A Healthy Supply (Chain) of Ideas for You

Elizabeth Jarvis Wrapping Presents
It’s holiday time again, and I have a present for you!

In an attempt to maintain the joy of seasonal to-do’s, I came up with a new way of thinking about gift-giving that I think could be helpful. Holiday shopping feels even a little more tenuous with all we’re hearing about the current supply chain debacle. So, this year, I’m practicing a considered shift in mindset, trying to find ways to overcome the added layer of stress, while also shopping locally and supporting my community!

The gift-giving puzzle, on the surface, has two main pieces: the item being given, and the person to whom it is being given. It sounds weird to say, but we usually try to match a thing to a person. And it’s not stressful when idea leads to item leads to happy recipient.

It seems the pressure mounts, however, when we’re short on time, don’t know someone well enough, can’t find what we’re looking for or, the real kicker — when we come up blank on ideas. So, let’s see what happens if we flip this present paradigm around a little. What if we start with the item instead of the person? Stick with me. I know it sounds impersonal. Just wait. What if we start with what’s available instead of what we’re trying so hard to dream up and procure? This is where shopping locally REALLY gets me excited!

Recently, I walked into a few of my favorite shops with some of my favorite things, looked around at all the beautiful items they had right there on the spot, and tried to find inspiration to match their inventory with my gift list — instead of trying to match my preconceived gift list ideas with what they did, or didn’t, have. It was so refreshing! It was just one little shift that changed the game entirely. I didn’t stress about whether an order would arrive in time. I didn’t search high and low for “the perfect thing.” No. Instead, I looked at what was in front of me, and tried to picture how to turn it into the perfect gift.

Remember, we’re still working with our two main puzzle pieces. But, instead of wracking our brains for ideas of items, we’ve got the items right in front of us. So, the new challenge becomes how to connect an ITEM with the RECIPIENT. Since “it’s the thought that counts,” let’s identify what that thought really is, instead of trying to have the item speak for itself or leaving out the thought entirely.

I can hear you thinking. Elizabeth, how do I do that? I’m so glad you asked! I’ll break it down one more step. Look at the items in front of you. What attributes do they have? What are their functions or purposes? Is there any extended symbolism you could apply? Let me give you some examples. You’ll get better at it the more you practice, I promise.

For instance, in several shops right now, I’m seeing some beautiful match cloches of various size and price ranges. With the right message, I think anyone would love the item. So, what’s the connection between matches and your special someone? Fire? Flame? Light? Striking? Or, more literally, matches? Ha! This is where the fun comes in! Stretch your imagination and capture the thought that ties it all together.

Your card could say, “When I think of you, it strikes me that we’re the perfect match.” Or, what about “Your warmth radiates like a flame in the darkness, drawing others in wherever you go. I hope you’ll enjoy this beautiful cloche as a reminder to always let your light shine.” Or “Our friendship is special, and I look forward to all the ways we still have to connect … whatever strikes your fancy.”

Are you getting the hang of it? Be personal. Give examples. Dig a little deeper for the right sentiment, and you’ll be able to match many beautiful items to lots of special people in no time. How about another example?

What about a cute pillow? It could be something you know matches their décor. It could be something with a special or silly saying on it. Pillows are easy to find and come in all kinds of options. Your message could be “Thanks for being my soft spot to land!” Or “My head rests easy knowing we’re friends.”

See a pretty pitcher? Or liquor decanter? Your message could be “You keep me filled with good times.” Or “Thanks for always pouring your wisdom out with me.” Keep the thoughts rolling, and extend your message if you have more to say. This is just what made you think to buy the item for the person.

Do you have one of those notorious, already-have-everything-I-need people in your life? Let’s see how this strategy applies to them. The most important thing is to set yourself up for success. For men, choose a more masculine store. For an older generation, what about a plant shop with a message reminding them of all the ways they’ve helped you grow? Little gifts of local artwork could come with a message that says, “You’re one of the best masterpieces in my life!”

Here are some more messages that could fit a variety of easy-to-find gifts:

“A warm gift for the coolest person I know” would work for anything from a candle to specialty teas and coffee. Maybe even a hot toddy recipe with all the fixings. My farmers’ market has a stand with custom-blended spice mixes that would work, too. Remember, part of the point is to source locally!

Y’all, I think I could go on forever! Are your ideas sparking yet??

You’ll find the most success when you’re as genuine as you can be. A little punny is endearing, but not if it’s impersonal or insincere. One of the main points of this exercise is to identify your unspoken thoughts about a person. What was it about the item that made you think of them? How are their attributes like the attributes of the item? How can the item be a reminder of your relationship with the person every time they see it or use it?

Make sense yet? Will you try it, and let me know what you think? Pretty please?

I can’t wait to hear where you went, what you found and how you wrote your special message!

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