What to Do With Those Random Holiday Gifts

January 4, 2018

Happy post-holidays, everyone! For all of you who celebrated with the traditional gift-giving extravaganza, we hope you got everything you were hoping for. The older you get, the less important receiving things that you really like seems to be, but it’s still nice when your parents, grandparents, rich but weird uncle, or significant other gets you something that you have been saving up for—or at the very least, eyeing from a distance. The sad reality of the holidays in the age of Amazon Prime is that anything we could have needed or wanted leading up to December was probably received within one to three days of a single mouse click and a few too many weeknight glasses of wine. So, in a sort of holiday defeatism, the gift-giving itself is a lot less important than the whole “it’s the thought that counts” thing, leaving you with a bunch of gift cards to T.J. Maxx, and a homemade pasta maker from your grandma that requires ingredients you didn’t even know existed. It may indeed be the thought that counts, but now what are you going to do with the stuff you’ll probably never use? We have some thoughts.

Launch a sock puppet theater

Socks are such a universally “thoughtful” (lazy) gift during the holidays, the U.S. and North Korea should consider opening up diplomatic talks by doing a show-and-tell with their Rudolph-themed knee-highs. However, socks are also a perfect example of the kind of gift one grabs upon realizing that he or she has a dearth of good options, and can’t exactly give away without a strange conversation. Thank God for YouTube, because The Simpsons character novelty socks your aunt got you are basically your ticket to 1M views. Or, maybe your grandma is nudging you into a “real job” with some professional plaids—in which case, get a little more interpretive, and stage a sock puppet performance of A Streetcar Named Desire or Westworld. We all know that you’re not going to stop getting holiday socks from ambivalent relatives anytime soon, so make sure to set up the first season of your sock puppet content empire with enough unsatisfied plot arcs to introduce the new characters of future sequels and offshoots.

Swap your gift cards for cash...or better gift cards

Many of us moved a long way away from our families when we entered adulthood, so trips home don’t really accommodate the kinds of gifts we used to crave as children (here’s looking at you, 1998 Huffy Flatbed). So, in addition to the all-but-required aforementioned socks, savvy gift-givers are going to lean heavily on the much more mobile gift card. That said, any gift cards you get probably won’t be for the kinds of places you like to patronize for anything other than irony and nostalgia. We’ve all heard and read articles about us millennials savagely killing off our parents’ beloved restaurant chains to fuel our never-ending desire for coconut oil and avocado toast—so, they “get back” at us by giving gift cards to places we’ll most likely never go to. Thank goodness for sites like Cardpool.com that give us the strength to open a card with a Chili’s gift card inside, and smile sincerely [knowing that we can sell the thing off almost immediately for cash or something slightly more practical]. The only downfall is that Avocado Toast R’ Us doesn’t exist...yet.

Learn to use it

You’re right: maybe the first two points were a little cynical towards the thoughtful family members who just want to show someone they love how much they care. Even if you do just end up getting socks and Olive Garden gift cards, that’s fine (particularly since $25 will buy you a fudge-ton of breadsticks and alfredo dip). On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who put some serious thought into their gift for you, even though they don’t know if it will be a success. These are the peeps who gift you things like electronic wine openers, extremely sophisticated cat towers, cheap drones, and state-of-the-art panini makers—none of which you may have thought you could use in any part of your life, but hey, why not try? It’s much easier to not do something than to do it, particularly if it requires you to completely rearrange your kitchen counter to accommodate. But, that random gift from your aunt in Akron may actually encourage you to eat better than any kale-of-the-month subscription box ever could. Maybe that functioning cat elevator from whatever the new version of Sky Mall is will become your kitten’s new favorite reason to not wake you up in the middle of the night. Maybe you slice open your thumb trying to make artisan avocado toast, and that electronic wine opener actually saves your life (and when we say ‘saves your life,’ we mean it allows you to have a couple of glasses of wine before bed on an especially stressful day—same thing). It’s good for you to try new things, particularly as you start falling more and more into the habit of adulthood. Who knows—these bizarro gifts may be the perfect antidote. 

Turn it into a “project

Or, maybe you straight up don’t need an electronic wine opener. That’s fine. However, you may need that wine opener’s automated pulley system to create Ketchupbot 2.0. Or, maybe parts of that cat hotel can be reassembled to produce a cabinet for your record collection. The point is, things aren’t always as they seem—and this especially applies to the strange, Sharper Image-esque things that may fall into your possession this holiday season. Millennials may be killing everything holy and sacred in the world (like TGI Fridays and Sears), but we’re also bringing back salvage and bespoke well, everything. So, don’t be afraid to turn that alarm-clock-slash-pancake-maker into whatever it is that you ACTUALLY wanted this holiday season. (Though honestly, why would you destroy something as beautiful as that hypothetical thing we just made up right now? If someone actually gets you an alarm clock that wakes you up with the smells and sounds of a fresh-griddled hotcake, you protect that thing with your life.)