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Planning a Gift Closet

By on March 23, 2005

photo by Lori Greig

Creating a gift closet is a wonderful way to plan ahead for gift giving occasions. It’s also handy for those last-minute emergency events that spring up throughout the year, may otherwise catch you by surprise, and send you on a mad dash to the store. Developing a system that will work for you is simple and will prove to be not only a budget saver, but a timesaver as well.

Location, Location, Location
For starters, you’ll need to find an area to store your gifts. If you don’t have a spare closet or enough space in your closet, all is not lost. You can simply reserve an area in another part of the house such as the basement, attic, spare shelf, or underneath your bed. You can store gifts in a tote, boxes, baskets, or even in bags. It’s ideal to have a closet, but the key is just finding a safe and handy spot that works for you. The concept is to provide enough space to hide your stash and not so hidden that you forget it’s there.

Creating a Master List
Take some time to consider all the people you normally buy presents for throughout the year. You can then list any possible potential gifts you may need to give. You can start a list in a notebook. Write down names, ages, birthdays, anniversaries, various holidays, and sizes. Some examples of atypical gifts to plan for are kids’ birthday parties, thank you’s, hostess gifts, congratulatory, cheer up gifts, and teacher gifts. Be sure to include any personal information about the gift recipients, such as their likes and dislikes, hobbies, or decor styles.

When adding to your notes, it’s a good idea to begin paying attention and keeping your ears open to the people you’ll be buying gifts for. They sometimes mention things they’ve seen that they like or drop subtle hints. Whenever you recognize a hint, simply jot it down. You can also do a little investigating and notice items they already own or even casually ask questions that will assist you in your planning.

This master list is an important part of planning your gift closet. The key is to purchase thoughtful gifts for the people on your list. You’re striving for something they’ll like, but are unlikely to purchase. If all else fails, you can check out these handy websites for ideas: and

Scoping Out the Goods
You can start shopping for your gift closet anytime. I like to start shopping right after Christmas for the upcoming year. Holiday clearance sales have a wonderful selection of inexpensive gift items. It’s the best time to stock up on giftwrap, tape, cards, bows, and gift tags and bags too.

Christmas isn’t the only time you can get bargains. You can check after each major holiday, change of season, and random sales throughout the year. Discount department stores, grocery stores, and dollar stores are a good place to hunt out gift treasures too. There are also a plethora of bargains to be found at garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores. Yes. Secondhand gifts are acceptable in many cases.

Regift and Recycle
We all have received gifts that we don’t really like, want, or need. You know those less than perfect gifts you’ve received and are unsure what to do with. These items don’t need to take up space in your home and remain disliked or unused. You’re not stuck with these items cluttering up your home. It was given to you as a gift. That permits you to do with it as you wish. You can add them to your gift closet. You can pass them onto others that will appreciate them. It takes a little creativity, consideration, caution, and planning to regift or recycle with finesse.

Planning Ahead
You’ve selected your gift closet area. Be sure to maintain notes on who gave you which gift to avoid an embarrassing situation later. You can keep notes on upcoming gift-giving occasions and potential recipients that might appreciate your unwanted gifts. Lookover each gift and make sure there aren’t any pricetags, rips in packaging, personalized notes or writing, or anything that reflects that the gift is outdated or obviously used.

Thoughtful Consideration
The idea of regifting isn’t merely to unload your unwanted items. Take time and consider who might appreciate your unwanted item. The main thing to consider is the recipient. The whole concept of a gift is the thought you put into selecting it and the thought behind it. You’re attempting to convey your feelings with your gift. Refer to your master list and don’t add useless junk to your gift closet.

Many of your unwanted gifts can be grouped together with other gifts. Maybe on it’s own a regift is too small of an item, but when coupled with another gift, it’s a wonderful add-on. You can create a gift basket and add a regift to it. You can also embellish your regift to make it more pretty. Items like empty jars, tins, and baskets can store homebaked goods. You can add a personalized photograph to a regifted frame. Think of other ways the items can be used, re-used, and enjoyed by the recipient.

Exercise Caution
Don’t regift in the same family or social circles. That’s just asking for trouble. The last thing you want is Aunt Mary seeing that puffy sweater she gave to you on your cousin at the next family gathering.

You shouldn’t try to pass these items off as being new, if they aren’t new. You know the recipients well enough to know which people you can inform that the item is secondhand and which members you can’t. Keep in mind that if you thought it was a horrible and tacky gift, you shouldn’t regift it unless you know it’s an item someone would like. When in doubt, you can either resell it or donate the completely useless and tacky gifts.

You also don’t want to regift any items that the gifter will notice you no longer have in your posession. If your friend comes over often, she may ask you where you’re hiding that fabulous gift she gave you.

Suggested new or secondhand items for your gift closet
crafts, pens, markers, and crayons
seasonal merchandise like mugs, plates for cookies, mittens, scarves, hats, ear muffs, seeds, ornaments, placemats, towels, potpourri, and wreaths
stationery, journal, and books
office and school supplies
clearance baby items
cd’s, dvd’s, and sheet music
games and toys
bath and beauty items
kitchen gadgets, appliances, and baking supplies
wallet, keychains
water bottle

Purchasing these items, when they’re on sale or secondhand for your gift closet, saves a considerable amount of money. It doesn’t leave you with those hefty bills come holiday and gift giving time. It helps your holidays be less stressful, so you can focus on the joy of special occasions. You’ll also become known as a thoughtful gift giver that chooses the perfect gifts that creatively express your thoughts and feelings. Plus, you’re a savvy shopper too.

Get started on planning your gift closet. It sure beats rushing to the store, grabbing any old thing, and wrapping gifts in the car on the way to the occasion. Think of your gift closet as convenience shopping. For any readers still not convinced a gift closet is a concept for them to utilize, please read the following website: At the very least, you’ll avoid being a bad gift-giver.

As seen on Good Morning America, The Wallstreet Journal, Times Online UK,,,11069-2518759,00.html,


  1. emily_hope

    2/17/2007 at 11:11 pm

    I’ve got this one done already. I have a gift closet. Started it about 2 years ago. It has really come in handy as my 2 DDs have many friends.


    2/19/2007 at 8:04 pm

    i love this idea. i just started working on a gift closet. its so nice to have one finally. i always pick up stuff on clearance, or on sale. when my foster kids leave to go home, i always give them a small gift to remind them of their visit at our home.

  3. clutterbug

    2/20/2007 at 1:59 am

    I worked for several years and had to buy so many gifts. The last couple of years that I worked was for a place that had over 30 employees and EVERYONE bought each other gifts for xmas. Now that was expensive.

  4. mom23boys

    2/25/2007 at 7:23 pm

    I keep a gift closet year round. I am able to give gifts at holidays and birthdays without stressing over finances. I do put thought into my gifts. I don’t just buy something because it is on sale. I try to find clearanced or sale items that the recipient would enjoy.

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