It’s the age old question we all face at Christmas: What do we do with all the shit gifts? In fact, I think it started with the baby Jesus who woke up on Boxing Day and said “WTF is Myrrh?”
Despite knowing we’re never going to use the lifetime supply of handcreams given to us by various colleagues and Grandmothers over the years, we all feel a certain sense of obligation to keep them. In every household there is a drawer filled with unwanted mugs, tea cosies, soaps and candles that have never left the wrapper. Every year the pile grows and we’re forced to find more and more places to stash the miscellaneous items we would rather do without.
Unless you’re me. I’m a big fan of the four ‘Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle, regift- especially at Christmas.
REDUCE- When it comes to Christmas, there are two old sayings to consider; ‘Less is more’ and ‘it’s the thought that counts.’ Wrapping tons and tons of presents in thousands of layers of bubble wrap and tissue paper is fun until you stop to think about how full landfill gets when everyone throws it out on December 26th.
I understand the excitement people get over giving gifts to the people they love, but I’m a huge advocate for gifts like sponsoring a Koala or buying a goat for a family in Africa. Gifts like this make everyone feel good and ensures that we don’t entirely destroy the planet before the next holiday season.
REUSE- Giftbags were a wonderful invention. Aside from being more environmentally friendly, gift bags eliminate the hassle of trying to wrap awkwardly shaped gifts like teapots and tennis racquets. Stick it in a bag and Bob’s your uncle.
RECYCLE- My Gran, bless her, takes half an hour to unwrap a present. She unties the bows, taking care to smooth them out so the satin doesn’t crumple and then moves on to the stickytape which she removes in slow motion to avoid tearing the paper which she then irons, folds up and uses the next year to wrap other people’s gifts in. As a kid I was a huge advocate for the whole ‘ripping into it like a madman’ thing but as a starving, unemployed uni student, I am suddenly a huge fan of saving paper so I don’t have to waste $2.99 on a roll of dancing Santas.
And finally, REGIFTING, an art form with more tactical rules than a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
- Keep a list of all the presents you don’t want and who gave them to you. The last thing you want to do is give crazy Aunt Betty the yaks wool socks she gave you the year before in exactly the same gift bag.
- Product packaging must be intact. You can’t regift a perfume if you’ve already opened it to take a whiff and decided that perhaps ‘Au de Gasoline’ wasn’t for you.
- Sometimes, if you think it’s shit, it probably is. Handcreams from the supermarket and $2 Shop makeup and candles are top of the regifting list. Nobody wants them, but we don’t want to waste them so we’re forced to decide between throwing them in the cupboard with Nan’s hankies or regifting them. My advice? Kris Kringle. I’m fairly sure that was a tradition started by an absolute genius who had a whole lot of shit to get rid of.
- Never regift with the original gift-givers’ community. If the ugly yellow teatowels came from a work colleague NEVER regift them to another work friend. The original giver is bound to find out and you will be shunned, Mean Girls style, until you quit your job and move overseas. To avoid an expensive international relocation, make two piles in the regifting cupboard. Label one as work and the other family/other. Each year, give the gifts from your family members to your work mates and the gifts from your colleagues to your Great Auntie Edna and the neighbours. Unless your work life and home life cross over, in which case you’re fucked.
- One -of -a -kind items may as well have a house- arrest bracelet on. If that little beacon beeps anywhere but your place, the gift-giver, their family, the Australian Government and possibly the CIA and the ICC will find out and torture you. Handmade/commissioned/specialty items are the hardest to regift. By their very nature, unique items always get noticed and you can’t run the risk of your neighbour’s best friend’s sister’s dog walker commenting on it and sending word back to the person who gave it to you. You’re best to keep the ugly paintings in the garage for someone else to deal with when you sell the place.
- Your reaction has to match the gift. Don’t open a shitty present and immediately start a one man melodrama. Gushing about how beautiful a scarf is and thanking someone eighty-five times in sixty-three seconds isn’t subtle. They know you hate it, you know you hate it and everyone else in the room is wondering which one of them you’ll be giving it to in twelve months time. A simple ‘Oh isn’t that interesting’ or ‘Gee, that’s different’ is all you need. Non-committal, semi-honest and reasonably painless. Done. Move on.
So before you rush out to do all your last-minute Christmas shopping this December, have a look through your cupboards and see what you’ve got stashed away from last year and go from there. Remind yourself that regifting is not heartless or inconsiderate, it’s sensible, economical and environmentally friendly to boot!
– by Blaire Gillies