How to deal with and stop bad gifts

Why I dislike gifts and gifting

iPod HeartI have had so many homemade things given to me like iPod cosies, joke magnets, candles, cheap things for the kitchen that I don’t use but looked ‘cute’, Dollar store tools that ended up breaking after one use.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the thought that went into the gift. I mean, heck, at least they thought of me to buy that $1 sushi magnet.

But while their hearts were definitely in the right, sweet places, it has caused me to develop a strong aversion to gifts and gifting for five reasons:

  1. It cluttered my home
  2. I felt guilty for wanting to toss it
  3. I don’t like people wasting their cash, even if it was just $1
  4. It causes more waste  for the environment
  5. I hate the hidden costs in a gift (even a great gift like an iPod is not just the iPod, people!)

How to deal with the guilt of wanting to toss it

This is a big one for me. I usually just take a picture or scan it into my computer, and breathe a sigh of relief.

And when I look at a picture of the little drunken stuffed Leprechaun, I will smile without having to physically touch it to drudge up the memories.

You can also reason that if you kept every gift everyone ever gave you, you’d need to buy a second home, and no one wants to go bankrupt.


You can imagine that someone else would get a kick out of it.

And we just love to pass on the love here.

What to do with a gift you don’t really want to keep

  • Change it
  • Donate it
  • Re-gift it (fraught with nasty complications)
  • Toss it

Change it

GiftsIs it something you’d never wear in a bajillion years?

If you cannot bear to get rid of it (believe me, I know guilt), then make something out of it.

Like adding it as a patch to your patchwork quilt. Or cutting out the most memorable piece and framing it.

Or if it’s a necklace, rip it apart and make a new one out of it.

Maybe it just needs a little sanding and a paint job. Or a total makeover with wallpaper.

Be creative.

Donate it

If it’s a useful gift, but you just have too many of them, or it’s just one too many frog statues, donate the suckers and get crackin’ on a plan to stop that person from buying you frog statues in the future.


But if you want to re-gift from your uncle to your co-workers? Go ahead if they are never likely to cross paths.

First, it must not smell and be decent to re-gift.

Don’t laugh.

True story: I once received a sweater from a very chic boutique that clearly had dementia when they designed their sweater line.

Not only was it a strange and hideous pattern which was NOT anyone’s style, it was scratchy and uncomfortable, and it stank of mothballs.

I couldn’t even breathe around it, it was so stinky.

It was clearly a re-gift, but a very poor one at that. I could smell the mothballs all over it.

Second, don’t lie.

Lip BitingIf your conscience weighs heavily on you (as it does on mine), say: “I received this lovely gift, but it’s just not my style. However, I immediately thought of you. Would you like it?

(But make sure it really is their style before saying that)

Don’t gush and tell them how long it took for you to find that gift, when it didn’t. Even worse, that they find out later it was a re-gift.

Some people don’t take it lightly.

Third, don’t re-gift to people who are sensitive.

As mentioned above, some people take gifting VERY seriously. For those people, please don’t insult them by re-gifting.

Fourth, try and re-gift to groups who don’t hang out together.

Got a gift from a co-worker and you want to give it to another co-worker? No can do. Off limits.

No re-gifting allowed within the same group.

Even if the re-giftee LOVED the gift, they may gush about it at work and thank you again, which will cause your other co-worker to quirk an eyebrow at you, with a slight furrow of the brow.

I would suggest re-gifting it in a tact and diplomatic manner, and above all.. HONEST.

Toss it

Close one eye and throw it away if you really, really, really think you can get away with it.

If anyone asks, you’ll have to think quick on your feet.

It’s good practice.

How to deal with gifting in the future

Be Gentle.

1. Make a big deal about something else.

Make a big deal about how you love simple coffee & cake dates over ANY gift anyone could ever give you.

Gush about how connecting with the person is really more important than stuff. Or focus on how much you care about the environment– the option of electronic Hallmark birthday cards is always a good alternative!

Wave your hands crazily and say you’ve gone minimalist. That one tends to scare them off.

2. Stop giving gifts and take them out instead.

(Even useful ones to people). Take them out to eat instead and they may respond in kind.

This is a big success with me.

3. Stop mentioning that you collect spoons or anything similar.

giftsStop mentioning you collect things.

Unless it’s money. Just kidding. Sort of.

Once people hear you have a spoon fetish, you will have spoons gifted to you for Every. Single. Occasion.

OR if you must mention your antique spoon collection, mention which ones in particular would make you happy.

Be specific, and don’t say “Oh I just collect spoons.” Talk about what kind of spoons you collect — antique ones — not ones stolen from Denny’s.

4. Start mentioning that you’ve stopped collecting spoons or anything similar.

Start saying how you have so many spoons, you’ve started to donate or give them away to other people’s collections.

They’ll get the hint. Trust me.

Now, you should be able to at the very least, stop the cycle of bad gifts by gently veering them off into another direction with hints.

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.