The Etiquette of Gift Giving

The whole idea behind gift giving is it is supposed to be an unselfish act of doing something nice for someone else. how to give a gift Whether realizing it or not, you could very well be disrespecting the (very specific) person.

I have seen a lot of these “If you must bring a gift we would like…” letters lately, that for some insane reason, go viral. Is there ever anything good to be said about them?  Of course not.  The people who have written these lists of ‘what to bring…if you bring‘ have been publicly shamed by their (supposed) friends and family.  To me?  List makers are genius.
In fact, I too have sent out my own “If you must give” gift list. 
Thankfully way before any of these lists started going viral.

pile of giftsWhen my husband and I were getting married, it was a very tight group of people who would be joining us at our ceremony. We can count the number of close friends we have on less than one hand, so for us being offered a bride/groom party (filled with everyone who wasn’t coming to our wedding) was a lot to take in. I knew that these close friends of our would manage to get us gifts that we would like, for example, for my husband’s birthday one time they brought him league of legends accounts because they knew he liked gaming. These other people I wasn’t too sure about. It was going to be a room full of people that we don’t speak to, or even have contact with on a regular basis.  This in itself triggered a lot of anxiety. I knew (even though we strictly said “please no gifts”..and meant it) people would still bring a little something.  My husband and I don’t do gifts.  Not for each other and not for anyone else.  The thought of receiving gifts from a bunch of people we rarely have contact with was unsettling and uncomfortable.  Our house is also very tidy and even the thought of having unnecessary ‘stuff’ can bring on a panic attack.  So I did the only thing I felt was right:  I sent out an email to those who were throwing the party, with a specific list that they could pass suggestions along to those who would be attending, should they ‘need’ to bring something.

My list went a little something like this:

– Nothing Scented
– Nothing Stainless Steel
– No Patterns on any items
– No items that have a ‘frosted’ coating
– No Dark Colors such as Navy Blue, Green or Red

If someone wanted to give cash, I had a list of specific things we were saving for (even the small things like DVD Box Sets and naming which ones we wanted in case they’d like to grab that!).  I signed it off with a please…If you “must” bring – We appreciate gift cards the most. We use them on a regular basis. $10 in gas goes a long way, $20 to a grocery store helps immensely. We are frugal people and we like practicality.  I also listed off specific stores where a gift card will get put to use and places we do not shop. We still wound up with a few items that simply just don’t fit into our lifestyle. 
These things end up being donated, given away or worse..are still sitting in our storage until we can figure out what should be done with them.

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If you suffer from anxiety and/or any form of OCD, you understand why this is overwhelming.  It’s hard living with issues (such as not being able to touch frosted or stainless steel items) and for those who don’t live with the problem, it’s hard to grasp the concept. These weren’t just ways of me ‘being picky’ or a bitch.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of how much stress and anxiety unnecessary items (or items with a specific coatings etc) actually play into my every day life…and it’s a struggle.  So while you may toss (my list, for example) aside and ignore specific requests – Please realize that what you give, may not be very well received.  Many items won’t go to any use in our lifestyle, because I simply can’t put them to use. 

How not to choose a giftSimilarly, a girlfriend of mine sent out a “No gifts, but if you must” list for her daughters birthday party this year – With even adding “Second hand items are FINE” and listed off items that were needed/wanted/being saved for.  Whether she received whispers behind her back for doing so, I have no idea.  But I can tell you, even though I am not a parent – I can imagine why a list like this would be so important.  Only you know your child’s (specific) needs.  Only the parent knows exactly what will be helpful or what will just end up sitting in a toy-box or a dresser drawer, only to be donated at some point.

•  •  •  •

Some people may actually just be specific or ‘picky’ in items they want in their household – Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I am this way as well – whether or not that is a mix of dealing with the issues I already have, who knows.  I digress:  It’s up to the couple or person to decide what fits perfectly into their lifestyle and home, should they be the ‘specific item’ type. They are the ones that know which items will actually get put to use and not very often do these type of people want someone deciding how their house should be decorated.

Don’t {try to} Guilt the Receiver 
Most people who send out Gift Lists have a very organized life and know exactly what they want. They will not feel guilty when your gift does not get put to use, so don’t think you can be sneaky about this and guilt them into loving what you gave, or guilt them into feeling bad because you were just trying to be nice. With doing this, you are simply making gift-giving about YOU and not what it should be for – Giving a gift out of kindness for someone else. 

Don’t Take it Personal (Really!)
Please stop taking this so personal.  It has absolutely nothing to do with you.  Saying things such as “They are ungrateful” or “Then I just won’t get them anything” is beyond ridiculous.  We absolutely are grateful of not only a gift, but because you personally took time out of your schedule for us. However, one thing that does cross the list-maker’s mind when given something completely irrelevant is, “why would they go out of their way to get something we didn’t need?”.  Again, not personal (I promise!)…We are just confused.  It’s a subtle slap in the face as to say “Who cares about their needs”.

The Wonderful Thing
Embrace it! This is gift-giving made simple! The great thing about list-makers and grabbing them something from their list is:  #1…Your money has not been thrown out the window.  It’s been put togood useSecondly, you’ve helped that person (or couple) out with something they were saving for or needed.  They’ll love you for this!

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So please, before you shame (publicly or behind their back) a person or couple when they ask for no gifts, or give you ideas on if you must bring a gift – Follow the gift giving etiquette of: Who are you truly doing this for?  If it’s for them, please take their choices into (serious) consideration.  It’s really not “the thought that counts” when you have thought about your needs, as opposed to the receiver’s. A gift should be helpful, not stressful. Deliberately skipping everything on a list that someone ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ is not done out of kindness.  You have no idea why they may or may not want things that aren’t listed.

I hope this may help others understand a bit more 🙂
Mrs White Signature