Saturday, November 23, 2013

thoughts on gift-giving

So a little off topic today, but It seems like the holiday shopping season started even earlier than usual this year. Business analysts say a late Thanksgiving means a shorter traditional holiday shopping season, and has companies rolling out holiday deals and displays especially early to try to get a larger piece of our spending. Whatever the cause, I find a lot of people dread this whole gift buying process, and that makes me sad. In light of this and next week's "black Friday" and "cyber Monday" deals and craziness, I thought I'd share the gift-giving guidelines that I've developed to keep the spirit of giving both enjoyable and meaningful to me, and hopefully to my gift recipients as well.
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When searching for gifts for my loved ones, I aim to have each gift fall into one or more of the following categories:

1.) Handmade - That can mean either handmade by me or by another artist or crafts-person. This year, I am making a lot of things myself, but other years I don't and that's ok. Like I said, the point of these guidelines for myself are to maintain joy in my gift-giving, and sometimes if I'm too crunched for time or uninspired by the project than I'm not going enjoy creating those gifts. Just because I like to make things for myself doesn't mean I have to make homemade gifts for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that! I think if you do choose to make gifts, make sure to start early (I started September 1st) so you don't get crunched on time come December!

2.) Second-Hand - This can include antiques, unique home decor, special statement jewelry, an interesting used book, or sometihng with sentimental value. My mom collects certain old Pyrex baking dishes, so I'll sometimes run into an interesting piece she doesn't have and thrift stores or yard sales! Another year, my brother wanted cool artwork to decorate his dorm room, and I found him a large, framed print for an old map of England that was right up his alley! Maybe I come across something that I know will stir up a wonderful memory from the recipient's childhood. I don't suggest going to a thrift store with the intent to holiday shop, but when I'm browsing that yard-sale I keep open mind that some special gift for just the right person could present itself. Second hand items, when thoughtfully selected, shouldn't come across as cheap. Know your recipient (some may not think highly of even the most pristine, expensive and thoughtful second-hand item, and that's ok), and obviously avoid most clothing, used housewares, things that are junky and dirty (duh!), etc. But then again... know your recipient, because sometimes that old L.L.Bean hunting jacket is exactly the gift they would love!

3.) From a Locally-Owned Small Business - Sometimes it's just nice to have a reason to go shopping in Portland's downtown! I like supporting my city's small businesses, and they will often have really neat items I wouldn't find anywhere else. There is the wonderful fair-trade store that has handmade ornaments from all over the world, and the tea shop where the owner will custom package her tea blends for me, and the best kitchen store with every kitchen item imaginable, and art supply store where I regularly get my supplies anyway, and my favorite pasta place where I can get a gift certificate for an amazing meal. Another great thing about this category is that I can find almost any gift I could possibly need at one of the locally owned business in town, it just might take me a little longer to get that certain video game from a business in town than if I were to run into Wal-Mart. But that's ok, no... even more than ok; that's the whole point. I want to put in the extra thought into obtaining that gift! It's it supposedly the thought that counts, anyway? And sometimes that item will cost a little more at the small business, but often not, and I don't mind spending that little bit more to support the local economy.

These are my guidelines, and I by no means want to say everyone needs to shop by them. These are what I've organically developed over the last few years for myself to maintain joy in my holiday shopping season, and hopefully sharing them it might help you find a way to bring joy to your own. Note they are my "guidelines", not strict rules. There have been times I've strayed from them to get that certain special thing for someone in a price I can afford (I remember a greyhound charm for a bracelet....). And on a last note, these guidelines have nothing to do with money spend. As some of you know, it is possible to save money making gifts but oftentimes the supplies and equipment end up costing more than a store-bought gift.  A second hand gift could be that fabulous old Pyrex baking dish for $.25 at a yard sale, or the vintage sports jersey you had to fight for on eBay. Even shopping conventionally, some folks spend a lot on their gifts, and others can find the deals and save a lot. However you go about your holiday shopping, I hope it brings you and your loved ones joy.

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