Last year I had a crisis.
Early one Saturday morning, I found myself in a large department store desperately trying to find a gift that fit my criteria for a three-year-old’s birthday party that afternoon.
I would like to have said ‘the perfect gift’, but I just didn’t have enough time to put that much thought into it.I grabbed something quickly and crossed my fingers the intended recipient would like it.
Once we arrived at the party I added our present to a pile that had formed on the table and sat for the rest of the afternoon staring at the mound of gifts in front of us with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I realised that most people had done exactly the same as I had, rushed out that morning and grabbed something, anything, just so we had something to add to the pile. We would do the same thing for this child again next year, and the year after, and the parents of this child would do the same for our children. This must add up to a lot of gifts; some that may not even be played with.
Were we giving the present to the child or were we just fulfilling a duty in providing a present?
When I got home that night, the uneasy feeling still there. I added up the number of birthday presents we would give to nieces and nephews or children of friends throughout the year.
I counted about 25 birthday presents we would need to buy for kids throughout the year. That’s a lot of birthdays and a lot of presents.
But more than that, it’s a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of demand, all being fueled by people desperately looking for something on a Saturday morning to arrive with at a party that afternoon.
And that’s just our family. Take those 25 people receiving the presents; they probably have their own list of 25 presents to buy, and so on and so on.
I had to make a change.
For most other areas of my life, I bought second-hand to reduce my impact, to take myself out of the demand chain – why wasn’t I doing it for this area of my life?
I realised there are a couple of reasons:
Finding the right pre-loved gift can take time. I couldn’t just waltz into Goodwill on a Saturday morning and assume I’ll find a fantastic present, it didn’t always work that way. Some days you hit the jackpot with second-hand stores, sometimes what you want just isn’t there and you need to check again another day or try another store. It just wasn’t convenient for me.
What would other people think? When they found out I was buying their child’s present from a second hand store, would they think I was scummy?
There were solutions to both of these problems.
- Get organised
- Have belief
I needed to suck it up a little and trust that my friends would respect my decision and the beliefs that go with it. Argh! Still scary.
The way I got organised was to:
- Make a list
I made up a list of all the kids birthdays throughout the year that we were either likely to attend a party for, or those that I would want to give a gift to either way. I have created a Gift Planner to keep all my gift giving organisation in the one place.
- Set reminders
I set reminders to let me know three weeks before each birthday that I need to get organised and find a gift. Personally to do this I use a app on my mobile phone (DGT Getting Things Done) which syncs to Toodledo but a mark on a calendar or whatever organisational tool you use will do the same job.
I’d love to say I sucked it up and proudly presented my pre-loved gifts to all recipients last year – but I didn’t. I went through a phase of hiding our presents at the bottom of the pile, or even hiding them in other rooms so they wouldn’t be unwrapped in front of everyone and I’d be outed as the second-hand giver.
I didn’t always get it right either, there were times I was caught short, invited to a party that I hadn’t factored in or just times when I got too scared and I headed back to the store for a first-hand gift.
But this year will be different. I am determined to source all of my gifts more sustainably; this means either:
- Finding great gifts in second hand store
- Giving something more personal by making something myself
- Always remembering to follow my green shopping guidelines
I’ll keep you updated on how things are going and in that way it will keep me accountable, and hopefully inspire others to use the same principle when thinking of what gifts to buy.
How do you think you would react if you were to receive a well thought out and personal gift, that also just happened to be second-hand?