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Choosing gifts when everyone has too much stuff already.

do we have too much stuff

We all have too much stuff.

In the Western world we seem to accumulate, and then cast off, mountains of possessions.

Every year, each Christmas, we buy each other more and more stuff. Last year it was estimated that people in the UK spent over £50 billion on Christmas gifts, much it destined to last only a few days before being binned or taken to a charity shop.

As someone who makes a living from designing, making and selling things for people to give you would think that this would make me happy. Yet somehow it doesn't.

I seem to have got to an age where getting more and more things that need to be stored in my house makes me uneasy. I can physically feel my shoulders tense at the thought.

I have been thinking about this a lot - coming up with tactics for giving gifts that will be appreciated - and trying to work it into the business too.

1. Take the hint.

This is maybe a longer term solution - but take to listening and planning more over time.

It isn't a mark of being a materialistic monster to be looking for the perfect Christmas gift in October, it is the mark of someone knowing that meaningful can take time.

Some of the things I have been given this year I adore - the floral plaster tiles by Rachel Dein, the Persian cookery books, the vintage horlicks jug - for as well as being beautiful they represent time spent, hints taken, conversations remembered.

I will have talked to my husband, my friend, my daughters about all these things over the year - and their listening, their acting, their thinking of me was a large part of the gift.

2. Make the gift an anchor.

There is something really special about someone unwrapping a gift you have chosen - especially if you are there as they undo the ribbon, even more especially if you don't see them that often.

Maybe this is why choosing Christmas gifts are quite stressful.

Every year I buy my nieces horse riding lessons - which is what they want and enjoy - but for me, I need to have something for them to physically open when I see them on Christmas day.

There needs to be an anchor to the gift.

This year I shall be giving them paint your own birdhouse kits and shall put the horse riding vouchers in the bag.

The anchor can be small and practical - the main gift elaborate, in the future, or simply a promise.

Lots of people use our mugs to act as an anchor gift - personalised with a quote or a drawing linked the main event.

Another idea is to have a cook book as anchor for a fancy meal out, or a book as anchor for a trip to a play . . .

3. Just get me something I can eat or drink . . .

This was the cry of a friend of mine - several decades older than me and living a fairly nomadic retirement. She was adamant that she didn't need any gifts from her nieces, nephews and friends but, if they insisted, it should be a gift that was easily consumed.

It did her well, her house was always full of amazing food and the widest variety of alcohol I had ever seen.

The luxury of an amazing bottle of wine or aged balsamic vinegar, of preserved lemons, a stack of luxury chocolate or home made sloe gin . .

4. Choose Quality .

By quality I don't mean price - I should say that quickly.

I mean that something is likely to be used and treasured, something that makes you feel wonderful everytime you use it.

I like to think of a little oasis of luxury.

Things that I personally would put in this category are - a soft scarf, a pen that writes beautifully, proper coffee beans, big bone china mugs, a good notebook, artisan chocolate, scented candles, decent matches.

Now that I've looked at this list and feel that it pretty much sums up my idea of the little things that make up a treat filled life.

5. Make something

I left this till last because I know it is the most difficult. Many people feel they aren't creative and that anything they actually make will be a pretty shonky gift.

I actually disagree with this but here I suggest a middle way.

Think of all the ways that things can be personalised. It is now easy to order photo books from your phone, many jewellers will incorporate names and dates, businesses like ours specialise in flexible designs which can be adapted and personalised.

Children's drawings and writing make wonderful gifts, free the fridge and get them printed onto a notebook or a cushion or a bag for grandparents. Children love this - it makes them feel incredibly special.

Even choosing elements of a design - the colours, the words, the pattern - involve children in a gift much more than flinging it into a basket in the supermarket or being told what they have bought.

Adults can choose a piece of music or lines from a song, places that mean something, the daft jokes that no-one else understands - and get them made into something useful and beautiful.

It is still creative even if you aren't physically making it - the value is in the thinking, the choosing, the ordering . . .

Writing this blog post has made me think hard about why I give gifts, how I choose things and most of all how I am going to be giving better gifts this year. How I am going to resist the lure of the department store or the 3 for 2 aisles and spend more time thinking and searching and finding things that won't end up in the charity shop box.

I would love to know your tips for giving great gifts - please leave a comment below.

Comments: 1 (Add)

Tracy on February 8 2018 at 18:45

I've only just seen this and I wish I could have read it just before Christmas! Thank you for sharing your ideas. I love the 'anchor present' thought.
I've been thinking this way for a long time now. Our son is 9 years old and loves TinTin. His main Christmas present was a trip to the TinTin museum in Brussels with his dad. We got the tickets in the Eurostar sale and printed them out for him. He got some other things too, but he had this to look forward to.

Snapdragon social

I welcomed the rain yesterday - it didn't seem so bad to be indoors proofing the final version of the A Seasonal Way magazine.⠀This goes alongside the e-course and community and is at the heart of the whole thing 🌱
It goes to print tomorrow so I need to decide the final numbers today.  I'm not going to be able to print another run, but equally I don't want to be left with lots of copies.⠀
So today is the last day to order to guarantee that your A Seasonal Way has a hard copy rather than a digital copy of the magazine part.⠀
This article is about off grid holidays, why they appeal and what we get from them.  The mug in the background with coffee is by @amandabanhamceramics.⠀
You can find out more about the A Seasonal Way course by clicking through my profile, or in the A Seasonal Way story highlight.  I would love it if you felt you could share about what I'm doing here!  The more people join in, the better the community will be.
I’m all about meadows at the moment. 
This is the edge of the perennial meadow that links the orchard to the studio. 
I love it at all times of year - even in its collapsed thatch winter phase - but I love it most in June where every day something new appears. 
I have written a blog about making the meadow and my experiments in what will thrive - which you can read by clicking through the link in my profile - and have included a list of the garden plants which have been happy living in the dense grass there. 
I think it would be the perfect was to bring a patch of wildness to a small area of lawn - none of the problems of having too fertile a soil for flowers.
The proof copy of the magazine part of A Seasonal Way arrived yesterday. 
In some ways I can’t believe that I made something that actually looks like a professional magazine. (But then I tell myself off for my limiting beliefs and stroke the pages)

The magazine in only a part of A Seasonal Way - it comes along with a 4 part e-course and a private online community. 
I wanted to create something that reflects the way I do things best - something to read, something to actually do, some support to explain details and chat and get or give advice, connect. 
It is a gentle exploration of Summer - you can find out more by clicking through my profile. 
It is £25 including UK postage (or £15 for a digital version) and I’ve kept it at that price so that it can be a summer treat, rather than a massive investment. 
I need to send it to print on Tuesday so all orders placed this weekend get an extra something in their order.
I used to grow flowers for weddings. For 8 years - from 2002 to 2010 I made bouquets and decorated churches and castles and village halls. 
Everything was grown here and it was a wonderful, if stressful, job. 
One of the things I loved was that each year, as flowers came back into bloom, I remembered the couples and their happy days. 
Yesterday was the 10th wedding anniversary of my favourite couple’s wedding - @jennykingcome and @jerofabris - a couple who we didn’t know before they married but who have become our friends since. 
But as I wandered around the garden to pick the flowers that would have been at their wedding for this photo, I found them still in bud - no plum poppies, no moss roses,  it much but grass and sweet Williams. 
It has been a cold June. 
It made me relieved that I no longer spend my weeks anxiously watching the weather.
One of the visitors to our Open Studio this week said to me ‘Well you certainly like to garden on the wilder side don’t you?’
I felt myself bristle slightly- that it was maybe a barbed comment about weeds and lack of staking - but of course she was right. 
Nothing makes me happier than a tangle of stems and the surprise of plants putting themselves in exactly the right place.
Did anyone else watch the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Anita Rani programme about plastic this week? 
I caught up yesterday and all night I have been haunted by it - by the way we have been dumping our plastic waste in Malaysia, an incredibly immoral act and one that simply sweeps it out of sight so we are less likely to do something about the root of the problem. For people concerned about the remains of an entrenched collonial attitude in Britain stopping this kind of exploitation would be a good place to begin. 
By the way that the economics of supermarket supply price loose produce at 42% higher than the plastic wrapped. 
This isn’t about concerned people being able to buy lentils in their own cloth bags - because we’ve actually been able to do that in health food shops for decades if we wanted to - but to do with making it cheaper and easier for everyone to buy without having to take plastic as the wrapping option. 42% cheaper to buy your tomatoes plastic wrapped??? How many people can justify that in their weekly budget?

I am off to do a lot of reading and connecting today - and work out who to contact - for our green and pleasant countryside cannot be kept nice at the expense of others far away and out of sight. For profit.
Doing v. Seeming
The past year has seen me become wary of the formula for images on social media.  Not anyone else’s just mine. 
I recognised that sometimes it took so long to set up a ‘pretty yet convincing’ photo of my painting that I ran out of time to actually do much painting. That my coffee regularly went cold in the mug as I arranged it casually by a book or a candle. 
The words of the C19th feminist writer Olive Schreiner went through my head - “society expects men to do and women to seem”. It shouldn’t be true 130 years on but here I was, seeming, not doing. 
I’ve unpacked this a bit in a blog - and also how I see it as all tied up with the action free signalling over social and political issues that worries me too - 
You can read it by clicking through my profile to the website. 
My mantra from now on is “Doing not seeming”. I would love to know your take on this. 
The workshop is where a lot of things get done. I took this photo while walking down the path with a pile of fabric to embroider.
The ghost poppies are back. They glow in the evening light. Placing themselves where they will. 
Every single thing that I love best at the moment in the garden - these poppies, the buttercups, the orange hawkbit, the dark plum columbines - is self seeded, all wildlings. 
Nature has a much better eye than me. 
Do you plan everything in your garden or does the wild have a part?

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here