The Marie Kondo Guide to Holiday Gifting

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Joy to the world—the kind of joy sparked by Marie Kondo, that is.

Without a doubt, the holiday season is a great time to revisit the de-cluttering advice outlined in the organizational guru’s two best-sellers (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy). Not only will Kondo’s wisdom help you make room for all of the new kitchen gadgets and cool kicks you’ll soon be unwrapping, but her signature mantra—only surround yourself with things that make you really, really happy—is great when applied to giving and receiving gifts, too.

Why? For one thing, it helps you make a wish list that will ensure you’re heading into 2017 with all the right tools. “The holiday season marks a time of new beginnings,” Kondo tells me. “Tidying offers a great opportunity to reflect on what you own and to reconsider how you want to live.”

Plus, once you understand how to spark joy in your own life, it becomes easier to shop for gifts that’ll do the same for others. And if you don’t have time to brush up on Kondo’s books before the holidays, keep calm—the space-clearing dynamo has shared some of her best gifting advice with Well+Good.

Keep reading for Marie Kondo’s tips on how to give and receive presents that spark joy—every time.

Marie Kondo guide to giving gifts
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When you’re giving a gift...

Make it personal
It can be tempting to play it safe when gift shopping—like buying your sister-in-law a set of neutral lip glosses, because who wouldn’t like that? But Kondo says that if you put a little bit more thought into the selection process, it’ll pay off big time.

“Before I search for a gift, I try to recall things about my loved one’s lifestyle, work, and interests; I try to imagine what would spark joy based on his or her personality,” she says. “I know I’ve found a meaningful gift when I can articulate what aspects I think they would like about the gift.”

For example, if you’ve got a pal who’s always leaving her phone in the cubby at spin class, get her a pair of leggings with pockets—she’ll totally appreciate the sentiment (and the inside joke).

Buy something that sparks joy for you
What about if you’re shopping for someone you don’t know that well—like a secret Santa or a higher-up at work? “If you try to come up with a universal gift, you’ll probably end up with consumable goods like food or bath products,” says Kondo.

But there’s still a way to make these things feel not-so-generic, she insists. "The joy you feel when selecting the gift can be felt by the recipient, so choosing something that sparks joy in you will lead to more meaningful gift giving.”

So if you swear by Moon Juice's maca powder for getting you through that afternoon slump, chances are your boss will dig it, too.

Marie Kondo guide to receiving gifts
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When you're receiving a gift...

Make bad gifts meaningful
Every year, you’re bound to get one gift that doesn’t exactly make you giddy. But Kondo says you shouldn’t just toss it into the back of your closet.

“The first [option] is to try using the gift, even if the item does not immediately spark joy,” she says. “There are instances when you can find an unexpected use for the item and, even if you cannot, by using it at least once you can reduce the feeling of guilt that might arise when deciding to part with the item.” (Those ugly socks from Grandma? Use them to polish the screen on your new Peloton bike.)

The second fix, Kondo says, is to donate the item or give it to someone who would love it. But make sure to bid it adieu mindfully. “Regardless of the method you choose, the very act of receiving a gift is what sparks joy, so you should express gratitude even if you decide to let the item go,” she adds.

Don’t toss the box
Kondo’s tidying method doesn’t just prize items that spark joy—the author also recommends keeping anything you find to be useful. And, she claims, the same logic applies to gift wrap.

“[Gift boxes] can be reused for storage when tidying, especially rectangular boxes that are durable and easy to use,” Kondo explains. “I also recommend it as a divider for drawers, because it provides a way of storing belongings that sparks joy in your heart every time you open your dresser.” If there’s anything that could make you happier than your drawer full of sweat-friendly undies and athleisure-inspired lingerie, this is it.

The KonMari philosophy can apply to pretty much anything—here’s how to use it when you’re deciding what to eat and healing a broken heart.

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