Do you know folks who are fabulous gift-givers? The ones who—whether it’s your birthday or a dinner party or the office holiday gathering—show up with just the most thoughtful, perfect, appropriate thing? We got advice from a couple of them and uncovered one of their secrets: The gift closet.
Our gift-giving experts are Anne Cuddy, an editorial director for greeting cards, and Karen Kawallek, a manager on our digital asset management team. Both have adorable small dogs.
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KAREN: Well, first—
BOTH: It’s not always a closet.
ANNE: It can be any kind of container.
KAREN: Like a milk crate or plastic bin or vintage wire crate. Mine is an actual closet in a guest room. I collect things in open bins stashed in the closet.
ANNE: Mine is always in my kitchen cabinet, where normal people would put their dishes. Along with the gifts, I have gift wrap and fancy pens and a few cards.
Actual definition: A gift closet is a place you store gifts before you give them.
ANNE: I started mine because I’d see something on sale, and I was like, “If I buy it now, I’ll have it later.” So I buy six of them, because it’s a deal. It’s about finding the perfect thing and reserving it instead of settling for something you love less when you have to go shopping at the last minute.
One year, I was so excited about a book I’d read that I bought like seven copies. It saves me from trying to be thoughtful later, when I’m busy.
KAREN: I have a gift closet for the unexpected invite or sudden need for a gift. Like when the kiddo across the street comes over and says, “It’s my mom’s birthday and my dad wants me to ask you to come over and have some cake.” I bought a bunch of travel mugs in different colors, and I know she loves coffee, so there we go.
During the holiday season, I keep a couple of gift bags with candy or generally suitable gifts under the Christmas tree. When a friend I don’t normally exchange presents with stops by with a little something, I can say, “Oh, hey! One of these is for you!”
ANNE: One year, I did chocolate truffles and a tiny bottle of champagne. I got extras, so if someone stopped by right before the holidays with a gift, I had something for them. And it’s a nice gift!
KAREN: It’s just not super personal.
ANNE: It’s like you’re fighting thoughtfulness with more thoughtfulness.
KAREN: It’s defensive thoughtfulness.
ANNE: First, it has to be something I would want for myself—something that if my friend sees it, she’s like “where’s mine?”
KAREN: And quality. It has to be high quality.
Other good qualities for gift closet gifts:
- On sale
- Useful—not a dust-collector
- Special—a treat or indulgence
- Not too personal—so you could give it to multiple people
- Something you liked/tried/read/loved
- Nonperishable or has a reasonably long shelf life
- Unique—either by itself or in the way you give it
- Add-ons—little things you can give with bigger gifts
Important question: Can you put things you’d like to re-gift in the gift closet?
A: Yes, if they’re cool and good quality, but just not right for you.
Here’s a whole post about adding personal touches to simple gifts.
For truly successful, um, “defensive thoughtfulness,” it helps to keep a few additional supplies on hand:
We asked our experts to go through the Hallmark Gold Crown Holiday Gift Guide and pick their favorites.
ANNE: I’m thinking of the women in my life—who doesn’t need a good quality journal? And it has this built-in “I believe in you” compliment.
KAREN: My daughter-in-law is the CIO of a company. I’d give it to her—and to my two granddaughters, who are 7 and 9.
ANNE: I’d write a note on the first page about how proud of her I am.
KAREN: I would fill it with hot chocolate mix or good tea.
ANNE: I would add a bunch of red- and green-wrapped chocolate kisses with a gift card poking out.
KAREN: I’d buy three or four. This is the kind of thing I’d give as hostess gifts and to co-workers.
ANNE: My mom loves to give dish towels for Christmas—I use them to wrap things. I like the functionality.
3-Piece Snowflake Condiment Dish Set and Tray
Another question: Can you buy something with multiple pieces and split them up?
KAREN: Absolutely. Add candies or packets of a fancy dip mix.
ANNE: Or a little plant. It feels special. Oh! That one comes with a wooden tray.
KAREN: The tray is for us to keep.
KAREN: Everything here is suitable. My real estate agent always gives something nice, so I give her hot chocolate and a nice mug.
ANNE: Candy is great for people when you don’t know what to give them. Sometimes I pair it with something a little warmer, too. Last year, I did donations in people’s names—then gave candy and a card. My mom wept.