What to do with an overabundance of children’s gifts

By Carolyn Hax / The Washington Post

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

I try to be mindful of the lessons I’m passing on to my kids. They receive a lot of presents for holidays and birthdays, and some are never opened.

I’ve started regifting them to their friends on occasion. I do this not so much for frugality — although that is a part of it — but mainly because I don’t think the world needs more plastic (read: junk), and if I buy less of it, perhaps less will be produced. Also, if we aren’t going to use the item, perhaps someone else will find it enjoyable.

I explain this to them; however, I worry they’re missing my point. Do you think I’m being cheap and unthoughtful?

— Regifting vs. Recycling

Well …

I’m with you on reducing consumption and waste, both for the planet and for the prevention of spoiled children. Watching a kid process (i.e., learn to take for granted in the span of about 60 seconds) an environment of excess is sobering.

I balk at the regifting, though, and here’s why. The beauty of a gift is in thinking of the recipient, imagining what he or she would want, and going to find that thing. Those are the mechanics of thought, which is supposed to be what counts.

If you can save money while still preserving the thought mechanics, though, then I’m all for regifting.

A couple of ways to do that: Put unused gifts in a “gift closet,” and then shop the closet when an occasion comes up. Only select something you and your kids believe the recipient would like — even to the point of going out to buy something else if the closet doesn’t provide adequately. Or, return gifts (when possible) for gift cards, and then use the gift cards to shop thoughtfully for other kids.

I’ve found that “missing the point” is a protean concept, too, especially with younger kids. Your gift ethics could be failing to register now due to your kids’ ages or states of mind, but over time your choices can be a foundation for your kids’ later understanding of pragmatism as a remedy for excess.

Re: Regifting:

They could also donate the unwanted items to local charities or thrift shops.

— Anonymous

True. It doesn’t help this parent save money, but it would solve the message problem with the kids, thanks.

Dear Carolyn:

A few months ago, after an increasing amount of silence on her end, an old friend told me she didn’t want to be friends anymore. So I backed off.

I found out from a mutual friend that she’s now engaged. I feel like I can’t let this event go unacknowledged. Would it be wrong of me to send a card of congratulations and a gift?

I have no expectations that this will rekindle our friendship, I just want her to know I’m happy for her and still thinking of her.

— Old Friend

If the dissolution were 10 years ago, I could see sending a happy-for-you card. Since it was recent, though, the risk is too high that a gift will convey disrespect for her wishes; not enough time has passed for you to have proven with your actions that you will honor her request to end the friendship. I’m sorry.

© 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

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