It's the holiday season, once again, and you're exchanging gifts both big and small with the people around you.
Have you noticed how giving makes you happy? What's the last thing (or experience) you bought (or received) that brought you (or someone else) joy?
Although receiving that cashmere scarf or getting a new pair of Bluetooth speakers might totally make your yuletide rock, those feelings do not hold a candle to watching your bestie flip out over that vintage t-shirt you got them, or seeing your mom's eyes water when she opens the framed picture of the two of you.
Giving joy is easier than you think.
So this year, consider taking a joyful approach to gift-giving. These are some questions to ask yourself and some principles that can help you come up with ideal gifts that will bring JOY to you as well as those special folks in your life.
But first . . .ponder this. . .
Q. Why do we give gifts?
A. We give gifts to show that we care about someone.
There! I said it! Now, simply remember that a good gift is one that makes the recipient feel cared for, loved, and/or appreciated and there are certainly many different ways to demonstrate that you care about a person.
Thinking about gift-giving in this manner takes the focus off of the cost or prestige of the gift and puts focus back on what really matters most - the receiver.
Giving joyful gifts
Here are few principles to help choose a gift that feels joyful.
1. ALIVE Plants reduce stress and add a bit of timeless joy to any space. Giving plants or flowers is a simple way to say, “I care about you and your well-being.” I often give plants from The Sill because they arrive beautifully packaged and you can choose from a range of pots that will suit the recipient’s taste.
2. ABUNDANT One thing that can make an ordinary gift feel more impactful is to add an element of abundance. A box of macaroons instantly looks more special when arranged by rainbow color.
Or imagine the difference between giving someone a few randomly selected nail polish colors, or giving a selection of rainbow hues. The gift has the same value, but the color gradient makes it feel more intentional and more abundant.
3. ORGANIZE One expenditure people are often reluctant to make, yet that reliably increases happiness, is buying more free time. A gift of a visit from a cleaning or babysitting service can give the recipient a free day to devote to a hobby or to rest. A gift of a digitizing service for old photos not only helps preserve memories but liberates the recipient from hours spent scanning and organizing.
Similarly, with clutter out of control in many homes, a gift of a professional organizing service can help someone create more space for what matters. (Just be mindful with this kind of gift that the recipient knows your intent, and doesn’t end up with the impression that you’re critiquing their hygiene or housekeeping.)
Recently, I bought this handy photo archiving organizer box to better organize all my travel photos. This would also be a great gift for someone that has a lot of photos in need of order.
4. HANDMADE You don’t have to make the whole gift unless you happen to be particularly crafty. But adding a handmade element can make a simple gift feel more personal. This is especially true of experiential gifts. Once, I wanted to take a close friend out for a fancy sushi meal at a place of his choice. So I researched the top three sushi places that I thought he would like and made a menu that looked like the printed menu you usually get at a sushi place. I included reviews of each place, including excerpts from particularly funny Yelp! reviews. This gave him something to “open” and helped to build anticipation for the dining experience. He loved it.
5. SURPRISE Sometimes a great gift isn’t something durable, but simply offers a truly wonderful moment.
You can do this with food-based gifts. One of my favorite things to give are very highly decorated or beautifully packaged sweets, like these bonbons from Stick With Me Sweets. The round shapes, colorful patterns, and whimsical book packaging pack a lot of aesthetics of joy into one gift, even if it will be gone in a flash! Perishable gifts like this are especially good when you don’t know someone’s particular style.
Have you ever received a box of loose evergreens and wintry filler. It’s a great gift to give someone because as they open this box of greenery, it offers instant moment of joy with the fragrance as well as instant possibilities to create something using it all. Add some to wreaths, make pretty vignettes around the house, etc. It’s such a joy to give and receive.
6. MEMORIES If you want to give joyful moments, one way is to focus on what will help someone have more memorable experiences. Listen to this touching gift testimonial I discovered - “For my 60th birthday, which happens to fall on 12/25, my husband bought a beautiful plaid wool camping blanket and sewed patches that he’d collected of all the places we traveled as a family, with our two boys, and as a couple. Every time we visit a new place we buy a patch from there and he personally sews it on. The sewing part is what is truly remarkable as he is definitely NOT a sewer! THAT is what makes this gift so memorable. I absolutely love looking at that blanket and hope it collects many many more patches as we make many more memories to come."
A gift like this is great for someone you know well, but you can apply this principle even to those you don’t know well. Who can resist the charm of a Polaroid-style instant camera, for example? Or a kit that will help them make something of interest to them?
7. LOVE While in general you want to focus on the recipient, I think there are times when it can be joyful to give something that you personally love and want to share with them. Are there books you’ve read recently that you’d love to discuss with this person? Do you have a special recipe you could share or a beautiful piece of art? A kitchen gadget you’ve discovered that makes life so much easier? Do you have special knowledge of new tools, wines, hot spots in town, etc.? When someone doesn’t know me well, I’ve always been touched when they’ve given me something they love themselves and shared why they’re so excited about it and about giving it to me.
I hope this unconventional gift guide offers some helpful inspiration as you’re getting ready to spread joy this holiday season.
Here is a link to all of the many shops and galleries in our beautiful Eureka Springs.
Shop Small. Give Joy!