The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Gift-resistant, part II

I got a mass of great emails on the subject of gift-resistance.  Here are a few of my favorite points:

You might suggest to people that if they really want to give you something, they can send a donation in your name to your or their favorite charity. --- Sheila

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have practiced the art of "regifting" some unwanted gift just because I was expected to give a purchased gift of some kind. --- Dennis

People are sometimes moved to give gifts because they care about others and see a particular useful or interesting thing the other might need or enjoy.  This kind of spontaneous gifting is very different from obligatory gifting for holidays, birthdays, etc. --- Daddy

Over the years as we have moved toward a simpler lifestyle my wife and I have become more gift resistant as the term was defined in the blog. However, we probably give more now than we ever have. The difference is that we now give much more of ourselves through gifts of foods made at home, preserves, home-grown vegetables and fruits, time given to assist others with projects at their homes and other such gifts. --- Dennis

My visiting you is, in my eyes, a gift from you! I think you, too, feel that, even if I have a weird meal, my being happy to see you is, actually, a gift from me...tho it would be you who had to travel and vice versa.... --- Mom

From my own experience of near poverty and poverty, it is very difficult to accept a gift when one cannot reciprocate. --- Daddy

All of these are great ideas!  But it struck me as I read through the emails that Daddy's last point is key --- while the materialism of gift-giving does bother me a lot, the unspoken assumption that I will reciprocate at a similar dollar value has been even more of a drain in my recent state of voluntary simplicity.

Maybe the solution --- while taking more work --- is to talk to each person who usually gives me a gift and come up with non-material gifts we can exchange so that I'm not stuck in the uncomfortable situation of giving a jar of honey and receiving a $50 storebought gift.  Needs more thought...

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The joy of gift giving should come in the happiness your gift brings to others. No gift should ever be expected to be returned. Christmas or otherwise. I only give gifts to those people I want to give a gift to and if I buy or make something I think they would like. I try to enjoy gifts that were given to me out of obligation but I don't reciprocate unless I want to.


Comment by Jenette Wed Jun 29 17:51:57 2011

My gift resistance has morphed a lot in the two and a half years since I wrote this. Although we can now afford to reciprocate when people give us gifts, I still hate the idea of buying something that your friends and family may or may not want just because it's their birthday or other holiday. Instead, I've tried a couple of different methods:

*I skip holidays and give people gifts when they need them or when I have extra farm goodies they might enjoy. I've noticed that these random-time gifts are even more powerful since there's more thought behind them.

*I've trained my friends and family (mostly) to stop giving us random gifts just because it's a holiday. We do welcome the same kind of thoughtful, homemade gifts at random times, though.

*I also try to give the gift of time and labor more than even homemade material gifts.

Comment by anna Wed Jun 29 19:08:03 2011

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