Three friends had birthdays last month and I pulled down the gifts bins because I hate to shop. In case you don’t have gift bins, let me explain exactly what they are. Two plastic Sterilite boxes reside side-by-side on a shelf in our coat closet. One is labeled “Adult Gifts,” the other, “Kid Gifts.” They contain items that I collect throughout the year – mostly items that were on sale and purchased in bulk. I don’t regift – at least not that I would admit in a blog post. If I do regift, here is my criteria: tags on and something that would not qualify as a white elephant gift. Yes, the second part of the criteria is broad and subjective, so if you ever receive a gift from me that you don’t like you have my permission to regift it.
When I began my gift bins about a decade ago, I believed that I had stumbled upon such a practical idea. The bins would be in easy reach and I would keep them filled and at the ready for any gift-giving occasion. I don’t typically dip into them for wedding and baby showers because of that registry thing. My mother taught me that if you are invited to a baby or wedding shower, do NOT try to be clever, original, or unique with your gift. Just buy it off the registry, which is what the bride or mother-to-be wants anyway. She doesn’t want you to be clever, original, or unique. That’s why she registered. So my bins contain a variety of birthday, new home, or simply “thinking about you” gifts. I add to them throughout the year and I keep them organized. The bins are just the right size so I can open the lid and see everything in them immediately (for those times when I am in a very big hurry). On the surface, my practical idea seems to be so…practical. But there is a problem, evidenced by the fact that I purchased three birthday gifts last month. Here’s the problem: The gift bins contain crappy gifts.
I realized this the other night as a friend and I talked about our bins. She has them too. And hers have crappy gifts too. We laughed about it as I ticked off my list of gift bin items. But the further I got down my list, the more I became aware that I might just be looking the fool, especially when I revealed that in the “Kid Gift” bin there is a VHS (VHS!) tape of one of the Bibleman movies. If you don’t know what those are, Google “Bibleman” so that you, too, can have a good belly laugh about it.
The thought that perhaps my bins contain crappy gifts had been edging around my mind over the past several months, especially when I was out shopping for those three birthday presents. So after our conversation about the bins, I went home and took an inventory. Since I was not in panic mode scrambling for a gift, it was a good time to honestly evaluate the contents of the gift bins. Here is what I found:
a book light (free gift with purchase!)
reusable shopping bags
notepad with the words, “I try to live simply, but DRAMA just keeps following me around…”
a beaded bracelet with the paint chipping off the beads
a copy of Velvet Elvis (While I do not for one minute think this is a crappy gift, I honestly don’t know anyone left who hasn’t read it. So if you haven’t, let me know and I’ll wrap it up and put your name on it.)
That’s my list of adult gifts. Please be honest. Would you want to pull any one of these items from a cute gift bag as you are celebrating the day of your birth? But it gets better.
Here’s what I found in the Kid Bin:
boys boxers, size medium, covered with frogs wearing crowns and holding giant hearts
a shower puff
two pez dispensers, Buzz and Woody (okay, these aren’t so bad)
strawberry shortcake stickers
a Veggie Tales watch (free gift with purchase!)
mini holiday activity book and crayons packaged together
sports theme Christmas tree ornaments (because we know how much kids love to get Christmas tree ornaments)
a microfiber hair towel (another kid favorite)
a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle of a black lab puppy surrounded by American flags
I’ve pondered my gift bin items for two days. I’ve wondered what possessed me to include these items in something called a gift bin. I’m rethinking the purpose of having a gift bin. I’m worried about my relationship with the people who, in the past, have received items from my gift bins.
I’ve admitted in a previous post that I’m an overthinker, so I’ve decided not to spend too much time on this gift bin issue. I’ve put the items back in the Sterilite boxes, but I did tear the “gift bin” sticker off each box. These items are destined for somewhere other than a gift bag for a friend or family member. I suppose there is some merit to a gift bin, but there is also value in taking the time to plan ahead and think carefully about the person and what might be a meaningful gift. The painful truth is that most people know the difference between a gift that is carefully chosen and one that is snatched at the last moment. If I’m too busy to give something from the heart, then I’m probably too busy.
So, goodbye gift bins. No more excuses about being cheap and hating to shop. I will reject the mentality of keeping the good stuff for me and giving away the leftovers, or worse, the rejects. Giving generously, thoughtfully, and cheerfully (which means no almost-forgot, last-minute giving) feels better anyway.
Velvet Elvis, anyone?