In the spirit of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I have taken a shot at analyzing in depth another slice of common human experience: gifting. I have thought deeply about gifting over the years, as it is one of my family's love languages, and as it is frequently the source of my home's endless amounts of clutter (which, with Marie Kondo's advice and a bit of grit, will end up in the trash heap in a few months). I imagine that the anxiety I have when thinking of what to gift someone, and of what to do with something I've been gifted and don't like, is ubiquitous. I hope my thoughts will aid your journey in picking the right gift this holiday season (one week away!), and save your recipient a few trips to the rubbish bin.
I've divided gifts into a number of categories, categories that overlap and often synergize (how thrilling).
Spontaneous Gifts - Gifts purchased when the thought of someone comes to mind after stumbling upon something, without any prior intention of buying that person a gift. These gifts are serendipitous and thoughtful, and pave way for reconnection. They are typically given to recipients shortly after purchase, regardless of occasion, but can be saved for a more special occasion.
Surprise Gifts - Gifts that are simply unexpected; the recipient does not know the contents under the wrapping until she opens it. The surprise can also come in the form of the time or other circumstances of the gifting, or due to any aberration in the giver's typical habit of gifting. When done well, these gifts generally result in much more engaging, even climactic, responses of appreciation towards the gift and giver.
Attentive Gifts - Gifts that make use of the recipient’s preferences or delights, often harvested thoughtfully from interactions with the recipient, and saved in a pocket, to be used at a proper time. Or the recipient’s preferences, particularly style, is solicited from friends, or from the recipient’s social media accounts.
Luxury Gifts - Gifts that the giver probably wouldn’t buy for themselves, even if they stumbled upon it, due to cost, not due to preference.
Novel Gifts - Gifts that have recently debuted, such as concert tickets (such as Adele's today) or books, because they probably hadn’t stumbled upon it yet, and would be delighted by its existence as well as its ownership. This is also important when it is necessary to mitigate the risk of gifting the recipient something he already possesses.
Unique Gifts - Gifts from another era, like vintage or antique items, or artisanal one-of-a-kind items, handcrafted for one client. The giver himself can also create these items. Limited edition items can be an offshoot of this category.
Productive Gifts - Gifts that enable the recipient to engage a new hobby, or a new portion of a hobby, that ultimately leads to the recipient's gradual actualization of a part of her potential.
Experiential Gifts - Gifts that offer the recipient an engaging, atypical experience to look forward to, such as concerts, classes, trips, or other such events. These gifts don't add any clutter, and have a higher chance of improving happiness due to the anticipation, collection, and reflection of fond memories.
Service-Oriented Gifts - Gifts that revolve around serving the recipient in a relevant, appreciated way, such as offers to babysit for extended periods of time, or to do the yard work. This can also comprise of licenses (or coupons) that the recipient can use to call upon the giver for a certain type of service.
Sacrificial Gifts - Gifts that denote an unusual, often romantic, amount of sacrifice, whether time, energy, convenience, or money. Engagement rings and proposal plans often fall into this category.
Culinary Gifts - Gifts that can be made economically in bulk, yet are almost universally appreciated, and can be delivered to a number of friends at once. These include jars of homemade preserves, plates of made-from-scratch brownies, or even hot meals.
Gifts that combine many of the above types of gifts into one have the highest likelihood of success.
The act of gifting is also significant in the process of gift-giving.
The attitude of giving is just as, if not more important, than the gift. A gift given out of gratitude or love or excitement is infinitely better than a gift given out of obligation or quid pro quo. A gift without expectation of anything in return is the only kind of gift to give. A gift given out of interest in changing the recipient will only be received with resentment. A gift is best given with enthusiasm, and enthusiasm naturally sprouts from giving a gift that both you and the recipient will like (or that you believe he'd like).
A gift that someone needs (like socks or textbooks) is still a gift, albeit a less enthralling one to receive. A gift that is a donation to the giver's favored charity is, despite the best of intentions, not a gift at all, but a forced act of charity on the part of the recipient. A gift that is handmade should be well made, and capable of fetching a price on the marketplace.
Giving a gift at the right time, not too early, not too late, and in the right place, in proper company, is important. Some gifts are best opened privately, without the giver, and some gifts are best opened with the giver, and only the giver, present. Romantic gifts are often best given with the giver present, lest the giver be misinterpreted as timid and lacking in confidence.
May your gifts be more meaningful this Christmas season.
*Graphic Illustrations from Tasty Vector