Can we help you with your gift giving this year?

When temperatures drop, it’s time to shop! Hard-sell “buy now” marketing campaigns, the pressure to exceed expectations with each gift, while also going to great extremes to avoid melt-downs and family feuds during the festive season can all lead to a number of reactions that I see affecting almost everyone at this time of year.


For example, during the holidays, the stress and panic of the season can easily set in or increase. The anxiety one feels throughout the year often increases or worsens in December and it has nothing to do with what gift to buy. At the same time, depression and even thoughts of suicide peak during a time that is not necessarily a merry one for all. The holidays can, in fact, worsen or magnify the “winter blues.” Even Elvis Presley sings about having a Blue Christmas  because he can’t be with a loved one. Take the time to visit those who are generally alone or don’t have any family nearby. The gift of your time may be the one thing that helps get them through this often difficult and lonely time of year.

Christmas gift ideas

The holidays are also an especially challenging time for those with hoarding behaviours. Adding to a loved one’s “collection” may not be helpful. You may be contributing to the problem.  Instead of a “thing”, give them the gift of an experience or a service so you don’t add to the clutter. Even children can display signs of hoarding, especially on Christmas morning. Chances are they won’t just save your present, but the packaging, wrapping paper and gift tags, too. And the same goes for every gift they receive, especially the ones from Santa. Watch for the signs.


Fortunately, because my extensive training as a Professional Organizer extends to recognizing and working with those who have mental health issues, I’m able to offer support when it’s needed most, including help with holiday shopping and gift ideas, or even what to do with a bunch of gifts they have received and don’t know what to do with. To begin with, consider this: if you’re feeling stressed, chances are the family members you are giving gifts to are as well. After all, mental health issues can have a genetic component. They can also be situational. So if you’re feeling the pressure at work, most likely your colleagues are too. Get creative and find ways to make the holiday about spending quality time with the people you care about instead of giving them things they probably don’t need.

Dear Abby advice column for gifts

So where to start? Follow Santa’s example. After all, he’s an expert at holiday gifting!

  • Make a list. Write down the names of everyone you plan on giving a gift to and how much you want to spend on each person. This will help you from overspending and avoid putting yourself in panic mode from the financial stress of credit card bills come January.
  • Check it twice. Review the list to see if there are people you can speak with to discuss skipping your usual gift exchange with. There’s no point buying each other a gift neither of you want or need when, in the end, meeting for an inexpensive coffee date, a lovely catch-up over a glass of Chardonnay, or even going to see a movie together would be much more enjoyable. In fact, it may turn out that you both decide to skip presents and make your outing an annual event.


Ready to shop? Most people already have more stuff than they need, are too fussy to shop for – or both. The last thing you want to do is give a teen a sweater they’ll never wear, a vase or figurine to a senior in the process of downsizing or a countertop appliance to anyone with a small kitchen. You’ll also want to avoid giving anything that supports a person’s hoarding behaviour.

choose the right gift

Here are a few of my favourite gift suggestions. For you, they are easy to shop for. They can be sent electronically by email or slipped into a greeting card – so no wrapping required! For the recipient, they are practical, plus none take up any significant, if any, space in their home.


Cell-ebrate The Season. Most people have smart phones, so the gift of an Apple App Store and iTunes Gift Card  or Google Gift Card  is a smart choice. You choose the amount you want to spend and they choose the apps or music they want to download.


App-solutely Perfect. For anyone struggling with stress, anxiety, depression or feeling stuck in a rut, give a subscription to the smart phone app called CALM. There’s a reason it was the Apple App of the Year for 2017 – it works! CALM offers a different 10-minute guided meditation each day. There are also collections of more than 100 guided meditations specifically for stress, anxiety, relationships, sleep and more. Try the free trial or treat yourself to a subscription too (it may also help you get through the holidays!)


Gift Cards. More than ever people are giving gift cards for clothing stores, restaurants, theatre tickets and even the LCBO. If you don’t know where someone loves to shop or dine, a safe bet is the CF Shop Card, which is redeemable at all Cadillac Fairview Shopping Centres across Canada, including Toronto Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens and Shops at Don Mills. Make it special by putting the gift card inside a lovely hand written note to express your love or friendship.


Incredible Edibles. Face it, everyone eats! And contrary to how life is portrayed in holiday movies not everyone has time to make or prepare special foods. Consider a themed gift basket filled with fabulous food, a selection of your own homemade baking or a curated charcuterie tray. For online shopping, my favourite site is, which offers the best gourmet food gifts from across Canada.


Family History.  Don’t burden your kids with family “heirlooms” like crystal, china or silverware. The younger generation just isn’t interested in it. Instead, why not give them the gift of knowing where you came from? AncestryDNA can uncover your family heritage and even connect you with relatives you didn’t know you had! 23 and Me is another option for ancestry data as well as genetic health information. Knowledge and family are much better options than cluttery gifts.


Wine not? Do you have a wine afficionado in your family? What about a consumable gift that keeps on giving? Wine Collective offers a wine of the month subscription that will make your loved one smile every 30 days.


The Gift of Help. Do you know someone planning to sell their house, talking about downsizing, too busy to keep their home organized or even displaying signs of hoarding behaviour? The gift of Clutterfly services may turn out to be their most favourite gift ever. Whether you surprise them with a customized gift certificate to organize their closet, kitchen or whatever, I can help guide you as to typical amounts for certain sized jobs and specially design your gift certificate for your loved one. You will definitely get recognition for giving the best gift of the season!


Already have more than you need? Let your friends and family know that in lieu of a present, you’d prefer they make a donation to a local charity. This year, my charities of choice are Sick Kids, the Toronto Humane Society and CAMH. This is also a great example to set for children, teaching them to put the importance of helping others who are less fortunate ahead of their own accumulation of stuff.


I wish all of you a very happy holiday season – no matter what religion or celebration. We are all human beings on this planet and we need to take care of each other.