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ALICIA WALLACE: Having a tough time choosing presents? Here are some ideas


THE holiday season is one that many look forward to all year. There are beautiful lights, lots of events, and the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts. There always seems to be a rush to check off all the items on our lists in the three weeks before Christmas.

Traffic is heavy, stores are full, and people are stressed. In many cases, there is no need to go to a store. What many people want and need most is time and attention. As you make and adjust your shopping lists, be sure that you are really thinking about the recipients.

Gifts are not about how much you spend or how much other people admire them, but about how well you know and respond to people and their realities.

Here are a few categories of people who may be on your list and making you think a little harder than usual.

People who have everything

We often want to give a gift, just because. Someone is special to us and has likely helped us when we had nowhere else to turn, maybe without us even having to ask. They have everything, but we really want to acknowledge them and let them know that they are special to us and we are grateful to have them in our lives.

The strong desires of multiple people to include the people who have everything in their gift-giving can result in those people having an abundance of junk.

No one needs a twenty-third Bible. No one wants another figurine to dust on cleaning days.

People want to be seen and acknowledged in ways that are specific to them.

Instead of desperately searching for a generic item to wrap and pass off as thoughtfulness, take time to truly think about the person who has everything. What is valuable to them today?

For many people who have everything, it is time. How can you give them time? Maybe a day of cleaning would give them the freedom to attend to other things. What about errands? If they are not stuck in traffic during the busy weeks of the year, they may be able to finish a few projects. If you do not have the time to give yourself, consider paying someone else to do it.

People who are financially struggling

There is often a reluctance to give money. Some may think it is impersonal or does not demonstrate enough thought about who a person is and what they would like. Some may fear judgment for the amount of money they choose or are able to give.

Money, however, is the best gift for people who face financial challenges. While gift certificates or paying a bill yourself may seem like a good idea, they are limiting.

Money that can only be spent in a grocery store cannot pay the electricity bill. Your payment of the electricity bill does not keep the data service going which is required for work.

Give money in a way that allows the recipient to make decisions about how it is used.

In some cases, a debit (gift) card can be useful, especially as businesses go cashless and debit cards can make it easier to pay bills.

People who travel often

Luggage is a must, and passport holders are a common gift, but what about all of the other necessities?

If the person does long-haul travel, consider putting together a comfort kit. This could include comfortable earphones, moisturizer, lip balm, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, comfortable socks, a reading light, an eye mask, and gum.

There are many ways to add a personal touch. Get the hand sanitiser in a scent they like. Make the moisturiser yourself with shea butter, one of the many appropriate oils, and essential oils for a delightful scent. Pack it all in a small bag that can easily fit into a backpack, purse, or carry-on bag and is the person’s favorite colour or print.

People who spend a lot of time with their families

There are some people who always seem to be hanging out with their parents and/or children or having get-togethers with extended family members.

When people value family time, they usually also enjoy finding different ways to spend that time together.

Look for games that are fun to play and accommodate large groups of people.

Reach for the puzzles, and even the old school toys like hula hoops that can lead to more fun and laughter than people have had in a long time.

If you are giving a gift to someone who hosts often, consider serving trays, coasters, and comfortable cushions and blankets for sprawling on the floor after a good meal.

People who are caregivers

Taking care of another person or multiple people on a full time basis is hard work.

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to take care of oneself under this circumstance. When there is time to spare, it is usually spent doing the most basic and the most critical tasks.

This means there is no time for manicures, upkeep of the garden, or taking the car to get serviced.

Take care of some of the things on the to-do list. If you can, make it possible for them to experience pleasure. This could be a full day off or even 90 minutes per day for a week. They may not even know what to do with the time if they have been constantly providing care for a long period of time, so be ready to make suggestions.

People who have difficulty sleeping

Do they often tell you how late they were up? Do they depend on caffeine to stay alert? Are they having difficulty concentrating every day? Insufficient sleep and low quality sleep can wreak havoc on people’s lives.

It is important to get enough sleep and to have it be restful. People who have difficulty sleeping have probably tried various things to no avail.

Lavender oil, chamomile tea, and hot showers are go-tos. Think about ways they can be made more effective. What about a diffuser so that the lavender scent fills the bedroom?

Maybe it is time to switch to loose tea and a tea ball would be handy. How about shower steamers? Outside of the box, maybe a sleep specialist would be helpful as there may be medical issues that are preventing or interrupting sleep.

People who just moved into a new (to them) house

This may be one of the busiest times of a person’s life. There are things that need to be fixed, boxes that need to be unpacked, items that need to be organized, budgets that need to be adjusted, neighbours to meet, and new responsibilities to take on.

Maybe they are ready to start a vegetable garden, so soil, shovels, seedlings, water cans, and someone to set up an irrigation system would be highly valued.

In addition to referring them to reliable tradespeople, think about what could make their days easier.

What item on their to-do list can you take care of? It may be hiring someone to do basic landscaping at a time convenient to the new homeowner(s).

It could also be helping them to put together a gift registry that can be shared with family members and friends so well-intentioned people do not give them things they do not need.

People who are grieving

The holidays are a particularly difficult time for people who are grieving loved ones. It is always best to ask what would be helpful.

Some people may prefer to avoid all holiday-related topics and activities. Others may want to find ways to honour the deceased.

Maybe they would like your company as they select flowers and then arrange them on the grave. Maybe they want to be able to talk about the person without other people getting uncomfortable or trying to change the topic.

Everyone experiencing grief needs a support system. Find ways to help them to honour old traditions or create new ones. If that means getting entirely new decorations, take that journey with them. If they want to reserve a seat at the table for the deceased, communicate that with others and ensure that no one is disrespectful.

Choosing gifts can be challenging

It probably would not be as special if it were easy. To do a good job of gifting, you have to know the recipient. You have to pay attention to them and not only what they communicate, but what they do not communicate. You have to think. You have to centre them, and put your own ego and your own wishes for them aside.

In many cases, you have to ask questions. It is okay to seek more information. It is okay for your effort to be evident in this way. Every gift does not have to be a surprise. The goal is to make people feel special and not only remembered or thought of, but truly seen.