It is a common belief that everybody loves to receive gifts. However, the more people are embracing minimalism, the more gifts are becoming a botheration. Ever since I started my minimalist journey, gifts have become a source of botheration and irritation for me. Before you start judging me for being rude to the sentiments of the gift giver, please give me a chance to explain myself.
There are two types of gifts, the first are those where a person puts in a lot of thoughts, love, respect, compassion and care to choose a gift. However, the second is when a person gifts you out of obligation and social conventions. I have problem with the later.
When I started de-cluttering, I realized that most of the things that I was throwing away came as gifts. For example, I received almost thousand gifts on my wedding. I know many of those gifts were ‘re-gifted’ gifts. Indian families are famous at re-gifting. I remember, one of my BFF got married couple of months before my wedding and she gifted me a rice cooker. When I opened it, I found a card that had her name as recipient. I understood that she re-gifted me something that she received on her wedding. All of us got some items in duplicates like toaster, casseroles. flasks, etc. on our wedding. Don’t you find this similar?
Over the years, we received gifts on birthdays, anniversaries, Diwali, new year, return gifts, and travel souvenirs from friends and families. Things and stuff just started getting accumulated.
The gifts we give are often part of social obligation. It is not always something people give out of love. They give it because they are expected to give it. When people gift out of obligation, they are often not mindful while choosing the gift. Let us be honest, we all are guilty of this. However, when we feel like giving a gift from the bottom of our hearts the gifts are usually mindful.
I honestly appreciate those couples who mention clearly on their wedding cards not to bring gifts. I wish, I had the wisdom back then to ask people not to bring gifts. Recently, I attended a wedding where the couple had requested to give saplings and seeds as gifts. They plan to plant those saplings and grow a forest. Isn’t it a beautiful thought? I wish I had done the same.
As a society, we should stop focusing on material gifts and start gifting experiences. For example, why not we gift someone a holiday, a restaurant voucher, a plant to grow, a pet, or an experience. My son once receieved a neem sapling as a birthday return gift. Initially, he didn’t like it as he was expecting a toy. However, 7 years later the plant is still alive while most of his toys are either broken or lost.
As per Wikipedia: “A significant fraction of gifts are unwanted, or the giver pays more for the item than the recipient values it, resulting in a misallocation of economic resources known as a deadweight loss. Unwanted gifts are often “regifted“, donated to charity, or thrown away. A gift that actually imposes a burden on the recipient, either due to maintenance or storage or disposal costs, is known as a white elephant. One cause of the mismatch between the giver’s and receiver’s view is that the giver is focused on the act of giving the gift, while the receiver is more interested in the long-term utilitarian value of the gift. For example, many receivers prefer a future experience instead of an object, or a practical gift that they have requested over a more expensive, showier gift chosen by the giver. One means of reducing the mismatch between the buyer and receivers’ tastes is advance coordination, often undertaken in the form of a wedding registry or Christmas list. Wedding registries in particular are often kept at a single store, which can designate the exact items to be purchased (resulting in matching housewares), and to coordinate purchases so the same gift is not purchased by different guests. One study found that wedding guests who departed from the registry typically did so because they wished to signal a closer relationship to the couple by personalizing a gift, and also found that as a result of not abiding by the recipients’ preferences, their gifts were appreciated less often. An estimated $3.4 billion was spent on unwanted Christmas gifts in the United States in 2017. The day after Christmas is typically the busiest day for returns in countries with large Christmas gift giving traditions. The total unredeemed value of gift cards purchased in the U.S. each year is estimated to be about a billion dollars.“
We do realize that the tradition of gift-giving is also leaving carbon footprints behind. However, the consumerist world will always encourage us to give more gifts. They would say that you can express true love only through gifts. However, as a human being, if you are concerned about nature then gift something that serves a greater purpose. Do not gift something that simply creates clutter and eventually lands up in the trash bin. As we are approaching the festival season, let us commit to be more mindful while giving and receiving gifts.