First, the impersonal toiletries and snacks — white socks, aftershave, fancy carved guest soaps, an assortment of flavored coffees, tins of peanut brittle. You know the giver had a stack of these anonymous any-gifts, so feel free to use their practical nature as inspiration. Essentials like soap, socks, and snacks are always needed at shelters. Match them by an extra dozen and drop off at your closest charity. Or, divvy up individual care packages into Ziploc bags and keep a few in your car. You’ll have something useful to offer the next time you’re approached by someone in need.
For that quirky, possibly handmade, gift you feel too guilty to part with (or you wouldn’t wish on another human), consider some crafty transformation. Not to be cruel, but if you already have a healthy (emotional or physical) distance from the giver, you can preserve the “thoughtfulness” of an odd gift by giving it new life as an object you want around. Hideous holiday-themed sweater? Google up a quick felting tutorial and transform that kooky knit into a free-form art sculpture — you can always say you shrunk it in the wash accidentally. Chunky wooden candlesticks from middle-school shop class? Say they’re too lovely to ruin with candle wax, then bolt them to the wall as “art” — and when the giver’s not around, hang your coats on them.
And what about the nice, even expensive, present that’s just not your style or that you can’t possibly use? Can’t it go in the gift closet and be pulled out the next time an obligation rolls around? According to Emily Post, it’s not that easy. You can only re-gift if you’re absolutely confident it wouldn’t hurt the feelings of the original giver or the future recipient. Rather than run the risk of offending someone, consider freecycling. An international phenomenon, freecyclers post free offers of goods they no longer need to a Yahoo group anyone can join. You can also request items from the community. Find out more at Freecycle.org, or go ahead and join our local group at [email protected]. You, with an extra coffeemaker and no bicycle pump, may just run into your cosmic holiday counterpart.