I posted a thread on a messageboard about this, and have had a few interesting thoughts.

Firstly, I should clarify a couple of things. This post... is kind of about my in-laws. I didn't want to say as much in so many words, but it may be best if I do. It isn't true that every gift I receive is a burden. One of my sisters has a particularly high hit rate, some friends seem to have a knack for thinking of the right thing, and as a group, internet friends have been particularly talented - testament, probably, to the introspective and considerate nature of this community. So this is pretty much all about my in-laws, and the cultural clash between my views on gift-giving and theirs.

Yes, I have tried telling people that a gift isn't necessary at all. To some people, it is. My in-laws are part of this group of people, to the point where we actually receive wedding anniversary presents from some of them, for our wedding anniversary. It is touching to know they celebrate each successful year of our marriage, but I am hard pressed getting wedding anniversary presents for my own husband for our own anniversary, let alone someone else's. I have no hope of convincing them that a Christmas gift isn't necessary. This is me trying to work within their framework.

The other thing I should clarify is that I only give out a "want list" when asked directly. Good grief, I do not mail an unsolicited Christmas registry to all my relatives and expect them to stick closely by it and have everything delivered in golden giftwrap at my appointed hour. No no. Perish the thought. But I usually get asked what I would like for Christmas this year, and in such cases I will sit down and hash out a bit of a list, which usually reads: 1. Charitable donation; 2. Um... food? I think part of what has been getting me is that people will ask me what I want in order to completely ignore what I say in response. It's not as if these gifts are coming out of the blue, or even as expected, but without consultation. "Oh here's an idea," I think as I try to displace the guilt of not using yet another kindly-offered but ultimately unwanted present by turning all curmudgeonly for a moment, with a few Bah Humbugs thrown in for kicks. "Why not give me the gift of being listened to?"

Then again, I recall being guilty of the same thing once or twice. It goes like this: you decide to buy a gift for someone, but you're not sure what you should get. "Why not ask them?" you wonder to yourself. You can't think of a reason, so you do. And when you have received your answer, the first thing you belatedly realise is that you can't get them any of those things now, because that would show a distinct lack of imagination and thoughtfulness.

In other words, it's the thought that counts after all.

Here's my new proposition: I refuse to give out want lists, under any circumstances. I should talk instead about my goals for the coming year. When someone asks for my want list, I should tell them I have several resolutions for 2012, and maybe they could get me something to help me out with those. One of them could be to end 2012 with less stuff than I started with. And then... there could be others. (I will work on this.)

Any thoughts (or list ideas/resolution ideas) are appreciated.


HereWeGoAJen said...

I find I do the best if I hand out a very specific gift list to the family members that ask. Although, unlike in your family, my family tends to stick to the list. I also do really well if I put on things that are practical that I want (because I always want practical things), but the "luxury" version of the thing. Like this year, I want new drawer organizers for my utensil drawers because the ones I have now don't really fit in the new house. So I picked out fancy bamboo ones, so that people will feel like they are giving me a real present instead of just plastic drawer organizers.

So in my line of reasoning, maybe you could say that one of your goals this year is to get more organized and they can get you organizational stuff? (Because that is what I want, so obviously you must like it too, right?)

Betty M said...

Can you say something like don't bother with us parents, just gifts for the kids please or just bite the bullet and have a list. They clearly don't want to give a donkey or a mosquito net so I'd give up on that unless you want to point them to the "real" gifts in the charity catalogue instead (as obviously you need lots of handmade stuff).
I'm for a list myself. I wanted a fancy whisk last Xmas so I told a family member as chances of them guessing whisk were nil. Result happy me and happy them as the whisk was pretty cheap. Or tell them you have started collecting oaks or tea towels or something else small and flattish. If revolting give away if not keep.

Vee said...

I am in the same boat. My parents always give me money, which I should use to buy myself what I really want/need but it ends up in my purse and gets spent on groceries.
I also have lots of nick knack clutter stuff in my house. Which I just don't have the space for as you know!

What if you ask for money, then you can buy a goat? ( Just don't leave it in your purse and end up spending it on groceries like I do)
I would have no problem giving to charity instead of a gift, I think it's a fab idea.

Ellen K. said...

I'm happy with perishables, if people insist on giving me a gift. I'll suggest gourmet groceries, esp. the expensive boxes of soup mix, bread mix, shortbread biscuits, etc. You're probably not craving soup at a Southern Hemisphere Christmas, though! D. has taken up home brewing with the Mr. Beer system, so relatives give him refill kits or gift certificates. Last Christmas he received enough refill kits to get us through 10 months of half-pints with dinner.

Rachel Inbar said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just send me your address by snail mail & I'LL decide what books PB and SB really need. No problem :-)

BTW, I would also prefer not getting gifts. I usually have nothing to do with them and generally can't even regift something I don't like to begin with. So I try to return them to the store... Recently I returned workbooks my in-laws bought for the kids and bought a map of Vienna (much more practical). MY MIL asked me what I did with the workbooks and I told her I exchanged them (I just can't lie). She didn't even mind...

I think books are usually good gifts, especially if you choose them.

Rachel Inbar said...

Not snail mail. email. Don't know where my brain was...

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