“Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?”

“Ugh. No. I’m still trying to find the perfect gift.”

Can you relate to this conversation? I can, too. But all that is changing this year. Let’s redefine the “perfect” gift. (Send it to the recycle bin, along with trying to find the perfect house, perfect family, and perfect life.) This year, let’s just focus on giving gifts from the heart.

When I’m giving gifts, I tend to think about what the recipient likes, which is a good starting point. But another great question to ask is, “What does this person consistently mention that they struggle with?” Use the following ideas to help finalize your own gift list.

For the person who appreciates how gifts “connect” us to one another:

A jar full of thoughts was one of the best gifts that my mom said she ever received from her kids and grandkids. If you can come up with 52 items, your recipient would have something for every week of the year. These can be as simple as an inspiring quote or Bible verse, a short note about something you appreciate about them, a comic from the paper, a piece of their advice you’ve come to love, a line from a favorite song, or a picture drawn by the kids.

Record some stories or poems on cassette or CD (It’s best to use your own original works or books in the public domain, for copyright reasons.). For young readers, you may want to include a signal to turn the page.

Coupon gifts are excellent, but try adding a new twist. Can you surprise your recipients with an offer to help do their taxes, wash their windows, install an anti-virus program on their computer, or winterize their lawnmower? What about teaching your friend how to use all the different clubs in his golf bag?

For the person who likes having something “tangible” to open:

One-of-a-kind gifts can easily be made by scanning the clearance racks for new, plain items that will become raw materials for something even better. Use your painting, sewing, or knitting skills to add a flair and a special touch to that item. Pretty flowers along the bottom of a pair of jeans or butterflies around the band of a sun hat would look perfect.

Make your own subscription boxes so your recipient will have something neat to open once a month! One way to do this is to pick a theme (inspirational, money-origami, kids’ craft instructions with supplies, teen health, special food items, socks, new school supplies, baby goodies, do-you-a-favor of the month … the ideas are endless). Another option is to simply choose twelve things that take into account your loved one’s interests or needs. If you have a family to buy for, you can create their boxes to be opened and used together.

Make embellishments for your favorite crafter, using paper, yarn, wood, or threads. Someone who makes cards, quilts, or decorator items can use them in their own projects.

For the “sentimental” recipient who says he doesn’t need anything:

Has someone on your list experienced a big change this year, like a birth or death, marriage or moving? After my dad died, we bought a reasonably-priced notebook as a place to write memories, attach pictures, draw sketches, and record sayings and advice that he was known for. Perhaps if someone on your list has experienced a change like this, you could pick up a nice journal and leave it blank for them, or add some of your own thoughts about the person.

Pass something down. My grandmother once gave me a book that she used to read to me as a child. She included a nice handwritten note in it, which I have cherished and shared with my children. Or if you have a special piece of family jewelry or your first baseball glove, you could write a note explaining when and how you received it and anything you remember about how it was used over the years. How about your grandfather’s old Bible, with new notes from you on your favorite passages?

Use your talent to gift others in a big way. Are you handy with a camera? Offer to take your nephew’s graduation pictures for next year. Give him some ideas about places and poses to use, or have him tell you about some of the pictures he’s seen and liked. You’ll be making great family memories and saving his family money at the same time.

My list is just a starting point. Brainstorm with the family and add your own ideas. Remember that when your gift truly comes from the heart, it’s hard to go wrong.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

Jenny Higgins

Jenny Higgins, and her husband, Nathan, make their home in central Minnesota with their two teenagers. They feel that the opportunity to homeschool has been a gift from God. Besides making connections with the people she loves, Jenny also enjoys having time to crochet and read.