hang these letters up around my vanity in my bedroom. My Husband usually gives me a spa gift card because he knows that I love a spa day. These are the things that are important to me. These are the things that make me happy. If I really want/need something on the expensive side,I don’t expect it as a “gift”- I talk to my Husband and if it’s economically feasible I just buy it. (to be clear- the jeweler is not on my speed dial- the majority of my jewelry is costume. My last expensive purchase was my desk chair, and even that wasn’t egregious)
So to sum up this VERY long post:
- Are you giving a gift that is the style of the recipient, or something that they want?
- Are you expecting something in return for the gift?
- Have you ever received a gift that was not your style or hated?
- Do you think you only deserve nice things if someone else buys them for you?
- Do you think I’m just a wee bit crazy? (tread lightly!!)