The Gift Closet

There are so many fragrances and these never burn black. I like them because they are made in Tyler too, where I was born.

One of my favorite things to do is give gifts. I just love the feeling of giving someone something that they want, that they wouldn’t buy for themselves, that they don’t expect. When I go to a friends’ home for dinner, I try to take a little something — perhaps a wine cork, a small pot of flowers, a candle, a pretty kitchen hand towel, even a pack of seeds.

Every time I’m out shopping, I find little things that are suitable hostess gifts, birthday gifts, hospitality gifts, etc. Most of the time I purchase these little things and stick them in my “gift closet.”

Well actually it’s not a closet just for gifts. It’s a closet in my office where there’s a little shelf on which I put these little treasures until I need one of them to give to a neighbor who has put our paper on our porch when we’ve been gone or to give to a co-worker who helped me with a tough project. It’s amazing how people are so happy when you give them a small gift to thank them for being a part of your life.

To me, giving a gift is a gift in itself. (Wow that’s a strange-sounding sentence.) I just love to gift people. It just feels good.

For my daughters, while they were in college, I always kept an open box in my gift closet and filled it with stuff they might need or want. Back then, we called it a care package. They seemed to really love receiving my (sometimes weekly) care packages. The week before finals I’d send them a box filled with highlight markers, snacks, post-it notes, a cute pair of pajama shorts, hoop ear-rings and the like.

I remember one year Oldest Daughter was in college and it was raining all the time. She told me she was ruining her shoes in the mud and was wishing for some rubber boots. (We called them galoshes when I was young — isn’t that a great word, galoshes?) That afternoon Younger Daughter and I found the perfect pair at Marshall’s and rushed home to box them up and send them to her. I didn’t have one box large enough to fit them in so I sent them in two separate boxes — a boot in each box. She told me about opening the first box and seeing the one boot. Her roommate asked, “Why would your Mom send you one boot?” Of course my daughter knew the second package contained a second boot.

You can often find a cocktail recipe book or bartender guide for $3 or $4 at Marshalls, Ross or T J Maxx.

I’ve pretty much had a gift closet ever since getting married. We received a few duplicate wedding gifts, and rather than go to the trouble to take them back, I just put them in a closet and gave them as wedding gifts when that occasion would arise. When the girls were in pre-school and grade school, it seemed like we went to a birthday party a week. So rather than go buy a gift for each party, I’d just go buy six Candy Land games, six Barbie dolls, etc. and put them in the closet so there would always be a gift ready for the next party. You can save a lot of money this way if you catch toys on sale. You will spend more if you are rushing in to buy a gift before a party than if you have one in the closet ready to give. (Also, the girls would often get duplicate gifts for their birthdays and so often I’d re-gift the duplicates, making sure not to give it to the child who gave it.)

I’m also an advocate of what I call “signature gifts.” This is the gift you always give for certain occasions. For instance, when the girls were in high school, for all their guy friends at graduation, we gave them a monogramed laundry bag and a little basket filled with detergent, dryer sheets and quarters. For the girls, I found really nice down throws on which I had their names monogrammed (in their college colors). For 21st birthdays, I always gave the kids a book titled “2001 Cocktails” and a box of martini glasses or cute highball glasses. The books were often sold at Marshalls or TJs and I’d stock up on them. Sometimes they were as little as $3 each. Just about all the kids in the neighborhood have turned 21 so I’ve quit stocking that signature gift. Now it seems I’m giving baby gifts. As of late, my signature gift is silverware sets for babies/children. I just bought three sets on Amazon for $14.95 each. I pair them with a pink or blue bib.

Look on the sale table at Anthropologie for interesting hand towels.

At Christmas, Youngest Daughter told me that the magazine she works for had an article about assembling a gift closet for Christmas hospitality gifts. That’s such a good idea. In November of each year I start buying decorative pumpkins to give to my friends and neighbors as gifts. Then in late November I start stocking my gift closet with holiday-themed gifts — hand towels, pot holders, candles, beautiful ornaments, serving dishes, etc. Following are some of my “go to” gifts.

Hospitality/Hostess gifts

1. Tyler’s candles

2. Wine cork

3. Scented soap

4. Coasters

5. Small plates or bowls for serving appetizers, olives, nuts, etc. (Pier One is a great place for these sorts of gifts. Last fall I found these great little plates shaped like vegetables — a tomato, green pepper and yellow pepper. You can find fall-leaf shaped bowls/plates in the fall months.)

6. Small bag of seeds. (This spring, Target offered a little burlap bag of seeds. One was a butterfly garden and one was a wildflower garden.)

7. Hand towel, cups, dishes from Anthropologie (you can find all sorts of neat gifts in their sale rooms)

8. A cute pot in which you plant basil, mint or rosemary

9. A set of fun wine glasses/martini glasses

10. A couple of cute votive candle holders with votive/ tea lights.

For sweet little toddler hands.

For sweet little toddler hands. These are made by Oneida.

11. Silverware

12. Bibs (seven — one for every day of the week)

13. Goodnight Moon book with a pair of mittens

14. Bath toys and hand puppet scrubbers

15. The Polar Express with a silver bell (at Christmas)

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