By: Joyce Moseley Pierce

"We spend the first part of our human experience avidly accumulating things and the other half wondering what in the world we're going to do with all the stuff." Margret E. Keats

I've never really thought of myself as a person who cares about material things, but after years of marriage and raising three children, I had accumulated more than I needed. I made the kids take what was theirs as they left home and began building their own nests, but there was still too much. I started to think about what my kids would do with all of it when I'm dead and gone, and decided most of it would probably be dumped or sold in a garage sale. I decided maybe I should start getting rid of it before they did!

About that time I discovered a wonderful little book, "How to Simplify Your Life," by Elaine St.James. I asked for the book as a Christmas gift, and it has been well worth what my daughter spent on it (I believe it was only about $10 at the time). I've read it on many different occasions. It's great for just flipping through and reading whatever catches your interest that day.

One of my favorite sections in the book is about getting rid of things you no longer need. She suggests setting up a closet or at least a shelf for those items. I'm not talking about worn out junk, but items which are in good shape that may be a treasure to someone else! She calls them "mathoms." My grandson calls the process of giving away your stuff, "regifting." It works for me, no matter what you call it. For instance, I had a beautiful bottle that my daughter had filled with oil and flowers at one time. It was dark pink with a wide square base that became more slender toward the top. Years later, the color in the flowers had all run into the oil and it looked like a bottle of sludge! I popped the cork, dumped the stuff out of the inside, and put the bottle in the dishwasher. The next day a friend came over and saw it sitting on my counter. "Oh, what a beautiful bottle," she said. "Like it? It's yours!" I said. I handed it to her before she had the chance to say no. She was thrilled to latch on to it because she said her mother collected pink glassware. Who would have ever known! My castaway was passed on to her before it ever made it to my regifting shelf. She immediately gave it to her mother, who was just thrilled to add it to her collection. Nice thing is, that once it's out of my house, I don't care how many times it is regifted.

Here's how you can get started. Go through your house looking carefully at everything. As you pick up each item, ask yourself if you really need it. In my case, I ask if it serves a purpose. If it doesn't, throw it in a box and haul it off to your new shelf. Mine is in an upstairs linen closet that is seldom used. When I need a quick gift for someone,I browse the shelf and find something that's appropriate for that person. A few years ago I bought one of those stand-up wall units that holds about eighteen 8x10" photos. As I went through the house looking for photos, I ended up with eighteen empty picture frames. They are just perfect for regifting, especially if I fill it with a photo I've taken of that friend, or of the two of us. I can write my sentiments on the back, wrap it in a nice box or bag, and have a very personal gift that will always remind her of our friendship.

Your items may include candles that make you sneeze because you're allergic to lavender; empty jars that can be filled with candy or potpourri; a perfume atomizer that was never used because your allergies prohibit you from wearing perfume; that ring holder that is meant to keep by your sink for someone who takes their rings off when they wash their hands (I don't!), or books that you just never really wanted to read.

Now, when the spirit moves me to clean out drawers and closets, I'm on the search for things to replenish my regifting shelf. Recently I've added a bread knife I bought at a trade show because the salesman made me think I couldn't live without it, and a box of baking tubes. Once I got the tubes home, I decided they would be way too much trouble to clean if I actually used them, so they stayed in the box. They didn't pass the practical test, but maybe someone who entertains will think it's worth the effort to have heart-shaped bread!

With the holidays coming up, this is a great time to start making the rounds and setting up your own regifting center. Doesn't it seem crazy to go buy gifts when you have resources right there in your own home? It's never a good idea to increase your credit card balance for gift giving, but this year when we have need to be concerned about the economy, it is the perfect time to cut back and be more sensible. If you exchange gifts with a group of friends, suggest a white elephant gift, where everyone is regifting!

My very dearest friends and I have made an agreement not to buy each other gifts anymore. We realize that our friendship is more valuable than anything we could purchase, so we make the time to have a special birthday lunch or Christmas brunch to catch up on our lives. Years from now we won't remember what someone bought us, but we will remember the kindness they showed to us. Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he penned, "The greatest gift is a portion of thyself."