Fridays are tip days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I recently read an article over at Wisebread called 25 Awesome, Useful Gifts. And all I could think about was how most of them were impractical or clutter in the making. So I decided to present the list, and show the pitfalls and what I would give instead.
- Classes. Classes are fine if the person has the time and energy to put into them. Personally, I would never give classes, because it would mean an obligation on the recipient’s part. Gifts should never be a burden. My thought is to offer to teach a skill, if you can; otherwise ask the recipient to a sample day out. For example, my local knitting store runs nights where you can go in and do a simple project. Going with a friend who thought she wanted to knit actually turned into a “I really can’t stand this.” But she had the experience, and we had a nice evening together.
- Coffee maker. The text of the original article says to give a different type of coffee maker if the recipient already has one. (!) Sorry, I’m not going to give a French press to someone with a top-of-the-line coffee maker. If they wanted to mess around with a French press, they would have bought one themselves. Better, in this case, to give an assortment of coffee supplies, such as fine coffees, teas, flavorings or a nice travel mug.
- Food. This item is to give something the recipient would rarely buy for herself. Nice, but there is probably a reason that someone doesn’t buy something that often. Maybe she doesn’t like it all that much, or she can only tolerate a bit of it from time to time. Better, in my mind, to give food that the recipient cannot get where they are. I love it when someone sends me cheese and sausages from a local cheese factory in the heartland; I cannot get fresh cheese curd here on the coast.
- Socks and underwear. Only if you are a parent, and never as a present for a gift-giving occasion. I still remember the acute embarrassment of a foreign-born and very modest friend of mine who was presented with a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret for her bridal shower.
- Books. I love books, and two of my most treasured gifts were books that people tracked down for me. However, a book, “just because I think you will like it” will end up clutter. Better to give a gift certificate for e-books.
- Kitchen tools. Unless the person is just starting off in their first place, kitchen tools are a no-no. Most people prefer to choose their own knives, pots, pans and what-not. A male friend of mine was gifted by an elderly aunt with cookie sheets and muffin tins. He ended up using them to start seeds, because he never baked.
- Bath and body products. Don’t do this unless you know for certain that the products are acceptable. Many people have allergies and sensitivities. What may seem like a beautiful scent to you may be a migraine-in-a-bottle to the recipient. Better to find out what they like, and if there are any sensitivities; an afternoon visit to a store can tell you that, and you can write down your results.
- A magazine subscription. Instead of a new magazine subscription, how about renewing one the person already gets? Magazines can end up as clutter.
- A haircut. Whether it be at the giver’s favorite salon, or a home job, this is an exceedingly personal gift that could go very wrong. Better to arrange an appointment at the recipient’s own favorite facility.
- Paying regular bills. As a student, this might have been appreciated. A few years out on my own, and this would seem like either a message of incompetence, or an attempt to control. I have no alternative to this. It just seems too invasive.
- Music. This is good if you know the person’s taste, or give a gift card. I still remember during my punk phase my mother giving me a country CD because “that’s what all the kids were listening to.” Some music might not be appropriate, either. I caught my daughter singing some very inappropriate lyrics the other day – she had learned about the band from a friend, whose aunt gave her the CD. Better to give an iTunes gift card.
- Plants. For many people, this can be an obligation. I always felt guilty when I would be given a plant, just to have it die on me, and then answer the question from the giver, “Where is the plant I gave you?” Even worse was when the giver then took it as a personal mission to find a plant I couldn’t kill (doesn’t exist).
- Babysitting. This is one thing if you are a parent yourself, and you know the child(ren) in question. Offering babysitting can be a harrowing experience if you are not used to children, or the child is not used to you. There are some people I would never have wished my toddler on. In spite of their best intentions, I’m not sure they would have survived.
- Organization tools. I began to shudder when I read the list: thrifted baskets, vintage Tupperware…ugh. All of these are invitations to clutter. Better to offer your help in going through an area of their home (like a craft room).
- Placemats and other kitchen linens. If people want them, they will buy them. With a toddler at home, it is easier to not have anything cloth on the table. Actually, with my husband at home, it’s easier not having anything cloth on the table. If you do feel you have to give them, make them washable, and easy to hide stains on.
- Athletic supplies. This can be taken as a sign to get out and get fit. It’s one thing if someone has a known athletic hobby; but if they are serious about it, they will have opinions about their equipment and want to buy their own. I would never consider giving my father-in-law anything to do with golf, his favorite sport. He makes his own clubs, and has very specific desires as far as gloves, balls, tees and covers.
- A camera. This might be a good gift if someone does not have a camera…and you do know cameras. From experience with my daughter’s cameras, though, some inexpensive cameras make it difficult to remove the pictures. One camera, which came from a well-known name, was terrible. Had we known about the brand’s lower end products, we never would have bought.
- Photos and frames. Clutter, anyone? I was once given a photo of myself and someone I wasn’t all that close to. She expected that picture to be on display at all times; I wanted to hide it away.
- Hobby supplies. This kind of fits in with classes. If someone has a serious hobby, give them a gift card so they can pick out what they wish. Especially if you don’t know much about the hobby. Don’t make the mistake of giving the oil painter a set of watercolor brushes (who knew there was a difference?)
- Cleaning. Very few people are comfortable with others seeing their mess. This would be a good gift if you knew the person really well, or if you were sure it wouldn’t be taken as an indication of your opinion they were messy. A friend of mine, years ago, really appreciated it when her mother-in-law paid for someone to come and wash all the windows of her new home.
- Clothes. This really does require what is pointed out in the article…that you know the receiver well. For years I was given clothing in yellows, browns and oranges: colors that make me look dead. But the colors looked really well on the person giving them. Unless you really know the person and their skin tones, skip this.
- A nice glass. I had a cupboard full of nice glasses. I still have a cupboard full of nice mugs. Unless someone is starting out, skip this.
- Coasters. This is a good idea for those who have wood furniture, and where you have seen no coasters. If you see coasters in evidence, don’t give more.
- Money. Yes, it may be considered as a thoughtless gift, but honestly, I can’t think of anything more versatile. If you don’t want your gift to be mixed in a general “bag”, buy a pre-paid credit card that can be used. The recipient will think of you when they use it.
Always, my favorite way to go for gifting is two-fold: something small to be unwrapped then, and a gift card. The something small is usually a consumable, like a piece of good chocolate or a small toy (for kids). This gives method gives both immediate and long-term enjoyment.
What do you think? Are the ideas above as off as I thought? Share below.
Photo by asenat29