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It's Not Regifting, It's Recycling

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Frugal is the new black. Handmade is cool. "Old" and "used" are now vintage and trendy. This holiday season, don't head to the mall -- head to your closet. Don't go shopping -- there's no need to buy anything. Instead, recycle, repurpose and reinvent.

Clean out your cabinets, closets, cupboards, drawers and/or garage. Find things you're not using or wearing anymore, then dust them off and clean them up. Wrap them up in the colorful comic pages of your local Sunday newspaper, or just plain brown paper, and tie on some colored twine, raffia or ribbon, and Voila! You have a thoughtful, personal gift to give.

If the item you're giving has an interesting history, write it on a note card and include it with the gift. Provenance makes a good gift even better. A family item that has passed through many hands carries the love of all those hands. Tradition and time enrich the beauty and meaning of even mundane items like Grandma's favorite cast iron skillet or Uncle Charlie's well-used, well-loved toolbox.

Homemade and personal gifts convey love and friendship far better than anything you can find in a catalog or shopping center. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Write a poem to your sweetheart and give it with a warm hug and a big kiss.
  • Give a gift of seasonal flowers from your garden or fruit from your back yard.
  • Bake someone happy with a gift of cookies, cake, pie, or other treats from your kitchen.
  • Collect men's old silk ties, cut off the widest parts, and piece them together to make a magnificent quilt for someone you love.
  • Download songs that have special significance for you and your friend or loved one; compile the tunes into a custom CD gift.
  • Make your own holiday greeting cards with construction paper, images cut from old magazines, and/or sequins, beads, pressed leaves or flowers and fabric scraps. Or if you're computer savvy, design your own cards using stock images and inspirational quotes or favorite poems; print them out and sign them. Your cards can be wonderful, frame-able gifts.
  • For that cook on your gift list, make a simple herb garden. Gather half a dozen old coffee cups or mugs; fill them with potting soil; plant an herb in each one; water them lightly; and give them in time for holiday cooking. The herb garden cups/mugs will fit nicely on a sunny window sill.
  • Cut up old blankets and piece them together to make a warm, cozy lap throw.
  • Check out your local thrift stores to find great old picture frames; use them to frame favorite photos and give them to special people on your list.
  • Cut up magazines and use the photos and headlines to make a collage of your New Year's wishes for a dear friend.
  • Write a personal prayer on a lovely piece of stationery and give it to a loved one.
  • Make personal gift certificates to give the gifts of time and service: "This certificate is good for a weekend of household chores with no grumbling." "Good for a hand car wash by me (as soon as the weather warms up)." "Good for a sunset walk by the lake." "Redeemable for an unlimited supply of evenings cuddling by the fireplace." "Good for a whole month of back rubs whenever you want them." Use your imagination. Make it creative; make it personal; make it special.
  • Write a letter to a friend or loved one, listing all the qualities you love and admire about them. Tell them why you're happy they're in your life.
  • Organize your friends to spend a day together in service to others: building a house for Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at your local animal shelter, helping out at a food bank, serving meals at a homeless shelter, visiting sick kids in a children's hospital, reading to old folks in a nursing home. Share your most precious asset -- your time -- with your friends. Do something generous together to celebrate this season of giving.
Especially for Women:
  • If you have old necklaces, beads and other costume jewelry you don't wear anymore, tear them apart and re-string them into friendship bracelets using elastic thread you can buy at a bead store. Your bracelets will be one-of-a-kind, personal, and treasured by your friends.
  • Invite all your girlfriends to come over for a holiday clothing exchange party. Ask everyone to bring at least half a dozen articles of clothing and/or costume jewelry, hats, and scarves that are in good shape but they don't want anymore. Spread the items out on your bed and all over your bedroom. Serve hot tea or cider and cookies or scones while you and your friends try on each other's clothes and pick out a few pieces they'd like to have. At the end of the party, everyone leaves with some "new" old clothes. Any clothes left over that no one wants get donated to a local charity.
There are many ways to celebrate the holidays and to acknowledge the special people in our lives without spending a lot of money. A little creativity and a lot of thoughtfulness go a long way.

Above all, in this time of financial concern for ourselves, our families, and our country, remember: The best things in life aren't things.

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