Monday, August 18, 2008

Being a Gift Hunter-Gatherer all year round

We all know at least one or two people who have done all of their Christmas shopping before Halloween. We really hate them sometimes. But it's not their fault that they have managed to achieve that enviable state of composure during the holiday season; their smug attitude, however, IS their fault. You can despise them for that all you want, but it's worth considering how they have achieved that state of gift-giving peace.

It does not require being a Martha Stewart. It's all about regaining a long-lost skill: Hunter-Gathering.

Think about primitive humans for a moment: Their existence was pretty much about food, because food was the main thing they needed to survive. So our ancestors were always on the lookout for food. Hunter-gatherers might carry small weapons at all times in order to shoot whatever hapless animal crossed their path. It wasn't always about going out specifically on a hunt; sometimes it was about recognizing a potential kill when one appeared, no matter what the circumstances. When there was no animal around to hunt, the ability to gather many smaller items that could feed one's family was also an important skill.

What does this have to do with gift-giving, you may ask? Simple: Keep your eyes peeled, and your brain alert for potential gifts. Watch out for great ideas, and actually BUY it when you see it, instead of waiting three months and returning to find it long gone.

When you go into a store looking for a gift, or even to find something for yourself, you can, of course, focus in on the one item you are trying to find. Or, you can consciously prepare yourself to scan across the spectrum. I (Susan) have a mental list of best friends and family that I am always on a subconscious search for. For example, I have a friend who adores vintage Cowgirl memorabilia. So whenever I spot something in that category, I usually pick it up for her. My friends Teresa and Anne hit it right on the money once; sharing my near-obsession with the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, they got me a USB hub in the shape of the TARDIS. I absolutely squealed and danced around when I opened it - I had been wanting one for 2 years.

We don't advocate applying a label to each one of your First-Tier people and automatically buying anything that fits that label; buying a trivet that says "Dance as if no-one is watching" for a professional dancer is simplistic and slightly insulting, and you don't want to be one of those people who gives a ceramic frog to the person who made the mistake of mentioning that she liked frog figurines years ago, and now has over 500. But keeping in mind a few of your friends and family's favorite hobbies and interests when in a store can mean the difference between finding an absolutely perfect gift 6 months before your sister's birthday, and searching through generic knick-knacks 2 hours before the party.

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