When I think about the most joyful I’ve ever felt giving a gift, the best gift I think I’ve ever given, I think about a Christmas present I made for my aunt when I was about 12. The idea came to me in July, when I watched her throw away the tattered remnants of small pillow my late grandmother had sewn for her years ago. I doubled back and snatched the scraps from the garbage, fashioning them into a patchwork heart I stitched onto a new pillow I’d give her five months later. (I was a very crafty child.) She cried. I beamed. I have never given a better present, which for years following meant I became increasingly stressed about never outdoing the high gift-giving bar I’d set for myself.
This, clearly, is no way to live. And it was unrealistic to assume a perfect, sentimental gift concept would present itself months in advance for every person on my list, every year. But it turns it was realistic to assume some sort of gift idea would present itself months in advance for almost every person on my list, every year. Which is how I landed on my present no stress gift-giving strategy: using the Notes app in my iPhone.
I realize how dumb, how simple, this sounds. But hear me out. You, if you’re anything like me, always have your phone on you or, at least, near you. Which means when you are with your sister or brother or mother or uncle or boss or veterinarian and you hear them mention something they wish they owned or are in need of … you can just jot it down in your Notes app. In July. In January. In May. And that way, the next time you need to buy your sister or brother or mother or uncle or boss or veterinarian a gift, you’ll have a starting point.
Right now in my Notes app, I have ideas that include a particular magazine subscription (not New York, though that would be an excellent, if lazy, gift), a set of plastic wineglasses for a friend who likes to drink in her pool, and some niche socks. When these people’s birthdays roll around, this is what they’ll be getting. (Assuming I didn’t already use those ideas up on Christmas and Hanukkah.)
The thing is that you’re not even really stressed about gift giving. (There are obvious caveats here, like being in a financial position to give gifts at all and being able to cut yourself a break if you’re not.) You’re stressed because you’re ill prepared to gift give. The Notes App strategy eliminates that issue. And I’m sure Apple will be thrilled to hear at least one person is using the dumb thing for actual productivity purposes rather than its traditional use cases, celebrity apology and breakup notes.