Updated: Dec 13, 2020
With Hanukkah in full swing and Christmas less than 2 weeks away, gift buying and gift giving are in full swing. As someone who spends their days helping people dig through boxes and boxes and boxes of their stuff, the season of giving gives me a little pause.
And what is a gift actually? Well, according to dictionary.com, a gift is something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion or make a gesture of assistance. So, since a gift is something given without payment in return, it seems as though a gift is a no-strings attached proposition, right? I wish that were always true.
I have watched well-reasoning, well-educated adults become paralyzed when looking at an old gift from their relatives and friends. When my clients are stuck making decision on whether they should keep or discard an item, I ask them to tell me the origination story along with questions like "Do you love it?" or "Does it bring you joy?" to get their minds moving toward decision. When the response is "it was a gift", some of the most common answers I get are "No, I don't like it, but I should keep it because it was a gift from so-and-so" or "So-and-so would be hurt if I didn't keep it and "I'll get rid of it when so-and-so dies".
What I see from their facial expressions and body language tells a clearer picture - they are holding something that they really don't want to keep and that doesn't bring them joy. If they were holding a gift that their hearts treasured, their face would light up and they would have no difficulty making a decision to keep it.
I'm sharing this perspective simply to give a view of the burden that can sometimes be left in gift-giving season.
For those of you who lay the guilt trip onto others, it might be time to reflect on why you're giving gifts in the first place. Also, it would be gracious for you to proactively share with others that it's OK to return or exchange your gift or to pass it along to someone else if there isn't a perfect match.
And, if you're someone who is keeping piles of unwanted old gifts in your closets and drawers, let this holiday season be the one where you feel empowered to make the decisions from your heart and not out of guilt.
My hope is that we all get to spend time with our most precious gift of all - our beloved family and friends during this holiday season. For it is the memories we create with those family and friends that we will most remember as we grow old rather than the things they gave us wrapped in pretty paper.