Saturday, November 24, 2007

twigghugger's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season - Part 1: Giving, Getting and How!

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but my decluttering activities have outstripped my ability to keep up with writing about them. More on that in the future, but for now...

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has already come and gone! But, perhaps even more significant for the Packrat, is the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday, which has traditionally marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. All those shoppers lining up at the crack of dawn, waiting for the stores to open....I shudder at the thought of what this means for folk like us. If you (or someone you know) have been diligently working all year long to declutter your space AND can actually see some progress, then this time of the year could represent a serious setback to your hard earned success.

Below are six suggestions to help keep that momentum going. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but should at least get the wheels in your brain turning for “giving” alternatives. Because these ideas may represent a dramatic departure from what you’ve done in the past, it may be a good idea to discuss it first within your giving circle. This way everyone understands what is trying to be accomplished, is on the same page and awkward surprises or disappointments are avoided. To my mind the ultimate goal is to keep the holiday clutter in check.

  1. Exchange the intangible instead of the physical - give or make gift certificates for:

    • services: a day at the spa, a manicure, a hair salon visit, cell phone minutes, ring tones or whatever other doo-dads are hot this year for the mobile communicator

    • an entertainment or event experience: theatre or movie tickets, a Netflix gift certificate (to those who know me...hint...hint...;-) ), dinner for two at a local restaurant

    • personal favors: promises to baby-sit, shovel snow, rake leaves, or keep the [pick an area of the house] tidy

  2. The Gift Card - heck, with perhaps the exception of the personal favors, there's probably a gift card to be had for anything else in the other categories I just listed. You can get them easily enough at the particular establishment or order them from the merchants’ websites (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Starbuck's, Trader Joes, Target's, Red Lobster (yeah!) to name a few). Recently, I've even noticed kiosks at my local pharmacy, displaying all manner of gift cards for sale!

    The main take-away here is that this option facilitates targeted giving, allowing the recipient to choose their very own heart's desire (and from their favorite store to boot), rather than your having to guess at what that might be. How can either of you go wrong?!

  3. Give the Gift of Blog - encourage the writer in your midst. Creating a blog is easier than falling off a log, at least on Blogger it is. I've given the Gift of Blog twice already! My Inner Packrat took a vacation day and I pressed my Inner Krafty Kat into service. In each case, I created and designed a special blog gift card, recycling bits of leftover gift-wrap and greeting cards to create something new and fabulous!

  4. Snacks! - gifts of food are inherently un-cluttery, since they will likely need to be consumed within a specific period of time. As a result, they won't wear out their welcome by taking up too much space, at least for very long. Gifts of food can be store bought or for a nice personal touch, made with your own two little hands! Think mini quick breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, jams or jellies, fruit baskets, cheeses, wine and other beverages, munchie packs for movie night...the possibilities are really endless.

    Two books that survived my Great Book Purge were Gifts of Good Taste and Gifts That Taste Good both edited by Anne Van Wagner Young (Leisure Arts (c) 1989.

    A quick search at either of the two big online booksellers revealed that used copies of these (and other similar) books are still available. Of course, I got my copies before the Internet came along, but I'm sure there's a website or a blog out there that's chock full of ideas to suit your tastes (and yes the pun was intended! {{giggle}}

  5. Charitable Donations - Sites such as Just or Network For (also known as "charity portals") offer a variety of options for charitable gift giving such as:

    • charity gift certificates
    • ability to create wedding registries or charity wish lists
    • shopping via charity malls
    • charity auctions

    Options such as these will allow others to make a donation in your name or to have a portion of the proceeds from actual goods purchased through a charity mall, to be donated to an organization or cause (e.g. of your/their choice.

    Just Give provides a variety of tools that enables someone to search and identify organizations to donate to, and which have also been screened as fitting certain criteria, defined at their site (see also Check Out That Charity for additional tips on selecting and evaluating a charity).

    Please Note: that in order to provide this service to non-profit organizations, charity portals do deduct a small fee from each donation transaction (in the case of Just Give it's 3%). This is just something to be aware of and keep in mind when deciding how much to donate or even whether a given charity agrees with this condition and will accept donations generated through portal sites.

    Perhaps you're thinking that charging such a fee might impose a hardship on organizations already strapped for funds, however for some it is actually more cost effective to do it this way then to recruit, retain and pay personnel to provide e-commerce functionality for themselves.

  6. The Wish List - Finally, if you must or still want to give actual "things" the wish list is another way to more effectively focus gift giving by getting items a recipient truly wants or needs. If you've done any kind of online shopping you will probably be familiar with the wish list. If not, the wish list, is similar in concept to the bridal or baby shower registry, allowing you to add selected items from the site to a list for future reference. The drawback is that if there are several sites that a person frequents, gift givers will have to be directed to multiple places, which could be tedious.

    Not to worry! I came across a couple of sites (and undoubtedly there are many, many more) that allow you to coordinate and manage wish lists from multiple sources and share them with others.

    This link basically takes you to the "Google Product Search" page. In the upper right hand corner is a link to "My Shopping List". If you already have a Google or Gmail account, then you're pretty much already in business to use the service, otherwise you'll need to create an account. This service is in beta, so it was difficult to find any written explanation for how the wish list part works, but it's pretty easy to figure out if you poke around a bit.

    …and no, I’m not a shill for Google! I just either already use or happened to stumble across these services, but if you find or use something you like better, that’s fine too!

    Another site I came across was The Things I I haven't actually tried it, but according to the site " is an all-occasion universal gift registry site that enables users to add any item from any site to their wish list. "

So there you have it. I hope these suggestions have given you some ideas to keep from re-accumulating too much stuff over the holidays.

Good Luck and Good Giving!

Next up: twigghugger's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season - Part 2: The Art of Wrapping "Nothing!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great ideas! Software is another; If you know what programs a person have, you can give them an upgrade, or extend the subscription on software.