How to Declutter Unwanted Gifts  

Dec 27, 2023

Unwanted or unneeded gifts are perhaps the most challenging type of clutter to address. Of course we don’t want to hurt someone's feelings, and at the same time it doesn’t help our relationship with the person who gave us the gift if we feel obligated to keep, store, or display items we don’t like or need. Below are some tips for unneeded gifts, but keep in mind it very much depends on your unique relationship and situation. Follow your heart!

  • Be kind and gracious: Know that you can enjoy receiving a gift and appreciate the the person who gave it to you, even if you don’t love the gift. Don’t feel guilty about using (and enjoying) the gift for a period of time even if you know you won’t keep it forever. You can use and enjoy the gift for as long as it brings you joy. Sometimes - even if a gift is not to our taste and liking - a gift can bring us joy for a time because we are reminded of the excitement of receiving a gift and of the thoughtfulness of the person who gave it to us. Knowing that we don’t have to keep a gift, actually helps us be more present with the person who gave it to us. If we feel obligated to keep something, then often our first thought when we get a gift we need, is what I am going to do with it? But when you know you can let it go at some point in the future, then you will be more inclined to enjoy the moment and appreciate the person who gave it to you. 
  • Be preemptive: The ideal way to handle an unwanted gift is to take steps to avoid receiving it! Take action ahead of holidays and events and let friends and family know that you are paring down and simplifying–hint, hint! You can include “no gifts, please” on invitations and have discussions about exchanging gifts ahead of the holidays with close family members. If you have clearly and kindly expressed your desire for simplicity, and someone still continues to shower you with gifts–then you might consider that it isn’t truly a gift!   
  • Regift: If you know the item will be loved by someone else–then go ahead and pass it along! Of course, you need to be a little careful so it doesn’t circle back to the gift giver!  
  • Donate with intention: New items in particular may be someone else’s treasure. Send the item off with gratitude for the person who gave you the gift and for the joy receiving it brought you in the moment along with the intention that the item will serve someone else and bring them joy.
  • Be true to yourself: You deserve to live in a home filled only with the things you love and use. If a gift is not loved or useful it will then start to weigh on us and bring our energy down. We may even find ourselves feeling resentful towards the person who gave us the gift and disempowered in our own homes. You are not responsible for someone else’s feelings. Let go and trust that it is more likely you will improve your relationship with the gift giver by not having something in your home that spurs resentment. 
  • Keep it: You may decide for reasons unique to your relationship with the gift giver that being true to yourself means keeping the unwanted gift. We like to say, if you can’t change it, reframe it. Rather than judge yourself, own your choice with compassion and self-love. When you see the gift, remind yourself that you are doing your best to serve yourself and the relationship. You may also choose to store the item, so you are not interacting with it on a regular basis.  

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