One of the most common questions I get asked is, what to do with all the gifts you get but hate? Or are indifferent to. Or like but already have plenty of. The third pair of loud slippers, the artwork you dislike.
I gave a presentation about decluttering recently and one of the questions was about this very topic: what to do with unwanted gifts. “What do we teach our children they have to do when they get a gift?” I asked, assuming the answer would come back in a chorus of “Say thank you”s. Instead I was surprised to hear several people call out, “You have to keep it, it was a gift.”
So let me be the heartless voice of decluttering reason: you don’t have to keep a gift. After all, it’s your space – if someone gives you something and then asks where the gift is and what you’re doing with it, they didn’t give you a gift, they put something of theirs in your house and expected you to take care of it for them. Hand them back their stuff right now!
Oftentimes the gift we’re supposed to keep isn’t even personal, it’s whatever the giver picked up on their way to our house. Sometimes it’s intensely personal, something the giver thought long and hard about. But it really is the thought that counts and you can keep that while letting the object go.
If you’re feeling twinges of discomfort at your own gift-giving habits, check out my guide to clutter free gift giving. I’ll also offer you this bonus idea that came up at the presentation in response to a question from a mom of young children. She asked what she could do about the ridiculous amount of gifts her children get at birthday parties. She’s tried telling people not to bring a gift but they always do.
Another attendee had a brilliant answer: tell everyone you’re collecting socks for the homeless shelter and to bring a pair of socks. You could expand this however you feel moved. Peanut butter for the food pantry. Dog food for the Humane Society. Dry erase markers for your child’s teacher. The possibilities for a gift that’ll make someone feel wonderful are endless!