Ideas are all around you. Sure, all this browsing might not uncover the one perfect gift, but all you need is a little jolt of inspiration. That's all it takes sometimes for a good idea to spring from your mind.
No matter how long we've been with someone or how well we know them, gift-giving can still be a little tricky come the holiday season -- especially once the pressure starts mounting. Once we pass Black Friday, our brains are too busy worrying about cut-off dates to be as clever and creative as we're used to being.
This is partly why I have a private wish list on Amazon.com specifically for gift ideas. I use their universal button to funnel into it everything I encounter online during the year that seems like it would make a good gift for someone I know. Come holiday season, this little wish list becomes a veritable treasure trove of ideas, radically reducing the holiday stress.
"Her gifts" via Shutterstock.
But what if despite our best efforts we still haven't found something really special for our partner? Most gift guides are written for a general audience, so while we may find something cool here or there, it always feels like these items are a little, well, impersonal. I mean, yeah, pi cuff links are cool for the math geek you love, but cuff links? Could you possibly feel any more cliché?
The truth is our own partners are far more inspiring than any list will ever be, so instead of browsing through endless results on Google for "gift for spouse," take a moment to play private eye.
It sounds a lot creepier than it actually is. Promise.
If you live together, start with a look around the house. There are two kinds of gifts: the sort we need and the sort we'd just really like to have. I like giving gifts that people don't need but want, because I figure that's lower on the priority list and who knows what other stuff will show up to take precedence over them? We all deserve a little spoiling and the holidays are the perfect time to do it. Of course, in this economy, it might be prudent to go with what's needed over what is coveted. Totally your call.
Finding stuff that is needed is a little easier than finding stuff that is just wanted, but, as I said, a little poking around the house can be incredibly helpful. Once you purchase something from a catalog or a site that also offers a paper catalog, for example, people tend to get a lot of mail from that company -- especially during the holidays. Are there any catalogs in the mail that can offer some inspiration? See any loitering on your partner's desk or near their corner of the sofa in front of the television? I like to fold pages when I find something I like, but that's clearly a best case scenario. Give the catalog a browse and try to look at it through your partner's eyes. Does anything stand out?
What about hobbies -- what is it your partner really loves to do? Do they take pictures? Do they like to play the guitar? Do they paint? Do they enjoy going fishing? Golfing? Reading? Do they collect anything? If you can't think of anything specific or if you don't live together, get online and give their social media profiles a browse. Pages on Facebook have made it easy for people to highlight the things they love -- if your significant other is active online, their Likes might be a goldmine. Give them a look-over and see if what you find there sparks any ideas.
If they don't Like many (or any) pages, you might still be able to get some ideas from their profiles themselves. What are they sharing? Check out their blogs, too, if they have blogs, or Twitter -- go back a bit and see if anything catches your eye. What about groups on social networks? Are they part of any group on Facebook or Google+? Social networks collect a lot of information about us, making them a useful place to go looking for clues.
Open your mind -- what other networks do they use? Foursquare can help you find places they like to frequent (memberships? Upgrades?), Yelp can give you an idea about a lot more than just what restaurants they like, and Pandora can tip you off about favorite bands (concert tickets! See, you're already in a brainstorming mood and you haven't even dived in yet).
Sure, all this browsing might not uncover the one perfect gift, but all you need is a little jolt of inspiration. That's all it takes sometimes for a good idea to spring from your mind.
If you're still not inspired, you might call in a partner's best friend. Or you might just ask your loved one to come along to a store they like to window shop holiday ideas -- you can even fib and say you need their input on a blog post about gift ideas for spouses and need to pick their brains! Hey, all's fair in love, war and awesome gift-acquisition. Just remember to have fun: the holidays are stressful enough. Think of looking for the right gift as a little trip down the road to getting to know your partner just a little bit more.