The Tricky Business of Re-Gifting

We’ve all received on occasion a gift that we either cannot use or absolutely dislike.  Is it wrong to pass on a gift given to us as a gift for somebody else?  Enviro Girl argues that in most situations, re-gifting is perfectly acceptable, provided you are sensitive about it.  It’s silly to hold on to things you can’t use and don’t like, it’s so much better to pass them along to someone who will put them to good use.  What are the rules regarding re-gifting?

Was it handmade?  Let’s say your grandmother spent nine months sewing you a quilt that does not go with your home decorating style.  Obviously something handmade involves feelings, so you cannot re-gift a quilt carrying nine months of grandmother’s life and love sewn into it.  In general, something handmade should not be re-gifted if it was made specifically for the recipient.  The only caveat Enviro Girl can think of for this rule is if the handmade was mass-produced, like her strawberry jam.  She makes gallons of homegrown and homemade jam, jam not expressly made for any individual, so in the case of her jam, were someone to re-gift the jar she gave them (unopened, of course), it would be appropriate.

Does it have sentimental value?  Family heirlooms fall into this category, although it’s fair to argue that what’s sentimental to one person can have zero value to another.  Years ago one of Enviro Girl’s great-uncles gave one of her sons a toy car emblazoned with the logo of a local business.  It’s an antique, her sons have zero interest in cars or antiques, the great-uncle has since passed and Enviro Girl knows someone who’d get a kick out of the car because it’s old and has this particular name on it.  Enviro Girl believes in her heart her great-uncle would prefer the car go to someone who would truly appreciate its value.  If the intent of re-gifting is to match the value of a gift with a recipient who will value it, Enviro Girl says Go For It!

Is it timely?  Re-gifting last year’s hot toy as a birthday gift because your child got two last Christmas is both cheap and wrong.  Never, ever re-gift something that is not trendy or has expired.

Would the gift-giver’s feelings be hurt if they knew you were passing along their gift to you?  This is your best litmus test.  Every year Enviro Girl’s grandma sends her home with three pounds of chocolates.  Every year Enviro Girl brings boxes of those chocolates along to holiday parties as hostess gifts to share–grandma won’t mind those chocolates being enjoyed by a crowd instead of getting stale and eventually tossed into the garbage back at Enviro Girl’s house.

Will the gift-giver or recipient find out?  Enviro Girl thinks you’re pretty safe to re-gift across social circles.  A co-worker gives you a coffee mug you’ve absolutely no use for?  Go ahead and give it to somebody in your book club, freshly wrapped with a new gift tag, of course.

Will the recipient like the gift more than you did?  If the answer to this question is “Yes!” then absolutely re-gift.  Enviro Girl believes that considering this question would actually prevent a lot of re-gifting in the first place.   Each time Enviro Girl receives body lotions and soaps from others, she sets them aside to give to her mother-in-law.  Enviro Girl has freakishly sensitive skin, most people giving her those benign tubes of lotions and body washes don’t know that.  Enviro Girl also knows her mother-in-law really enjoys strong-scented lotions and body washes and will use every last drop.  Enviro Girl has never felt a twinge of guilt passing on something she knows the next person will truly value.

There are politics to re-gifting, but with careful diplomacy, you can pass along things and make others happier in the process.

Tell the Eco Women:  Do you re-gift?

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