I haven't heard other people talk about a problem that several of my family go through at Christmas. It's a phobia about gift-giving. One sister announces each year that she doesn't want us to get her anything at all, because she didn't buy presents — and it definitely seems to be an anxiety thing. But then she suffers guilt about it afterwards. She’s not ungenerous, it’s something else.
When we were growing up, my youngest sister also used to have a terrible aversion to Christmas because of the usual present-buying frenzy and not being able to deal with the decisions. She would throw a fit, go hide from everyone and angrily refuse to take part in Christmas stuff.
One sister goes way overboard when buying things. That's just as difficult.
I think most of us in my family want to make people happy but we obsess about feeling judged — even when we’re talking about just dealing with family members. Our relationships have always been delicate, tenuous, and unexpressed due to our upbringing. We knew we cared for one another, but didn't know how to send that message. And sending that message seemed imperative.
To this day I still ache about a stuffed dog I sewed when I was about ten, for my little brother’s birthday. I had no money to get him anything but he expected something from me… and I felt like I'd short-changed him. His birthday came right after my sister’s, and I did not want him to feel unloved compared to her. And of course this brings me to tears even now, because he's dead and if there was anything he needed more from us it was love and attention.
I'm thinking I might have a talk with the one sister and see if I can get her to adopt a modest gift-giving habit of a practical, one-fits-all kind of thing. One year she did this: She got everyone toothbrushes and toothpaste, and we liked it. It would help her deal with Christmas, I think.
Right now I too am agonizing somewhat. Thank heavens there was a name-drawing among one family group, and I managed that -- I bought a Wyze watch that has a blood-oxygen oximeter in it and a few things that mirror the iWatch. Gifts for others are going to be late, because I can't finish projects within time limits I set myself (when it's for gifts, anyway). I'm making aprons from vintage tablecloths, and handmade pillows for my siblings.
In the meantime, I started coming up with ideas for the one sister that she might be able to handle. Practical things:
1 A set of various glues and cements one doesn’t need often, but when you can’t find them around the house it is maddening — Shoe Goo, rubber cement, crazy glue, Elmer’s, wood glue, Gorilla glue, or a glue stick. I wouldn’t go into other cements since they’re not always safe. (If the people wear athletic shoes a lot, you could add some strong clips that are needed when you repair a shoe.)
2 A metal measuring tape, and a sewing measuring tape.
3 A small tarp and/or a basic work apron.
4 A couple of tubes or jars of really, really good hand cream (Neutrogena, Eucerin, Nivea, etc.) and possibly some cotton/spandex gloves, and if they have a dog, add a jar of Musher’s Secret.
5 A winter cold kit: Without getting too pharmaceutical, some kind of cough syrup, perhaps an antihistamine or cold remedy, vitamin C & zinc lozenges, other throat lozenges, Kleenex, vaseline, hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash.
6 A set of very strong clips that can be used for reclosing chip bags, or for clamping things for repairs/crafts.
7 A portable, battery-powered, rechargeable lamp or lantern — or fan.
8 Several quality cooking oils — ex: olive, sesame, peanut, grapeseed, coconut, avocado, walnut.
9 A few spices we don’t always buy ourselves or don’t buy fresh often enough — ex. thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, bay leaves, nutmeg, sweet paprika, black pepper, minced onion, sesame seeds, coriander, etc., etc., — OR a set of extracts for baking & cooking — vanilla, mint, pineapple, lemon, orange, etc.
10 A nice houseplant, herbs in pots, a seed kit to grow herbs, or a few bulbs and a pot ready to grow spring flowers. For houseplants, Snake plants are great since they absorb indoor pollutants, need only low light, and don’t have to be watered that often.
11 A couple of really good pairs of scissors, or delicate garden shears, or a few other hand tools for gardening. A watering can and plant food.
12 Tape of various kinds for office and repair — duct tape, packing tape, double-sided tape, scotch tape. Find out which brands are the duds among packing tape, because that kind is always frustrating.
13 Goo Gone, ink stain remover, and other mild useful cleaning liquids.
14 Moleskine notepads, or other notebooks. I especially like the ones with graph paper in them.
15 A weird food item, like cricket flour, cricket brownie mix, canned or dried meat like reindeer, mealworm flour, sorghum flour, or any of the more unusual seeds or flours from Bob’s Red Mill. Also consider tomato jerky, other kinds of jerkies. Or some roasted vegetables in jars that can be added to recipes or used by themselves.
16 Scented candles, Glade scent things, or soaps. The best-smelling candles I have ever seen are Paddywax Apothecary candles — Tobacco & Patchouli, or Vetiver & Cardamom. Some great scented ones end up at Barnes & Noble at the holidays.
17 And my favorite FlyLady.net housecleaning tools, especially the cleaning cloths.