Sunday, December 4, 2011

how to buy a lovely gift.

Eddie Ross will teach you how to tie a bow that melts in your hands when you pull it
The trick is that you have to know the person you're giving the gift to. Sounds easy, but it's so often not. I know-- how do you buy a thoughtful, delightful gift for a family member you barely see (except at Christmas time, when you're expected to give them a gift!)? Here are some things I think about to brainstorm some ideas for the perfect gift, even if I don't know the person inside and out. I use answers to these questions to give me an idea of the shape of a person, their personality and tastes, and I try to use my sense of their self to match them up with a gift.
  • What do they like? I try to brainstorm ideas of the things they are into, like my cousin who likes things a little bit shabby chic, a little bit country, a little bit homemade. I pick these keywords to make a list that gives me an idea of their tastes. If I am out shopping and see something that matches up to the list of words, then there is my great gift.
  • What do they wear? There is a lady at church who wears purple. She doesn't always wear this color, but most of the time, she does. I don't know her that well, but if I had to give her a gift, it would be something purple. Not to mention a person's fashion tastes will give you a clue of what else they might like that might not necessarily be wearable.
  • What is their favorite color? See the example above.
  • What do they have in their home? What are the objects they display? Once again, these things tell you something about a person's tastes. I wouldn't want to give someone something exactly like what they already have, which would be like buying them a sweater they already own but in a different color.
  • Have they traveled, and, if so, what was their favorite place? Do they have a place they have always wanted to go but haven't made it there yet? In this case, I am thinking of my friend who loves Scotland. She hasn't gotten there (yet!), but I have given her gifts that are reminiscent of the place she loves, like a vintage book about Scotland. 
I delight in giving beautiful, meaningful gifts, but I know so many people do not (perhaps not their love language?). Instead of something that shows the thoughtfulness that goes behind spending the time to earn money, to go shopping, to pick out a gift, and to give that gift, gifts can turn into a stressful ordeal for the giver (have to find something! oh, just give anything that looks like it will do the job) and for the receiver (great, another piece of junk I have to store or get rid of). If that is the case, try to find someone you know who you think gives the best gifts. Watch how they operate or ask them to give you a quick tip or two on how they pick their gifts. One of my aunts and another of my friends are both amazing gift givers, and I learned a lot about giving gifts from them. 

Another tactic is to be observant, as the questions above nudge you to do. Find details from the person's appearance, home, or their other belongings to give you clues. If they say they like something in conversation, remember it and write it down for future reference. (I keep a running list all year long for gifts I'd like to give my family and close friends, filled with things that I have heard them say they like/need/want.) It could be anything, from their favorite candy or gum, to more extravagant, expensive items. If you are super sleuthy, you could make a list with a variety of items at different prices to fit your current budget. 

For example, I knew that my husband thought a messenger bag from San Lorenzo made from recycled leather was really nice after he admired it in a shop. I wrote it down on my "wish list." However, we have had very small gift exchanges since he admired the bag, but I also knew he prefers to eat with chopsticks any time we have Asian-inspired food for dinner. So, last Christmas, instead an expensive gift like the bag, I got him chopsticks and dark chocolate. 

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