My next-door neighbours have a yard sale at least once or twice a month during the summer.  I don’t know where they get all their stuff from, but I do have a bird’s eye view from my living room window and can see what they are trying to sell.

The items they are trying to unload are not antiques or collectibles or even gently used household items.  A lot of what I see are gifts – discarded gifts.  There are some very recognizable items I’ve seen on TV and in store flyers.

Those beautiful gift baskets filled with toiletries and gadgets lose all their attractiveness when they are dismembered and tossed into a box marked $.25 each.  I’ve seen Chia pets, clothes that don’t fit or are not liked, kitchen gadgets and electrics that never get used, whimsical coffee mugs, singing bass and Santa’s (more annoying than funny) and a host of “as seen on TV” items.  If it was a popular gift item in the past, you can bet it was represented at the sales.  Funny gifts that can bring a wild round of laughter when they are opened quickly turn into another piece of clutter.  Some items never get out of the original packaging.

This has made me give a lot of thought to the whole matter of gift giving.  I can tell you that from now on gifts I consider giving will have to pass more than just the price test.  They will have to pass my garage sale test:  “What is the likelihood that this item will end up on a garage sale table or thrift store?”

Deciding on a Gift

When deciding on a gift my first question will be, “what is this person passionate about?”  Reading, gardening, travel, crafts or other hobbies are a few passions people have.  If I know the recipient well enough (or seek the advice of someone who does) I can purchase an appreciated item, or give a gift card for the person’s interest.

Safe bets for people I don’t know as well are gifts that are designed to be enjoyed for a limited time then used up, like food or flowers.  However, care must be taken to avoid scented lotions and candles for the sensitive, and food items that can cause allergic reactions.

A gift of money can seem impersonal but it could be the way to go.

I like to receive a “wish list”.  This is like having a gift registry for a wedding, only smaller and more personal.  That way I can try to find something that is truly wanted.  It may seem like not much of a surprise, but if the list is long enough, they don’t know which gift they will receive.

When I cleaned out my mother-in-laws’ home after she passed away, and recently my parents’ house, I found many gifts they had received over the years and never even used.

The constant yard sales are annoying, but they have given me a whole different view of gift giving.


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