Does the thought of the holidays or an approaching special event fill you with anxiety instead of joy? You’re not alone.
The pressure to find the “perfect” gift can be overwhelming. Every year, the retail frenzy seems to increase in fervour to the point that it’s hard—even impossible—to ignore. Birthdays, holidays, graduations and so on have been so heavily commercialized that the weight of expectation about gifts can lead us to become cynical and stressed over occasions that should be celebratory.
It’s easy to forget that some of the most touching, memorable gifts do not come in fancy wrapping or weigh more than the thought and love behind them. All it takes is a little outside-the-retail-box-store thinking and you will find there are endless possibilities for gifts that will create a lasting impression.
Who Says a Gift Has to Be a Thing?
A friend of mine shared that her family rarely gives tangible gifts anymore—instead, they focus on experiences. Be it a pedicure, a concert or a weekend trip, these shared experiences make for something longer-lasting than an object in a box—memories. And these experiences don’t need to cost a lot of money to be special! It could be something as simple as preparing a picnic lunch to be shared at a favourite beach.
Gifts of Your Talent and Time
What seems ordinary to you might just be the most thoughtful thing you can give someone. Giving an aging parent some lessons on social media, helping a disorganized friend declutter his or her closet or gifting a less-mobile relative with some labour in the garden are all simple-yet-meaningful actions. The key here is that the gift shows you have thought carefully about the receiver and what could make their life better/easier/brighter. You can formalize the gift by presenting the receiver with a card, outlining what it is that you wish to give them.
Homemade Doesn’t Have to Mean ‘Homely’
The Internet can provide endless ideas for handmade gifts, but be wary of diving into overly ambitious projects. The key to successfully crafting gifts by hand is to identify your existing skills and pick projects that build on them yet don’t overwhelm you with having to master many new skills all at once. Imbue your gift with love, not frustration!
Especially (but not exclusively) for the holidays, many people love to receive gifts of food and drink. If you have a specialty, make a big batch and package it festively. Homemade wine, chocolate, fudge, cookies, preserves, vinegars and so on are sure to bring a smile to the receiver.
Gifts of Potential
Bulbs or seeds planted in a pot (perhaps one you’ve decorated) offer the receiver two-fold pleasure—the delicious anticipation of waiting for the gift to grow and the enjoyment of the flowers/fruits/vegetables when they come to bear.
Or, your gift could encourage someone to tap into his or her own creative side. For example, a friend of mine once gave me a blank canvas, attached to which was a coupon for an “afternoon of creative time.”
Gifts That Give
If you know someone who enthusiastically supports a particular cause, consider making a donation of money or some of your time to that cause in his or her honour.
Hopefully your head is now buzzing with some ideas for the special people in your life. Right now, take a few minutes and write those ideas down! Keep track of upcoming special occasions so that you can plan ahead and, instead of being stressed as the time approaches, you’ll be able to focus on the true joy of giving.
By Kelly McQuillan