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WORTHINGTON -- Every year, I vow to begin checking off my 'gift giving' shopping list a little earlier than the last. Even with the best intentions, every year unfortunately turns out much like the last: a mad dash anywhere between Dec. 20 - Dec....

WORTHINGTON -- Every year, I vow to begin checking off my ‘gift giving’ shopping list a little earlier than the last.

Even with the best intentions, every year unfortunately turns out much like the last: a mad dash anywhere between Dec. 20 - Dec. 22 for those last-minute gifts.

Retailers depend on people like me and are usually pretty good at marketing to those of us who weren’t nearly as organized as we thought we were when it was mid-October to early November.

I believe in whatever motivational quote that says you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. So, in evaluating why my shopping plan fails every year, I’ve identified two main culprits that really provide a hindrance to my goal.

The first tricky aspect when it comes to my gift giving is learning (or establishing) the traditions of different families or friend groups.

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This Christmas will be the first I’ll be celebrating with my boyfriend’s family. So as I make my shopping list, I wonder what that family’s gift exchange looks like. Do members of the family or significant others who are also invited give gifts to each person? Do they give gifts per couple? Or do they stuff stockings or have some kind of gift exchange? Those are some of the looming questions that make it difficult to get my shopping accomplished, as I weigh the possibility of embarrassing myself by not having an appropriate gift or unintentionally making others feel awkward as they receive a gift from me when they don’t have one to give in return.

This scenario isn’t only applicable outside of my personal family.

On my mom’s side of the family, we’ve explicitly established that aunts, uncles, brother-in-laws and/or sister-in-laws and cousins won’t exchange gifts with one another. We all acknowledge we’re fortunate to have everything we need and most of what we want, so we’ve agreed to not spend money on yet another coffee mug to be added to a stack in a cabinet that threatens to tumble each time it’s opened, fuzzy socks that will be thrown in a drawer and forgotten, a candle that won’t ever get lit because everyone’s idea of what smells good is drastically different from the next, a book that will go on a shelf where its spine will remain uncracked or bath bombs that will dissolve over time not because they were thrown into a bathtub but because the condensation and steam from months of showers have slowly made it disintegrate within its unopened box on a bathroom shelf. That fact is not meant to sound ungrateful, but something my mom’s family has long accepted as reality.

My dad’s side is different, and year after year it’s a mystery whether or not people will choose to exchange gifts or not. It seems to bounce back and forth year after year, as the gift giver one year turns into the gift receiver the next, as each person is anticipating the same outcome from the year prior. Unlike on my mom’s side, no one seems to address the unknown and make a cohesive decision how to handle future Christmases.

The second gift shopping obstacle is much trickier than the first.

It’s been my experience that once I’ve established who I need to give a gift to, it’s not difficult to give one. However, it’s much, much harder to give a meaningful gift.

Retail stores have aisle after aisle lined with an array of options that could end up in someone’s living room, kitchen cabinet, bookshelf or bathroom.

It’s about this time every year - aisles deep in yet another store - that I again think that a world of endless options doesn’t necessarily make the task any easier.

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I could purchase any item on a shelf for any given person, but what’s going to make that gift something really special is largely dependent on how well I actually know a person, which is a connection that can’t be developed in the months leading up to Christmas.

With that in mind, I think I’ll start even earlier next year. January doesn’t seem too early.

Opinion by Alyssa Sobotka
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