Unwanted Gifts: How to Handle & Prevent Receiving Them

If you are a human being, you have probably received some unwanted gifts at some point in your life: for Christmas, birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day, etc. And you certainly know that feeling: the disappointment, and the forced smile. Not only that but after the initial reaction comes the question of what to do with the gift. And that is what we are going to handle today.

From a minimalist point of view, and not only, keeping unwanted gifts is a bad idea for several reasons:

  • They take up space in your home that could be used for better purposes
  • They add to the clutter and chaos in your life
  • They occupy your mind space and energy, which could be used for more positive things
  • They could be used by someone who really needs them
  • They just lose their value over time since they are not being used

So keeping unwanted gifts is a no-no. But what can you do with them?

What to do with unwanted gifts?

If you have received a gift that you do not want or need, here are some options of what you can do with it:

  1. Politely return it to the person who gave it to you
  2. Donate it to charity, friends, or family
  3. Sell it
  4. Return it to the store
  5. Regift it to someone who (you think) would appreciate it
  6. Upcycle it
  7. Keep it (for a while)

Let’s explore these options in more detail.

Further reading: The ultimate minimalist list of things to get rid of

1. Politely return it to the person who gave it to you

Returning a gift to the person who gave it to you can be a bit tricky and it really depends on the situation. It requires a lot of tactfulness, so think about it carefully before you take this step.

Also, it depends on the person.

There are people that put a lot of effort and time into choosing a gift and they would be really hurt if you returned it. On the other hand, there are people who would understand perfectly and would appreciate your sincereness. There might also be situations where the person who gave you the gift actually likes it and might use it themselves.

Moreover, it might depend on how close you are to the person. If it is someone really close to you, like a family member or a good friend, they might not take it too badly. Whereas, if it is someone you are not that close to, they might be offended.

If you decide to return the gift, make sure you do it in a gentle and tactful way. Thank the person for the gift and explain why you are returning it. For example, you can say that you already have one, that you are moving and downsizing, that it doesn’t fit, or you simply don’t feel the need to have it.

2. Donate it to charity, friends, or family

One option you have is to donate the unwanted gift to charity, friends, or family. This is the most heartwarming, selfless, and fulfilling option. It will make you feel good knowing that your gift is going to someone who really needs or wants it and that it will bring them joy.

There are many charities that would gladly accept your donation, so do some research and find one that you resonate with.

As for friends and family, think about someone close to you who might really appreciate the gift. For example, if you received a book that you don’t want, maybe your friend loves to read and would be thrilled to get it.

Further reading: 20 Main Characteristics of a Minimalist Person

3. Sell it

If you have an unwanted gift, don’t be afraid to sell it! This can provide some extra cash for things that are important in life and also get rid of something we might not need. You can sell it online on platforms like eBay or Craigslist, or you can have a garage sale.

A great tip for online sales is to take quality pictures of the product and write a comprehensive description. This will help you sell it quicker and hopefully for a good price.
As for the garage sale, make sure to advertise your garage sale online and in your neighborhood ahead of time. This will help attract more people and hopefully sell your items quickly.

4. Return it to the store

Did you know that you can return an item to the store without even having the receipt?

The Guardian has an article about this, telling that customers have the right to return an item, or at least to exchange it.

Of course, it gets more complicated if you are not the actual customer but you could at least try to exchange it for something else that you actually want or need.

Now, you are very lucky if the person who gave you the gift left the receipt. It means that they know about unwanted gifts and they don’t want you to feel bad about it. So, if you have the receipt, simply take the item back to the store and exchange it or get the money back.

5. Re-gift it to someone who (you think) would appreciate it

I think it is ok to re-gift gifts. Don’t you think so?

I mean, if the persons are not connected in any way and you are pretty sure that the other person would like the gift, then why not?

Let’s take the classic picture frame example. If you receive a picture frame as a gift but it’s simply not your thing, you can re-gift it to someone else. You can actually put a picture of the two of you in the frame and then offer it. Especially if you know that the other person has a gallery wall or is simply into picture frames.

There are so many benefits if you do that:

  • The other person will be happy because they will receive a gift that they actually like.
  • You will make space in your house because you won’t have an unwanted gift taking up space.
  • You will feel good because you made someone else happy.

6. Upcycle it

If you are not familiar with upcycling, it basically means reusing material in order to create something new.

For example, you could turn a pair of jeans into a cute denim purse or some curtains into a pillowcase.

These are of course not the best ideas, but there are endless possibilities when it comes to upcycling and it’s a great way to give an unwanted gift a new life.

What I like about upcycling is that it makes you get creative, and pushes you to look at things in a different way.

Also, the person who gave you the gift would be happy to see that you are using it in a different way and that it’s not just sitting in a box somewhere.

7. Keep it (for a while)

You might not feel ready to get rid of the gift right away, and that’s ok.

Maybe you want to wait until you find the perfect person to give it to or you want to wait until you have the time to upcycle it.

Whatever the reason, it’s ok to keep it for a while, even though it is going to occupy your space.

What you can do is to put it in a box and write a “due date” for it. Or mark it in your calendar. This will help you remember that it’s there and that you need to do something with it.

And if you don’t, you can always give it away to charity.

Related: How to Get Rid of Sentimental Items With No Regret?

How to prevent receiving unwanted gifts?

You probably feel like it’s not in your power to prevent receiving unwanted gifts, but there are actually some things that you can do.

It’s not easy, for sure. But hopefully, it will help you receive gifts that you actually need, or not receive one at all if that is what you want.

Openly tell people what you need

In case you do actually need something, then the best option is to tell people that you know are going to buy you a gift that you need.

It’s going to make not only your life easier but also theirs! I mean, it is so time-consuming to find “the perfect” gift, so why not make it easier for them?

They will definitely appreciate it.

On the other hand, if you know that someone is going to buy you a gift but you don’t actually need anything, you can tell them that or tell them to buy you some food, or some experiences.

It’s not impolite to do so, and it will save everyone the trouble.

Make a list of the things that you need and share it with your loved ones

Did you know about WishList Apps? Basically, you can add the things that you want or need to your “list” and then share it with your family and friends.

Some popular platforms are Amazon Wishlist and Etsy Wishlist.

This way, you will avoid receiving unwanted gifts, because people can choose something from your list.

Don’t be shy to try it. I know, it can feel a bit weird at first, but everyone is going to benefit from it (unless, of course, the person that you share the wishlist with didn’t intend to give you anything, oops).

You can also try the old-fashioned way and simply make a list of the things that you need and share it with your loved ones.

Don’t buy gifts for anyone

A great way to prevent receiving unwanted gifts is not to give any yourself!

I mean, sometimes people offer gifts because they feel like they have to, because last time you gave them one, so it’s only fair that they give you one back.

But what if you simply don’t? It will probably feel weird at first, but it will soon become the new normal.

That is what I do with my husband. It’s not like I don’t want to give him gifts, but we simply don’t need anything and we would rather spend the money on something else.

Tell them that you value experiences much more than material possessions

Telling your loved ones that you prefer to spend your money on experiences rather than material possessions is a great way to prevent receiving unwanted gifts.

It’s not that you don’t appreciate the effort, but you would rather go on a trip together or buy tickets to a concert than receive yet another coffee mug.

So emphasize to others that you will rather receive experiences, like a ticket to a concert, than material gifts.

In other words, ask for the gift of presence, not presents.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Material Things Don’t Make You Happy

Ask for consumables

Similar to the last point, you can also ask for consumables, like food or drinks.

This way, you are not going to receive anything that will occupy your space and that you will have to find a place for.

It’s the best gift that you can receive, and it doesn’t miss the spot, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love food?

Start a fundraising campaign

Do you know that Facebook every year before your birthday allows you to start a fundraising campaign for your favorite charity? Or even for a personal cause.

You can do the same on other platforms, like GoFundMe.

Starting a fundraising campaign is a great way to prevent receiving gifts that you don’t need because people can donate to your campaign instead.

And you can use the money raised to buy something that you actually need. Or you could donate them to a charity of your choice.

It’s a win-win situation!

a girl receiving unwanted gifts

Break the habit

Do you have that aunt that gives you all the time the same gift and every time it doesn’t serve any purpose to you?

Or that cousin that buys you something that you will never use?

You can try to break the habit by calling in advance and asking if you can go gift shopping with them, or if they want to go to a concert/movie instead of wasting their money on a gift.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Gifts are meant to be a sign that you care for that person, that you were thinking of them this Christmas, or whatever.

So, any gift, even an unwanted one, has a good intention behind it.

So, when you receive a gift that you don’t need or want, don’t forget to say thank you and mean it.

The best way to do it is to show your appreciation for the thought behind the gift, and not the gift itself.

Final thoughts

Unwanted gifts can be such a weight on your shoulders, but hopefully, these tips will help you to deal with them in the best way possible!

Remember, it’s the thought that counts, so don’t let an unwanted gift get you down. Get creative with it, or find a way to make use of it in your everyday life, or in someone else’s life.

You can also use it as an opportunity to teach your loved ones about your lifestyle and what you value most in life.

I hope these tips were helpful, and I wish you all the best.

Cheers, Diana

Further reading: 20 Minimalist Blogs That You Will Enjoy Reading in 2022

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