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The guilt-free way of dealing with unwanted gifts

by respaced on May 20, 2009

Frequently, in my work organizing my clients’ homes, we come across old gifts they received. And frequently these gifts are shoved in the back of a closet because the client did not like them or could not find a use for them in the house. But because they were gifts, the client feels guilty getting rid of them. How do you deal with unwanted gifts that have become clutter in your home? Here are a few ideas:

1. If the gift-giver rarely or never comes over to your house, you have every right to donate or recycle that gift. He or she will never know the difference.
2. If the gift-giver is your spouse or child, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to hang onto the gift for 2-3 years in order to prevent hurt feelings. Yes, it’s clutter because you are not using it, but if storing it preserves a relationship, I think it’s okay. After that time period, however, you can dispose of it guilt-free.
3. If the gift-giver is someone who may come over to your house and notice that his or her gift is missing, you can either be honest or tell a white-lie. That’s right — I’m giving you permission to tell a white-lie to someone in order to spare his or her feelings.
4. The truthful thing to say is that you gave the gift away because you needed to create more space in your home. Notice you’re not saying how you thought the gift was ugly or pointless –- you’re saying that you simply don’t have room for it.
5. The white-lie version can take many forms. You can say that your child is suffering from allergies or asthma; thus, you’ve gotten rid of many items in your home to keep the dust down. You could say the dog/cat/ferret/neighbor kid broke it. Or you had it in the car to take it to the repair shop when your car got broken into and it got stolen. My personal favorite is to say it was such a valuable gift that you donated it to your child’s school auction because you knew it would fetch a high price. And a bidding war broke out over it among several families.

Some people may tell you that once a gift is given, you have the right to do whatever you want with it –- even if that means throwing it away. But for most people, that’s easier said than done. Organizing with tact and sensitivity will keep your loved ones feeling loved and make them more receptive toward your efforts to declutter the house.

Thanks to the Portland chapter of Mothers and More for inspiring this post. And thanks to for the use of the photo.

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