I have to get someone a gift? Help!

I have to get someone a gift? Help!

Does gift giving stress you out? I have a friend whose future mother-in-law asked her what she collected because she and her daughter both collected things and they needed easy ideas for gifts for her. I’m so glad that wasn’t my mother-in-law. I would not want to be pressured into collecting something. Of course, my mother-in-law was also fairly infamous for being a terrible gift giver. For years, at Christmas she gave all of the adult women the same gift and all of the adult men a different gift. So there was nothing personal. Eventually, we talked her out of giving gifts at Christmas because nobody actually wanted them.

I will admit that I am hard to buy for. First, I tend to get myself the things that I need. And then secondly, I don’t like things for the sake of things. I don’t replace things until they really don’t work which means that I have my first new computer in probably a decade. And most of my other electronic devices are hand-me-downs. I wear my clothes forever. (Seriously, I have pajamas that I got postpartum when my youngest was born. He’s 14 now.) I don’t wear a lot of jewelry. And my house is already full of too many craft supplies and equipment. My spouse once bought me a vacuum for Valentine’s Day. It made me really happy, but his coworkers were sure he’d be in the dog house. Basically if it isn’t practical, I have to work hard to appreciate its value. (Except for art. I love art. But I’m fairly picky and so nobody wants to try to buy me art unless I’m with them which ruins the surprise.)

Needless to say, several times a year my family gets confronted with my hard-to-buy-for personality trait. Most recently it was Mother’s day. They did a good job. I got a couple of graphic Ts, which I love (working for myself means I can dress however I want). I also got a couple of silicone handle thingies for my cast iron pans. Very useful. And I got a preschool Mother’s Day craft of a painted, tiny terra cotta pot with a seed planted inside. (Laura assures me that the painting job on mine was the best in the 2 year old class.)

Small terra cotta pot decorated with dots making a flower with a tiny sprout coming up from the dirt inside the pot.

So if you are in the position of my family and don’t have a preschool teacher to come up with a craft I thought I’d give you some hints. Think about the person you are buying for. The key to good gift giving is to tailor the gift to the recipient. Are there any pain points in their day that you could make better? Is there something that they wish was already taken care of? Is there an activity they’ve always wanted to try? Or something they miss doing?

A couple of things that improved my daily life are my electric kettle and my AirTags. The kettle holds 3 liters of water at 195°F so I’m always seconds away from a cup of tea. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to keep it when we got it because it felt so decadent because my tea kettle on the stove doesn’t take THAT long but now I use it several times a day. Another really useful gift for me was my Apple AirTags. I have ADHD. I lose things ALL. THE. TIME. Especially my keys and my wallet. I’ve missed doctor’s appointments and swimming lessons because I couldn’t find my keys. Now I just have to keep track of my phone (which has it’s own built in version provided I can find my computer) to find my keys and it is a life saver. Not to mention when my wallet fell out of my pants due to insufficient pockets I’ve been able to track it down. Twice. (Pockets would also be a really good, practical gift if there was some way to make that a reality for all of my pants.)

If you ask my kids what they think I want for my birthday, they will tell you that I want them to clean the house without me asking. This is very true. When you want to give something to someone it might not be a thing, it could be an act of service. So look for the things that they wish they could get done but for whatever reason it doesn’t make it off the back burner. Maybe the car needs detailing or the bathroom needs to actually get painted the color of the swatches that have been on the wall for a year (that may be a hint, sweetie). 

Consumable stuff, something they can try or just a special one off thing can be fun. I keep lip balms all over my house and car. I never have one far away. One of my favorite suppliers sends free ones as a gift. Even though I have plenty, because I always use them I’m happy to get another one with my order. And that’s a small enough gift that if you see something like that you can buy someone just because. Being able to sample new fragrances of things is fun. So try the pretty soaps and find ones that make your recipient happy. Or get that box of salted caramels (maybe get two and keep one for yourself.)

An open box of 6 square dark chocolates decorated with sea salt sitting on top of an unopened box.

Experiential gifts are also a big win. They don’t make clutter and you are sure to find something that your person would like to do. Maybe they love the opera. Or maybe they love hiking and camping. Or maybe they just want a nice bike ride somewhere that they can get mile high pie. Doing the leg work to plan the thing shows that you care enough, especially if the actual activity isn’t necessarily your first choice. Moms are really good at sacrificing what they really want to make the most people the most happy. Oh, and a hint, if you hate the opera but they have a friend who also likes it your gift can be for them to go with their friend. If you are compromising don’t make it obvious you’d rather not be there. It can be not your favorite thing and you keep that to yourself. 

The next time you find yourself struggling to find the perfect gift for someone who is practical to a fault, just remember it really is the thought that counts. So think about them and what would make their day brighter and happier. It might be easier than you think. At the very least, everyone can appreciate fancy soap.

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