Maybe it's heartless to post something like this right after a major gift-exchange holiday. It's true, though. Not everyone loves every gift every year. When we're under pressure to come up with a gift for a specific occasion, "it's the thought that counts," not the relevance of that gift to the person's life. The gift itself might be great, something that someone else would find delightful. It's like dating. It's not you, it's me. I'm sure you'll find a forever home someday, and I wish you all the best. The simple fact is that there's only room in my home for one of you, and I already have one. Fly free, unwanted gift, fly free.
The day after Christmas was always depressing to me. All the anticipation gone. All the wrapping paper crumpled up in a ball. Pine needles falling off the tree, which was soon to be dragged out and discarded. Nothing but terrible weather. That's when I started fixating on New Year's Eve as my favorite holiday. Now THERE is something to look forward to! A new year full of exciting resolutions to try out. That was before I knew about White Elephant parties.
A giveaway party doesn't have to be arranged like a White Elephant party, but it can be. For those who haven't done it, this is how it works: Everyone brings a wrapped item. The items are put out on a table or piled in the middle of the floor. Each person takes turns choosing one item and unwrapping it. They can choose either to keep the item or swap it for someone else's item. (The first person just waits, since they won't know what any of the other "gifts" are). The point of the White Elephant is that they're supposed to be so awful, silly, or useless that nobody would want them - but someone almost always does. I went to a White Elephant work function once that included a brass fireplace screen shaped like a peacock, and it must have changed hands eight times. I went to a family version and came away with an amaryllis bulb in a pot, which I couldn't believe someone would give away! Apparently it was a good gift, because my neighbors stole it off the porch a few months later when they moved. Gifts are made to be given - over and over again, sometimes.
A less structured way to do a giveaway party is just to bring as many items as you feel like, and everyone else can, too. With friends, this can include items that couldn't be donated, such as partial bottles of beauty products like shampoo, lotion, or nail polish. There could even be a potluck with items like opened jars of mustard or salad dressing that didn't turn out to be your new favorite. I brought a box of random trinkets to a gathering once, and my friends couldn't believe I would just give this stuff away. They took 90% of it, and I donated the rest to charity. I occasionally receive bottles of alcohol (I don't drink) or boxes of chocolates (I don't eat dairy), and one can imagine how eagerly these are received.
Another version of a giveaway party is called a "Naked Lady" party. These are specifically for clothes and accessories. The idea here is to arrange to trade with people you don't already know, such as coworkers, whom you don't want to see you wearing their outfits. Friends and acquaintances of friends and acquaintances. The gal you just met at the coffee shop. "Hey girl, I like your style, please come to our clothing swap!" Just bring everything from your closet that you don't want to wear anymore. Everyone dives into the pile and plays dress-up, modeling outfits for one another. It's fun to see your old favorites turn into someone else's new favorites. This can work particularly well if there are at least a couple of participants who have changed clothing sizes.
A housewarming for a young person, or for someone who has "lost everything," can be another occasion for a giveaway party. Most people have extra kitchen supplies, linens, tools, lamps, blankets, and even furniture hanging around. We'd never "just get rid of it," but when we feel touched by someone else's bare, non-functional home, we suddenly realize that they could make better use of our extra supplies than we can. Shortly after my husband and I got married, we were informed of a newly formed household of men in transition. They didn't have a single stick, not so much as a spatula or a set of pot holders. We went through our kitchen, realized that we had as many as four versions of everything, and quickly came up with several boxes. Enough to outfit a complete kitchen, complete with pots and pans. We've never once missed any of those things, and in fact we downsized our kitchen four additional times after that. We have to remind ourselves that broke people will be searching thrift stores for these items, too, and we don't have to wait for announcements of the perfect personal acquaintance in need. The point is to focus on how very, very much we already have, and how much of it is more than we need.
Giving things away can sometimes feel disappointing and sad. We feel that we're Getting Rid Of Things. We don't tend to feel that way when we're eating food that will never exist again, or taking out smelly trash, or cleaning out our scary refrigerators. Things are made to come and go. We can't wear baby shoes anymore, and we usually don't want to wear the same favorite shirts or pajamas we loved in kindergarten. We understand that there's a time and a place. We might tell a child, not that we're Getting Rid Of a crib, but that "You're getting a big boy bed!" Yay! When we let things go, we're giving someone else a chance to make use of them. We're also freeing up space for new things to come into our lives. Goodbye old socks, hello fabulously comfortable new socks! Goodbye book I already read, hello new book that will surprise and delight me!
After holidays, when we are faced with a collection of unwanted gifts we can't use, we can focus on the thoughts that counted. People took time out of their schedules to think of us. In some of these cases, we can build stronger relationships by sharing more of ourselves, learning more about the people who could be closer to us, and finding ways to exchange more meaningful or useful gifts. In others, it's better to keep it cordial. When we receive generic, impersonal gifts, we can think, "Ooh, perfect, now I have something to bring to the White Elephant party!" Perhaps one day this will be as much of a trend as an Ugly Sweater party. We can all acknowledge that traditions change, and try to make something fun and silly out of what used to feel like expensive duty and obligation.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.