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A Beginner’s Guide to Regifting

You know you want to...here's how to make regifting a win for everyone


Photo: Stockbyte/Getty Images
Photo: Stockbyte/Getty
My regifting career began in 4th grade, when I received a box of erasers for my birthday and sent them to my pen pal in England, telling her they were from the NASA space program. I have since learned that lying is bad, but regifting (giving someone a gift that someone else gave to you) can be good, or at least okay.

Regifting makes room for things you really want by recycling unwanted items. And who’s to say that someone won’t adore those barking dog slippers you hate?

But before you start regifting from your closet, check out these regifting rules so you don’t compound the original mistake, get caught…or hurt someone’s feelings.

  1. Lose the guilt about regifting. Easier said than done, because guilt is what holds people back from regifting.

    Years ago, I received a hand-crocheted throw in colors I haven't seen since the psychedelic 60's. I draped it artfully over a couch, but cringed every time I looked at it. It took awhile to admit that I hated it; then I felt bad because I liked the person who made it.

    Trying to avoid guilt, I began the March of the Unwanted Gift: moving it from the couch to a spare bedroom, then into a closet, then into a box in the closet. It took years before I could allow myself to consider regifting and give it away to someone who wanted it. How much easier would it have been if I had admitted my feelings right away?

    When it comes to regifting, it helps to stop thinking about gifts in a purely sentimental way and consider their place in your life. Regifting can help you because unwanted gifts are high-priced clutter: they take up space in your home, which for most people is at a premium. And as the feng shui experts will tell you, having things around that don't suit you can sap your energy. In this light, regifting is a good thing.

  2. Regifting helps you keep the cash. Regifting saves money. You don't have to buy a new gift, and you don't have to drive to the mall at $2 a gallon for gas. And if, as they say, time is money, think of what you'll save by regifting and avoiding hours of shopping.

    What if you are one of the many people who see gift giving as another excuse to shop? Then you may put regifting in the same category as giving up chocolate or reality TV—yes, it's a good idea, but why put yourself through that?

    Regifting needn't be punishment. Consider designating a shelf, closet, or room (depending on your level of severity) for those unwanted gifts you received and all the impulse purchases you made. When it's time to give a gift, you can "shop" your regifting storehouse of goodies.

  3. Match the (re)gift to the giftee. The essence of regifting is not just to get rid of bad gifts, but to find them new homes with people who appreciate them. After all, there's no point in repeating the original mistake, however well-intentioned, when someone gave you a gift you didn't want.

    Be creative when regifting. Think about the gift and who might really enjoy it. And be open-minded; just because you don't like it doesn't mean someone else won't. Could the gift have multiple uses? Could it have symbolic meaning for someone, or bring back fond memories of places, people, or activities? Make regifting a meaningful experience.

    When someone gave me a ceramic elf, I regifted it to a friend who enjoys Irish folklore. I was happy with the sentiment that came with my gift, and my friend was happy with the elf.

    If you absolutely cannot think of anyone who might enjoy those turtle-shaped salt and pepper shakers, regifting won't work. Instead, donate them to a charitable organization with a resale shop. Someone will want them, and the money will go toward a worthy cause.

  4. Don't get caught regifting. Have you heard the old advice about liars? To be good at it, a liar needs to have a good memory.

    While the best regifters give with the best intentions (see #5 below), they do share the need for memory skills. If you have trouble remembering who gave you what, start a regifting notebook. This way you'll avoid regifting someone (or, almost as bad, a person they're close to) the item they gave you.

  5. Remember the Golden Rule of Regifting…There isn't actually a Golden Rule of Regifting, but if there were it might be something like: Regift unto others as you would have them regift unto you.

    Open-hearted regifting is not just giving stuff away to get rid of it, but sharing items that will make someone smile and show them you care. And isn't that what gift-giving is all about?

Have a regifting story you'd like to share? Send it to seniorliving@aboutguide.com.

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