Dealing with unwanted gifts

I offered some advice in my most recent newsletter:

Don’t bring anything into your space unless you have ROOM for it.  Shopping, collecting, hunter and gathering, seriously, where are you going to keep it all? Designate a home before it arrives. If you don’t have room, don’t acquire it.

Dear Lissanne,
This is excellent advice, but a lot of my problem is stuff other people give me. My mum comes bearing gifts every time she visits (she works part time in an op shop, and grew up with the depression mentality of never throwing anything out). And since I’ve had kids, everyone and their dog seems to be clearing out their sheds into our house. And I am grateful, really, its just I feel awkward about getting rid of things that have been gifted. We have a small house (by conscious decision) which I try to keep uncluttered, because it’s easier to find stuff, it’s easier to clean, and it feels more relaxing that way. It is hard enough keeping the stuff I chose in order. I hate that my heart sinks when a well meaning friend or relation arrives with ANOTHER present for the kids. I recently threw a whole bunch of stuff out and live in dread that my older son will notice and say something honest and unfortunate in front of my mother.
Any advice?

Now I have my own ideas about how to handle this situ but I’d love to hear from you, dear reader, to hear if you’ve had a similar issue or if you have creative ways of dealing with this problem.


7 responses to “Dealing with unwanted gifts

  1. 1. stop it at its source. Say you are grateful, but … Be assertive. In a word, learn to say no.

    2. put in your order, so you only get what you need. “the kids really need some …”

    3. offer an alternative way of helping you, giving her time instead for instance.

    people love to give, and feel good for it, but sometimes you have to say no, or control it in some way. Suggest others would benefit more – schools, kindergartens, any other place you can think of.

  2. Robin’s dead right. It’s all about creating boundaries. It can be done. I almost never receive gifts as I’ve trained everyone around me. It took some years but it worked. It’s soooooo much easier. You can do it!

    The other thing we need to be very mindful of is when WE give ‘gifts’ – be it an actual present, or something we don’t need for ourselves anymore. We must try to give unconditionally. Once the gift has be passed on, we must embrace that the recipient is free to do with want that item. If they get rid of it, regift it, or love it endlessly, it’s none of our business. We hold no weight in the matter. The giving has been done.

    So, start a trend. Get vocal about permission when you gift anything: “You are free to move it on or regift it” type stuff. It eases the immediate emotional burden.

  3. I have a regifting cuboard in the garage separated into adult, female children and male children gifts (all labelled of course) where I place any unwanted gifts. Every Xmas I get rid of 50% of items at no cost to me. The other 30% of presents I buy through the year when on sale which only leaves me with a small bill at Xmas time when I have to source the other 20% of presents. ANything that has been in the cupboard for more than 2 years I donate or sell on ebay.

  4. As an educator getting all sorts of unwanted gifts at Christmas is an occupational hazard. Lifeline does pretty well from us at Christmas, although so does the cup cupboard in the staffroom.

    I think the problem with regifting is that unless you know that the giftee will really appreciate the gift, then all you are doing is passing on the problem.

    To the kids at XYZ school … I like chocolates, red wine, and book vouchers but a nice Christmas card and appropriate behaviour from both you and your parents is even better!

  5. Maybe we should set an age limit for gifts, on any occasion. Or at least ask the person what they want, and buy them that. It loses the surprise factor, but you are not stuck with something you dont want or dont have the room for.

    Give gifts to children until they leave high school, then agree to stop, or stop before then? Or arrange at Christmas that each person buys one present for one other person only, and work out who buys for whom, by drawing names from a hat if you want. Then put a price limit on so no one goes overboard.

    Or bring food as part of a feast.

    Stop it before it starts by being proactive. Avoid the problem. Well, you might not be able to stop all – someone staying with you might bring something as a thank-you. But you can cover most bases.

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