Do you have one of those relatives who visits you and looks around your house for that decorative teapot or throw pillow they gave you last Christmas? You thought the teapot was ugly, but you kept it precisely because you knew this aunt would expect to see it when she next visited you. She would bombard you with passive-aggressive barbs should she not see the teapot on display. Sound familiar?
Trust me, you are not alone in this situation.
I have worked with many organizing clients who have what I call “obligatory gifts from relatives.” These clients want their homes to be filled with only the things they love deeply or use regularly. Maybe they don’t have a lot of space in their home. Maybe the gift was in bad taste. These obligatory gifts are unwanted or maybe even hurtful, but the clients know their relatives will expect to see their gifts on display when they come to visit. They will ask about their gifts, and will be greatly offended if they don’t see them.
This organizer’s take on this situation? First of all, what a rude relative! A true gift has no strings attached, and the gift-giver should recognize that it’s the thought that counts when giving a gift. Expecting to see the gift recipient fawn all over their gift at every visit shows the narcissism of the gift giver.
Having said that, I know how HARD it can be to let go of these kinds of items in your house if you are the gift recipient. I always advise clients that if you are going to have major anxiety over letting go of something, then don’t let go of it! Letting go should make you feel liberated, not stressed out. If you are feeling stressed out, it means you are not ready to let it go. And that’s totally okay.
When I work with my organizing clients, I want them to feel 100 percent confident in letting go of things. I want them to feel better after working with me, not worse. So let’s hang on to those things that your relatives would give you a guilt-trip about if you let them go.
How should you store them? Here are 3 ideas:
- You could put them on display if you want.
- If you don’t want to display them, let’s get you a plastic bin and label it something neutral like “Guest Supplies.” Let’s store those things you don’t like in there, and then when you know your relatives are coming over, you can pull this bin out and sprinkle those items around the house.
- Another idea is to display them in the guest bedroom, where that relative will be staying when she visits. It’s a room you probably don’t use that often, but the guest will delight in seeing her gifts to you on display.
It’s a tricky dilemma, because it involves family and the potential for hurt feelings. But there are ways to handle these sorts of gifts that don’t step on too many toes. How do you handle obligatory gifts from relatives?
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