Not everyone puts as much thought and care into gift giving. So it’s likely you’ll get some clunkers for presents that miss the mark this holiday. Re-gifting is totally permissible, with some guidelines.


My family and friends avoid the whole problem with a tradition of gifting “consumables” for the holidays instead of collecting more stuff. Spices and a recipe for Mulligatawny soup, persimmons from the bounty off the tree in my yard with a persimmon nut bread, soy candles, organic catnip and botanical hand balm — all from local artisans. Homemade treats are as old a tradition as bringing cookies to your neighbors.


But it doesn’t have to be just edible gifts. And now I follow a theme. One year it was salt: Himalayan salt, flavored salts, bath salts and salted chocolate caramels. Another year, I was inspired by my fig tree and made a batch of fig spread. I also included fig crackers, fig mustard in my "baskets," and I even found handcrafted fig soap.


An annual tradition are the delicious chili nuts my friend roasts which I share at the family dinner. But what about that ornament I was given for a tree I don’t have? Or the book I already read? The pink crocheted pillow? Another pair of gloves? The too-big earrings, too-sweet incense, the Christmas-themed scarf I’ll never wear, the sweater that doesn’t fit and I can’t return, that wallet I don’t need? Secret Santa gifts are notorious for wrapping up the $10 version of unnecessary stuff.


Wait for the right recipient and recycle wrapping, too

I’ll find the perfect person for it and pass it on. There is some etiquette for this: you don’t want to hurt the gifter’s feelings, since most people don’t really want to know you didn’t like/want/need it. Wait to match items with the right recipient and appropriate occasion. And keep it in the original packaging. I also recycle gift wrap, make my own or have fun with recycled ribbons.


You could throw a white elephant party on New Year’s Eve where everyone brings one item and exchanges gifts. Maybe someone you know really could use a pen and pencil set. Just be sure the gift-giver isn’t attending and you’re not passing off more stuff no one will want. Gifts can be donated, too, as a form of recycling.


Re-gifting lets the gift keep giving. Perhaps you want to start a new tradition among your family and friends and let everyone know there’s no more room for stuff. There are more creative and fun ways to give.


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This story was originally written for Treehugger. Copyright 2011.