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Stuck With Unwanted Gifts - What to Do

Christmas is a month-long state of mind for me. This festive time of loved ones, parties, gifts, and religious celebrations is so special.


Don't Like Your Gifts?

It's Christmas and there's a problem. You received gifts that you don't want. What are your options? Are you stuck with them?

Maybe family or friends persist in giving you gifts that just don't suit you. They've wasted their money and you don't want to upset them by dumping the presents.

If you've been trying to minimalize clutter and feel overwhelmed by too many possessions, then the holiday gift giving presents some challenges. More stuff that you don't need or want, but will there be hurt feelings if you don't keep them?

Perhaps you feel that Christmas has become too commercial and want to keep the focus on the special meaning of the holiday. Then your children get an avalanche of toys from the grandparents. What can you do without being a Grinch?


Some Gifts Are Just Wrong

I'm sure that it has happened to you in some form or another. Here are examples:

  • Your spouse gives you a self-improvement gift like a diet cookbook and a scale.
  • Your in-laws give you a frilly, extravagant dress which is totally unsuited for your lifestyle and will never get worn.
  • In the office gift exchange, you get the ugliest White Elephant gift.
  • Sometimes people give you what they would want for themselves without considering that it isn't what you would want.
  • Sometimes a gift is extravagant and you know the giver can't really afford to give it.
  • The giver loves garage sale shopping so their gifts are not new or particularly nice.
  • Homemade gifts can be good or terrible depending on the skill level of the maker.
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Acknowledge the Caring That Went Into the Gift

Rick reminds us that "the real gifts were the moments of thoughtfulness that went into the selection, purchase, and preparation of the gifts received. You don't want to complain about symptoms of love and kindness demonstrated towards you and your family. The world needs more of these expressions of love and kindness, not fewer.

Giving cash as a gift requires virtually none of that, and merely turns the whole event into a financial transaction. Rather than squashing the spirit of giving and making the giver feel that their good intentions were misplaced or worse, wrong, graciously accept what is offered (that is your responsibility as the recipient) and later discreetly donate it to a worthy charity - someone will want it or even need it, and good relationships are nurtured.

If you want to minimize your need to do this, simply agree in advance with overly generous gift givers to limit the number and expense of gifts. A minimalist lifestyle, whether to minimize possessions or to conserve finances, is a good reason to offer, and if framed properly, those who care enough about you to give gifts should be able to respect that."

Suggest a Gift of an Experience

Instead of more toys that just become clutter, suggest to grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other gift givers that they give the gift of an activity for your child. A visit to a theme park or outing to a zoo or just a one-on-one lunch with the donor

Instead of more toys that just become clutter, suggest to grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other gift givers that they give the gift of an activity for your child. A visit to a theme park or outing to a zoo or just a one-on-one lunch with the donor

Ideas for Gifts That Will Be Welcome

  • Monique - "We don't do gifts anymore. If we give any gifts, it's a consumable."
  • Theresa - "suggest things that you need instead of leaving the selection totally up to the giver who often gives inappropriate gifts. Since I started giving Christmas lists of affordable, easy-to-find (even second-hand) things, it has made it so much better! The giver still gets the thrill of the hunt for a good deal and I can enjoy the gift without the guilt. Some things I have asked for are pretty basic.... washcloths, new whisk, metal measuring spoons, etc. I ask for things that I didn't mind upgrading or will be useful to me."
  • Rachel - "My mom loves to go to yard sales. So, instead of just getting a lot of junk, I've given her specific lists of things to look for... girls size 7 clothes, girls shoes size 11, etc. I think that if she had something to hunt, she'd do a bang-up job. I know that my mom does. They want to give so badly so I don't deprive her of that activity."
  • Try gushing about an experience gift you or your kids loved. Sometimes hearing it in a different context can help parents or grandparents accept the idea of giving that instead of more stuff.

Clearing Out Unwanted Gifts

  • Save the unwanted gift to take to the next white elephant gift exchange you are forced to participate in.
  • Donate to a homeless shelter or some other worthy cause so that you feel less guilty getting rid of it. Many places can use this stuff to help get people set up in an apartment. Then send a card to your mom thanking her for helping a local person in need. Explain that you loved the thought but couldn't use the things she sent and knew how much it would mean to her to know it was being used by someone that really needed it. I did this with my mom and it made her more aware of what was sent.
  • Sell the gift on eBay or a Facebook sale group and use the money for something you actually need and want. Think nice thoughts about the gift giver when you do that.
  • Say thank you, display one of the items in your home, take a picture and send it to the gift-giver. Then take all but your very favorite item to donate to charity. If you truly don't have a favorite, take it all. It's yours and you are under no obligation to keep a gift.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Virginia Allain

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