Regifting 101

By Chandra Orr

September 24, 2010 5 min read

Faux pas? Naw. We all do it from time to time.

Maybe that set of scented bath products you got for your birthday isn't quite your style, but you know your young niece would relish the grown-up indulgence. Perhaps that clever kitchen gadget would just take up space in your cupboards, but your best friend is a bit of a gourmand.

There's no shame in passing on perfectly good presents that just don't fit the bill. In fact, regifting is frugal and eco-friendly and can be quite thoughtful when done well.

"Regifting is a form of recycling, or more precisely, repurposing," says Lynn Colwell, co-author of "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family." "If you receive a great gift that you don't plan to use for whatever reason, a gift that will sit at the back of your closet until you move or a gift that you will toss, why not pass it on? You're saving the resources needed to return it and maybe saving it from a landfill, too," Colwell says.

However, it's not about making room in that spare closet or making due with so-so gifts. Each regifted item requires the same careful consideration as a newly purchased present. Follow these five tenets and you always will get it right:

1) Choose Regifts Wisely

Before you forward on that unwanted present, ask yourself: Is this something I would have chosen if I saw it at the store? Unless the answer is an emphatic yes, don't even think of regifting it.

If you instantly hated it when you unwrapped it -- if it's ugly, impractical or in bad taste -- save your loved ones the discomfort and donate it to charity instead.

"Regifting is not to rid yourself of some ill-gotten gift. It has to be something you would have gone to the store to purchase for this individual -- not something you had lying around the house," says Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "However, if you are allergic to perfume but know your neighbor loves this fragrance or if you are on a diet but your co-worker adores gourmet chocolate, then regifting is perfectly acceptable."

2) Only Regift the Best

"The item you are giving should be brand-new and never used -- never worn, never washed, never played with, even for five minutes," Smith says. "You may not regift anything you have opened, tasted, tried or worn."

Likewise, the gift should be in its original package with tags -- and be sure it's a recent purchase. You wouldn't want Grandpa trying to return that tastefully regifted necktie, only to be told the store hasn't carried that style in three years.

3) Keep Track

Designate a specific storage area for gifts you plan to pass on, and stock up on sticky notes. When you add a gift to the pile, jot a few notes to help jog your memory later.

"Label every gift you wish to regift with the name of the giver and the date to avoid an embarrassment," says professional organizer Lea Schneider, author of "From Closet Clutter to Closet Control." "Also, check food gifts or gift certificates for expiration dates, and note those on the sticky note."

4) Separate Your Social Circles

Didn't I give you one just like that? That's the one phrase you never want to hear when regifting, so keep some distance between those unwanted presents and the gift givers.

"When regifting, you want to ensure that the person who gave you the gift does not know or interact with the person to whom you are giving the gift," Smith says. "The more unusual the item the more the distance should be between the giver and the regiftee."

When in doubt, host a regift swap with like-minded friends and family.

"If your circles of friends overlap, consider swapping your extra gifts with a friend or family member outside of your immediate circle," Schneider says.

5) Aim for Perfect Presentation

Remove any residual price tags, labels and gift tags -- don't forget to check books for inscriptions on the inside -- and rewrap the present with style.

"Just as a gourmet meal would lose its appeal served in a Styrofoam box, care and consideration should be given to the wrapping, ribbon and bows on the regift," Smith says.

"Giving a gift from the heart is the most important thing you can do," Colwell says. "Instead of straight regifting, personalize the gift in some way. Add a handmade case; decorate the item in some way; or include a book that is a good match for the item."

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