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Feature - DR ABC — The Survival Guide to Gift-Getting

The Art of Receiving, based on the ‘pay it forward’ principle



It’s that time of year, where everyone from the retailers and spin-doctors of the economy to your local food bank or charity are banging that familiar gong: "It’s more blessed to give than to receive."

Though many of us would be hard pressed sourcing the phrase, it carries some unspoken authority. And although we may feel more harried than spiritually uplifted in the throes of Christmas shopping, even the bible is justifying the year’s biggest spending spree.

Something often neglected in all the Joy-of-Giving-"will-that-be-Visa-or-MasterCard"-hype is the Art of Receiving. And this isn't a wry attempt at maximizing exposure of my annual letter to Santa… Honest. I don’t actually like getting presents.

My good mates, Shelley and Sal helped me move house a couple of years ago.

"Three rulers?!"

They cleaned out my kitchen’s nefarious third drawer.

"You call yourself a minimalist? No. Sorry. We could have three rulers. But you..."

And out they went. A simple uncluttered life is not an easy thing to master. Even with ruthless friends. Mystery gifts, obscured in festive wrappings, alluringly sheathed in ribbon and paper, are the minimalist’s worst nightmare. Often simply the portents of more clutter. All too often the made-in-the-developing-world embodiment of a loved one’s precious and counted thought is an item I didn't conceive desire for, a clear window into someone else’s taste or evidence of someone else's perception of me.

When my magic matures, I will do the world a festive favour. I will invent an extractor that separates the thought from the gift and leaves you with a jar of distilled love, which you can imbibe at will, or sprinkle on your cereal. Dispose then of the gift guilt-free. I will then be liberated from the desire to make everyone happy and the girlie handbag that doesn't even fit my water bottle.

So once you've extracted the love from the gifts that missed the mark, what do you do with them? That’s where the DR ABC Survival Guide comes into play. A tactical approach to the most fraught moments of the season – the exchange of gifts.

D — When you take your First Aid, this is the cue to scan for DANGER. Under the Gift-Getting Management Plan, D stands for deceit. This is the approach for cowards and those schooled in the art of British good manners. (Guilty.) Whatever you unwrap, you are appreciative, gracious and deceptively thankful. You try and avoid outright lies. "Do you like it?" must be answered with, "Oh, you shouldn’t have", "how thoughtful you are", or "this will be very useful."