May 14, 2009

The Case For Regifting

This idea of regifting has been eating at me for months now, ever since a discussion with a parent at the kid's preschool about how, between family, church, work, neighbors and school, it seems like there's at least one but sometimes two kid birthday parties every weekend. And it's enough to make me want to stock a closet full of Playmobil, because it'd be easier than running to the store for every party.

And from there, we talked about book exchange parties, where kids were invited to bring two books they liked, and they'd trade them. And from there it was apparently a slippery enough slope for this parent to cop to regifting pretty frequently.

At which point I joked how I'm the clueless guy who keeps the system churning by inadvertently buying new, easily regiftable gifts. And they're all, you have no idea. And that actually, at their kid's party, they figured that a full 40% of their kid's haul--10 of 25 presents--were regifts. And none of this regifting is driven by a lack of means. Instead, it's--what? A lack of interest in shopping? A lack of interest in accumulating stuff, stuff and more stuff? Practicality? Convenience? An urge to declutter? Environmental awareness?

Some of these gifts were straight up, hot potato pass-alongs. One book, this parent said, even had an inscription to the giver for his birthday--which had just happened. And all three--the original giver, the regifter, and the regiftee, were all at both parties.

While there were a couple of unopened regifts--I didn't think to ask how they knew they were regifts--others were in opened or retaped original packages, different packaging, or even no packaging at all, just giftwrapping.

And that's when it occurred to me that maybe I was looking at regifting way too narrowly, as a way to manage down the social convention of gift giving. And that's fine. Your kid gets yet more toys they don't need, or gets duplicates, it seems like no big deal to be grateful--and then to pass them along when you think there's a better chance of their being used and loved.

But the real power of regifting might lie in teaching a kid to not only think of her friend, and give something her friend would like, but also to give something of her own to her friend. It could make the gift--and the gift process--more meaningful than, "Here's something my dad picked up for you at the toy store."

Obviously, that this kind of gifting is only regifting if the gift was originally a gift. But that's a technicality. What's important is the giving-without-shopping, the giving up. But what it also would entail is letting the recipient know that the kid's giving something of her own, and that you're not just offloading some used toy.

Which all sounds great in theory, but even almost six months and many parties after the discussion, I still haven't tried it out yet. Any thoughts?


We've re-gifted a bunch of the little devil's stuff, but only NIB. We also only did it when he already had the item, or a very similar item.

Our re-gifting was driven by one major thing. Our primary cause of re-gifting is when people DON'T include a gift receipt, so you can't return a duplicate item.

We usually distract the little guy and make sure the offending item "gets lost in the shuffle". 9/10 times he's too dizzy from all the excitement and sugar that he never misses the item. We then use the money we WOULD have spent on (re)gifts to either put in his bank accounts, or buy him something 'just because'.

I've been working on a few guidelines I'd LOVE to share with the relatives, but putting stipulations on gift giving seems a bit of a dick-move.

Here they are...

Without prior consultation the following should NOT be given as gifts:
1) Anything larger than three cubic feet.
2) Anything over 20lbs.
3) Anything requiring more than 4 batteries.
4) Anything with guns.
5) Anything religious in nature.
6) Anything living.
7) Anything that's sole purpose is making noise.

We've gotten all of the above, excepting #6. In my opinion the most useless gift ever is Kota The Dinosaur.

The stupid thing takes up roughly 27cuft, weights 35lbs, runs on 6 D batteries, and makes more noise than a cat in a blender, even on the 'quiet' setting. It also does almost nothing, so after about 2 days of 'fun' it's simply a huge, ugly door stop.

Wish we could re-gift Kota, but I know so few parents I'd be willing to inflict it upon.

I think there isn't anything inherently wrong with re-gifting, if the gift receiver has no objections or hasn't been specific about what they want. I tend to think people shouldn't pass the hot potato of useless junk for the sake of giving a gift - if they have the choice between something thoughtful the receiver will like and a re-gift, they should always choose the former.

But nowadays there are websites designed to cut down on useless gift waste by having receivers post what they actually want, and having people contribute to that instead of bringing unapproved gifts. For kids, this is great because it teaches them the value of saving and goal setting, helps parents not have to worry about what kid brought the better/cooler/bigger gift, cuts down on waste from wrapping and re gifting, and teaches kids the wonders of technology! A great one is, the receiver sets up a post with what they want, and friends & family contribute to it.. meaning grandma from overseas can also be a part of it. They also give part of it to a charity of the receiver's choice. There's similar sites out there - but this is the only one I've seen with the charitable aspect.

Call me crazy, but I thought the main reason regifting is considered tacky is because it is disrespectful and insulting to the original gifter, who doubtless spent time, money, and thoughtful consideration when selecting or making it.

I'm all for cutting down on rampant consumerism, and you have an interesting idea in getting children to find meaning in giving something up... but I don't know what exactly that teaches them about appreciating what they *have* been given.

Although I'm all for re-cycling, it's hard to see how this would teach anything but "this original gift is disposable, so we'll pass it on to someone else".

Re-gifting sounds a whole lot like the inverse of what shriek house describes: "I'm not feeling a whole lot like spending time, money and thoughtful consideration when selecting this gift". Not exactly the message I'd like to be passing along.

Maybe throttling the rampant consumerism would be better served by having birthday parties that involved activities rather than gifts. Yeah, I know, heretical, but really, isn't the accumulation of an overwhelming bunch of (often re-gifted) presents a little ridiculous?

I love parties, but hate gifts. The norm in our area is to have parties at places and because the max. kids is pretty high, you have an incentive to invite lots of kids and, therefore, get lots of gifts.

I find the receiving end to be the hardest part. My house is small and I don't have room or patience for 15 useless toys that will be forgotten within three minutes of opening. Every year I tell my husband that we're doing a no-gift party and every year I lose the argument.

As far as giving goes, I usually try to give books as gifts - we probably all have favorite books that we'd love to share. Last year I bought some favorites in bulk on Amazon and wrapped them up one afternoon. Come party time I just grabbed one at random and slapped a to/from sticker on it.

My other favorite gift to give is a set of PJs. Most kids have a thing they love and somewhere out there, there is a company that makes pajamas in that theme.

Maybe this year I'll tell my son that we'll get X special big gift if he agrees to a no gift party. Then I can instead ask people to bring books that I'll donate to charity.

With three girls, tired of freaking regifted Polly Pockets, realizing that well-brought up Southern girls can NOT send their kids empty-handed to a party even if the invitation has "No Gifts" in 98 pt type, I found a solution I can live with.

Our church has a food pantry. Bring some canned goods.

That way, everyone can show up with something, the girls feel good about, and regifted canned food is somehow more palatable than regifted plastic crap we don't want and don't need.

And - bonus - some of their friends parents are catching on too.

The lack of ease of giving gift receipts for Amazon has made that harder for me. If I give a gift, I think I should give a gift receipt. But overall, regifting doesn't seem terrible to me.

And a note of caution when you travel down the regifting - recycling - environmentally conscious, smaller footprint path. Last Christmas, someone got the anti-materialist bug in my 7 year old daughter's ear. Ugh. She decided only home-made gifts showed how much you loved someone. I caught her wrapping broken sea shells for her 3 month old baby sister. I could spin this as a "oh how sweet" story, but really, it annoyed me. She doesn't want to open random bits of crap from around the house. But I am at a loss to explain why gifts have to come from the store - what I said to her in a moment of panic. I cringed about 30 seconds later. Presents don't have to come from a store, they just can't come from under her bed?

Any unwanted gifts here end up loaned to friends who can use them, donated to a charity, or saved for the Marine Toys for Tots drive in the holiday season.

It may not be quite what the giver had in mind, but it will hopefully have a bigger impact on someone's life.

A great post on Baby Toolkit today about this (in the sig) from someone who has actually had success in throwing a series of kids' birthday parties in which no gifts were exchanged.

Everyone wound up pretty happy with the arrangement. The key seems to have been having a core group that made a pact and then all threw parties that way, with any adamant gift-bringers' offerings gratefully received and set aside for a non-party opening.

The post struck a chord with me in its description of the biggest loser in the gift-centric kids' party: the recipient. Nothing less fun than opening a bunch of stuff you have to immediately set aside to (a) open something else and (b) keep all the other kids from playing with your new stuff before you get to.

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