What to do with unwanted gifts

Unwanted gift

Christmas is over, or rather, it’s just another year until the next one!

But please don’t take this long to figure out what to do with any unwanted gifts you’ve received this year. Studies show that most people receive at least one Christmas gift they have no use for, and at least half of them keep it in the misguided hope they will find a use for it one day.

This correlates with surveys I’ve done in Clear Your Clutter workshops I’ve taught around the world. The Number One reason people keep stuff they don’t use is because they hope it will come in useful someday. Yet when they reflect on the actual wisdom of this, most freely admit it never does. And what they fail to take into account is the stagnating effect keeping such items has on the energy of their home, and the corresponding stagnating effect this has on their life.

Some people keep unwanted gifts out of loyalty to the person who gave it to them, to which I say, if it’s a genuine friendship, then keeping the gift can get in the way of it. Every time you look at the object or think about it, you remember your disappointment and your energy drops. As the old saying goes, it truly is the thought that counts. It’s far better to accept the love that was given with the gift and let the physical item go.

Which brings us to re-gifting, a clutter-busting method many people now practice. It can be a risky business, I know, and I will never forget the smile on my mother’s face when I gave her a fruit bowl I’d rarely used, only to discover she had given it to me many years before. Fortunately she’d read my books and took it in good humour.

In case your own relatives or friends aren’t so understanding, a safer and wiser choice may be to go online to sell unwanted gifts, or give them away to someone who would like them and can use them. Depending on where in the world you live, eBay and community websites such as Freecycle, Craigslist, Kijiji, Gumtree and Marktplaats can help with this, and all report massive increases in listings, starting from Christmas lunchtime and continuing for the remaining days of December each year. Charity shops also report a flood of extra donations of items in the first weeks of January.

If you are brave (or brazen) enough to ask whoever gave you the gift for the receipt, you can return a gift and get a refund or exchange it for something you do want, which is probably the happiest solution of all.

Another option is repurposing. That ugly mug you received may be the last thing you want to drink your tea out of each morning, but could make a handy pot for some small tools in your garden shed. Or you can break something down into its component parts and find a use for some of them, such as keeping the inside part of a ghastly-looking cushion and using it to re-stuff something else.

Of course, if you take up any of these options, you also have to change your own attitude about the gifts you give. It would be hypocritical not to. My own attitude is that if I give a gift to someone and it amounts to instant or eventual clutter in their life then I certainly don’t want them to keep it. I would much prefer they sell it, re-gift it or throw it away. I give the gift and let it go. It’s entirely up to them what they do with it. I know how the stuck energies that collect around such objects can stagnate a person’s life and don’t ever want to be responsible for contributing to that!

Related posts
Clutter clearing unwanted gifts
A different approach to giving and receiving gifts
The tricky topic of unwanted gifts from parents

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2013

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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4 Responses to What to do with unwanted gifts

  1. Happy new year! I seem to be obsessed this month with ‘moving on’ & a fresh state of mind in the new year! Within a week of Christmas I had changed any gifts that didn’t fit For my family and feel so much better for it. My children have also had a big sort out & we have several older unwanted items now waiting for a new home via eBay. Even your idea of finding a new use for items is creeping into my subconscious. Your newsletter helps me keep on the right track. The best thing if you are giving gifts however is ask for a Gift Receipt, this avoids many awkward moments!

  2. Happy New Year!

    Love this article and am getting better about hanging on to things, even recent gifts. Being “brazen” enough to ask for a receipt from a friend is not me, BUT, in giving, I WOULD include the receipt with a gift if the price was substantial, perhaps slightly hidden and not immediately apparent. You’d have to explain to the receiver the reason for the receipt as some might think this is to show off what you spent. Sometimes stores even give you a gift receipt (that doesn’t display the price).

  3. This is exactly why I prefer to give gifts that can be used or eaten, like a good olive oil with a bottle of vinegar or nice organic body lotion.

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