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What To Do When a Gift Becomes Clutter

Battling clutter from gifts you're holding on to? This is a great read with practical ideas and suggestions on how to get rid of more STUFF -- even if it's a gift that holds great meaning to you!

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.

photo source

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227 Comments

  • Jena says:

    If I can’t regift it, it goes in the yard sale bin. We then use profits from the yard sale for either a) deposit into kids savings account or b) vacation fund

  • Jessica says:

    We have the same problem with well meaning relatives. Some of the items have been very, very strange. Novelty cone shaped Christmas hats from the claw machine game, for example. I always provide a suggestions list, yet somehow these oddities still find their way in.

    We say “thanks” and then after the visitors are gone, it goes into the donation bag.

    We also try to encourage other gifts. One set of grandparents gives my kids a family zoo pass and family science / kids museum pass.

  • Alicia Hart says:

    Thanks SO much for this article. I have continual guilt over what to do with gifts given to my children. My family is not into asking what we really need. They get a lot of joy out of giving gifts our children. Really I think that thier grandmother enjoys the toys just as much as they do. However, like the author of this article has said, you reach a breaking point. Such an encouraging article.

    • MelissaZ says:

      You could suggest that some of the gifts that grandma/grandpa give stay at their house so that when the kids come over, they have something to play with. Then they still get to have fun picking out & giving toys, but you don’t end up with as much stuff!

  • Great post! We also struggle with this at my house. After awhile, things usually end up in the donation pile, but it’s still something we continue to work on.

    I really like experience and useful gifts! Definitely the best kind!

  • Amy Lauren says:

    I regifted a lot of candy and chocolate I got for Christmas. I knew I wasn’t going to eat it all. I also just took some to work and sat it on our “free for all” table. A lot of us here also exchange/lend/sell stuff from babies and kids too.

  • Anonymous says:

    The hardest part for me is that for years I have encouraged family to either not spend money on us or buy things that are practical like museum memberships, water park tickets, etc. The hard part is I know they are going into debt to buy us these things that we don’t want or need. My family has no idea the stress they give me when they buy us all of these things. I wish they would realize that all we really want…and all we have ever wanted..is just time with them. I can honestly say that Christmas time has become a very sad time for us b/c of the over indulgences. I also worry about my children who get all of these toys all the time. I’m not sure how I am suppose to raise kids who are content, thankful, etc when they get an expensive toy from a relative every time we turn around…without having to have good behavior or earn it.

    • Emily says:

      I feel the exact same way about all the gifts my kids get from their grandparents. I want them to be content with less and it is really hard when they are constantly being given things.

    • Tricia says:

      I agree 100%.

    • Ginger says:

      Your last thought really struck me. I remember feeling the same way when our now 12 year old was about 3 years old. He was the first grandchild, and the gift giving had gotten out of hand. At Christmas I watched him open gift after gift, literally getting lost in the gifts. All from my dad. I decided then to speak to him later about what I saw happening. I was able to explain that, as happy as we were that he enjoyed giving so generously, it made our job of raising a grateful child more difficult. I was honestly not sure how it would be received but he understood and was gracious. He still gives gifts generously but spaces them out through the year. And respects our requests. I know not every relative will be so understanding, but the bottom line is that we are responsible for instilling values in our own kids. And sometimes as parents we “give up” on some issues because it seems to difficult to take the steps we feel are necessary. No offense meant. I’m not saying that’s what you have done. I know, for me sometimes, it’s easier just to be silent.

    • Andrea says:

      Gifts should not have to be earned.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, but if a child is acting spoiled and disrespectful he shouldn’t be given gifts by grandparents as a way to act right, which is what we use to experience.

  • I have trouble with this too. It has been a real eye opener to my own gift giving. I try now to use products that can easily be used up (but not lotions or candles I have discovered most people have their own favorites and if you don’t get that right they sit unused) I give my knitted dish cloths with a $5 starbucks card attached or a gift card to i-tunes or amazon, places pretty much all of us go to or use. I also stopped giving baked goods after I realized just how much of the ones I am given get eaten out of pure guilt, and I don’t need guilt pounds.

  • Traci says:

    I once heard someone say that, for those sentimental items that are hard to get rid of but still causing clutter in your life, a good solution can be to take a picture of the item. That way you have something to hold on to but you can still let the clutter go. Thought it was a great idea…

  • Heather Finnegan says:

    Thanks for this. I feel horribly guilty for getting rid of my kids toys! I have a big family and I’m the oldest of my cousins so MY aunts/uncles/grandparents come to my kids’ parties (usually 30-40 people) and they get a ton of “stuff” because everyone wants to watch them open something 🙁 I keep trying to get them to give us gift cards, restaurant cards (gift cards to McDonalds are great, so are Panera, and the local train restaurant). Also, we live near Chicago, buy the kids a ticket to a museum, or give us money toward classes my kids can take, like soccer or karate. They like those things too. Maybe what I will have to do is put the extras in the garage sale and use the profits for those extra things 😉

  • Jessica says:

    One the grandparents often gives our three children each copies of the same book at gift-time. While we love books, we sure can’t hold on to THREE copies of the same book! Fortunately this is an out-of-town relative so it’s pretty easy to put those extra items in the give away/sell box without hurting anyone’s feelings. When we get gifts for our kids that are just too many or too obnoxious, I usually let them play with them for a few days or until the novelity wears off, then they go into the donation box. My kiddos are still young, so it’s pretty easy to let go of toys without them realizing it. I’m sure things will change a bit as they age. Thanks for the post!

    • Sarah says:

      Can’t you just be honest and tell the grandparent how much further their gift would go if each child got a different book, and it would also encourage them to learn sharing?

      • Jessica says:

        Not this grandparent. 🙂

        • Megan says:

          I can totally appreciate where you’re coming from Jessica. Though I did have to post because my thought is that they’re doing this so that when your children are grown they’ll all have the book from their grandparent; rather than three kids wanting the same book. My MIL gave me most of my husband’s books from when they were little (because I’m the one out of the family that loves books and reads to my kids daily)… but I found out that my husband’s brother wanted the same books for his kids. =/ Made the situation tough on them, us and my MIL.

          • Sarah says:

            Interesting. I guess each situation is different. It’s just a shame we can’t just be honest, whatever our needs are.

          • Jessica says:

            I think this is one place she is coming from. With us having a little house and three kiddos, it’s just not possible for us to store three copies of the same book just in case they all turn out to be sentimental readers. (as I was!)
            And to Sarah, it’s not so much that I can’t be honest with her, it’s simply that she doesn’t hear me. So I’ve stopped trying, I don’t let it bother me, and I don’t stress about passing along a lot of what she gives my kids!

  • Meredith says:

    My daughters birthday is the day after Christmas. Gifts are a nightmare at here for her. Our large family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. give her a gift and then turn around and give the next day. I won’t get into how much grandma and grandpa give her. Not only is it overkill but it takes away from what we would like to do for her too. One year, we didn’t even give her anything (when she was 2 I think) because I had about 40 some presents to put under the tree by December 10th. My family won’t stop either because all of the other kids have random birthdays throughout the year and they want to be fair. They don’t get that I want to teach her simplicity Plus, they think we are poor because of my minimalism/couponing. I loved this article because of the first thing mentioned, if it isn’t going to make things peaceful then get it out. I usually let her pick out a few of them and store the rest unopened. After the Superbowl, I regroup and get rid/donate the rest. Sorry to rant, I don’t ever get to to anyone aside from my husband here. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can relate. While I am thankful that our family cares enough to give our children things, they don’t realize that their overkill is actually preventing us from being able to get them special things. Sometimes I feel like even my parents try to outdo anything I am buying. An example is that at Christmas I bought my child a train set and a family member went out and bought a better one. We have gotten to where we don’t buy them as much b/c we aren’t able to compete with other family members (nor would we want too…) but they are robbing us of an opportunity to care for our children in the way we want to.

      • Lerin says:

        Exactly! I have a good friend who is very minimalist. Very. She worked for nearly 6 months to craft the perfect doll by hand for her daughter- her daughters very first doll. She’d let everyone know about this. Christmas rolled around, and her MIL completely ignored and went all out with lavish toys, and got the little girl what my friend called ‘a loud, talking, blinking robotic doll’ that ofcourse her daughter LOVED. My friend was heartbroken. You all are completely right- it’s our houses and our peace of mind. We’re the ones raising our children and we can’t do what we want for them, if everyone else is ignoring our wishes.

      • Andrea says:

        Instead of buying your children special “things”, *do* special things with them instead. If you’re unwilling to put your foot down with family members, plan experiences/vacations instead of gifts and don’t tell your family about it beforehand.

    • i know people who do a second ‘birthday’ for kids with birthdays around christmas. maybe you don’t need to do that with all the extended family, but if this is a constant maybe you can do a family 1/2 birthday celebration in the summer and get her gifts then. obviously with other kids in teh picture it gets trickier (why does she get 2 birthdays?) but perhaps a creative compromise can work here! my mom has a birthday near christmas, so she never gets a cake because of all the sweets around… this year her cake is coming in june! 🙂

    • Melissa N says:

      I did the same thing. Mine are almost 4 and 6 now, so it’s harder, but I have told them from day one that toys come in, and then toys go out – princess wands from parties, stuffed animals from neighbors, glow sticks from whatever, whistles, silly bands, little purses, etc. etc. etc. Even birthday presents – if I can tell that the novelty will wear off soon, I just talk it up that “this will be fun! We’ll have fun with this for a few days! Then it will be fun to think of who we can pass this along to so THEY can have fun.” They already know all about Operation Christmas Child, Goodwill, and Freecycle, so they kind of assume that things come in and then things go out. My husband once said (in regards to plastic cups I was debating keeping), “Every time you get rid of those, we always get more.” He was right about the cups, and turns out that can easily be applied to LOTS of things, toys, etc. My mom gets pretty miffed when I pass along toys to others, but I have asked her kindly for years to stop buying so much, and she refuses, so I try to stay gracious, and remember that once it is given to me, it is mine to do with as I please. My children’s belongings are also mine to do with as I please, at this point. If mom doesn’t like it, she can STOP BUYING STUFF that she knows I will give away. So far, hasn’t happened! PS. most grandparents hate the college fund. I understand why, but man, it could have probably another $5000 (or more) in it if we cashed in just 80% of the clothes and toys over nearly 6 years.

      • So sad that your kids’ grandparents aren’t into giving to a college fund!! My grandmother sent me and my brother a large check for our birthdays each year specifically for our college fund. She’d also send a new book or nice shirt or money for new shoes or something like that for us to have “in the moment.” I was so grateful for all those birthday checks when I went to college. They easily paid for a year and half of my schooling!

        • Susan says:

          I mentioned at another place on this thread, my daughter gave each grandparent some deposit slips for their grandkids’ college funds. That way it’s easy to send the deposit directly to the investment firm. We make a copy of the deposit slip and enclose it along with a SMALL mom and dad approved gift to be opened. It works great. I never want to usurp their parental authority by giving somethng they don’t want the grandkids to have.

          • Susan says:

            Another thing we’ve done is tell our adult children that what we want for gifts is a card/letter/picture from their family and we want them to deposit whatever money they would have spent on a gift for us into the grandkids’ college funds and send us a copy of the receipt.

    • Meredith, I feel you! This is such a similar situation to my family. We, too, end up not able to do things for our own children because of all that others give them. And, my family also feels that my children are being deprived because of our family’s values of simplicity and living within our means, and being content with minimal possessions.

      It’s a concept that, unfortunately, not a lot of people are familiar with these days.

    • Our family has similar issues. We only have four grandchildren between both my husband’s and my families. We love the gifts from the grandparents, aunt, uncles, and friends. However, we often find ourselves overwhelmed at holidays. I am a minimalist and so is my husband, so we re-gift, give away, or sell many items. I know that they do often give so much because they think we are poor because of our minimalism and frugal lifestyle. I can relate to the feeling that it takes away from your own gift-giving to your children. In 3 years of parenting our 2 children, we’ve barely bought them anything. We have so much surplus, that there is no need to go out and buy more. Sometimes is has hurt my pride to see my children lavished with gifts far more expensive than any I would or could provide for them.

      I don’t have any great answers, but for us we have just had to learn to be gracious and thankful, no matter the gift. I hate to see money wasted on unnecessary items, but it’s also a blessing to have something arrive just when you need it. We live on the opposite side of the country from our families, so every gift is a reminder that someone back home loves us and is thinking of us. I feel so privileged to have parents who care so much for my children, and who want to be a part of their lives in some way. 🙂

  • Tonia says:

    About a year and a half ago, we started a “half-birthday” tradition with our two boys. At the time the oldest was turning 4 1/2. I had planned to make a half a cake and sing to him after dinner. Nothing big, but something that would make his day special.

    My husband, half teasing/half serious, teased the boys that on your birthday you get presents and on your half birthday you give toys away. Inside I cringed, fearing how they would respond. My boys jumped on board and picked out several things to give away. I was shocked. They were EXCITED about this plan. We have now done this three times and the boys are still okay with it. They don’t even question it. The only rules are that it has to be a toy in nice condition and that they can’t pick one of their brother’s toys. We have given toys to our church nursery, friends with kids younger than us, and goodwill. They seem to “get it” more when they know who will be playing with it. Sometimes, they do not even wait until their half-birthday and decide to pass along a “baby toy” to someone they know who is younger.

    • sarah says:

      Such a great idea!!!!

    • Lisa says:

      LOVE this idea! My twins half b-day would be December 12th, perfect time to clear out some things before christmas and donate to someone who might not get something. They will be 3 soon and this is the perfect time to start teaching this grateful and giving attitude!

      Thanks so much!!

    • Emily says:

      I LOVE this idea and I am going to bring it up to my family tonight at dinner. Brilliant!!

    • HeatherP says:

      I Love this idea! I’m going to talk to the husband and see what he thinks. This is especially nice because both of my girls’ birthdays are 4 days apart so we are inundated with gifts at the same time. Hoping the in-laws don’t go crazy with things this yer. Oiy!

    • Becky says:

      I think this is an amazing idea!! I don’t even have kids, but I might start this for myself. Love it, thank you!!!!

    • lori says:

      Love this idea! I think the cake softens the blow 🙂

    • This is such a wonderful idea!!! And, I couldn’t help but snicker at the rule of not picking one of their brother’s toys to give away. Even better for me since my boys’ half birthdays would be just after Christmas.

    • Jodi says:

      LOVE!

  • It’s DEFINITELY something I consider as I get older and gift to my parents, in-laws, etc. I try to think, “Do they really want/need another collectible on their shelves?” I lean toward buying massage gift certificates, experiences like theater tickets, framed photos of the grandbabies, and consumables.

    • Melissa N says:

      My mom is buying those birthday ceramic doll figurines for my daughter every year, with the number of how old she is on them. Seriously, I can’t think of a more pointless gift. I really appreciate the thought, but what is ANYONE going to do with 18 little girl statues?

      • Anonymous says:

        Your daughter can then give them to her daughter each year.

      • Andrea says:

        Your daughter might love them. Some people do.

        • Melissa N says:

          I apologize for sounding antagonistic – we just don’t have shelf space for the 7 we have already, and we are also trying to strive towards a simple, low-clutter lifestyle. I grew up in a home where a lot of value was placed on the things we owned, and as a personal choice I am moving away from that. I know my kids might end up being very sentimental about objects, but right now I don’t actively encourage collecting things that sit on a shelf.

      • Andrea says:

        Okay I may be quite older than you, I’m in my forties…those cute statues with numbers on them, well that is something the older generation used to do and keep..I would if I had that coming in, take a picture of it with my daughter, make 2 prints, one for the thank you card to grandma, and one for your valuables folder… then place it back in a box if you do not wish to display it. When the time comes, you can sell them all and put towards college. With each passing year, they will become more collectible to those who collect and thus, more valuable. For those with boys, think Lego collections/figures.

        • Andrea says:

          It really depends on the sculpture. My MIL collected Precious Moments thinking they would be valuable someday. As it turns out, most are worth less than she paid.

      • robyn says:

        this thread intrigues me. my maternal grandmother was all caught up in the precious moments hoop-la (still is) and herself collects each any every new one that comes out (she too thought that could be her retirement or something, didn’t work out that way) as a child she bought me those birthday dolls each year and quite frankly i despised them. however, i kept them and boxed them up when i moved out, through college and into marriage etc. we moved a few years back and i found them and was ready to part with them when my daughter saw them and wanted to keep them. she asked me if she could get one at each of her birthdays (just like me) she’s now 9, almost 10 and for the past 4-5 years i’ve been giving them to her on her birthday. she expects it and looks forward to it but doesn’t play with them or anything (as they’re porcelain) and they do just sit on a shelf that we don’t really for. i am by no means a sentimental person but my daughter is. i could have easily given them away and moved on, i’d rather not store trinkets and dust them etc. but to my daughter she is more than thrilled to know they were “passed” down to her. it’s intriguing how we’re so different.

  • Janice says:

    I try to remember this very thing in my own gift-giving. If it is not completely practical or specifically wished-for by my family, I don’t buy it. We have also dramatically reduced the number of people that we give gifts to during the holidays. That cuts out on too many gifts that we receive. For my immediate extended family (brother, niece, etc.), we all have an Amazon gift list. This way I know exactly what they want (and they know exactly what my family wants as well)…we have had no “clutter” gifts in the last few years because of this.

  • Sarah says:

    I typically re-gift all of the gifts I can’t get any joy or use out of. It does sound harsh. But then my frugal side gets a rush out of the fact that I didn’t have to spend any money on someone’s birthday gift.

    And isn’t the fact the their gift saved me money, a great gift in itself??
    ..because that’s what I tell myself. 🙂

    • Sherri says:

      Works for me. When my oldest kids were small, my family gave them more than we felt they needed (though not as overboard as some on here are describing). When we got home, some of those gifts went from the trunk straight into the gift box to be given to a friend on their birthday. The catch is that we couldn’t let the kids rip open the packaging. We would let them open 1 thing to play with at grandma’s, which wasn’t a big deal since it wasn’t a long visit.

    • I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting rid of things you don’t have any use for or don’t enjoy. I feel a sense of liberation when I clean out my closet and take things to the donation center. We were given a nick-nack figurine for our wedding a year ago. I am really hoping I can re-gift it this year. If I don’t need something, there is probably someone out there who does.

  • Shannon L says:

    I’m curious as to how you approached the grandparents with limits. My parents go WAY overboard on our two daughters. And the practical part of me saves to be passed down. My youngest is drowning in toys. My oldest daughter is in a season where she doesn’t want to part with all of her toys but is getting older and outgrowing most of them. How do I talk to my parents about cutting back on the inflow of “stuff”?

    • Meredith says:

      Ha, I just wrote a rant above about gift giving from grandparents and family members. I have no clue and would love some advice. I read Crystals suggestions a long time ago about just talking to them about the morals I wanted to teach my kids and to not buy so much. Well, when I had a talk with my parents, they interpreted it as “oh my gosh, you don’t have any money.” Guess what, my daughter now gets MORE! I’m starting to think of an overseas move as the best option. jk….

      • sarah says:

        Your post made me laugh! I married into a family of “abundant not what you asked for” gift givers. After Christmas everything brought into the house ends up in a big pile in the basement- it immediately gets sorted into goodwill, re-gift, and keep. I don’t feel guilty because they can afford to buy the gifts, take pleasure in buying the gifts, and take pleasure in seeing everyone receive the gifts. I think it would be different if they were going into debt but in this family my father-in-law makes bargain hunting gift giving his hobby, he is the biggest kid on Christmas. To say anything would be stealing his joy.
        I would take a direct approach if it really was a problem or they were expensive gifts – “You can buy it but I am probably going to give it away in less than 6 months. So if you are ok with that go right ahead.”

        Thanks for making me laugh!

      • Beth says:

        Maybe you could talk to them about the abundance that you have, really concretely. My SIL pointed out to her in-laws that between the 3 boys, there were probably $15,000 worth of toys. Really, it had gotten out of hand! The kids were saturated- sure they enjoyed the “idea” of having all the toys, but they really couldn’t play with much of it. Sometimes, when it’s something here or there, and then a pile at a holiday, you lose track of how much you’ve really given them. By putting an amount on it, *gently*, maybe you could help them to taper back.

    • Carrie says:

      Could you do it in a round-about way? Could you mention to them how overwhelmed you are? Maybe say that you have to do something with all the toys, it’s getting to be too much.

      Or could you pack up a bunch and rotate the toys (and throw away)?

      I have 5 boys and the amount of toys is ridiculous. It’s hard to come up with new ideas for the little boys because their older brothers have already gotten them.

    • Lisa says:

      I just get rid of it or “let” them see stuff at my rummage sale-I have tried the talking and it doesn’t work. If they see we are getting rid of things in good condition I think they realize they give too much and we are serious and start to come around to what we are trying to do. I just went thru all my kids toys and got rid of over half and we are ALL happier. I was just at a talk about simplistic parenting and love the ideas behind it, always working to get my family on board with this.

    • April says:

      I had to set a 3 present limit(per set of grandparents) because it was taking hours for the older 2 to open gifts(the oldest’s first and second christmases were around 3 hours opening gifts..she got bored after half an hour and it was me and hubby taking that long). I also made a requirement one of those had to be something they needed.

      I think it made them make more thought into their gifts. yes, they were mad but it wasnt their house that the stuff was strewn about. And they were buying stuff the kids didnt ask for so the kids didnt care. My kids have never asked for tons of stuff anyways, and its nice when they actually receive what is on their lists.

      Did they slip up? yes occasionally there was 4 gifts from a set of grandparents, but no longer truckloads(and multiply that by 3 kids…)

      I wish now I had made the suggestion of adding to a zoo membership or something. that would be nice to have something year round they could use. this past year we did ask that instead of a present, they would put the cash towards the 15 year olds viola. everyone was so happy to do it and we ended up only have to pay $30 ourselves. now, everyday when she uses it, she knows her grandparents made it happen 🙂

    • Coby says:

      We were just really blunt and said it had to stop. We then asked for them to contribute to our season passes to a local theme park instead. It worked to some degree. Our son still gets some small items, but now we usually get money and pool it all together for season passes to someplace (we live in the LA area, so we like to pick a new place each year). Then when we are there throughout the year I send pictures from my phone to the relatives who contributed.

    • Emily says:

      I did a similar thing as April just after this past Christmas. My sister and I told our mom that next year, there needs to be a 3 present limit and that one of them has to be an outfit or pajama that they actually need. Then, when we were all together for something, I reminded my mom and told my mother-in-law of my new plan so they could both hear it together. I also told them that 3 gifts per child is all we will be bringing home from their homes next Christmas. I really think my mom heard me this time. I tried just nicely telling them our kids have too much……for about 4 years in a row……it never stopped. I finally just had to be frank about it.

    • Lindsey says:

      I sat down and explained that we wanted our child to be able to go to college or trade school without amassing a lot of debt. I asked both sets of grandparents to give a $10 item as a gift and put the difference between that and what they would have spent into my child’s education fund. Every year, we tell the grandparents how much is now in the education fund and thank them and reiterate that when he is in college or school, we will always remind him that it was his grandparents (who are old enough that they will probably not be here by then) who loved him enough to make his life easier even after they were gone. The grandparents agreed, and now give a small gift and a card that reminds our son that the rest of his gift went into his education fund. My brother does a similar thing for his nephew (my son)—he buys him a share of stock every birthday and Christmas and prints up a pretend certificate for him to have something to look at when he opens the box from my brother. 24 shares of McDonalds does not sound like much, but my son loves it.

    • MelissaZ says:

      I mentioned it before, but maybe suggest that some of the gifts be kept at grandma/grandpa’s house for the kids to play with there. “we’re so thankful for all the gifts you give us. You’re so generous. Could we keep some of the toys here for the kids to play with when they come visit? Then they look forward to playing with something other than we have at home” or something like that. They still get to give, you nicely let them know that you don’t have room, and the kids still get to enjoy toys. Win, win, win!

  • I definitely support the idea of a gift of experience. Memories last a lifetime and “stuff” just sits in your house. Great point!

  • This is hard for me, because I feel a little guilty getting rid of something that was a gift to me! However, since I read your book and have been ruthlessly decluttering, I’ve taken several things to Goodwill… Hopefully it will get easier for me. 🙂

  • Emily says:

    It’s funny because everyone seems to be referring to presents their kids have received. We definitely have that issue at times, but I also have no less than two whole boxes of wedding presents we have never ever used. Crystal vases, pewter decorative plates, serving trays, etc. etc. My husband says, we can’t get rid of it! They are wedding gifts. But we have now moved them twice and I’m ready to free up the space.

    And to whoever mentioned no candles as a gift–thank you! I have a whole box of those too! Sigh.

    • Melissa N says:

      My wedding china sat in the closet in boxes for 6 years and 3 moves. I finally sold it on Ebay. Take a picture and say goodbye!

    • My husband and I moved last summer after just two years of marriage. We had several wedding gifts that were very nice, but nothing that we were going to be able to use in the near future. A huge glass salad bowl, figurines, clocks, etc. We sold a lot of it at a yard sale and made a pretty penny! I totally support getting rid of it. You appreciate the thought and love in the gifts, but you don’t have to keep them forever!

  • Cynthia says:

    I like to use and appreciate gifts for at least a season. Sometimes when I’ve gotten a gift I wasn’t sure about or didn’t think I really wanted, I’ve grown to love it and it now has a place in my home. When the season is over, I believe it’s Ok to pass it on. I wouldn’t say re-gift, but pass it onto someone whom it would be a blessing to. If I don ‘t have somebody in mind to ask, I will give it to Goodwill.

  • Kara says:

    I recently got married and had this problem! Most of the items came with gift receipts, but there were a few that didn’t, and those seemed to be the most random and most unlikely to be used in our household. I think regifting is the way to go 🙂 I have a lot of other friends getting married this year and next and they have many different interests from us. For example we got two bags of starbucks coffee with mr. and mrs. glass travel coffee mugs which were really cute, but we got a keurig, don’t have an actual coffee maker, and don’t like starbucks coffee anyway. So, at first we didn’t know what to do with it, but then we realized that a wedding we are going to in August was the perfect couple for this, they are always on the go, loooove coffee, and would use this much more effectively than we would. This goes for a number of other items, but it has certainly helped me realize to really think about gifts before I purchase/make them and to buy off registries when I’m not sure haha Great article! Glad I’m not the only person who feels this way 🙂

  • Marla says:

    I have parents who are hoarders(my mom is borderline and my dad could give A & E a run for their money).I cannot come home from their house without bringing a trunkful of stuff home.I used to protest, saying that I didn’t need it. Now I take everything they send home because 1)they’re never going to get rid of it on their own and 2)they told me that I would inherit their house(and stuff) one day and that all of it would be mine one day.
    As soon as I get home, I decide whether I really need it or can sell it.This stuff comes inside or to my Ebay/Craigslist room. The rest goes straight to the Goodwill right down the street or in the garbage.

    • Marla says:

      I realize that this post is about what to do with excess birthday/Christmas gifts,but my parents want to “give” me stuff everytime I’m at their house.
      If someone gives me a gift, they have relinquished all rights to said gift.If I love it, then I use it, keep it,display it. If I don’t love it anymore(or never did love it), I pass it on to someone (or a charity) that will love it.

    • Melissa N says:

      I do that too! My mom offers me her old clothes (??) and now I take as much as I can, then get rid of it.

    • lori says:

      Marla: Trust me, we are in the midst of cleaning out my in-laws’ hoarders house. If they offer you something, don’t ever turn it down … get it out of there now, even if you throw it out/donate it immediately.

      My in-laws didn’t throw or give hardly anything away except kitchen garbage for more than 40 years. Six of us worked on their basement for two days this week; we might have gotten rid of 1/8 of the stuff down there. Only about two boxes of thousands of items we hauled out of there the other day were worth keeping.

      • Susan says:

        Check everything, every box, every file, every envelope, every pocket for money. Hoaders usually tuck money all over. One of my relatives left $20,000 in an ice cream container in the freezer and about that much in a brown paper back on the floor tucked behind a curtain.

        • Susan says:

          “bag” not “back”

        • My grandmother-in-law infamously left money stuffed throughout her home after her death, in everything from old socks to the mattress in the guest bedroom. So, look everywhere! 🙂

          • lori says:

            Yes, that’s why it is so slow going … we’ve had to go through everything with a fine-tooth comb. The freezer seems to be the popular place to hide cash; we know there’s at least $20,000 in there, but PawPaw won’t give up the key yet. (Yes, he locks the freezer and takes the key with him everywhere he goes.) And we know the linen closet, in between all the sheets and towels, is probably going to be like hitting the lottery.

            Right now, the house is having structural issues, so all he is letting us do at this point is work on the basement so we can get a repair crew in there. It’s been hard for PawPaw because although he was not the hoarder, his wife passed in December and for 45 years she instilled in him to never get rid of anything. It’s so hard to unlearn habits that were forced upon you for that long.

            Thanks to all of you for your support and wisdom with this. I know it was getting off-topic but I learned long ago that if a hoarder in your family wants to give you something, take it now … or you’ll just have to deal with it later.

            Working on their house made me want to go home and de-clutter my own even more. There’s no reason to complicate life with stuff you don’t use or need.

  • Sam says:

    We are big regifters! Like the article said, just because we don’t want/need it, it doesn’t mean some one else won’t. I go to alot of birthday dinners and an annual Christmas party where there’s a gift exchange, so my regift bin has saved my budget big time! Great for treacher gifts, too 🙂

    • Us too! I use many of my surplus gifts for Birthday Parties, Christmas gifts, “Greed” gift swaps, Baby Showers, Bridal Showers, Anniversaries, etc. I would love to get my Gift Budget down to $0 between regifting, swagbucks, freebies, deals, and homemade gifts. 🙂 We have a big family and lots of friends to shop for, so it seems like we’re always on the look-out for inexpensive but thoughtful gifts.

  • Jamie says:

    I clean house for my grandmother. Trust me, people don’t need another “thing” to sit around. Depending on your price range either take them out for a nice meal or bake a fancy dessert and eat it with them over a cup of coffee. They would rather have your time. My little boy turns 6 this year. My parents are taking him duckpin bowling. He gets a lovely day and a break from his little sister. He will love it.

  • Lisa-panaMOM says:

    This is one of the reasons we had a no-presents Christmas. (Atlhough, the grandparents did end up getting each child one thing.) It was my favorite Christmas EVER!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I would be all for this if our families would cooperate. I would much rather spend time together or even go visit something together with the money we would have spent on presents.

      • Ditto! I would LOVE to have a no-gift Christmas! We’ve been working that way for a while now, slowly dwindling the amount of people that we purchase gifts for. This might be the year to finally take the plunge.

      • Christy Carden says:

        Have you heard of the Advent conspiracy? The pastors at my church talk about it a lot. There is even a website for it. It is about giving the gift of yourself and your time instead of stuff. For example, one pastor gave her sister a book (a little bit of stuff) AND a schedule of when to read each chapter and then they discussed each chapter on the phone on scheduled dates (they live far apart).

  • Sarah says:

    One thing my grandmother did for me as a child that I ADORED. Every birthday we would go out to lunch to the restaurant of my choice and then we would go shopping for 1 birthday gift.

    I have the fondest memories of those special days.. because unfortuantely they didn’t last long. But I have no memory of the gifts.

    I try to do the same with my nieces and nephews (and someday when I have my own children)

    It gives me as the gift-giver a chance to give exactly what they want. It’s only one gift so it’s not excessive. Plus, it’s a special day they’ll always remember – though I think most children are happiest about having an entire day of undivided attention!

  • Dina says:

    We have a regift closet-its the bottom of the linen closet. If something goes in the regift closet I write a notecard and put it in the box or tape it to the gift with when we recieved and from who. This way you don’t regift back to circle of friends or family.
    Funny story about regifting-shortly after we were married we were invited to a wedding. We had recieved a large amount of vases and frames which some were put in the regift closet. I grabbed a frame wrapped it and we headed out the door to go to the wedding. My husband wanted to know which frame I wrapped. I told him the silver one. He said the silver one with our name and wedding date engraved in it. OMG! I opened it and sure enough there was our name and wedding date. The couple whose wedding we were going to recieved a gift card instead of a frame! LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t mean to sound so negative, but while we are talking about this subject…………

    How do you handle grandparents who insist on lots of presents, certain traditions, etc to the point where you aren’t even able to birthdays, Christmas, etc the way you want to b/c of other’s traditions. For example, at one of our last birthdays, the grandparents were so in charge (as well as well meaning aunts and uncles) that my husband literally missed the entire birthday party for his own child. He was stuck doing other things (that we felt non-essential) while everyone else was watching the cake, presents opened, etc.

    We have tried to completely change things so that we can be more comfortable but it is often met with negativity.

    • Are the grandparents hosting the party? Can you host it next year? You can plan the party, have it at your house, and tell everyone upfront what the deal is. If they don’t like it, then they don’t have to come. Hopefully, they’ll choose getting a chance to see their grandchild over traditions. How sad that your husband had to “miss” the party just to please others.

    • Andrea says:

      Even if it is met with negativity, insist that you are starting your own traditions as a family. Compromise on some things, but put your foot down. You’re an adult.

    • Leah says:

      You’ve got to set some boundaries, and fast. There is NO WAY that anyone throws my children’s birthday parties but me. None. You’ve already let them take way too much control. There must be more going on here than you can explain, but this won’t stop until you make it stop. If it’s met with negativity, so what? The way things are going now certainly aren’t working for you. Sorry to sound harsh, but this can’t happen unless you and your husband let it happen. Put your foot down, and do it HARD, and do it soon before this goes on any longer.

  • SandyH says:

    I’m a Grammie now, and remember as a mom of four, positively drowning in toys. It made all our lives harder I think. Nagging constantly to pick them up and put them….where??? I tried, I really did…but we didn’t have a big playroom or anything , just the kids own bedrooms, (two of the kids shared a room).

    So…from my new perspective, we give big items, like a kids table and chairs, a slide, a swing set…and clothes. ALL are cleared with the parents beforehand. I buy little things here and there, toys and books, and lots of it stays at my house for when they visit( they live nearby).

    I remember the massive clean outs, garage sales and donating. Not fun.

    • lori says:

      Sandy, what a good grammie you are!

    • Leah says:

      You’re a gem! Every grammie should be like this – thinking about what’s best for their kids and grandkids, instead of what makes THEM feel good. Go Grammie!

    • Emily says:

      Yup……you’re definitely an awesome grammie to check with your kids first before buying those gifts. I tell myself all the time that I will do that when my kids are grown up with kids of their own, and I’ll remember how I used to feel as a mom of young kids with WAY too many toys.

  • Ruth says:

    Okay, I had to look up what duckpin bowling was (I am on the West coast)!

    If I am a grandparent one day, I am going to ASK before giving them clothes and toys, and ASK what experience tickets they would like or if they would like the money put in a college fund instead. I am afraid I fall into the category of “it’s fun to shop for kids clothes and toys”, but I surely don’t want to stress out and clutter another family member.

    • Christy Carden says:

      Ours ask and I really don’t know why sometimes! Sometimes they do get what we say. Other times they do the opposite. A few years ago, I remember my mom asking what my oldest needed. I told her he needed shorts. He had a bunch of short sleeved shirts already but only a few pairs of shorts–his birthday is the end of March so perfect time to get summer clothes. She gave him 5 shirts! I don’t know if she misunderstood or what. So, then I was left to go spend money on shorts and I now had 15 or so shirts. Sigh!

  • SandyH says:

    Sarah totally nailed it… She remembers the time spent but not the gifts. That says it all.

  • Lynn says:

    I grew up having excessive and over the top Christmases, although oddly my mother disagrees! When we got married and before we had children, we talked about the types of holidays we wanted to have. We keep them small or try to, but we have lots of traditions – baking, lights, homemade ciders, a fondue party, etc. My children will always remember these things. We have approached our parents and simply told them we have limits for the number and types of gifts that our children can have because we are stressing living a simpler lifestyle.

    I now provide a list of things the kids want/need for holidays and ask my parents to choose something from there by explaining that’s what the kids really want. Every year before Christmas, I just ask, “Have you given any thought to what you might want to do for Christmas for the kids this year?” This opens a conversation and I can reiterate how we feel and steer them towards appropriate gifts and gives me a chance to tell them about gifts we don’t allow.

    I have also had a very candid discussion with parents explaining I am sure when they were parenting they made decisions they wanted others to respect and I am asking them for the same courtesy. Lucky for me our parents have listened.

  • Lerin says:

    My husband & I have never had problems donating or re-gifting our things. But I’ve always felt guilty when purging the toy boxes & closets- “Oh so & so gave them this for so-and-so holiday.” We’ve started ‘potluck instead of presents’ birthday parties where every family brings a dish instead of a gift. Some people listen & others completely ignore the ‘no gifts’ request. Grandparents & holidays are still the bad, and my mom shops yardsales like a mad woman, so she’s always bringing my kids stuff or worse, taking my 9 yr old with her and then she comes home with a bunch of toys. I’m getting more cut-throat about it. The worst is the stuffed animals. I saved alot of my own stuffed animals for my kids. We’ve gotten them out of the attic a few times, and my kids would play with some of them, sometimes. I saved a few that I really loved, and the rest got donated today! I really wanted my girls to save their toys for their kids- I didn’t save ALL of mine, but my hubby had nothing from his childhood to pass onto his kids, made me kinda sad 🙁

  • Tricia says:

    I’ve asked relatives to contribute to my kids’ college accounts. Education is a pretty big deal in my family and as a social worker, I doubt I’m going to be able to finance my kids’ college educations. My kids are 3 and 1 and could pay off my student loans!! I think my family likes contributing money towards their education, but I still run into the problem of getting too many toys. I recently told my mother that any time she brings the kids a new toy, she has to take one home with her. She thought I was kidding, but I was totally serious!

  • HeatherP says:

    This year we have asked anyone who we invited to the birthday party to please consider bringing no more than $5 cash for the our girls (their bdays are 4 days apart) instead of a gift as we are trying to encourage saving and giving rather than getting. Everyone has thought this was such a great idea (esp. my “mom friends”) and they are happy to oblige. My in-laws are another story. And yet, they really can’t afford gifts so it makes me feel even worse about their gifts. I wish they wouldn’t go into debt for us. We’d rather see them financially stable and allow us to teach our kids the virtues we hold dear.

  • Lacey says:

    Although I agree with almost everything posted I think it’s just so important to approach the topic with sensitivity. I’ve seen firsthand when the joy gets stolen right out from someone because in a moment of “overwhelmed mom attitude” a family member instated a “no gift at all policy” towards her and her family. Not only did this really make everyone else feel guilty for recieiving gifts on Christmas… it continues to make it awkward since there’s is only 1 of many grandchildren. So now, if my inlaws comply they either have to quit gifting to all the kids, or look like they have favorites. And if they don’t comply, they are in trouble. I understand the concept and sometimes it’s a huge relief to hear that family wants to scale back. But sometimes (speaking for myself)… people truly show love and find joy in the season by searching for a personal and special gift. I think it’s fine to recycle things that were gifted – toys especially. But I also think there is plenty of room for sentiment. You don’t want to become so obsessed or prideful in your own “cleanliness/organization” that you miss out on a piece that could offer a sweet memory, story for your kids, or comfort later on in life. I’m not saying any of these comments are leaning towards that – I just know it’s just as much a danger to be too “into” the mimimalist mindset as it is to be a collector of all material possessions.

    • This is exactly why I haven’t been able to do anything about Christmas yet, because all of the cousins open gifts at the same time, so it would just cause too many problems. Not to mention resentment with my family. Thanks for giving us another perspective.

      • Anonymous says:

        I wish we would all exchange names when it comes to the grandparents, cousins, etc Christmas party. This way if you have 4 in your family you would bring 4 gifts and receive 4 gifts. Then, rather than having to spread the budget amongst a ton of people for smaller gifts, a nicer gift could be given.

    • Sarah says:

      I am really glad you posted this. I’m reading through the comments, and cringing a little. For one, everyone should offer grace…smugly showing a friend or relative that their gift was unwanted by making sure they see it in the yard sale bin is just over-the-top rude. Where is the grace in this? Even if YOU don’t care about the gift, it’s not always about YOU. The gift giver may have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the “perfect gift”, and yet people will take that joy from the gift giver by not being a grateful recipient.

      Perhaps I’m old-fashioned (at age 28, I suppose I qualify as “old”), but relationships are more important than maintaining “I’m right, you’re wrong” in the ways of gift-giving. Let grandparents be grandparents. We lost a parent very suddenly recently…they won’t always be with you. Cherish the time you have instead of complaining about their presents. Really? Presents creating such strife in a relationship? When all is said and done, this is one of those non-issues that people will regret wasting so much time and energy on. I

      ‘m not opposed to re-gifting (although I have received obvious re-gifts with 2 different kinds of wrapping paper–not a great feeling), and I try to encourage “experience” gifts over traditional gifts when I can. But, that said, who gave who what and why is not something that is going to matter in 15 years. But, the people you alienate by not offering grace will still be lost and broken relationships in that time span. Which do YOU think is more important?

      • diane says:

        Thanks for saying this . . . I would never be so presumptuous as to tell my family members my gift-receiving requirement/rules. We have always told our kids to say thank you (and then write a note!) for whatever the gift is. It seems so ungrateful and rude otherwise. And I like a non-cluttered house as much as the next person!! I do understand the gift explosion – I had the first – very long awaited grandchild who happened to be the first boy in my family. Everyone bought tons of gifts for years. And although they weren’t always what we wanted for him, we accepted them as the expression of joy and love that they were given in. I think we all know grandparents don’t last forever . . . .

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t have a problem with a nice gift. My problem is the 15-20 gifts each child gets whether they are $1 gifts or $50 gifts. A nice gift would be perfect for Christmas.

        • Beth L. says:

          I agree. My husband’s grandmother would get them tons of junk from the dollar store, like yo-yos or clapping hands that would break right on Christmas morning, making the kids cry when they were younger. Please, grandparents, don’t buy this stuff. Your intentions may totally backfire with a disappointed child on a birthday or holiday.

  • Heather says:

    I have to laugh because my friend and I were just talking about this earlier. She is about to have baby #4 and people are so sweet and have given her such great things but she has everything already. I asked her what she needed for a gift and she was half joking when she said a maid service for a month. What do you think she is getting from me? I love to think outside the box for things for people and hope they will take the time and know me well enough to do the same. As for the guilt that comes with it was a gift? I try to reuse it or find someone who needs it. I learned long ago with 4 kids you have to control the stuff in your house or it starts to control you.

    • Annie says:

      You’re awesome. Maid service is the perfect gift for a new mom. Premade meals run a close second.

  • Lisa says:

    I regift, and this year will be setting my foot down, HARD. We come home with probably 12 presents for each child from our family christmas get-together. I love them all to pieces for wanting to spoil my babies, but I haul out more toys each year than they ever had business having. It’s wasteful and almost gluttonous(Sp?), and it’s driving me nuts. There are four of us in 1000 feet, one of my closets is solely stockpile, and I’m sorry, it’s necessary items we use everyday(though of course there’s more than one of each in it…), and I cannot deal with more clutter than what I have. So this year, whether any of them like it or not, I’m gonna start asking them to buy things the children need, like clothes or would be able to use and be done with, like giftcards to places we like to eat, GCs to the local movie theater, etc etc. I’ve gone to almost exclusivly giftcards attached to one item I know they’d like(such as a bodywash or lotion or candy bar). It works, everyone is so tickled and there is no waste. Wow..that was a rambling reply, sorry about that…lol.

  • Jessica H says:

    Great post. I am in the process of getting rid of a lot of things from our house and many of them have been gifts. Someone of them I really like, but I honestly don’t have room for them and it has become a burden. Sometimes I casually mention to my close friends and family about feeling overburdened on having too much stuff. It has limited some of the knick-knack gifts that we used to receive so many of.

  • sona says:

    I get confused. I know young parents who have kid parties AND family parties EVERY year for each child. So PILES of gifts are received (add them to Christmas and possibley Easter. Then they complain about clutter or foolish gifts! Invitations never suggest bringing “no gifts” and I suspect for grandparents who adore their young ones, and from different generations find money/gift cards distant and impersonal. After a few parties they have EVERYTHING so I imagine it to be very difficult to find something new or unique. Destination gifts can be quite high in price. So there you go. Perhaps one has to live long enough to be in anothers shoes to truly experience the full dilema.

    • I have found that even if you specify “no gift,” people still bring them, just because it’s our society’s way and we don’t know anything different. This is speaking from experience. And, I agree that destination gifts can be expensive, but my children have been taught a life of simplicity, and honestly, a picnic at the park with their grandparents would make them happy.

      • Stephanie says:

        I get the cheap library passes to outings and the grandparents pay. They took the family to the zoo for $2 each. The girls still talk about Grandpa taking them out to lunch AND ice cream AND the zoo!!! On the same day!!!! It was six months ago and the oldest is 3.5 years old so her birthday outing made an impression.

    • Andrea says:

      We don’t do big parties every year, especially not friend/kid parties. For the times that we have had gatherings, we’ve invited people over for “cupcakes and the birthday song”, instead of calling it a party. We’ve also put “no gifts” on invitations many times and almost everyone complies.

    • Lerin says:

      another option, that a friend of mine does for her girls- if they ask for art supplies, she tells each grandparent, aunt & uncle etc. that the child has requested art supplies, and she wants this person to get colored pencils, for example and they’ll more than likely buy quality pencils instead of cheap ones. So a piece of larger gift. She did this with a dollhouse, play kitchen, etc. So all of the gifts coming into her home are sturdy quality ones that her children have specifically asked for, and everyone gets to contribute. I’ve tried to implement this in my home, but my kids are older than hers, so we pretty much already had everything by the time she started this.

    • We don’t do birthday parties with friends or cousins (my children have about 47 cousins at last count, and they almost all live in town–many of them are grown and have children the age of my children, too!) We invite grandparents only for birthdays, specifically to avoid the excessive unneeded gifts.

      We don’t do gifts at Easter; they aren’t needed. We do candy (I like Easter candy; yum!).

      My grandma has bought candy for the children for their birthdays, and then given them some money. The child then has something fun to open, and something they can use towards something they want or need.

    • Beth says:

      I agree! destination gifts are expensive. I think that if you throw a “kid” party you’re asking for inexpensive toys, because honestly the kids are typically acquaintances…

      One thought that I do have is to write in the invitation that all toys/gifts will be donated, and then donate them to a charity, adoption center, or something.

      • Christy Carden says:

        For my son’s 2 year old party, we asked everyone to bring a wrapped book and then we exchanged books and everyone had a book to open. By the time he was 3, he realized that everyone is supposed to get prsents at their parties, so we’ve done presents at 3, 4, and 5. Hoping when he is older (6), we can do something like, bring a bag of dog or cat food for the local shelter instead of a gift (my friend did that for her 6 year old).

        On another note, we did receive 2 beach towels at the 5 year old party and I thought these were great gifts. We go to the pool, the beach, and the waterpark all summer long, so they are already being used!! Yes, they take up space, but they are more useful than cheap, plastic toys. One of the friends who gave us a beach towel also gives a lot of kids a Tervis tumbler for their birthdays with a fun picture on it. Again, stuff, but useful and nice.

  • Holly says:

    I know that the best option is to not recieve gift clutter in the first place, but many, if not all, of us have family and/or friends who continue to give gifts that clutter. Our family clears clutter before the holidays and before birthdays to make room for new stuff. I did like the idea about clearing things out on a half birthday too!

  • Becky says:

    I like experience gifts but it’s hard to be frugal with those.

    • Michele says:

      I think you can still be frugal with ‘experience’ gifts.
      –How about a $10 gift card to Cold Stone Creamery?
      –Or if you are a special friend or relative just an ice cream date for you and her?
      –Two movie tickets are about $15 (they sell them at Costco).
      –You can buy a girl a manicure at a salon – also about $15.
      –Ice skating sessions are about $8 per session.
      –Even McDonald’s certificates can be fun. Mom can take child out for ice cream or lunch. That’s $10 or less.
      –A bowling date with the child – also about $15, maybe even cheaper if you go during the day or special times.
      –A session of mini-golf
      –Tickets to a local pool for a day
      –Depending on your relationship to the child, it could even be free. If you are an aunt, for example, how about a special sleepover at your house or make your own sundaes at your home one afternoon or a day at the park?

      For a young child, these can all be great experiences for not a lot of money. It doesn’t have to be an amusement park or expensive restaurant.

      • Becky says:

        Yeah kids are easy to please. At least I assume. I’ve never had to buy a present for a kid yet, except a 1 year old but I just got a book for the parents from a Christian used book store.

        Some of these are good for adult friends though, thanks!

    • If you’re a grandparent:
      A date with you to play checkers or another board game
      A date with you to go to the park
      A date with you to go out for ice cream, or to come over for ice cream.
      A date with you to go to a movie. My father-in-law took two of my children out to see a children’s movie (3-D) on individual dates and they thought it was great.

      What children want is time, and the memory of spending time with their grandparents is going to last much longer than a gift.

      • Becky says:

        That’s great for kids. I’m 27 though, doesn’t work as well with busy adult friends. 🙂

        • Kristin says:

          For adult friends you can still do the movies. Also, I know in my city there are lots of community events that go on… music festivals, food festivals, etc. most have free or cheap admission.

          Also, around here we have awesome food truck events that make for a cheap amazing dinner and a fun night out!

  • Kathy says:

    My family finally caught on that they were buying my kids too many things when I asked for help preparing for a yard sale. They saw all the clothes still with tags ( there were more than they could wear) and the amount of toys that had to be “sorted” in their rooms. They now ask what we need/want. It is also nice that they are much more open to buying one or two nicer things now rather than 10 smaller things. So much nicer.

  • Deacon says:

    After careful consideration, I do one of three things:

    1. Re-gift it to someone else that could use it
    2. Donate it
    3. Sell it on Amazon.com

  • Valerie says:

    I’ve finally got the grandparents “trained” to limit gifts but still have the one well-meaning aunt that comes bearing bags of trinkets, doo-dads, and other happy meal caliber toys at every christmas, valentines, and presidents day. My solution is as soon as she departs they all go directly in a designated drawer in my utility room and when the drawer is full I donate it all to the elementary teachers who are grateful to have something to fill their treasure boxes with.

  • Lori E says:

    This is a great article! My son is 24 now, but we went through this when he was little. I found that he would get so much and would be so overwhelmed that he wouldn’t play with anything. It took a long time to finally get this across. Subscriptions to children’s magazines are another great idea and is a gift they enjoy all year. My son loved Ranger Rick and looked forward to getting mail each month. Time spent with relatives was another great gift that he enjoyed.

  • Suzanne says:

    I feel kind of guilty about it but I regift all the time. That said, I do try to make sure it’s a gift that I think I would have bought for the person I am giving it to and, of course, it has to be brand new. I also make sure not to regift within same social circles. I have 2 girlfriends of mine that are friends with each other so I would never regift one of their gifts to the other! LOL Otherwise, I just put it in our Goodwill box. Goodwill has made a small fortune off of me!

  • Lisa says:

    I give $. the other set of Grandparents buy tons of things and no child needs tons more of things. I feel $ is good because they can save it for later or with their parents they can decide what to use it for something they really want or need.

  • Kristin says:

    I always received an “experience” for my birthday presents growing up. Since my birthday is in the summer most years my mom would take a friend and I to Disney (we live in Florida and had season passes) for a long weekend. I loved it and there were no extraneous gifts or huge parties to plan for.

    I still prefer to give gifts that are experiences to my friends/families… concert tickets, massages/spa days, tickets to sporting events, lunch/shopping days, etc. I enjoy giving gifts to people but would much rather spend time with the people in my life and if I do get gifts for anybody it’s something they have told me they need or want so I know it’s going to be used.

    I am a teacher and one of my former students has a party every year but the put on the invitation something to the affect of: “please no gifts. If you would still like to bring something we are supporting __ charity.” Every year their daughter chooses what charity she wants to donate to and her parents make a donation of money or supplies along with what the party goers donate. I have always thought it was a wonderful idea!

  • Anne says:

    Thank you for this delicate post! I have struggled for years with the guilt, too.

    We try to only get books for our little friends anymore. A good book doesn’t take up too much room and hopefully encourages little hearts!

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • Tara says:

        We did a no gifts for my daughters 5th party and asked for food bank donations. We dropped off 97 lbs.

        • Laura says:

          Love this! We did an “instead of gifts, bring something to put in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox” party for my 7 year old…it was great and we packed 8 extra shoeboxes because of it! Some of the guests even wrapped the shoebox items and my daughter opened them and was thrilled to add them to shoeboxes.
          **We had clearly gone over that even though she was opening them, they were for shoeboxes and she was great about it.

    • 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.

    • Debbie says:

      Wow, your predicament sounds exactly like mine. Its sad.

    • Mya DJ says:

      I think that having a grandparent that gives you stuff is a blessing and should not be taken for granted. Maybe those things where great gifts when they were that age. Maybe they are struggling with money or want to teach the kids that it’s the thought that counts or maybe they don’t want to spend their time and money picking a gift only to see it in a yard sale. It’s important to try to see things from other people’s perspective. If you don’t then why would you expect anyone else try to understand yours?

    • Julie says:

      I have two kids. I sat down with the grandparents on both sides when our oldest was younger. I asked them to help me give the kids some of the ultimate gifts. But first the rules. I then explained my reasons why for the change.
      The only rule was: no more presents. Not even at Christmas. I know I sound mean but after 15 years of this my kids will tell you – it’s not the gift but what they got instead.
      Their options were as follows:
      1. The grandparents could spent time with the kids. Plant a garden, learn to sew, bake a cake. I could go on and on.
      2. They could constibute to educational summer camps. Space camp, archer camp, science camp…..
      3. They could take them on trips – say to the grand canon or New Orleans.
      No one remembers the junk that they have but the kids sure do remember their Grandma standing on the ledge over the Grand Cannon or their Grandpa swimming in the surf down in south Texas.
      Memories are what these kids need. They don’t need stuff.

      My kids are 18 and 13 an boy they can tell you stories about some of the crazy stuff their grandparents did with them.
      It might be time to have a talk with the folks and remind them that when they die the kids are not going to remember what they gave them but the kids would have rather wished for more time with them.

    • Ronni says:

      My husband and I did this for our family this year. We gave the gift of time. We made coupons and gave them out. Our two youngest (6 and 8) got a movie pass to go to see, “Sing,” spent the night and had brunch with “bacon” which is always a request when they come to our house 😉 The older boys were given coupons for a game/movie night at Gpa and Gma’s and they got to choose the food. The only one left to redeem yet is our 18 year old grandson who wrestles and is getting ready to graduate. We’ve also done this for birthdays. We give a coupon for lunch or dinner at the place of their choosing and we take them to the store of their choosing to purchase something they’ve been wanting or needing…shoes, a book, a game, etc. They really seem to enjoy it and I know we do!

    • Shauna says:

      I agree completely with everything you said. I have the same issues with gifts. We appreciate all we get, but feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that is received. The kids don’t really play with all they receive. I wish that the experiences idea would catch on.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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!

    • Amy W says:

      For that same reason, I have started telling grandparents what to give. I know it sounds horrid, but they appreciate knowing their gifts will be wanted, loved and used, and I appreciate the lack of “stuff” cluttering up our home. This year, gift items included guitar strings and dry erase markers. The girls were thrilled with their gifts & the grands were glad to have made their babies happy. Isn’t tha what gift giving is supposed to be about?

    • mom×3 says:

      I have only been hurt one time over something being given away and that is because the person I gifted it to said they loved it and so I bought it for them as a wedding present, never saw it in use and a few months after their wedding was in another mutual friends home and saw it there being used. Although I was hurt, I got over it and didn’t let it ruin a friendship! I try to only gift something that I A) know the person wants B) really think they would use it. I am also finally learning to say no. If it is not gift wrapped and handed to me as a present and I am offered something that I do not see being functional in my home, I will say no thank you.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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.

        • 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.

    • Chelsea 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!

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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 🙂

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • Jen 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.

      • Debra says:

        Thank you!! Just what I needed to hear.

        • 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • jennifer 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.

  • 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. 😉

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Tracy 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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!!!!!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Carri 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!

  • 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 –

  • 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!

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Annie 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.

  • 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.

    • D* says:

      Why does her desire to see her gifts displayed override your preferences in your own home?

      It’s okay to decide what goes and stays in your own home. Maybe you could adopt a “one month display policy” on any decorative gifts (a generous gesture for the kind thoughts behind the gift), then pass it on to someone who would enjoy it more. I know I personally have enjoyed my home more when some of the unwanted gifts have been moved along (and I have a similar situation with a gifter who will put unwanted furniture in my home—even after I have told them I didn’t want/need a changing table, cabinet, or etc.).

      Your feelings count too. Best of luck!

  • 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

  • Lori says:

    My worst offender WAS my sister gifting me little trinkets every time we saw each other. That is how she shows love. I finally had to tell her that I appreciated her thinking of me but I very simply am in need of nothing. The one item she always gets me at the new year is a Sister calendar. That brings a smile to my face every month when I turn the page and read the quote. I told her so and that it is enough to carry me through the whole year!

    Other unwanted gifts, I either pass on to somebody who will use the item or take it to the Goodwill…without guilt. 🙂

  • Laura says:

    An option for parties is to collect donations instead of gifts. A lot of organizations have widh lists that you can print out and send in your invite along with a note that your child really cares about this cause and is asking that if you must bring a gift, it’d be something off the wish list. Then, after the party you can drop it off where the donation is needed (I see a lot of kids doing this for animal shelters) We also opted this year to do a mini vacay (an overnight trip) instead of throwing the kids a party.

    We also have the only kids on either side of the family, so at holidays and birthdays my kids get a lot. We’ve had conversations about cutting back, about purchasing experiences instead of gifts, or even purchasing more expensive items instead of a bunch of smaller things (that end up totaling the same amount) It usually falls on deaf ears. So, my husband and I have cut back. Last christmas there was an expensive toy that both my kids wanted, so we bought it and didnt get them anything else. This year we’ve decided to give them gold memberships to the zoo, which is more expensive but includes the water park in the summer and will just be a better purchase.

  • Debbie B says:

    We have the predicament that one of the grandma’s has the money to spend on gifts and has the idea she needs to buy her grandkids (since that is what the other grandkids have demanded). Our two grew up with my mom who never had a lot and believed that spending quality time with them was more meaningful. So our two grew up with that knowledge that time is more precious than stuff. The other grandma has only been in their lives for five years (remarriage). I have asked her not to buy a lot of little things and to make time together more meaningful, her response was to go overboard on weird oddball stuff like going to the dollarstore and loading up on junk (like keytags, emergency candles, colouring books and crayons (my kids are mid to late teens) and other little oddball things. She may think she means well but because the other grandkids are gimmegrabbers she figures they should be to. My two have even said they want to learn to bake cookies or go for walks with her and she figures that is just weird and why they would want to. It is a process. They lost my momma three years ago and the other grandma just doesn’t always get it. I guess what I am saying is that sometimes that people are conditioned with a way of thinking or doing and it seesm very hard for them to change. They don’t always want to change either….

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