Regifting 101: what goes around comes around

wrapping a gift

gift being wrapped

What are the first words that pop into your head when you hear the word “regifting?” Your word associations might be opposites. Cheapskate or Pennywise. Lazy or Pragmatic. Thoughtless or Thoughtful. Stealthy or Savvy. All those words can apply. Regifting is either an awesome do or a deeply regrettable don’t depending on how it’s executed. 

There are zero things wrong with regifting. But consider these as regifting ground rules: 1) You do not need to keep every gift you’re ever given. You need to accept it graciously and genuinely at the time it is given. But you are under no requirement to keep it if forever if it is not something that fits into your life, unless…2) the giver has an emotional investment in the gift and will be deeply wounded if they don’t see it when they come to visit, or…3) it’s something extravagant like a new car or a villa in France that would involve accountants and lawyers.

burning candle
A candle that’s been burned is a great hand-me-down, but as a regift, not so much.

Regifting basics

  • If you’ve used it and it’s obvious you’ve used it, it’s not a gift, it’s a hand-me-down. It might still be nice to pass it along, but you might want to reconsider sticking a bow on it and pretending that it’s new when everyone can tell it’s not.
  • Make sure it’s not personalized in any way. Look for inside notes, inscriptions inside books, tos and froms on gift tags. Exception: If it is a gift you received from someone with a note that will be meaningful to the person you are regifting it to, the note should be considered part of the gift.
  • It should be something that the recipient will actually enjoy receiving. 
  • It should not be outdated from a usability standpoint. Examples: Something electronic that’s been hanging around so long the battery is no longer charged. A VHS movie, even if it’s still in the plastic. A copy of Windows 98 for Dummies.
  • If you’re not sure who you got it from in the first place, don’t regift it unless you are willing to risk accidentally giving it back to whomever you got it from. 
gift wrapping
Successful regifting will likely include rewrapping.

Level 1 Regifting

Just the basics, regifting at it’s most simple level.

  • Personalize the gift. Add an note so it feels specially selected for the person who received it, because even if you selected it in your unwanted gift stash, you did select it just for them. Wrap it so the note is obvious so the recipient will not inadvertently commit a regifting fail if they decide to regift your regift.
  • Rewrap it. Old crumpled tissue in a gift bag is a regifting tell.
  • Embrace honesty. If you’re afraid to admit it’s a regift, your conscience will thank you if you don’t follow through and regift it.
cookie plate
A vintage platter with cookies is a lovely regift.

Level 2 Regifting

A higher level of regifting, giving things forward.

  • Give something that you’ve used and loved but no longer need. Pass along a great old toboggan to a younger family that will get years of enjoyment from it. A regift this warmly given definitely is bow-worthy.
  • Give a gift inside a bonus regift. Package something homemade on a splendid serving platter you no longer use. Plant a new amaryllis bulb in an nice used flower pot. 
  • Make it a value added regift. Add stamps to a box of stationery. Wrap a well-loved game or puzzle with snacks to give a fun night in. Add new candles to a pair of candlesticks.
  • Add to someone’s collection. If you know someone has a passion for cookbooks, pass one along, perhaps with special bottle of extract or spices.
  • Delight a hobbyist. Wrap up an assortment of fabrics from your stash for a quilter. Tie up an trusty lure or three for a fisherman. Pass on your canning jars with a box of fresh new seals and maybe your favorite jam recipe.
book
A book you love makes an excellent Level 3 regift.

Level 3 Regifting

 Think of this as a rarified level of regifting, giving things you have used that have meaning for you and will have meaning for the recipient. And although giving these gifts with an oral history is lovely, a written history is absolutely essential so the meaning is preserved.

  • Pass along your tools of the trade. Make up a basic tool box with hand tools that anyone would find useful. Wrap up specialty kitchen items like a madeline pan or a hand crank pasta maker with the recipes that you used.
  • Give forward a gift you received and loved. Wedding gifts you received, like silver and crystal are entirely wonderful to gift forward. Jewelry you received on a special occasion or from a special person. A desk box or valet box with your monogram that you used and that can be used forward. 
  • A book you have enjoyed so much you’ve gone back to read it multiple times is a great addition to the library of someone else who might find the same joy.

♦♦♦♦♦

There is no rule that says a gift needs to come from a store. We know this is true because the Grinch* says it is, and his heart grew three sizes when he learned it. Regifting can be an art. It’s an exercise either in successful repackaging or in adding meaning to something that isn’t store fresh. The measure of a gift is not what it cost, it’s the thought that went into it.

If you’re on the receiving end of a regift and you can tell it’s a regift, repeat after me: it really is the thought that counts. You accepting that regift gracefully might just be the nicest thing the regifter receives the whole holiday season.

*Okay, for the Grinch purists. We acknowledge that Dr. Seuss quotes the Grinch thinking “ What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” So yes, a further meaning was extrapolated based on the existing data. We stand by the reference.

 

 

 

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3 comments

  1. What a wonderful post, Laurie. I appreciate the thought that went into your advice and as a lover of vintage, I fully support the idea of paying forward a gift that has meaning.

    As an aside, your thoughts go beyond “Regifting 101”. I think anyone who follows your advice earns a PhD in the fine art of regifting.

  2. Fabulous advice very well put. Regifting has been elevated to a new level. Thanks for your brilliant insight Laurie.

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