Never is our planet’s problem with waste more evident than during the back end of the calendar. Last year’s gifts are long forgotten as we pine for the next big, impermanent thing.

The son of a junior-primary teacher, I was introduced to regifting at a young age. (No person’s cache of coffee mugs and bath salts requires annual replenishment.) Our kitchen cupboard held a regular surplus of unopened offerings from which we would draw last-minute thankyous, play-date treats and charity donations. When I moved from Micro Machines to Mario Brothers, my toy-car collection became lucky-dip rewards for well-behaved students.

Regifting is just upcycling. It’s taking something unwanted and imbuing it with new purpose. Done thoughtfully, regifting creates a scenario where everyone wins; the giver, the getter and the planet.

Be considerate
If you’re going to regift an item, take time to evaluate whether the intended recipient will actually appreciate it (you didn’t, remember?). Think, “You know who would find this funny?” or “This is a bit young for me but my niece would totally dig it.” Regifting isn’t just offloading shit you don’t want. It’s about finding well-intentioned purchases their forever homes.

Be prepared
You’ll need a solid alibi for why your present can’t be returned or exchanged. “It was on sale,” or “I lost the receipt” will generally cover you, but in the case of clothes, for example, find out where the item came from originally, in the event it needs to be swapped for a different size.

Be creative
The rose-painted cup and saucer your aunt picked out for you are destined to forever gather dust. Unless … you got Trisha in the workplace KK. She loves a bit of nana kitsch – and her windowsill is crowded with succulents. With some cheap potting mix and a cutting from your neighbour’s yard, you’re suddenly the smart, arty one in the office.

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Anyone who’s ever met you knows inspirational quotes make you queasy. But it’s Todd’s girlfriend’s first family Christmas and she took a punt on a framed print that reads, “Turn your wounds into wisdom”. Bin the wordart but keep the woodwork. Replace the quote with a photo you took of your mum’s dog, or your sister’s favourite record cover, or a postcard from when you and your partner went to Port Douglas.

It’s not a gift, it’s a bestowal
When gifting across generations, what was old can be cool again. For those entering their third or fourth decades, now is the time to uncover the nostalgia value in once-prized possessions and neglected knick-knacks. Freshen up the chrome on your BMX to take it from rusty to retro. Blow the dust off the Super Nintendo. You could easily buy a new skateboard but your old deck’s dents and divots give it (and you: hello, cool uncle) cred.

Be honest
Look, we should all be doing something to reduce waste, so why not own it? Yeah, it’s a hand-me-down. But it’s also a waste-me-not.

Regifting failsafes

Wine
Laying off the grog but your family didn’t get the memo? Save some bucks by dolling out bottles to friends throughout the year. It’s almost impossible to get busted with wine. If someone asks where you put their bottle, tell them you drank it already. If they ask what you thought of it, tell them it was “good!”. Even if you accidentally gift it back to them, say it’s because you loved it that much you wanted to return the favour.

Old stuff
Have too many trips to op-shops left you with piles of mismatching dinnerware? Rewrap a few choice pieces and kick-start someone else’s collection.

Books
Even the most tired and tatty tome can be reborn as a treasured gift. Rather than buying a fresh copy, write a brief inscription inside the cover of a preloved favourite and pass it on. Instant heirloom.