Don’t Keep Unwanted Gifts: Do This Instead

unwanted gifts


It happens to all of us every now and then — you receive a gift of something you don’t like, don’t want, or cannot use. It may be a kind gesture, but it turns into a burden. What do you do with a gift you don’t like? Do you need to hold onto it forever, or pretend you like it?

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

As a minimalist that’s been living in a tiny home for ten years, I’ve had to learn how to deal with the flow of things coming into my home, ensuring that only the necessary and wanted items stay.

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What Is An Unwanted Gift, Anyway?

What Is An Unwanted Gift

An unwanted gift doesn’t always have to be something that you don’t like. It can also be something you just can’t use, don’t have space for, or just doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

unwanted gifts can make it challengingLots of us are lucky enough that occasionally receiving unwanted gifts is a part of life. It’s an even more common occurrence for people like me who have adopted a minimalist mindset and try to live with only the essentials while continuously decluttering. It doesn’t mean that there is anything inherently wrong with what you’ve been given, it just means it may not fit into your plans for your space.

As a minimalist, I live with intention and my home reflects this. But unwanted gifts can make it challenging to live your values or feel comfortable in your own space.

Receiving unwanted birthday gifts, for example, can make it feel like the people in your life don’t understand or respect your choices. For the most part, the people who care about you want to make you happy and support your lifestyle. It could be that they just don’t know what best to gift you — we’ll get into that later.

What Do You Do With A Gift You Don’t Want?

What Do You Do With A Gift You Dont Want

It is possible to pass along unwanted gifts in a way that feels right to you, while not offending the gift giver. There’s no rule that says you need to hold on to something just because it’s been given to you, even if this is a practice you grew up with. Living an intentional life means regularly checking in on your principles.

Is It Okay To Get Rid Of Unwanted Gifts?

Is It Okay To Get Rid Of Unwanted Gifts

It’s definitely okay to let go of gifts you don’t want. Remember that the act of giving is the main exchange. Once a gift is given to you, it becomes yours, and what you do with it is your concern. Living intentionally means continuously analyzing what’s working for you, and eliminating what’s not.

Keep in mind that as time passes, it’s not your responsibility to keep the giver informed of the item’s current status. They also wouldn’t want you to hold on to something that was becoming clutter or causing you stress by being in the way.

questions to as when decluttering

Unwanted Gifts Become Clutter

Remember, minimalism isn’t about stuff. It’s important to take a moment to remind yourself of your long-term goals and the things you can live without. As someone who lives in a tiny house, I know that every inch of space counts.

I’m always trying to declutter in small and big ways at home, in order to keep my space neat and easy to move around in. Whether you live in a tiny house or have more space, it’s still the same: when you hold on to unwanted gifts, they take up space, causing frustration every time you encounter them.

unwanted gifts become clutter

Here’s Why It’s OK To Get Rid Of Unwanted Gifts

I often remind myself that it’s okay to get rid of unwanted gifts because living with intention means that my home is a reflection of me and what I choose to have in it.

Minimalism involves putting my values into practice every day. I don’t need to accommodate someone else’s tastes and style in my personal space. Taking a moment to reflect on why I’ve adopted a minimalist mindset and how it benefits me helps me make a plan to deal with unwanted items.

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Six Ways To Deal With An Unwanted Gift

Six Ways To Deal With An Unwanted Gift

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with unwanted gifts, many of which will help you feel good about your choices and help the people in your life feel better about their choices in the future. It may be hard to know how to tell someone you don’t like what they gave you, but it’s the right thing to do if you don’t want to keep receiving unwanted gifts.

6 Ways To Deal With An Unwanted Gift

  1. Return Gifts You Don’t Want
  2. Sell Unwanted Gifts
  3. Donate An Unwanted Gift
  4. Regift Items You Don’t Like
  5. Repurpose It
  6. Decline A Gift You Don’t Want
what to donate and what to keep

1Return Gifts You Don’t Want

Returning a gift to a store is always an option — one that I’ve used to get resources back for more pressing needs. This is easy when the gift giver provides a gift receipt. If they’ve done this, they understand that you may not need or want the gift and are making it simple for you to honor your principles.

Even if the gift giver did not include a receipt, many stores will accept returns of unused, unopened goods if it’s an item they carry. Try taking an unwanted gift to a store in your area, and using the credit to buy something you’ll use.

its okay to return unwanted gifts

2Sell Unwanted Gifts

I’ve sometimes received gifts that aren’t something I could return to a store but still held a fair amount of value. In cases like these, I have sold them independently. Possible venues include neighborhood yard sales or sites like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. There are also websites that allow you to sell unwanted gift cards, so you can use the cash to buy something you need.

3Donate An Unwanted Gift

Maybe you’re financially comfortable and it’s not important for you to receive value back from unwanted gifts, or maybe you want to avoid the selling process, which can often lead to more effort than you expect.

In these cases, simply donating it is always a possibility, and there are so many options. You’ll feel better knowing that someone was able to use and enjoy the object instead of watching it collect dust. This approach also helps direct dollars to charitable causes, so it’s a win-win!

where to donate unwanted gifts

4Re-gift Items You Don’t Like

Regifting unwanted items can be a good solution for gifts that are unique, personalized, or otherwise impossible to donate. Perhaps you’ve been given some homemade jam but are watching your sugar intake. Find a friend or neighbor who would appreciate this in their kitchen and gift it to them.

5Repurpose It

Repurposing unwanted gifts is a great way to honor the intent of the gift-giver without declining or passing on their gift. I’ve done this when I appreciate the item and don’t need it, but can use it in a different way.

For example, maybe you’ve been given an interesting ceramic bowl, but already have enough bowls for mixing and serving — you could turn it into a succulent planter. A woven shawl or wrap that you’ll never wear can also become a table runner, a decorative drape over an armchair, or a wall hanging in an area in need of color.

repurpose unwanted gifts

6Decline A Gift You Don’t Want

How do you politely give back a gift? This is also an option, if done respectfully. Most people want to see items being used and enjoyed. I’ve explained clearly that, while I appreciate the thought, I just won’t use the gift.

Most gift-givers would be glad to know that if what they gave you wasn’t something you’d use, it could be put to its proper use. If you think the giver would be receptive, you should try to have a specific discussion about why you’re returning it to hopefully avoid this situation in the future.

How To Encourage Minimalist Gift Giving

How To Encourage Minimalist Gift Giving

It’s good to know what to do with unwanted gifts when you receive them. But trying to encourage the people in your life to give in a different way can help you avoid this situation in the future. If the gift-giver isn’t aware of how much minimalism means to you, start by explaining the mindset and its benefits.

neon colors is not your styleIt can be challenging to know how to tell someone you don’t like their gift. Being direct is one strategy. I’ve gotten gifts before from faraway friends who haven’t seen my small-space life and can’t comprehend the minimalist mindset.

Sometimes, being indirect is the way to go. You don’t have to explain to a well-intentioned friend that their taste in neon colors is not your style, but you can explain that you prefer consumable gifts that you enjoy for a short time and don’t have to create permanent space for.

Acknowledge The Intent

No matter what, I always thank the gift-giver. They gave me a gift because they were thinking about me and expressing their good intentions. The fact that the gift was something I didn’t like is secondary. Remember to send a thank you note, text, or email stating that you appreciated being thought of, whether on your birthday or another occasion.

Make A List Of Things You’d Enjoy Receiving

It can take time to think of useful gifts for minimalists. To help this, I keep a list of which of my possessions are in need of an upgrade. Maybe your welcome mat is getting worn out, or you’ve been considering replacing your bulky coffee pot with a French press.

coffee as a gift for a minimalistThink about those little things in your home that annoy you, but are still functional enough that you haven’t yet upgraded them. It can be a little different for tiny house dwellers, so I’ve got a list of suggestions.

Another approach I enjoy is focusing on experiences. I like giving and being gifted intangible things, like memberships to fitness centers or streaming services, or tickets to a concert or live event. Making a list, whether mentally or on paper, is a great way to keep your needs top of mind.

minimalism and gifting

Share Your Wishes With The People In Your Life

I share my wish list with the important people in my life. Some people will ask what you’d like for an upcoming gift-giving occasion. Others won’t, but you can casually work it into conversation. For example, mentioning that you’ve been wanting to have more of your favorite chocolate, but haven’t splurged lately.

writing a wish listIf, like many minimalists, you prefer consumable goods, make people aware of this. Those who know me know how much I enjoy good coffee. It doesn’t have to be done in a way that sounds greedy. People who care about you and tend to give you gifts will be glad to know what you want, so they can give you something you’ll enjoy.

Maybe you have everything you could possibly need — it’s also possible to request no gifts at all. Holidays can be a time for you to reflect on your values and let others know that stuff isn’t the most important thing in your life. Sometimes living simply opens you up to critiques of your lifestyle, I’ve been there. But staying true to yourself is the most important thing.

Reinforce Thoughtful Giving Behavior

When the people in your life listen to you and gift appropriately, or refrain altogether, let them know you recognize it and appreciate it. This will make them feel good about gifting you what you need and want, even if they aren’t the gifts they would have thought of on their own.

Your Turn!

  • What unwanted gift are you ready to pass on?
  • Would you rather regift or return an unwanted gift?
1 Comment
  1. I have a family that does not understand the minimalist mindset. I get gifts that I would have been given as a child or things I cannot use. Because they love me, I cannot be hurt when they do not get my minimalism. That is just one aspect of who I am. I say thank you and just donate what I cannot use. I have been doing that for the last fifteen years. I know the joy of giving and I do not want to rob them of that joy.

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