Regifting: How to Do So in Good Taste

Most of us own too much. On top of that, we usually have distinctive taste. So, it’s inevitable that while we appreciate receiving gifts, we don’t always like or need everything we receive, especially as we age and are trying to downsize and get rid of lots of stuff! 

What can we do? It’s simple. Regift (or in some cases donate). However, there is a downside to this ploy. We worry the recipients will find out. Yet, heh, heh, we do it anyway. 

Fortunately, we have in our inner circle a top pro who shares tips on how to do so discreetly. Think of this as our Valentine’s Day regift to you, dear readers, of his holiday letter. 

Rather than send you chocolates you might not eat because of your New Year’s resolution to curb carbs, or a fancy bottle of perfume you won’t spray due to allergies, or another tie your honey has no use for since what restaurant these days requires such attire, and who’s going out to restaurants most days. So, we’re giving you tips from our regifting pro, Dennis in Atlanta. He’s witty, creative and generous, and said when we asked if we could regift his letter, “Of course, share my advice with your readers.”

By the way, he’s the widower who urged us to share the male single viewpoint last year in another blog (4/20/21). 

So, keep his ideas in mind when you wonder what to do with a Panettone Italian cake you received at Christmas—now almost as hard as a brick, all those ornaments and wreaths you never hung since you are Jewish and books you’ll never read since you, like us, are too busy catching up on TV shows like White Lotus, Harry & Meghan and The Good Fight. 

You can also be generous with charities and donate your gifts to those who might really appreciate them. Think of this as a mitzvah (Yiddish for good deed) rather than a regift. This is a good time to do so as many charities again are filling up their larders; some had stopped at the height of Covid because everyone seemed to be emptying their closets of their stuff. 

Now to return to Dennis’ regifting dos and don’ts. 

To begin, he says, you’ll know when it’s time to regift rather than accept more gifts. Here’s the tipping point: “When your closets groan and you need a machete to hack into your self-storage unit, it’s time.” 

Here are his eight tips, slightly condensed, edited by us and with some of our editorial input. 

Be prepared with lots of fancy boxes. Your boxes should suggest an exclusive high-end boutique, one with valet parking, where the sales staff decide to engage after looking you up and down, where they only accept credit cards with names of rare earth minerals. Your boxes should say to your recipient—for you, money is no object. Top it off with a bow from the Lexus Christmas sale event. Do this right and you’re on your way. 

Second best, use prestige shopping bags. Here you’ve got to be flamboyant. Tissue paper in bright colors must erupt from the bag like solar flares, and don’t forget to add a cute little box of jute twine in colors with names like fuchsia or malachite. (Our tip, 2023’s Pantone’s Color of the Year is Viva magenta, so if you can find one you’ll get extra stars or kudos or maybe a better gift from the recipient to you!) And don’t forget to remove any of the little cards that sometimes come with these bags if already inscribed. 

Make it credible. What you put in a fancy box or prestige shopping bag has to make sense. No Bass Pro Shop T-shirt in a Tiffany box. The glitz factor of the box or bag and the apparent value of the gift should align. Go to aisle six at Office Depot and buy price stickers. Then write an exorbitant number on the sticker. Put it somewhere it will be noticed. However, it must still be discreet enough that it’s believable you forgot to remove it. 

Make a spreadsheet or similar list. You don’t want to lose track of who gave you the scorned article in the first place. An outed regift round trip can spoil an otherwise delicious ruse. I recommend writing the gift giver’s name on well-placed masking tape before stashing the thingy in your regifts closet—yes, you need to make room for one of these somewhere. 

Later, masking tape can be easily removed with a sly smile you can’t suppress. Dennis explains that he got the masking tape idea from personal experience. A grieving widower is well advised to put a name on the bottom of a casserole dish. He learned this the hard way. He needed to give the right dish back to the right gal. 

But if you are re-gifting a brother-in-law, the rules are slightly different. Brothers-in-law are fabulously useful for regifting. If you don’t have one, you should go get one (on Etsy? Or eBay?). I was lucky that mine had a bad memory. I unloaded crap on him for years, including stuff he gave me just a year or so ago. I wait a year, and then I’m in the clear. This year Mr. Potato Head goes back…to him. 

Try to ensure your regifts don’t return to the original sender. He found it effective to remind recipients of earlier gifts with innocent enough questions like…”Did you put that bobblehead on the rear window shelf of your car?” or “What room did you grace with that lava lamp?” or “Have you worn that Gaugin Polynesian girl tie?” Slip in little questions like these into conversations, and you’ll be saved the trouble of re-regifting. 

Special guidelines to regift specific items. When regifting books, open them up and make sure the original giver hasn’t inscribed a heartfelt message along the lines of… “Thank you, my dearest, for all the wonderful years together. I adore you.” (Smooch, smooch.) This gaffe may put your brother-in-law off his meds. Also, if you’ve actually read the book, check the pages for chocolate smudges or grease and wine stains. This is a dead giveaway that it’s a regift and reveals that you are in the habit of reading while lying in bed eating bonbons. 

When it comes to clothes, it’s best to oversize shirts going to men and undersize blouses and sweaters (and lingerie) for women. Both ploys play to delusional self-images and that’s a fine line. Your recipient will be flattered. You will be silently forgiven for the sizing error, and most importantly the hideous garment won’t be returning to you! 

And if someone opens your (re)gift and seems genuinely pleased, you’ve made a nice gesture in the holiday spirit, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Valentine’s Day.

Thanks Dennis. We can’t wait for an update on how your regifting went. 

1 comment

  • Lynn Marks

    Great ideas. i try to keep a sticky on a gift saying who gave it to me. i will admit that sometimes i go into my “re-gift” pile and just use it myself after years in confinement. Keep up the good topics!!

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