Getting rid of gifts without the guilt

Filed in Blog by on June 17, 2014 3 Comments
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Gift-BoxOnce again I’ve been inspired by a comment Teresa made (see, I do listen to you all despite blabbing on a lot myself).

She was talking about decluttering; in particular unwanted gifts.

She said “it’s much harder to say ‘no’ to presents at Christmas and on birthdays often bought thoughtlessly by shopaholics. They include DVD’s of films I’ve already seen, a pair of hair straighteners when I already have a pair, CD’s which I don’t have time to listen to, large coffee table books I don’t have room on my book shelves for, a navy fleece jacket when I already have one, a black fleece scarf and toiletries full of chemicals when I prefer Lush or Neal’s Yard.

Teresa feels so strongly about this that she said “I feel like I’m being bought” and clearly struggles with knowing what to do.

She turned to a Dorothy Rowe book for inspiration which said “when presented with a gift you can either refuse the gift, take it with no duty to reciprocate or feel that you owe the giver something in return and there must be no guilt on your part as you didn’t ask to be given that gift.”

Wow, complex subject huhn?

I used to struggle with this too but not any more and I think, if I’m honest, it’s something that has come with the wisdom of age behind me!

I used to feel that I both owed that person something and that I was obliged to keep and love it.

But now I don’t and I’ve taken a somewhat opposite approach.

My take is this: If someone gives me a gift it is mine to do with as I wish.

If they give it to me and expect me to be grateful, love it or keep it against my wishes then it has not been given unconditionally.

So one could argue it’s not a gift at all!

Whenever I give something it’s an unconditional gift and it’s up to the recipient what they do with it – whether they love it, use it, use it up or give it to someone else it’s entirely up to them and I won’t be offended either way.

Here are five landfill friendly ways to get rid of unwanted gifts:

  • Donate to charity
  • Sell it and buy something you’d really like with the proceeds
  • Give it to a friend who comments how much they like it
  • Give it away on Freecycle
  • Regift it – just don’t give it back to the person who gave it to ya!

What about you? How do you deal with unwanted gifts when you’re trying to declutter and you don’t want to create more landfill? And how do you cope with the guilt?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (3)

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  1. I struggle with the whole gift thing. I much prefer to give my time to someone and take my parents out for lunch on Mother’s and Father’s day and birthdays.
    I have one relative that insists on buying me gifts and Christmas and birthdays even when I tell him many times not to. I had a hamper of “goodies” last Christmas and couldn’t eat most of the food in there. He says he has to treat us all the same. Last time I mentioned it he said “you’ll get a present whether you like it or not!”

  2. lizard100 says:

    Just gift it on. People’s need to give gifts is tricky and some can’t change their habits for us.

  3. Maybe it’s possible to break the unhelpful present buying habit, by sending that person a charity gift. I have an uncle who tries to find the whackiest charity gift for us (we’ve had a stethoscope, schoolbooks,chickens) and we respond with similar gifts. Last year we sent him some manure…well, it was a training session given to someone in the third world on how to use manure instead of burning it. Obviously all these gifts go to other people so you don’t have the storage problem! If doing this doesn’t inspire your friend or relative to do the same thing, then at least they might be so offended they never send you any more gifts – either way, job’s a good ‘un!!

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