Maybe it's because my 7-year anniversary with my boyfriend is quickly approaching, but I've been thinking a lot about gift-giving lately, what gifts symbolically mean to both the giver and the receiver, the varying level of importance people place on them, whether it really is "the thought that counts" and all that jazz.
I know that personally, it's never been the showiest or most expensive gifts that have counted in my world. While I really adore the KitchenAid Stand Mixer my parents bought me for Christmas last year, it doesn't hold a candle to the afghan that my mother crocheted for me by hand. That simple scalloped blanket is my most prized possession in the world. My mom worked on it for months, and the amount of love and investment that went into it can be felt each and every time I drape it around me.
But not everyone has months to labour over a gift (or even hours), and while homemade gifts really are something special, I think certain touches can make store bought ones count just as much. I also don't think you need to be particularly crafty in order to give a really good gift. So here's some simple tips to add some extra personality to your gifts:
1-First and foremost, listen carefully to the person you are gifting to (sorry to be captain obvious here). People drop clues all the time. If a friend is fawning over some small trinket while you're window-shopping together, they'll probably be psyched to receive it.
If you don't know the person all that well, also have a few go-to stores for simple gifts, just in case. A personal one for me is EQ3, where I know I can get beautiful housewarming or hostess pieces that are hard not to please, like a unique-looking carafe or stylish Marimekko mugs.
2-It's not what's on the outside that counts is not necessarily true when it comes to gifts. Packaging does matter, even if it's as thrifty as tissue paper and string or as splurgy as these darling wrapping papers. I've recently started gifting my cookies in bright boxes instead of tupperwear and I'm surprised at how much more official they feel. Plus, people are more likely to save and reuse nice looking packaging, so consider yourself doing your part for the environment!
3-Quirky cards count, too! While I'll never fault the gift-giver who wants to save a little dough by picking up a dollar store card (they've come a long way) I am personally of the mind-set that if I can spend $5 on a mid-afternoon latte, I can also spend that much on a great card from a specialty shop. I keep all of my cool cards, so maybe I'm just biased.
A cheaper alternative is the homemade card, even if you can only draw stick-figures. There's a certain charm in that.
4-If you can't invest time, invest meaning. Like I mentioned before, not everyone is going to have enough energy or fine-motor skills to make you a tea-cozy or ice-sculpture in your semblance, but taking just a second to reflect on the type of gift that would matter to someone will make all the difference.
Example: I bought my best friend, who is a foodie, a food-drawing journal for completing her MA in (you guessed it) food studies. I knew that even if she only used it to jot down here grocery-list, it would probably still be special to her.
5-If all else fails, just ask. I know that one of my oldest friends who is now living in London, England misses Canada from time to time, so I thought it would be awesome to buy her a CBC shoulder bag for her birthday. A part of me worried it would be kitschy for her, so I plain out asked her if she'd like it. It's going in the mail this week!
Perhaps some of this advice sounds a bit obvious, but I've found that over the years it's really helped me hone in on people's gift personalities. That being said, the best gifts of all are those given from the heart, so trust your gut, and your ticker. Oh and you might want to include a gift receipt, just in case you're having an off day ;).
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