One of the best housewarming gifts I ever received was also one of the simplest.
Some background: I was living in Berlin, and had just moved for the fifth time in two years. Rent was still absurdly cheap, so any increase in income was pretty swiftly met with an improvement in living standard.
Still, I was pretty sick of lugging the same book stacks and ironic wall art around town, so when I reached the fifth (and final) apartment in my tenure there, I was ready to hunker down. I painted. I hung new light fixtures. I installed shelves in the otherwise barren kitchen. I rushed to get the place together enough so that I could have a housewarming party. New apartments don’t warm themselves, after all.
A housewarming party in Berlin is pretty much like a housewarming party anywhere else -- an excuse to have people over who will drink heavily and play music loud enough to make your new neighbors hate you. Beyond that, it’s also a chance to get some free stuff.
But back to my best and simplest housewarming gift -- it was a bottle of lightly herbed Mediterranean sea salt, and it was from a friend of a friend named Julie. Julie and I weren’t that close, so I was touched that she took the time to pick out something above the standard bottle of wine. The packaging it came in was quite pretty, and every time I used it -- or even just saw it on the kitchen shelf -- it made me think of her.
I try to give others housewarming gifts in the same vein -- something small with a little thought behind it. People fresh off the move are still in shock as to how saddled down they are by their possessions, so this is not the time to give something large or furniture-like, which will only cause the recipient to imagine having to someday repack said item and lug it down several flights of stairs. Now is the time to give them things that they need or will make them feel “thought of” as well.
Here’s a roundup of some housewarming gifts your friends may actually treasure (and hold onto the next time they move).
1) A Fancy Transporter.
Anyone can bring a six-pack to a housewarming party -- be the renegade who brings it in this nifty Wooden Six-Pack Holder. Made of reclaimed redwood and a galvanized metal handle, your beer-loving friends will reuse this time and again.
2) Some extra-nice EVOO.
Brooklyn-based Frankies Spuntino has some of the best olive oil around, and you can easily buy a liter on their website or on Amazon. The cute tin it comes in is giftable as is, no wrapping necessary.
3) A Handy Cheese Slicer.
This ruggedly handsome Hand-Forged Cheese Slicer is sure to win the heart of even the most discerning cheesemonger in your social circle. Gift it with a nice block of Gouda and you’re golden.
4) Instant Food Access.
If you know someone who just moved to a totally new neighborhood, get him or her one of these handy Menu Organizers (ModCloth, $21.99) and stick a few local takeout menus in to get things started. They’ll think fondly of you every time they’re inhaling pizza or Pad Thai.
5) A New Cutting Board.
Certain household items are better chucked when moving and replaced from scratch once settled in the new digs. Shower curtains and floor mats, for instance, but cutting boards also come to mind. Beat friends to the punch in obtaining a fresh new slicing surface with one of these chic Leather Strap Cutting Boards. The natural grains are pretty enough to keep out on display, hung by the smooth leather strap.
6) The Gift of Game.
Should your friends be so lucky as to have a lush lawn, give them this Bocce Ball Set. Bocce is far less hassle than croquet and fun for the whole famn damily.
7) Smart Candleholders.
I had a Eureka moment when I happened upon this Match Tealight Holder, which lets you light a tealight or votive without burning your fingertips. They aren’t cheap, but ingenuity comes at a price, and a set of these would delight just about anyone.
8) A Fun Toy.
Completely impractical and totally adorable, this Wooden Voice Recorder records up to 30 seconds and has a knob that adjusts speed and pitch when played back. Perfect for kids of all ages.
9) Mood Lighting.
The thing about salt lamps is that those who like and/or believe in them probably already have one. However, you definitely know some people who aren’t even aware just how much their lives are lacking without one. Likely suspects: anyone who spends a lot of time whining about fluorescent lighting or has a healthy appreciation for all things kitsch (me, in both instances). This Himalayan Salt Lamp is also ideal for anyone who likes the color pink.
10) A Unique Bottle Opener.
A household can never have too many bottle openers, which seem to go missing after every good house party. This brass Claw Bottle Opener is a solid win.