It is now November, which means according to all the stores, IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!! I’m not a big fan of that, because I feel like when you dive into Christmas now, Thanksgiving gets swamped. But I do understand the impulse, because the Christmas season isn’t nearly long enough.
Anyway, even though I am not in the Christmas swing yet, I have been thinking about Christmas presents and how to receive gifts. I’ve written before about how much I love Marie Kondo. She taught me that you shouldn’t keep things out of guilt. When you’re trying to declutter, you might come across something that you don’t really like, but it was a gift, so you feel like you have to keep it. Kondo explains that the point of the gift was to communicate love and appreciation to you. Once you receive that message, it doesn’t really matter what happens to the gift.
Also, if a person gives you a gift, hopefully they want good things for you. They wouldn’t want their present to be cluttering up your life, so it’s ok to be grateful for the message of love it communicated and then to let it go.
Realizing that I didn’t need to hold on to gifts out of guild was very helpful in my own decluttering project. There were some gifts that I was holding on to that I never really liked, but because I felt guilty, I held on to them. It felt good to let those things go.
As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking about that lesson in terms of how I give gifts to others. When I give a gift, I want to communicate to people that I love them. And I’ve learned that I shouldn’t expect anything beyond that.
I definitely shouldn’t expect a gift in return. I shouldn’t demand a certain level of gratitude for the gift itself (although common courtesy is always appreciated). I shouldn’t expect to see it in their house. If I somehow learn that they’ve altered it, or returned it for something else, or gotten rid of it, I shouldn’t be offended. The gift has communicated my love, and now they are free to do with it as they will. That’s freedom that I want for myself, so I need to extend that freedom to others.
That’s not to say that I might not be sad if it turns out that my gift didn’t have staying power. But I shouldn’t be upset with the person for being ungrateful or anything like that. I should do some research to try and make my gifts better. By getting to know the person better, it’s more likely that my gifts will be genuinely appreciated.
Sometimes, to make sure that gifts are appreciated, people will exchange lists of things that they want. I’ve heard people complain that this takes all the creativity and surprise out of gift giving (I’ve probably said it myself). But it does have a huge advantage--you know you are getting the person something they want. If you go off list, it’s risky. You can have huge success where you get something they love and are surprised by, or you can have a failure where you get something they actually don’t like and will dispose of at the first opportunity. It’s fine to play that game, just know that sometimes you’ll probably lose, and it’s not the end of the world.
Probably the hardest gifts to give without strings are homemade gifts that take a lot of time to make. What if you spend hours and hours on a project, and give it to someone, and they don’t appreciate it? That’s so hurtful! I realized I needed to prepare for this, because I like giving cross stitches as gifts, and at some point someone might not like it (who knows, maybe it’s already happened!). I realized that it is still worth it to me to give them, because regardless of the outcome, I really enjoy making them. I think most people would like them, but if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be devastated. For me, the risk that they might not like it is still worth the time and effort it takes to make it.
And even if someone didn’t like the final product on its own, they will know that a lot of time and love went into. That might encourage them to keep it, or they might just keep the knowledge that they are super loved. And that’s what I want for them!
So as you’re buying Christmas gifts this year, get excited about making your people feel loved. And for the Christmas joy of everyone, leave any other expectations out of it. It turns out that the secret to being a great giver isn’t finding THE perfect gift, but making sure that whatever you give has no strings attached. The gift is about your love--that’s it.
Otherwise, you could wind up with someone you allegedly love freaking out about “stupid naked angels with their butts.” And you don’t want that, do you?
(Anyone else super excited for Gilmore Girls?!?!)