12 Tips for Gifting and Giving this Holiday Season

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
Columbus Monthly

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2019-20 issue of Columbus Monthly Home & Garden.

When New Albany was newly developed, I drove down a brick lane in the gated Edge of Woods neighborhood near the New Albany Country Club. There, at the end of the court, I was greeted by Jeanne McCoy and her interior designer who gave me the grand tour of what was then a new home. The house was built especially for the noted philanthropists Jeanne McCoy and her husband, John G. McCoy, in their retirement.

It was a grand home in a zero maintenance community. We featured it twice in Columbus Monthly Homes, once as a result of my initial visit and again later when New Albany Realtor Jane Kessler Lennox listed it on the real estate market during the Great Recession. It was a million-dollar deal that simply was not selling at the time. I especially recall its vivid green wooden floors.

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One of the many things that Jeanne shared during that first visit was her wrapping room—a space on the second floor where she kept well organized rolls of colorful wrapping paper, ribbons, tissues to stuff boxes, gift bags and plenty of Scotch tape. Jeanne’s wrapping room never made it into the magazine spread, yet it is still a clear visual in my mind.

In case you don’t know the history of the McCoy family, here’s a little background. John G. McCoy was founder of Bank One, after his own father took charge of a small Downtown bank and over many years built it into a behemoth. John G. was an innovator of ATMs and what we now know as the credit card industry, building a strong card business that helped Bank One become what the New York Times estimated to be an $8 billion business. Jeanne’s husband made a cameo appearance that day I first visited, as he left for his office. Their son, John B. McCoy, was running Bank One at the time. Eventually, he made the decision to buy First Chicago NBD for $21 billion and then stepped down from its presidency just before Bank One merged with JP Morgan. The McCoy era in banking ended after 65 years. (Jeanne McCoy died in 2006, followed by her husband in 2010.)

But what does all this have to do with Jeanne’s wrapping room? Not a holiday or a birthday passes when I’m wrapping a gift that I don’t think about her and the many wonderful thoughts she shared with me that day. I’ve imagined Jeanne spending hours wrapping the family gifts in that room, which likely was the result of many years of wrapping in less-than-comfortable surrounds.

There were other things she shared that day, too. Even though she had moved from a much larger home, Jeanne instructed that keeping those things nearest and dearest to one’s heart was what was important in downsizing a home. She showed me a set of beautiful oyster plates that she still cherished even though they were rarely used.

Her kitchen backsplash featured hand-painted tiles depicting scenes from the family’s Michigan gathering place. There was nothing really special in the scenes, except it was obvious that she deeply treasured the presence of her own children and grandchildren.

Thus, whether it’s the presence of those you love or you’re wrapping presents to give this holiday season, here are a few tips for your own gifting and giving pleasure.

1. Well in advance of this holiday season, create your own wrapping space. Whether it’s a full room or a corner of one, get organized with everything you’ll need for this season: special gift paper, nametags, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows, Scotch tape and at least two pair of sharp scissors. (The first is for yourself, the second for a helper or guest.) If you’re having houseguests, they’ll likely want to finish their wrapping too. Thus, you can never have too many supplies.

2. Buy wisely. Tidying guru Marie Kondo recommends that everyone identify objects that make them happy when editing their possessions. Take Kondo’s advice one step further: For the holidays, buy items that are dear to your loved ones’ hearts. My adult children continually surprise me with gifts that they know I’ll keep because I love the designer, the artistry or the practicality involved.

3. When traveling, gift cards from beloved brands are the easiest packages to tote. I make sure to store them—and some cards or wrapping supplies—in my carry-on luggage to avoid loss.

4. Load up. Speaking of gift cards, it’s always helpful to have a few extra on hand for miscellaneous cousins, nephews, nieces, friends and their partners who may unexpectedly show up for holiday festivities.

5. Airline gift certificates may be some of the most appreciated gifts in recent years. Everyone’s looking for a reason to make a reservation during the dreary days of winter.

6. Hostess gifting never goes out of style. Most guests will bring wine to a dinner party, so why not surprise your hosts with a box of forbidden, local chocolates? Consider raising the bar even higher. One recent guest gifted us a wonderful Columbus-themed chopping board, which has captured a prominent space on our kitchen countertop.

7. Be real with your compassion: let go of gift-giving guilt and resentment. A gift is a gift; nothing about it is a requirement. Have a large family that still demands 12 gifts, even for the brother-in-law who never shows up to the exchange? Have expense limits that are difficult to adhere to? Gift giving should be fun and should never be a burden. Do whatever it takes to have fun.

8. Cookies make everyone happy. If you need to send a gift to a business acquaintance, Google Cheryl’s. I sent 50 cookies to a staff situated in the middle of Manhattan last year, and they could not have been happier.

9. Do unhealthy holiday food feasts drive you crazy? Discover Whole Foods for gifting. Wandering around the Easton store one morning this summer as I looked for a special food gift, I stumbled onto the mason jars on a shelf in the nut section. Layering unsalted cashews, dried banana chips and a few chocolate-covered Espresso beans, a healthy, gluten-free gift was created that tasted oddly like a banana split.

10. Nature bathing is real. Give a plant, a gift membership to the Franklin Park Conservatory or special growing classes. Studies show that being in nature helps avoid depression and puts people in a better state of mind.

11. The power of intellect is important. Give gift subscriptions to magazines and present interesting books to people who love to read.

12. Finally, give your family and friends the gift of your true presence. Make a portion of each holiday gathering off-limits to digital influences. In other words, don’t make social media your highest priority during this precious time of year. If you’re the host, it’s OK to request that everyone put away their phones and be present.