Here are some bags I put together for my daughter’s daycare provider and another friend. They each contain some small, trinket-type items. The daycare lady’s bag contains a beautifully packaged bar of scented soap (T.J. Maxx), Karen Neuburger slipper socks (T.J. Maxx), and a wooden red cupid ornament (Joann’s). The other contains a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate, a monogrammed purse hook, and a package of darling notes for any occasion (all are from Hallmark).
When it comes to gift-giving, I have some guidelines that I usually adhere to:
–Attempt to buy ahead for specific occasions and people when I see gifts on sale, at a good price, or at a place I know I won’t return to soon. I keep these objects in a box so that I can “shop” as needed. Shopping ahead is especially important since I live in a small town that has few gift-giving resources. I don’t like the pressure and higher prices of shopping last minute!
–Give small trinkets in groups of similar items (usually one to three). I especially enjoy buying small trinkets from beautiful boutiques (online or on the ground!) or fancy department stores. Buying smaller items–especially for seasonal/holiday, less monumental gifts, keeps the budget low because smaller items cost far less than one big-ticket item. And when purchased from a quality vendor, these little treasures retain the glory of coming from an elegant place. I always try to use some of the packaging from the store–a gift bag, tag, or business card–so that the receiver also thinks s/he is getting something special.
—T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s are a gift-giver’s best friends! Oh, how I wish I lived closer to one of them! My father was in a T.J. Maxx with my mom and me in Missouri last Thanksgiving. At one point, he leaned over to Mom and whispered, “We’ve got to get out of here! This place is a mess!” I had to laugh. Clearly he doesn’t enjoy the “hunt.” That’s half the fun of gift-giving and shopping in general!
—A gift’s packaging (what it looks like on the shelf) is important in making a selection. Duh, right? Yet I think it’s worth emphasizing. I am drawn to things with unique logos, creative containers, or covered in beautiful paper or cardboard. These details make less expensive items seem more worldly and lavish. The soap I mentioned above came in a gorgeous floral box, and the scent now permeates the entire gift bag. (And don’t forget to keep the packaging if you are the receiver of such an item; it will come in handy for future crafting or gift-giving.)
—Along the same vein as above, the presentation of the gift itself is often as important–or even more so (effort speaks volumes!)–than the actual gift. I savor gifts received from my favorite store, October Moon, because the outside of the packages are so special. The owner of October Moon, Aura, always places gifts in basic brown boxes, off-set by a lovely label with her shop’s logo, a beautiful bow made of satin ribbon, and some dried flowers, herbs (lavender is my favorite!), or bits of evergreen tied to the package. Oh–and she always sprays the package with a fabulous room spray before sending it off. When I have the time, I try to take the same care with packages I put together myself.
—I love the challenge of using bits of what I already have around the house to make a gift lovely. Stained tags, bits of ribbon left over from a former gift, glitter, buttons, scraps of pretty paper, muslin, embroidery thread, stamps and stamp pads–all of these things are at the ready in various boxes in my crafting area. And I think that the solid bags in brown or colors purchased in bulk are far lovelier than any from Hallmark when dressed up and personalized. I always have these on hand in a couple of different sizes, along with “filler” tissue paper and the crinkled paper shreds seen in the photos of this post.
—Homemade gifts make memorable gifts. I am not nearly as crafty as my mom, the queen of beautiful handmade gifts. However, I often use my creativity to make special items for special people. I am a fan of copying vintage postcards to make tag ornaments, place cards, and decoupaged decor to celebrate holidays. Last year each lady from my husband’s office received an vintage Easter postcard wall hanging. I enjoyed the challenge of using found objects from my craft bins to create the gifts; each wall hanging was unique and inexpensive, and each one sent a clear message: you are worth my (very little) free time!
Of course all of the above guidelines are dependent upon time, energy, and resources. And I always have to remain cognizant of which friends are not fans of gifts that may end up adding more “clutter” to their lives. These are the people who truly enjoy gift cards, and that’s just fine with me.
I have one more guideline worth mentioning that’s not so much about the gift but the person receiving it. I think we all should remember to recognize the people who make our lives easier. For example, I always remembered the custodians and secretaries when I was teaching. They always went to bat for me, and I wanted them to know that I was grateful.
Today, as a SAHM, I try to remember the people who go the extra mile for my family and me: the garbage guy who takes more than the standard number of bags after we failed to take out the trash the week before; the recycled materials collector who never leaves nasty notes after having to shovel through a pile of far-from organized, rarely-clean recyclables; the handyman who bailed me out (again!) last Christmas when my 11 foot tree fell over in my living room. These VIPs always appreciate a handmade, prettily wrapped item or even a simple thank you note.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…She’d be a better cook if she put this much thought into her meals! (See my last post.) Go figure!