Wrapping It Up for the Year
Happy Winter Solstice! Today is the day of the year with the least amount of sunlight … about 9.5 hours here in San Francisco. (In contrast, during the June 21 summer solstice, the skies were light for nearly 15 hours.) These winter days may feel “short” but I know they’re long on to-dos, including wrapping gifts, attending holiday parties and visiting with friends and family.
If you’re looking for inspiration as you prepare for a new year, read on. As always, if you see something helpful or a tip you like, you’re more than welcome share it on social media using the links below.
Have an organizing question or need a referral to a resource? I’m happy to help. Email me at junebell (at) me (dot) com or catch me on Twitter @JuneDBell.
Downsizing: Dilemmas, Decisions and Disasters
The agonies of downsizing were front-page news. The Wall Street Journal recently explored the intergenerational misunderstandings and hard feelings that can accompany parents’ decisions to pare their possessions—and their attempts to foist those items on their children.
Rejected goods mentioned in the article included wall scones, complete sets of fine china, dessert cups and even a chandelier and pieces of furniture. Parents can’t bear to see these “heirlooms” leave the family, and their children, who are in their 20s and 30s, don’t want bric-a-brac cluttering their homes. Parents are offended and hurt when their gifts are rejected. Children resent their homes being considered a dumping ground.
To prevent family friction when you’re downsizing, consider these perspectives:
- Your children may not share your taste in décor, cutlery, china or fashion, and no amount of cajoling or guilt-tripping will change that.
- The fact that you spent money on something or enjoyed using it does not make it inherently valuable to anyone else. Neither does the fact that it still works, that it was owned by your parents or that it was a gift.
- Before you downsize, ask your children what items, if any, are especially meaningful to them. It might be something relatively worthless but dear, such as holiday cookie cutters or a fountain pen.
- Your relationship with your children transcends material goods. It’s not embodied in anything you own, pass on or withhold.
Young adults …
- Your parents mean well. They consider you the custodian of family memories and history, and their efforts to pass items on to you are their way of saying that they don’t want to be forgotten. Downsizing can trigger a lot of emotions that have nothing to do with the stuff on hand.
- Be gentle. You can say a kind “no thanks” to tchotchkes and items you dislike without insulting your dad’s taste.
- Before you accept anything, think carefully about whether you love it, whether you can use it and where you’ll keep it.
- Don’t become a dumping ground. If you don’t want something, don’t let it into your home. It will suck up space and breed resentment.
Agonizing over the perfect gift?
Fret no more, say various researchers who’ve delved deep into the psychology of gift-giving, as quoted in The New York Times. Don’t worry that you’re not putting enough effort into buying different gifts for everyone on your list; it’s perfectly fine to buy multiples of the same, good-enough present.
Forget the idea of surprising a recipient with something they didn’t ask for; most people would prefer a gift card, something they said they wanted or (if you’re my 13-year-old son), cash.
Regifting? Go right ahead. A 2012 study with the intriguing name “The Gifts We Keep on Giving: Documenting and Destigmatizing the Regifting Taboo” looked at the “social taboo” of making a present of an item that had previously been received as a gift. Interestingly, the giver of a “regift” believed that the recipient could do whatever they liked with the gift. But the receivers “believed that the gifters retained some say in how their gifts were used.” That might explain why some people struggle with feelings of guilt about donating, discarding or regifting a present.
If You Have Only 15 Minutes …
Wrap it up. I love to wrap packages and had fantasies about taking home the top prize of $10,000 in Scotch Tape’s national gift wrapping contest. Unfortunately for me, the contest appears to have been discontinued several years ago, but I still hope one day to be crowned “most gifted wrapper.”
The winter holidays are a great time to review your cache of wrapping paper, ribbons and bows—and to pare your collection to a minimum.
Recycle creased, wrinkled and crumpled pieces of paper you were saving for small boxes and trinkets. In the future, protect these odds and ends by rolling them up and storing them inside a large cardboard tube. Or cut them into small gift cards to attach to presents.
Toss mangled bows and snippets of ribbon. Store bows and rolls of ribbon in a clear box.
Love gift wrap? Buy the largest roll you can find and use it exclusively for your gifts. Ditto for ribbon. I’m a fan of paper raffia, which is neutral in color, biodegradable and recyclable. To minimize clutter, stick with one roll of holiday wrap and one roll of all-season wrap, if possible.
Better yet, two magic words: Gift bags. They hold oddly shaped items. They’re easy to store. They’re environmentally friendly. They can be reused nearly eternally, and even make a perpetual loop between friends.