How to choose surprising, meaningful gifts that won’t wind up in the regift pile

meaningful gifts

Photo by Y Tink on Unsplash

I’m getting ready to move from the home where I’ve lived for the past decade, and I can say with conviction that I do not need more stuff. I love you but please do not gift me another basket of anything. It’s more the baskets than their contents that are giving me trouble. Still, if I cannot eat it, thank you but it’s OK.

And with Mother’s Day and a slew of spring birthdays coming up, I got to thinking: I’m certainly not the only one feeling this way, moving house or not.

But gifts must be given! Not to worry, though. By reframing the gifting process, you can choose surprising gifts that are meaningful and won’t end up shoved in a closet. I know it’s true because I have a few friends whose gifting skills make me both grateful to have them as friends and jealous of their ability to know me so damn well.

Here are a few ways I think they do it:

Next-Level Listening

What does your friend/mother/sister really want want? She’s probably telling you every day, but it takes some effort to actually hear the clues. Is she too busy to cook? Treat her to a meal delivery from her favorite lunch spot. Is she current events-obsessed? Consider a book about a country she’s interested in, or a biography of someone she finds fascinating (make it an audio book if she drives or walks a lot). Can’t sleep (who can)? Perhaps a sleeping mask with bluetooth speakers so the ocean (or Idris Elba) can lull them into slumber. Or a subscription to a sleep app like Calm or Whoop.

Good Vibrations

The science nerd in me typically steers clear of the mystical, i.e., theories or beliefs without solid empirical evidence behind them. But I have always had a soft spot for gemstones. While I don’t believe they have magical powers, I do believe what they represent has a certain power because they can spark a thought, which leads to feelings, which can lead to actions.

For example, a new acquaintance once gifted me a small collection of three crystals and explained what each one meant. I keep them on a bookshelf, and every time I catch a glimpse of them I feel good because 1. a stranger would give me a gift; 2. one of the crystals is an amethyst, which represents healing, transcendence, and intuition—all things I’ve needed to draw on more than ever in the past year. And I don’t even mind that I will soon have to pack them up for the move.

This works with anything that promises to provide good vibes but takes up negligible space. My therapist once gave me a literal rock that I keep on my desk and it fortifies me every time I take it in my hands.

Problem Solving

Most women I know, especially my fellow midlifers, would give anything for more time to get things done, and maybe that’s something you can give them. Volunteer to help them clean out their closet one weekend (this is honestly the best gift anyone could give me right now). Take their kids for an afternoon. Cook something they love and deliver it (so simple but who wouldn’t be forever grateful?).

No fancy gift is as valuable as feeling seen and heard. Scroll for a more meaningful gift ideas!

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