What To Do When a Gift Becomes Clutter

Guest post from Crystal of Serving Joyfully

But it was a gift.

This simple statement is one of the biggest pitfalls I have when it comes to clutter in my home. I know this might sound ungrateful, but I can’t tell you how many things we’ve been given over the years that are collecting dust or stored in a closet. Most of these items are things that we “couldn’t get rid of” because someone gave it to us.

After seven years of this, the situation reached a breaking point. Here is how I decided to deal with it:

I remind myself that it’s my house and my family has to live here.  

I really hate to hurt or offend anyone. However, at the end of the day, this is my family’s home and we need to be comfortable here. For my husband, a big part of a peaceful home is an uncluttered home. I cannot sacrifice a peaceful home for my family at the fear of offending someone.

I assume someone else can get use out of the items.  

More than likely, even if you don’t want it or can’t use it, someone else does and can. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that if I purchase something, I would prefer for it to be passed on to someone who can use it rather than stuffed away in a closet. At least then, someone will be getting some use out of it. I can only hope that some of my family feels this same way, or can at least see the benefit of it.

I encourage unique gift ideas. 

I am a minimalist at heart. My husband is getting there. We don’t need or want a lot of stuff in our home. Because of this, we have tried to put some boundaries in place for our families regarding gift giving — namely limits for grandparents who like to go overboard. We also encourage experience gifts and useful gifts rather than trinkets or toys that will just add clutter to our home.

The bottom line for me is this: If I purchase a gift for someone, I want it to be a benefit to him or her. It might sadden me a bit to know that my choice wasn’t spot on, but it would bother me even more to know that the gift I had purchased for their good was actually causing them stress instead.

How do you deal with gifted items you don’t want or need?

Crystal Brothers is a daughter of the King, wife to a forest ranger, and full-time mommy to two rambunctious little boys. She blogs at Serving Joyfully — a blog dedicated to encouraging and equipping women to serve God and their families.

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Comments

  1. says

    We don’t do birthday parties with friends for our children for exactly this reason.

    I started seeing a reduction in grandparents birthday gifts after I invited my mom to help me with a garage sale.

    However, this hasn’t stopped them from going overboard at Christmas, and from giving my children TRASH to play with on a regular basis. I WISH I was kidding about the trash, but I’m not. They don’t need trash to play with, free key chain holders (my children don’t have any keys; why do they need 3 key chain holders?), other junk they got at conventions, the wrappings that something they bought came in, etc. The trash is a real problem and my husband is really upset about it. He’s spoken to them before about gifts, and they’ve said we can give things away–but they want us to give away our old toys to make room for their new ones. We’re very happy with the classic toys we have–blocks, little people, puzzles, etc.

    We would LOVE to have our parents spend the money on experience gifts, but we haven’t had much luck with that yet. I think I will try by letting my mom know that that’s what we would like for Christmas this year–the next time I talk to her!

    We have also been stressing to them that what the children really want is time with THEM, not presents. They would rather have a coupons for a date with grandma and a date with grandpa than to have toys. Then, they would love to go out somewhere with their grandparents, be it to the park, to go over to their house and play checkers, or to have ice cream together. My parents so far would rather get gifts, but the children are starting to ask about dates with them, so perhaps we will get through to them.

    • Kristin says

      You could always ask the grandparents to get year passes for a local children’s museum, aquarium, or zoo. If they got family passes for everybody, including themselves, it would be something they could all do together throughout the year!

      I know what you mean about the trash… I’m a first grade teacher and it’s one of the main reason I don’t do any “treasure box”. I know that most parents don’t want all of that junk coming home!

    • Pamela says

      Brandy,

      I am glad that you mentioned the “NO FRIENDS PARTY”. That is what we do as well. It eliminates so much waste. We hold tiny family parties for our children.

    • says

      My sister-in-law writes “no presents please” on the birthday invitations for my niece. Is that an option possibly for your family if you are interested in holding parties with friends invited? It does help a lot reduce the amount of presents when it is specifically asked to not bring presents. We do have friend birthday parties for my children just for the experience.

    • Janice says

      My niece had a “friends” party but asked in lieu of a gift to bring an item to donate to the local childrens hospital. They included the website from the hospital website where you could find things that were needed. My niece was all for it even at 5 years old.

    • Diane says

      We only had small family birthdays, except for their 10th birthday. They were each allowed a birthday party with the theme of their choice and whoever they wanted to invite. We also made the suggestion on the invitation for books, puzzles, etc that related to the theme. This worked out great and each child spent many an hour playing and/or reading from what they received.

  2. Beth says

    I love the article, and I love the ideas that so many of you have expressed about minimizing clutter, passing things on to others who would want or need them, and asking (and giving!) experiential gifts.
    **
    To argue the other side of things, sometimes it’s ok to keep or receive something you don’t *love.* It only becomes clutter if you don’t use it- and often that is our mindset. Could you repurpose the gift? Would a sweater that isn’t your favorite still keep you warm? Could your kids still play with something that is not their top choice, but still an OK toy? I think that if you push minimalisim too far (like anything), it becomes a vice just like anything else.

    • says

      Beth, you are so right. And it is nice to give something a chance that someone thoughtfully picked out for you or your children. For me, it’s not even so much that something isn’t my favorite (or theirs), it’s just the sheer volume of toys…all good, but just way too many. And for myself and my husband it’s mostly knick-knack type things that we don’t really have a place for, or things that we already have several of, etc. But, you’re right that this can be a touchy thing.

  3. ShannonP says

    Oh how I wish my MIL and SIL could think this way. We all have a family member who regifts or returns EVERYTHING, and so they have taken it to the other extreme — where anything that isn’t kept is absolutely an insult to them. They never exchange anything for a different size because “someone put thought into it.” Argh. Unfortunately, all three of these family members live in the same town we do and all come over to our home for every birthday and holiday, so they see what is and isn’t kept.

    I need to develop a thicker skin and just start purging all of the lovingly purchased clutter that is turning us into candidates for an episode of Horders.

    • MelissaZ says

      Maybe you could set aside a certain (small/limited) area (maybe the living room or an end table or something) and display the gifts you receive from them there. Then when you get something new, remove one of the old things. That way they’d see/notice that their gift is being used/displayed, but since it’s only in a small area, you’re not cluttering your whole house. And you can honestly say if they ask about something old, that you no longer have room for it because you received XYZ.

      I know the feeling with decor. I am very minimalist in my decorations & dislike knick knacks, no matter how cute, because they’re just one more thing to keep clean & looking nice!

  4. Ashlee says

    We shove it somewhere for two years then get rid of it. I hate getting rid of stuff someone gave me, but at some point you just have to let it go. We are moving to NYC at the end of the summer so we are getting rid of a TON of stuff right now to prepare. My family isn’t upset I get rid of something they gave me, but my Grandma keeps saying, well you might need it some day! You should hang on to it just in case. I say if I haven’t used it in the last year I probably won’t need it any time soon. If in the future I have a burning need to own one again I will buy it then.

  5. Andrea says

    Sometimes it is better to give things away rather then squirreling them away in a closet.

    My mother used to give birthday gifts to female friends and in-laws; typically candles or lotions/body wash (things that my mother loves to receive, so she assumed others love them, too). Once, she helped my aunt organize her garage and she noticed a large box full of unused gift sets. Instead of giving them away, my aunt had tucked them away, probably out of guilt. My mother was crushed and stopped giving that type of gift.

    • Anonymous says

      Yard sales can be painful to be honest. You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but I am convinced that being a stay at home mom who also works from home…it is imperative that I have a clutter free home. Clutter stresses me, but then so does the yard sale with family members when they see all the stuff that I am selling….and unfortunately in some cases may still be paying the credit card for.

  6. Katie says

    One year my sister and SIL and I had a pow-wow discussing gift-giving and “the cousins,” and our mutual desire to raise grateful kids who are not overly materialistic. We wanted to encourage the children’s generosity, but not fill each other’s houses with toy-clutter, so this is what we decided:

    Every year, my family makes a 12 x 12 scrapbook page and gives 1 copy to each of my siblings and 1 to my mother (I like to make these by hand, but they can easily be printed at Wal-Mart, too, or other places). That is our “big family gift.”

    Then, for each (little) cousin, we (my children and I) carefully select a small consumable gift in the “theme” that we (the adults) have chosen – stickers, a candy bar, a book, socks, etc. Something small. ONE thing. Then my children wrap them up themselves and write cute little notes to the cousins, and – voila! A fun, generous Christmas gift that doesn’t break the bank OR create clutter.

    We’ve done this for several years now, and I love the balance of the meaningful scrapbook page + the frivolous small gift. :)

  7. says

    I think its important to look at the emotion involved. Take pictures with the item. Share those with the giver. Make a memory out of it and then you are no longer held emotionally hostage to keeping the item. I think the important thing is to acknowledge the love and emotion that the giver was intending. Respect and appreciate that. Gifts are a form of love and I don’t think should be viewed with annoyance. We are lucky if our children are loved by people other than us. It makes their world more beautiful. And once you’ve given generous thanks, and saved a memory, I think you are free to let the item go where it will be most useful.

    Bobi
    http://westernwarmth.blogspot.com

    • Mel says

      I really appreciate the comment that we are fortunate when our kids are “loved by other people than us”. AMEN! I’ve read quite a few grandparent bashing comments. I understand the concern, my child has two sets of grandparents and two sets of great grandparents. He’s VERY blessed! But I think we have to remember that giving things can sometimes be a joy to the giver as well as the reciever. That’s not to say that every McDonald’s Happy Meal toy needs to be kept, but they should be appreciated nonetheless.

      • Brandy says

        For us, the thought is much appreciated. But, I have shared that the overabundance of gifts is overwhelming. I find that I am spending hours upon hours maintaining my home due to all of the clutter. And, I spend countless hours trying to maintain all of this stuff. For me, I feel it is stealing time with my young family. I have children who want to keep every toy that a grandparent gave even if it were 3 years ago and half broken. I have also found with one of my childreb that the less cluttered his room is the happier he is. I am not sure if it’s OCD or what, but you can tell a difference in his behavior when he feels overwhelmed with all his stuff (don’t we all). So, for me, it’s not “bashing grandparents”, it’s with a sincere heart that I ask family to not do this for the health of my children and so that I can spend my time with them not with maintain all this stuff. Plus, my children will say that they would rather have time with grandma and grandpa any day over this stuff. The problem is…sometimes they are too busy trying to find the best deal to spend the time with them…..especially around the holidays.

      • Roxanne M Jones says

        I agree.

        I understand this problem in theory only, because it’s one we’ve never experienced.

        Our family doesn’t or can’t (poverty) do gifts. The only gifts our children get are from us. And we obviously are very selective in what we give.

        Next time you find yourself overwhelmed with clutter (grown up gifts included) remember that it’s a lot of tangible reminders of love. Plenty of people never experience that at all.

        • says

          Sadly, our in laws are in crushing debt, and absolutely cannot afford to give gifts at all either. We have spoken to them about this repeatedly, and yet they still insist on not only buying gifts, but gifts that are complete money wasters on both their part and ours. Each gift they give is a reminder that they do not love us enough to listen, or love themselves enough to even attempt to do what is right for themselves financially.

          Sometimes the lack of gifts are the biggest love you can give someone.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree more. I really need to remember these words, I tend to get annoyed with clutter. My husband, on the other hand, is the complete opposite.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective!

    • says

      Such a great perspective Bobi! Our children are very blessed to have giving grandparents.

      Sometimes, there isn’t any room for the gift in our small house, but as you said, once we’ve captured a memory with it and been grateful for the love (if not that exact item) we can be free to pass on if necessary without being rude!

  8. trixie says

    I’ve been so incredibly blessed over the years as the recipant of someone that was looking to clear out what was to them clutter. Many times it was just what I’d been asking God for but didn’t have the money to pay for or a small cute little thing that brighted my life!

    Maybe we should pause and realize that by not clearing out what has become clutter to us, we rob someone else of the joy of receiving something that would meet a special need/want and we might be missing a chance to be a blessing to others.

  9. Maria says

    All the more reason to give experience gifts. I’ve started doing this with all my gift giving. All enjoyment and no “stuff”. Most people do not need more “stuff”. Plus, it’s zero waste!

  10. Catherine says

    We have a huge joint party for our kids (130 people last year) and we always write a kitschy invite that always includes the line, “please don’t bring gifts, they aren’t necessary. If you must, please make it a book for our local library”. People either bring nothing or a new or used book that we read to the kids and then donate to the library. Save on clutter, relieves people of buying things, and gives us fun new books to keep our kids excited about reading. They are 5 & 3 and we plan to keep it going as long as possible. Plus, the party is as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids :-)

    • says

      This is a fabulous idea! I always tell people not to bring gifts, but I think people still feel socially obligated to bring a gift, so I think adding that extra line about making it a book for the local library is a great one!

      That’s one of the things I’ve stressed to our families as well–if you must get them something, get them a book :)

  11. Debra says

    Help! I received a rice cooker about 8 years ago for a wedding gift from my sister (maybe I wanted it then I don’t know?!) and she asks me about it every couple of years. Not only is that pressure extreme, I am also a little superstitious about it since it was a wedding gift. I hear your words, but somehow think this case it different. Which is why I say HELP!

    • Katherine says

      I would honestly encourage you to try it! Rice cookers are awesome if your eat rice at all. If not, donate it. It will find a better home.

      • Debra says

        Thank you! I do make rice and it comes out fine without the cooker. The one time I tried the cooker my rice what a big flop. Although that was as long ago at the cooker is old.

    • says

      No need to be superstitious about a wedding gift. Getting rid of an unused one does not mean your marriage will fail – it’s been 8 years already, right? Think of it this way: If you had been using it this whole time, and it suddenly broke, you wouldn’t be superstitious about it, would you? I mean, material items don’t last forever, and you’d expect it to wear out. Doing so would not mean that your marriage was doomed suddenly. The same with getting rid of a wedding gift that has never been used – it is just an object, the same as any other birthday or Christmas gift. I’d say that if you still haven’t used it the next time she asks, just be honest (that you haven’t used it but appreciate the thought), and ask if she’d like it back. Or let her know you passed it on to someone who really wanted one.

        • Mother Lydia says

          We just passed our 8 yr anniversary.

          When we moved into this house (our fourth move as a married couple) I gave away everything that had not been used since we were married (except two pretty candlesticks that don’t take up much space but I decided the fact that I enjoy looking at them outweighs the fact that I’ve never used them as candlesticks. Got to recrify that). I figured it was time. We are still married.

    • Erika says

      I’m not sure what kind of rice cooker you have, but we got one in 2004 for our wedding too. It sat in the box in a closet for six years, when I finally decided to donate it. The box was falling apart, so I took it out and realized it actually is a slow cooker as well(!), so I was able to throw out my ancient crockpot and now use it all the time!

      Just a suggestion, check out the instruction manual. The box didn’t advertise the slow cooking features.

  12. says

    I try to rotate my children’s toys so they’re never overwhelming, and will pass things along when there’s someone who could get better use out of an item, but it is ironic…we try to teach our children “gratefulness” by limiting the amount of stuff they have, but they can also learn gratefulness by watching us accept a (perhaps unwanted) gift in a grateful and graceful manner without severing relationships over it.

    Just something to think about :)

  13. says

    Great ideas here! I used to hang on to almost everything that people gave me because they were gifts, but now I take the same approach: I keep what we use. Luckily our family is understanding & in general, they don’t ask about things they’ve given.

  14. says

    When my sister and I were little, our great-aunt would buy us our pool pass for the summer. This was in place of any Christmas gift, as my parents could not afford 2 passes. We spent hours and hours at the pool every summer and I remember those days (and our aunt) fondly. I am all about the experience type gifts. We already get a discounted zoo pass; my MIL works at Wal-Mart and gives our son a WM gift card. Combined with his own money, he normally finds something very nice (on clearance) after Christmas. One of his brothers owns an Arby’s…gift cards for birthday and Christmas! Some of the best gifts!

    I’ve been contemplating the birthday aspect, as our son has a birthday coming up. We are getting ready to move, so I’m decluttering and purging already. We don’t need more stuff to drag to the new place. I love the “bring a donation for the animal shelter” or even the book idea!
    We’ll see what we come up with.

  15. KimH says

    For the most part, Im rarely given something I dont want or wouldnt use, but there are a few folks from work especially that give me stuff I really have no desire for. If its a Christmas decoration or plate/candle etc, I put it in a locker I have and at the beginning of Dec, I decorate our area with them. Im the only woman in our area, so if its gonna be done, Im the one doing it. ;)

    If its something nice but just not my cup of tea, I have been known to re-gift them, but I wont humiliate myself or the recipient either.
    One year for Christmas, my husbands nephew & wife gave me a $1 Dollar store plastic pill box type thing. I did my best to not look completely baffled. LOL Honestly.. a smile, hug, or even nothing is better than something like that. Into the donation box it went.

    There are a few things I’ll get that I have no use for and I’ll either give them to someone I think will use them or they end up in the box for Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, or Muscular Dystrophy Assn. whichever one calls & comes by first. I dont mind re-gifting anything to them & they dont seem to mind either. ;)

    • says

      You nailed it right here. Most of the things I’m talking about aren’t close family, really thought out gifts. I have accepted things that aren’t my style before because I know the gifter put thought into it. But most of the things I’m talking about are things that we already have too many of, or things that were given, more out of obligation than thought.

  16. Ashley M says

    My husband and I ask for College money for our son. He is only 18 months old and already has almost $800 just from his birthday, Easter and Christmas’. My husband has a BIG family and everyone would have otherwise bought a gift. He didn’t notice that he didn’t get a gift because they would wrap their card in a gift bag with LOTS of tissue paper or a big box that he could play in. He will certainly appreciate this when he is older.

    • Susan says

      I’m a grandmother and this is exactly what we do for birthdays and Christmas. We give them a small gift and make a donation to their college fund and include a copy of the deposit receipt with the gift. So cute, my 3 year old grand daughter called to say, “Thank you for investing in my future.” LOL Give a supply of deposit slips for your child’s college fund to the grandparents and ask that they make a donation instead of spending money on plastic junk. If you give them the deposit slips, it makes it easy to do.

  17. Megan says

    We’ve been trying to use all of our birthdays in service to others. For the kids, we invite people attending their parties (family and friends) to bring peanut butter, soup and rice to donate to a local food pantry instead of gifts. I think it’s a valuable gift for my sons and everyone else involved. The first year was hard to introduce the change but now it’s our new normal.

  18. Jodi says

    THANK YOU for this timely article! Just this week I was thinking about asking about what to do with gift clutter! Since we’ve had our daughter five months ago, people seem like they are digging through their closets and re-gifting trinkets and clutter to us (we’re also a pastor’s family – think families, friends, plus 150 other people!). We live in a tiny house too so it really doesn’t take much for it to feel cluttered. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

    By the way, have to share a funny story. I was gifted (pretty sure it was also a re-gift) a baby scrapbook that I wasn’t too crazy about so I ended up donating it to our church’s thrift store. At my baby shower, I found that I was re-re-gifted the same baby book! Have mercy! Needless to say, I drove to a different thrift store further away to donate once again. Ha!

  19. Leah says

    Wow, this is timely. I’m struggling with getting rid of a couple of gigantic toys that my preschooler got this past Christmas. He does like them, but they fill up way too much floor space in my 1,000 square foot apartment (and I have no attic, basement, garage, etc.). I’ve mentioned to relatives before that we can’t store huge toys, but I don’t want to be obnoxious about it, and say it again and again. They just don’t understand; we’re the only people in our extended family who don’t live in a large suburban home.

  20. Lissy says

    My daughter is turning six next week and I turn 33 two weeks after. We’ve asked everyone, friends and little birthday party guests and family, to give toward the cost of building a house for a family in need in Haiti. The Haitian Health Foundation has wonderful programs and even if we can’t write afford a house ($1000) we can certainly by a family a goat! We’ve been so excited about this project and she’s so proud to be helping!

  21. Jessica says

    My parents always taught my siblings and I to be happy with what we have and we were all pretty minimal. I remember always getting home from Christmas (middle school and up) with a bag full of gifts. I never even knew where to put it all in my room. Often the bag would sit for a while before I even knew where to start. I had a small already cramped room. I would even say that my family is over the top. We have now cut Christmas’ down to drawing names then everyone just gets one nice gift that is better than many small junky gifts. We do not have children yet but I often wonder what will happen when we do. My MIL already goes overboard just for us. Much of the stuff is strange and the clothes are NEVER the correct size. I feel so thankful that she wants to give us so much but I also know they cannot afford much. I feel bad for not liking every gift in the first place then feel bad that I don’t think they have the means.

  22. Stacie says

    One of my friends gave me a wonderful birthday party idea a couple of years ago. We now do a book exchange at my children’s parties rather than exchanging gifts and giving out “goody bags” full of trinkets. Everyone brings an unwrapped book. We then assign a number to each book and at the end of the party the kids grab a number from a hat and then get to take a book home. I think it comes across a little bit nicer than “no gifts please, my children have too much stuff” and it also lets the other kids leave with something more useful than little plastic toys that end up being clutter at their houses. I also make a big card out of poster board and have my children’s friends write a message or draw a picture so they have something personal from the party to enjoy as well. I think this could be done with other things like art supplies, etc. So this is one way I’m able to fight back against the toy clutter. Awww . . . but the grandparents are another story ;0)

  23. Amanda says

    This was a very good article to read as I want to “de-stuff” my house and especially my kids trinket toys. I can only handle so many dollar store gifts for my kids when they cannot decipher between quality vs. quantity.

    After nearly 10 years of marriage, I am finally getting over the guilt of getting rid of some wedding presents that have been of little or no use to us.

    Thanks for the article!

  24. B says

    This year we are skipping a birthday party with friends and taking our children to a water park for the weekend that the grandparents bought season passes for to celebrate the birthday. The kids LOVE this place, and it allows the grandparents to buy a gift that the kids will truly enjoy.

    An, no clutter!

  25. says

    Love these comments.
    I had a prayer answered in my sister this year. She was making my kids blankets (she is NOT a crafter) an did not get them done for Christmas. Instead of another unneeded blanket she offered to pay for my kids Swim Team Dues . I had been praying with confidence that God to show us the money in our budget. He provides.
    Now, I know many of you think of Swim Team as an extra, it is. But the benefit that my children receive is invaluable both physically and socially.
    I am all for the experience gifts and budget relief gifts.

  26. Patti says

    I’ve found that my family members give gifts that are useful to them, such as boutique type stuff my mom would buy while out with her girlfriends or bargain buys my MIL picked up when she was on a shopping binge – in both cases, never truly thoughtful gifts for us. In those cases, I had no qualms about regifting or donating … But I agree, you should be grateful and thankful that they are thinking
    of you. I think the older generation can be very materialistic because of growing up in the Depression and not having so much, they can overdo or put too much emphasis on things. We had to tell my parents that WE were Santa Claus not them. It caused bitter feelings but stopped the avalanche of gifts. They ended up giving savings bonds that were very appreciated. Later, when I became a SAHM, we had to reduce our gift giving and all of us were much happier with simple gifts. This topic is very timely as everyone seems to have experienced it!!

  27. Emilie says

    The one present I remember getting from my grandparents was a check each year made out for the age I was turning. So on my 12th birthday the check was for $12. It was fun to go to the bank and cash the check and pick out what I wanted or save it.

    My sisters and I did a handmade Christmas in 2012. We limited the amt of money that could be spent on supplies. It was fun to create something for each of them. I had a great time finding things that reminded of each one.I got a three tiered cake plate idea with thrift store plates that are very “me”. My other sister made me a case for my kindle and homemade hot pads. I think of both of them everyday! I also made goodies for them to enjoy…came out of my grocery budget too which helped with holiday spending!

    My sister gave me a box with 52 slips of paper one year. Each Sunday I opened one slip. It was a memory or a personal joke about the two of us. Some were so funny I had to call her when I read them. It is a great keepsake.

    Please dedicate books (either write in the cover or put in a post it (in case it is a duplicate) because it means a lot to read to my kids that this book is from granmda or this is is from your friend Joe. I love having the handwritingand to see the “why” of the book too! (and like someone else posted, you never know how long you are going to have people around.)

    I was also thinking o the “get rid of 7 things today” challenge tied in with the 4 weeks to an organized home and thought of the cupboard in the basement with wedding gifts from people I am not sure I even knew 15 years ago. They are going this summer!!!!!!!

  28. J says

    Unfortunately not all family members take kindly to getting rid of “stuff” they have given. It finally came down to hurt feelings, sad but true, but how much outdoor hiking clothes can you have when you don’t engage in the activity? Really. I even suggested small items I would rather have but I was told that it was silly. Mrs. Meyers soaps, lotions, and other products? I really would have been thrilled with any one of them.

  29. Krysten says

    Obviously this is a subject that hits home with a lot of people! I had a uniquely not-very-good experience this past Christmas. My MIL had some gift ideas for our 2-year-old son that she wanted to run by us first. She talked to my husband, who said that he would talk to me and we would get back to her. We decided that 1 idea was a good one, but the other one wasn’t since our son already had an item almost identical to the one she mentioned.

    At the time that we were talking, we were in the car and my husband was driving, so I texted her back to let her know what we had decided. We didn’t hear back from her, so we assumed everything was ok. To make a long story short, everything wasn’t ok, and a little over a week later, my MIL attacked me with pleas, guilt trips, and lies to make me feel like a horrible person for not liking her idea.

    So I decided that the next time she asks about anything, my husband is going to deal with her completely, and thankfully, she lives halfway across the country and isn’t interested in coming to spend time with her grandkids so I can just sell any duplicate toys at my yearly garage sale.

  30. says

    Right on Sister! I, too, struggled with this for quite some time, especially at first with our kiddos. But I have come to realize that my daughter only plays with probably 25% of the toys she already has and most of them are the ones that allow her imagination to run wild! Our son, who is only 5 months, we have done much better with minimizing his stuff already. I have set aside 4 different tubs in our attic as gift “storage” for the future. One for each child, one for kids birthdays/celebrations, and one for adults. It has worked beautifully. I have re-gifted many a gift or given away and not felt guilty at all. We actually have the rule that if we keep something that we have to “give away” something else. My daughter recently gave away 2 items that she said she wanted to be put in her brother’s gift box for Christmas. Loved it!

  31. andrea says

    I realized I had wedding gifts(from almost 30 years ago) that we kept on display but never used and didn’t really like. I went to a seminar in which the “clutter lady” said You don’t have to keep it just because someone gave it to you. So I donated some of the “gifts” to a neighborhood church auction. When we cleared my mom’s house after her death, we found gifts she had never used -no wrapping paper but the packages were untouched- cellophane still on.

    I also ask people not to bring me “things”-I have friends who like to bring things(as opposed to food/wine) as dinner party gifts. I now explain that we downsized our possessions 2 years ago(absolutely true) – people can see that in our house. I no longer have any guilt(ok, maybe a little but not enough to matter) about giving a new gift I have received to someone else right away or a shelter program/soup kitchen/thrift store -

  32. jo says

    I made my first cookbook and waited for a great deal on paper cotier. I had it ready so that when the coupon code deal came up, I just had to order it. I gave one to all my kids and my “picky 20′sh niece” for christmas and it was a hit. It had simple but yummy recipes we love to eat. And I think I can come up with another this year again with new receipes we love. It’s small with family pictures and they can take it when they move out of the house. And doesn’t take much room to hold until Christmas.

    • Jen says

      I need to do this! Everytime a Paper Coutier deal comes along, I always WISH I could do a cookbook, but am too pressured for time. What an excellent idea to make it ahead, then order when there’s a deal. Thanks for the idea!

  33. elle says

    Oh, how I wish MIL would realize this, too. I am definitely a minimalist (and have told her numerous, numerous times). Our children are 3,2, and 9 months and we do not have ANYTHING really in the link of “knick-knacks” or things to sit on shelves, and I like it that way. :) Less for kids to get into and dust around! I HATE clutter. I realize that may be extreme, but it’s who I am (and my husband whole-heartedly agrees). She should know me by now. :) And yet I’m the one she always gets knick-knacks for! Sigh. We recently moved and now we have a huge basement and the kids just throw their toys EVERYWHERE. Every day I go down there and weed out toys to donate or get rid of, and they’re usually things she has bought that breaks almost immediately or is already broken when it is given. And every time they visit, they bring more toys that they’ve found on clearance (often, the toys do not even work) or at garage sales, etc. We just have no need for any more clutter! So frustrating. I would rather have them donate money to their college fund like my parents like to do (they do like to get a small gift, but my mother always asks me advice or sometimes I pick it out for her, so it’s generally practical). The very “talk” of money typically offends, it’s all the thought that counts (which is true) but she wants to buy things as cheap as she can get them, so I very highly doubt she would want to contribute to anything. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for frugal and I am cheap as well….but not in favor of waste. I’d prefer if she doesn’t want to spend money, that she just come babysit them for a few days and have that be her “gift.” :) I am going insane with all this JUNK! They’re coming in a couple weeks and she has already started calling me regarding things she spots at the dollar general, or things she sees out at garage sales that she wants to know if I “have any need for.” I always, almost always, say no! Argh. :)

  34. Megan says

    I have definitely been feeling overwhelmed in the toy/clothes category of late. My kids have 13 grandparents…yes. 13. (Some are step-grandparents, great-grandparents and of course, their regular grandparents). My daughter’s birthday is also the day after Christmas which makes it even more overwhelming. This year, I felt like it took a month to go through toys, get rid of the cheap ones that were breaking within days or weeks of receiving them and get a handle on all of it. It’s so hard because I know that some of the grandparents really get joy in buying/giving gifts to my kids. I would really appreciate the experience gifts and will gladly remind the children that they are able to do gymnastics/soccer etc. as a result of their grandparent’s generosity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like these gifts are quite as fun to give as tangible gifts.
    Each year, when I GIVE gifts to my friends and grandparents, I try to make something that won’t clutter up THEIR home. Often, I make cinnamon nuts that are enjoyed by all that get eaten within a couple days. This past year, my friend and I taught ourselves how to make goat’s milk soap and gave that as our gifts. Just like I don’t want MY home to get cluttered up, I also don’t want to be responsible for cluttering up someone else’s home. I often have my kids make a handmade Christmas ornament to give as a keepsake as well so they can partake in the gift giving.

  35. Angela says

    This is such a relevant topic for me. I feel like our kids are very lucky and get plenty of gifts even though both grandparents tend towards money for college accounts, and all of the aunts and uncles don’t buy. EVEN with these things being done, our kids have SO much stuff. We mainly buy stuff at birthday’s and Christmas and even then don’t go overboard. It is the constant school treasure box, random gifts from one aunt, even neighbors who give gifts that seem to push us overboard. We appreciate all of it, and don’t want to be ungrateful, but generally when its gifts from neighbors or things from school its not very personal, and it ends up being just another toy the kids throw out of the toy box. Growing up my parents got us 1 birthday gift, and that’s all we got. Now a days, kids get 3, 4 or even 10 gifts on their birthday, not only is it clutter, but it means each gift is less meaningful and they never learn to appreciate things. My sister and I have discusse this over and over, and even trying to talk to request specific things doesn’t work. One of the biggest things is that when I do want to buy something for my kids I feel like I shouldn’t because they have so much already and I don’t want more clutter. I don’t want my kids to have so much stuff that it ends up not meaning anything and it feels like that leads to less likelihood in knowing how to manage money. I don’t have an answer, and I doubt I ever will. It will be something we work through on a constant basis to help our kids become what we want them to.

  36. says

    Right before my daughter’s birthday, some of her stuff ends up in the garage. If she does not miss them after a month, they get donated. Yes, it is true that gifts are a sign of love, but I try to encourage her grandparents and aunts to spend time with her and play with her instead.

    I want to spend time with my daughter too after working all day. I don’t want to spend what little free time I have cleaning, dusting, picking up, and sorting her toys.

  37. K* says

    I have been thinking about this for days, and I wish I had an answer. My MIL means well, but she likes buying us decorative gifts, and they are frankly not my taste. Unfortunately, she likes to see them displayed. It makes me sad.

    The worst (besides a wine bottle holder that is a dragon … so ugly) is this metal over the toilet stand, because she thought it was sad that we didn’t have room to put things out in the bathroom. (I am really into minimalization and neatness as a rule. I can’t stand clutter, it makes me upset and anxious.) I hate it, and whenever I see it, I get annoyed. It’s clutter, and leads us to be lazy and not put things away, because there is a shelf there. It’s also rusting because it isn’t the best quality.

  38. nikki says

    “make a memory not a purchase” is my new motto. we don’t need more stuff in our house but a fun day at the local baseball game or a day at the park will bring memories not clutter