The gift of giving

The gift of giving
Don’t forget that Christmas is a time for sharing, writes Colm Fitzpatrick


The Christmas season has the incredible ability to turn an empty, quiet house into a bustling and lively hub where families – for a short period of time – can catch up and reminisce over stories and jokes long gone past. However, during this festive period the house doesn’t only fill up with people, but also heaps of presents. Every year children are inundated with a gaggle of gizmos and gadgets, some of which form memorable experiences, while others never see the light of day again.

Parents with a conservative stance on this topic may give around 10 presents to their child at Christmas but others have no qualms in handing out 40 or 50 gifts. Regardless of the precise number, there are usually always items that remain unopened at Christmas, finding residence in an unused drawer or cupboard among a mass of other undesirable knickknacks.

A practice like this which continues year-by-year only leads to one thing: a house full of clutter. With the fear of letting presents go because they haven’t been used – or may be in the future – a pristine house can become a treasure trove of rejected gifts which lurk around every corner.

Indeed, findings conducted by Empathy Research and commissioned by self-storage company NESTA show that two in five Irish adults (38%) consider themselves to be a hoarder, while over half of respondents (58%) find it difficult to get rid of possessions.

The company has established four different kinds of hoarder personalities:

Magpie hoarders – Just like the bird they love shiny things and are reluctant to part with them. When they see something shiny and pretty, they are drawn to them immediately and hold on to them for dear life!

Bargain basement hoarders –These types of hoarders are those who have a house full of bargains that they don’t need, but can’t restrain themselves from buying because they’re too good to miss.

Stockpiling squirrel – Is there such a thing as being over-prepared? You would be surprised how many people meet this type of hoarding personality. They are those who stock up on provisions ‘just in case’.

Fearful ostriches – No one is immune to the fear of losing a cherished belonging. But what happens when it takes over your life and you refuse to let anything go? Probably one of the most interesting types of hoarding is those who put their heads in the sand because they’re too terrified to let go of anything.


Most of us can identify with one of these personalities – some stronger than others – and it does help to raise the question of whether we’re holding onto goods that would be more beneficial in someone else’s hands. Given that Christmas is a time when we become most aware of what material possessions we have, perhaps it’s about time that we donate to others rather than giving our hoarding cravings the last laugh.

One initiative worth vesting your interest in is Crosscare, an organisation devoted to helping the marginalised and disadvantaged of Ireland. The social agency has teamed up with Dublin’s Pro Cathedral, and it’s there you can donate any unopened gifts.


Crosscare was founded in 1941 to tackle the dreadful poverty in Dublin during the war years, offering nourishing meals for those who were hungry, while the clothing department provided those in need with new clothes. The organisation has had a long and strong relationship with the Pro Cathedral, helping to support those in society who need it the most.

“Really this specific initiative started about five years ago when people were coming in and they wanted to donate their unwanted gifts and they wanted to make sure they found a good home for Christmas, so they sent them to us,” says Crosscare manager Michael McDonagh.

“We have a mixture of community, food, young people and homelessness initiatives and basically it’s to them that we distribute all the gifts that are donated to us.”

Any presents donated to the Pro Cathedral are given to Crosscare which are then placed in storage for the next 12 months to be given out to people who are in their outreach services this time next year.

“It’s brilliant, because generally our food banks every week work to give out food and essential items but coming up to Christmas you’d like to try and make your hampers and your offerings that you’re giving to people to be a little bit more special. Being able to give people things like cakes and biscuits, hats, scarves, gloves, Lego sets for kids, it really makes a difference,” Michael explains.

“The looks on people’s faces who we’ve been working with all year and they don’t know if they’re going to get presents for the kids or the ones they love and being able to hand them something means that worry is taken from them. It’s an amazing sight, especially at this time of year.”

He adds that more and more often people are specifically buying gifts for the initiative, appreciating that it’s important to “give a little bit”.

This is a wonderful opportunity to regift items you don’t need or want, while also doing a good deed. But this practice isn’t just limited to presents or even to the Christmas period – decluttering is an activity you can do throughout the year and charities are always accepting of bits and bobs that are in good condition.

Michael stresses that Crosscare is open 365 days a year and that many families increasingly every year are being affected by poverty, despite reports that the economy is getting better.  It’s never easy to part with goods – especially those unused – but there are workable methods to cut down on your material possessions without causing stress.

Take it slowly – When it comes to giving away items you no longer want, it’s very easy to get caught in a rut about how much there is to do and how little time you have to complete the task. With this mindset you can end up throwing everything away in one heap, which may lead to regret or anxiety. Instead, go through the items slowly and patiently over a period of weeks or months so that a momentous task becomes a much easier one.

Let it go – There may be items in your house like clothes or jewellery that you no longer wear but still elicit joyful memories. While it is extremely difficult to let objects like these go, it’s important not to hold on too tightly.

A great way of dealing with pieces like these is to hold it, thank it, and hug it – by giving the object gratitude for the experiences you’ve had with it, you’ll feel more comfortable in parting with it.

Put it in a box – If you can’t decide whether you want to keep an item – perhaps a watch that you no longer wear – put it in a box for the next six months. If, during that period, you feel no urge to use it, then it’s a sure sign that you’re ready to give it to someone else.

Don’t dwell – When sorting through unused presents or old items, we have the tendency to put objects in a ‘maybe pile’ where we can decide later whether we want to keep something. This wastes time and those items usually go straight back into the same cupboard they came from. Instead, handle the objects only once – giving them time and consideration – and then make up your mind.

Be honest with your future – Often we buy things that we hope to use in the future, for example, a cookbook. With items like these, be honest with yourself about whether you will ever use them or if they’re just going to keep picking up dust.

Be incentivised by the fact that someone else will get much more out of it than you.