Regifting is good, actually

It’ll save you some money, and help save the planet, too.

woman opening present
Yes, it is a great gift. The fact that someone gave it to someone else before you doesn't take away from that.Syda_Productions via Deposit Photos

There is a box in the closet near my front door. There’s a lot of other stuff, too, but on the top shelf, there is a box. It’s the reason I never turn up empty-handed to a graduation or housewarming party. It’s also making the planet a bit more green.

It’s filled with stuff other people have given me that I do not want.

Regifting gets a bad rap (pun intended). It’s mocked on television and sneered at in magazines. It’s still taboo to pass a perfectly good item on to someone else simply because it was given to you first.

But without regifting, those unwanted gifts will be thrown away or tucked into the back of a closet. When I was a child, my parents pulled out nearly forgotten sweaters and toys for us to wear and play with whenever the relatives who had given them to us turned up to visit.

You can, of course, donate some gifts to those in need, as I do, but many aren’t practical, useful items that charities will accept. The fancy set of salt and pepper shakers currently in the box, awaiting their new home, were declined by a group helping refugees.

I genuinely believe the act of opening presents is fun, even if the contents are disappointing. And the notion that someone likes and cares about me enough to get me a present makes me happy.

I do, however, hate the waste. Someone I care about has wasted their hard-earned money on me. And there’s so much stuff already in the world that I hate to think of unused objects ending up in a landfill.

Follow a system

Whenever I get a gift I don’t want, need, or have any use for, I, first, thank the gift giver. They tried!

When I get home, I take it out of its wrapping, grab a sticky note and a marker—both also kept in the box—and write down who gave it to me and for what occasion. I affix it to the gift and tuck it into the box.

Keeping track of who gave you the gift is key. Despite my moral philosophy that there is nothing wrong with regifting, many people in my life don’t feel the same way, and I don’t want to force the discussion by giving my father something my brother gave me last year.

I, personally, have never screwed it up, but I did once receive a set of hat and mittens for my birthday that I had given to the sister of an ex-boyfriend for her birthday. They made for a desirable present at my company’s white elephant party a few months later.

Some close calls—I’ve had a few—can easily be shaken off with: “I loved it so much I just thought Brenda would love it too.”

Complement your presents

Gift bags
Recycle those nice paper bags for future presents and show you care.IgorVetushko via Deposit Photos

The box has a few other essentials, including gift bags and wrapping. Gift wine bags are especially useful. Whether you’re grabbing a bottle of wine from your own shelf on your way to a friend’s house for dinner or picking one up from the store along the way, tucking it into a gift bag suddenly makes it look like you really put in some effort.

Cards are also crucial, and there’s a stash of them in the box for nearly every holiday. I grab them when they are on sale or whenever I see a cute one. It’s also important to keep a package of blank cards. You don’t want to be stuck heading to your cousin’s graduation with only birthday cards on hand. I’m partial to blank cards with birds on the cover.

When it works, it works. The scarf from my sister that’s in a color I never wear made a lovely birthday present for my boyfriend’s aunt. Most recent graduates in my life have gotten a nice pen and notebook. Like most writers, I have more notebooks than I know what to do with, and many deserve to find a nice home with someone who doesn’t already have 56.

Gift smarter

mother and girl with gift box
Finding out what someone actually wants only takes a little research.Leg Dolgachov via Deposit Photos

Beyond regifting, I am trying to make gift-giving more efficient. I have a Goodreads account, where anyone can see what I’ve read before buying me a book they know I’ll love. When I’m the giver, I try to surreptitiously test the waters before purchasing. “What flavors of tea is she drinking right now?” I asked my brother, before picking a Christmas present for his wife.

A month or two ago, my boyfriend and I had an extensive discussion about the usefulness of physical cookbooks. He probably thought I was philosophizing about the written word. In reality, I was trying to see if a cookbook from a chef he liked would make for a good birthday present.

This year, I also gently asked him to mention to his mother that I don’t use the shampoo and conditioner from a particular skincare brand she loves. Every year, for Christmas, she gets all of us gift sets from there and mine frequently come with a few products I won’t use.

Even if the message doesn’t get across, none of that stuff will go to waste. A friend of mine raves about those hair care products. And her birthday is in January.