We know what you're thinking. Regifting is tasteless, tacky, and, in extreme cases, downright insulting. After all, you're essentially giving away something you value so little that you don't even want it. Or at least that's what most of us fear people will think if they catch us in the act. However, regifting is green—it’s a form of precycling, the "reuse" that comes after "reduce" but before "recycle." And, if you know what you're doing, it can be quite meaningful and personal. So this year, instead of tossing that hideous Christmas sweater or those pre-packaged sausage-and-cheese baskets, follow these regifting strategies and land them a new home. In the process, you might actually find that regifting is rewarding and even downright fun.
That's the approach Fran Korten, publisher of Yes! magazine takes. In the mag's winter edition, she talks about a new sustainable tradition she started for her 70th birthday. For the holidays, she asks her guests to avoid bringing gifts. Instead, she prods through her own possessions and finds gently-used items that she doesn't use much, wraps them up, and the guests open and swap until virtually everyone leaves with a used item they like.
Korten's method proves that not everyone is a Scrooge when it comes to regifting, but the idea is a polarizing one and you're unlikely to find someone who is indifferent about the subject. "People have very strong opinions about regifting, one way or another," explains Jodi Newbern, author of Regifting Revival!: A Guide to Reusing Gifts Graciously.
Take Lizzie Post, an etiquette expert at the world-renowned Emily Post Institute, the go-to source for answers regarding all things socially acceptable. Her dislike of the practice isn't rooted in snobbery, but in a reasonable concern for the feelings of the person who originally gave you the gift. "In general, regifting is not a good idea," she says. "There are too many scenarios in which you can get caught and really hurt people who have decided to be generous to you," she says.
Love it or hate it, regifting is on the rise, with two likely factors at play: the green movement and the injured economy. Many people with environmental concerns believe that consuming less is at the heart of ecofriendly behavior, so putting an unwanted gift to good use, rather than tossing it in a Dumpster and buying a brand new item, has a strong appeal. Add the recent state of the economy, which still has people nervous and clutching their pocketbooks, and you have a perfect regifting storm. Evidence of the shift toward regifting acceptance was found in an Opinion Research Corporation poll commissioned by Consumer Reports. In a survey of 1,000 adults, researchers found that the percentage of people considering regifting this year hit 36 percent, up from 31 percent in 2008 and just 27 percent in 2007.
Newbern, a firm believer in gracious regifting, believes that everyone is capable of pulling it off, as long as organization and thought are part of the regifting decision process. "There is no such thing as a bad regift, just a bad regifter," she explains. By following a few rules and taking the time to put some though into your regift, you could actually come up with quite a nice present. Here's how to do it right:
• Set up a system. "Anybody can regift, but gracious regifting is a more classy way to do it," says Newbern. A system, she says, is the key to regifting successfully. "Think of it as shopping from your own regift supply, versus a department store." If you're up to your neck in unwanted or duplicate gifts, find space in a hall closet or storage bin to organize your gifts. Group similar gifts together, separating kitchenware from crazy "As Seen on TV" gadgets, and bottles of wine from ugly Christmas sweaters. (By the way, if they're made of wool, you can easily turn those sweaters into great holiday gifts with little effort.) And here's the most important part: Create a gift log. Any time a gift goes into the closet or bin, jot down who gave it to you, when, and for what occasion. Keep the list with the gifts. This will save you from awkward situations, like giving your aunt back the Salad Shooter she gave you four years earlier.