Regifting – don’t sweat it, just follow a few simple rules

The holidays are now over, and as you survey the gifts lovingly
tendered and laboriously wrapped and be-ribboned, you somehow feel
the urge to … get rid of them.
The holidays are now over, and as you survey the gifts lovingly tendered and laboriously wrapped and be-ribboned, you somehow feel the urge to … get rid of them.

Or, since your aunt’s birthday falls in mid-January, it might cross your evil mind to rewrap one and present it as if you bought it specifically for her: the art of regifting.

I admit, I’ve done it a few times. Mostly with children’s presents, because children are so easy to fool. Just kidding! I meant because often children’s gifts can be duplicates, and a toy is after all a toy.

More often, I’m on the receiving end. One year a friend gave me a very odd book for my May birthday, about how you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten. Coincidentally, her daughter graduated from high school that month; I suspect that someone gave her daughter that book, and it promptly got rewrapped and given to me.

Another friend gave a Dilbert calendar for Christmas, years after I’d stopped working in offices … but he still did. I think I was six degrees of separation from a Secret Santa on that one.

In a small town like this, anonymity sometimes must be preserved. So a “Gilroy mom” told me, “We gave a gift to a child for their birthday, and then when the time came for ours to have a birthday we got it back. It was only two months apart.”

Another Gilroy resident, Ashlee Brinan, said, “As a wedding gift, someone gave us a tacky glass salad bowl that was a regift. How did we know? There was dust on the top of the box.”

“I usually don’t regift because I’m more of a perfectionist and must find the perfect gift for the giftee, but I’m not opposed to regifting,” said Gilroyan Wendy Gonzales. But she has been an ongoing victim for years. “My best friend who’s five feet tall always gives me beautiful sweaters … but in a size petite. I’m six feet tall! Not the fit a grown woman should wear.”

If you must regift (and believe me, demons are gleefully shining their pitchforks for you), here are a few guidelines:

1. Keep track of who gave you what. A college friend experienced probably the worst episode of regifting I’ve heard of. Her own mother cluelessly gave her back a book she’d carefully selected just the year before. Now, given this mom was a hippie holdover and unattached to material possessions (my friend told me about growing up in New England in a house without running water) but still that had to suck. If you’re a forgetful type, pop a post-it on the gift saying who gave it to you.

Gilroy resident Christine Maxwell won’t go so far as to regift, but she’s happy to recycle the vehicle: “I’m bad. Not with the gifts but with the gift bags. So bad, I leave the tags on them as to not accidentally gift them back … Now you all know my dark secret.”

That’s a secret that another Gilroyan, Suzanne Wood, shares. “I regift bags with impunity,” she said. “I learned it from my in-laws. We just keep reusing the same bags again and again. No one cares.”

2. Consider giving it as a bonus gift. The League of Good Karma will smile upon you if you regift it just as a windfall. Not for a real occasion like Christmas, Chanukah or someone’s birthday, but “just because.” For some reason, after spending years teasing out the fragrance from a single 1.7 oz bottle of Tuscany per Donna, I’ve recently been presented with four bottles of perfume (two as windfall regifts from a friend who doesn’t wear it). I couldn’t bear the guilt of sending one to my niece for her Christmas present, so instead I’ll send it in a care package in January; she’s a college freshman. I’ll say in the letter that someone else gave it to me. That doesn’t invalidate it as a thoughtful offering.

3. Freecyle it. Be realistic. The fact that you don’t want it may be a tip-off that others won’t either. If you offer it on, you know the recipient actually wants it. Gilroy’s Freecycle group has nearly 1,800 members and has spent the last six years giving away free stuff.

Some are tempted. Some succumb. Whether you’re victim or perp, you probably have some good stories about regifting. I invite you to share yours online in the comments section for this column, at

Whoever’s is most dramatic (and it must be true!) in my opinion will win a gift from me. Regifted, of course. In fact, one of those perfumes I’m aromatically swimming in: a 1 oz. bottle of Givenchy Very Irresistible spray parfum, which retails at Sephora for $50. Yours for a good story. It’s still in the original box, with a lightly torn corner, but it’s been sprayed. Once.

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