(Well friends...it's here!)
Welcome to The Fierce Gifting Guide! Since this Gift Guide is all about challenging the status quo and breaking down walls and creating new habits and noticing (that's what we do around here) - Let's get down to business with some quick introspection.
When was the last time you actually stopped to think about the gift part of the holiday season? Do you ever pause to ponder all this gift giving, and why it happens? And, more importantly, why and how you choose to participate in it?
Yes, I want to focus on the "choose" part of gifting because all of gifts we give are actually a choice, even if it doesn't really feel like it. And, by choice, I mean more than just the decision between Barbie or Ken or both. Even though the entirety of the world is now told to go out and buy! buy! buy! immediately after washing the Thanksgiving dishes, there's no rule set in stone that you actually have to do it. (PS: Just notice the lack of emphasis on give! give! give!) Sure, there may be a lot of tradition and expectation and peer pressure and noise from the world around you - but you actually have the agency to choose if, how, when, where and what to gift throughout the holiday season. (It may not feel that way, but I promise it's true.)
So, although you may already be knee-deep in shopping lists or purchases or already wrapped presents (who the heck are you? you overachiever!) ... here's a 15 point check-in list to orient you to some of your deepest and truest feelings about gift giving. (Psst, there's no judgement here, okay. None from me to you. And I hope certainly none from you to you.) This little list of questions is intended to be a chance to really pause, undo all the layers, and poke around at your MOST TRUE AND HONEST FEELINGS (gulp) about the gift-y time of year. I fully recognize that we all come to the gifting process with very different likes and loves and dislikes and loathes and histories and things that make us excited (or groan). Maybe your responses (and your most gust-level-feelings) can provide some guidance for your attitudes and actions around 'gifts' season.
Instructions. Grab a writing implement if you feel like it. This can be done in your head, but it's less fun. Read each question below and sit with it. Take a moment to notice how it makes you feel. (In your gut, on your skin, wherever and however you feel things.) Then jot down a few notes. Just go for it. There's no answer key. There's no other page to flip to that tells you what your gift giving profile is based on your answers. (Geez, this isn't Cosmo). And believe me, there is no right or wrong answer. Just consider this a chance to start from scratch and ponder how you may actually feel about giving (or not giving) gifts.
A Fierce Gifting Guide | Gift Giving Self-Assessment*
Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. On one side write "I LOVE GIFT SEASON" on the other side write "I HATE GIFT SEASON" draw an X on the line indicating where you fall on this spectrum of loving and hating gift giving season. (Don't think LOVE/HATE suits you? Use whatever modifier you want).
What do you love or like most about gifting season and the gifting process? List as many things as you like. (Think broadly. Here's some suggestions: coming up with gift ideas, shopping, finding the perfect gift, supporting local artisans, pretty wrapping paper, presents under the tree, spending money, making people happy by giving, making dreams come true. It's your list, just get to it.)
What do you loathe or like least about gifting season and the gifting process? (Suggestions: Shopping, crowds, spending cashola, unappreciative receivers, shipping stuff to far away places, a sense of obligation, socks, the feeling that everyone already has everything so what's the point of gifts.) [Okay, I see that those suggestions may be a bit biased, so just think about what it may be for you. Even if you LOVE gifting season I bet there is at least one thing you dislike.)
Think of FIVE WORDS that describe WHY you give gifts during the holly season. Any five words that feel true to you. (Even if they are negative words. This is your chance to be honest. Once you've scribbled all five words, re-write them as a list with the most important word at the top of the list, and the least important word on the bottom.***
Think back to Gift Season 2016 (and all the gift seasons before). Is there one (or two or five) things that you remember feeling strongly during or after gift season? Any mental notes or Next year I want to remember to's... that you should actually remember while you have the chance? (Maybe it's about what you gifted, or how you gifted it, or when. Maybe it's a feeling you had. A memory? Jot it down. If it's still with you, it's probably important.
What is the ONE most favorite gift you have received in your whole entire life? Who gifted it to you? What made it so special to you?
Draw a large square. Draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column write "GIFTS I LOVE TO RECEIVE". At the top of the right column write "GIFTS I AM LESS EXCITED TO RECEIVE". (Sure, replace "less excited" with any word you want.) This list can be more than just the gifts themselves: consider types of gifts, what a gift requires of you, how the gift is used, etc. Then, translate this to your gift giving mentality.
Do you buy a gift because you like it OR because you know that the recipient will like it (or needs it / has space for it / has asked for it / can afford to use it, etc.) [Yup, I know that's a leading question]
Do you give gifts because you usually give gifts and it would feel weird / bad / odd / not generous to just stop giving gifts or give radically different types of gifts? (This is in line with the whole challenge of "not doing", and noticing just how hard it can be to stop habits and actions that we've engaged for a long time. And the only way to practice is to actually not do - and that can be a very scary way to test if not doing is going to serve you or not.)
Is there a whole group of people that you give gifts to but don't feel you have the time / money / capacity / interest / desire to actually give gifts to? (EG: office mates, teachers, super-extended family, neighbors etc). [Flip side: is there anyone (or a group) of people you really want to gift, but can't find the time / money / etc?]
Do you ever give gifts just because you feel you should? Out of a sense of obligation?
Is your heart in it?
Money Money Money Money...Money! (Sing it!) What's the relationship between your wallet and your gift giving? Do you set a budget? Do you end up spending more than you want or planned? Do you pay the price (or interest) throughout the year? Do you feel like you should be giving more? How does this all make you feel (like in your bones or belly)?
Do you gift out of habit?
- Do you like opening gifts in front of other people?
Okay, that's it. You're all grown ups, so now that you have all this information from yourself, YOU can choose how to act on it. Maybe the Meaningful Giving Manual will help sort things out more. Or maybe some of the gift ideas over the next few days will spark new gifting routes for you (if that's what you think you might want to do).
*Dear goodness, help us all. This is a terrible name. If you have suggestions for what to call this, please drop a line when you read this.
**For sure my answer to this is Dad's tradition of identifying something he wants, buying it, wrapping it and putting it under the tree. The first year he did this it was a bag of white tube socks. He tore open the gift with utter surprise, then wrapped his arms around himself in a hug while saying "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you" I laugh every single time I think about this. My present-giving memories are almost always about sitting down together and opening presents. I think it's the presence that I like most.
***I feel like "OBLIGATION" may end up on a few lists.