Overcoming Holiday Overwhelm: Editing the Holiday Gift Giving

Today we will focus on Editing your gift giving. One facet of my life that has changed significantly since becoming a professional organizer is how many gifts I give. I spend many hours each week working with people who have accumulated way too many things. Two categories if things that pop up at house after house are: unused gifts received and ungiven gifts.

I’m guessing the number of ungiven gifts I’ve encountered in my six years of organizing numbers well into the thousands and maybe even the tens of thousands. These items fill trunks and closets and sometimes even entire rooms. I grew up in household where my mother kept a drawer full of possible gifts and before becoming an organizer, I too kept a small bin of possible gift items. What I noticed though was that just like my clients, when a gift giving occasion rolled around, there was typically a wish to be filled on the part of the recipient and therefore I rarely reached into the bin to extract a gift. I think the other reason I stopped relying on the bin is that gifts given without much thought to who the recipient is at that point of time in their life and gifts given without a deep knowing of the recipient are often not viewed as gifts at all. Instead they are received with initial gratitude and then casually set aside by the recipient, or worse yet they are worn like an albatross around the recipient’s neck until they are released.

I find It amazing how many of these albatross items and gifts are unopened and unused. What is more amazing though is how much guilt is associated with releasing these gifts – “But Aunt Lucy gave this to me and I would feel horrible if I got rid of it.” Or ” You’re right, I’ve never used it, but my mother in law gave it to me and I know she’ll ask me about it at some point.”. As I coach these recipients through the process of releasing these things awareness is opened to the fact that gift giving is often about making the giver feel good as opposed to making the recipient feel good. Awareness is also opened to the fact that gifts purchased with no particular recipient or no particular gift giving occasion in mind are probably not going to be the best gifts and may in fact end up in someone’s closet or basement,unopened.

As a result of these conversations, I’ve learn to edit in the area if gift giving. I buyer fewer gifts than I used to and concentrate on things that I know the person has expressed interest in. If I don’t know the person well enough to know this information then I stick with a widely used generic gift, like a Target gift card. Needless to say, I’ve let go if my need to buy gifts to satisfy a volume requirement – i.e. everyone must have at least x number of gifts to open.


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