Unwanted gifts

tre3June 22, 2007

I thought I'd start a new thread about unwanted gifts since we all seem to have to deal with this problem.

Do you have a unwanted gift that you are struggling to get rid of? What are some of the strategies you've used?

I think you get to a certain life stage and gifts become more and more of a burden. For at least a decade my MIL has been asking for all of us to stop gifting. It was hard to understand and accept 10 years ago but I am finally realizing why she has felt this way. We have not been able to stop gifting but we do try to give her things like tickets to an event, a bouquet of flowers, a gourmet prepackaged meal, gift certificates to a salon/spa or a donation in her name...anything she can use up and not have cluttering her life.

But what to do with those things you are given that don't suit you or your taste or are just plain U-G-L-Y?? I have two pieces of "artwork" that a close and lovely family memeber made for me. She made these during a time of extreme financial distress. I love her. I know that she wanted to give me something and had absolutely NO money. Still, they are not attractive (a pc statement!) What to do? Right now I keep them in the finished basement!

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Lena M

Kudos to you MIL for being up-front! We have a family agreement about holidays - one gift drawn from the pile, preferably a re-gift.

I know that she wanted to give me something and had absolutely NO money.
Artwork --- that is a tough one, maybe a case of grin-and-bear-it.

I have a hand-crocheted afghan that must have been HOURS of work for the giver; in a color I detest :-(. (Had I known ahead of time I would have helped with the choice, and helped pay for something other than cheesy acrylic yarn). At least that can be stashed in a closet.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 1:44PM
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This reminds me of my Grandmother's collection of bells. I once asked her why she liked bells so much - She answered that the 1st bell was from her early school teaching days, and then one Christmas someone gave her another. Soon everyone was giving her bells. Those same bells are now in my curio cabinet! (but I like them).

I don't worry so much about keeping things people give me; does anyone really expect people to keep certain 'display' gifts around forever? I wouldn't. I think if anyone ever asked me about something they gave me, I'd say "Yeah, I moved things around in that room. I think your X is in the storage closet right now because I haven't found a good place for it. If I can't keep it, would you like it back?"

I guess I'm pretty honest about that stuff. Has anyone really got upset about not keeping their gifts indefinitely? (other than mother-in-laws? lol)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 1:45PM
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I've followed this forum for several years. One of the best things I've learned is to give myself permission to get rid of the things we don't want or need. Once a gift is yours, you have the right to do with it what you want. It's been hard especially since some of the items we've been given have been fairly expensive, but then I remind myself that we aren't using it. We will probably never use it. It's getting dirty or ruined because it is neglected and someone else out there will probably love it more than us.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 1:51PM
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Hey Tre-- does the giver have children?? Could you give the art work to her children, saying "This was something your mother made especially for me -- it means a lot to me but it really should be yours. Would you like it?"

It works really well when you hit the 1/2 century mark!!


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 2:08PM
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Pass them along. Donate to charities. If they're really not useful, throw them out.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 3:48PM
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I would donate it to the Thrift Shop or toss it. Life's too short to harbor "U-G-L-Y" in my home.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 4:02PM
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In Karen Kingston's book "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui," she dealt with this specific issue. I believe she said something to the effect of-----

If you don't love it, use it or want it....throw it out or give it away.

It's mentally wearing you down to hold onto things you don't love, or don't need. Who knows? Someone else might love it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 4:14PM
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In the posts where this has been brought up, I think we are all pretty much of the same mindset that it is fine to pass the gift on. As far as that "artwork" which is ugly, I doubt if the giver would even want to be reminded of the period of financial distress, so I would just put it in the trash and consider that it served it's purpose. You got a lasting gift of love and that's what a gift should be about.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 4:40PM
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I have found, with unwanted gifts, that I remember the gift w/ much more fondness and love AFTER I get rid of the gift.

That's because, i think, the ONLY thing left is the memory THAT they gave me a gift. I remember that my aunt-in-law gave me a "mommy" mug when my little boy was born, and I think how sweet it was that she needed to give me something, and how pleased she was over my son's birth.

When I *had* that mug, I thought of her with exasperation, bcs here's a stupid mug I won't use ever, taking up space, and she just has to turn every experience into STUFF!

Now that the stuff is gone, I don't have that negative emotion anymore! I think she's cute instead of annoying!

Here's my other take on this (I know I've said this before).

What did they WANT to give you? They wanted to give you a moment that says, "gee, my friend sure loves me a lot!" They have done so; their gift was successful. They wanted you to feel loved, and they wanted you to LOVE THEM BACK.

But if you keep that gift and resent it every time you see it, that negative emotion will poison that exchange. You may find (I know I do) that you love them LESS because you resent the gift. And every time you look at it, you will be reminded of a BAD thing.

You'll be reminded that they don't know you, or your tastes, nearly as well as you thought--a wedge in your relationship.

Throw it out, or give it away.

The things I haven't been able to do anything w/ are the paintings my BIL gave us as wedding presents. Like your friend--no money, and his creation. Unfort. I don't like them much. He painted them for class projects at college; it's not like he painted them specifically for us (maybe it would be worse if he had, bcs what if he had and I didn't like them? At least this way it's less personal).

If it were just me, I could toss them. But my DH would never let me throw them out, and I can't see that anyone else would want them.

I've even gotten so that some of them, I never take out of the box.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 5:22PM
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Talley Sue, so wise!

I have told my family - only consumable gifts! No knick-knacks, no dishes, please, nothing I have to store.

I do give hand made quilts to new parents in the family, but contrary to current practice, I do not label the quilts. I think my quilts are things of beauty, but I do not expect the parents of baby to think them a joy forever.

And I think labeling a quilt adds a burden to the recipient. OMG, she thinks it's a work of art - I must hang it on the wall! So I don't label my quilts. Do I care that someone 200 years from now might want to trace the history? No. I'm dead, and wondering is good mind exercise for future historians.

I am a quilter, and it is my passion. But I would never make anything other than a "throw on the floor or in the back of the car" quilt for anyone unless they specifically asked for it.

Don't clutter my house, and I won't clutter yours!


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 11:41PM
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tre3, I have to give props to your MIL for establishing a no-gift rule.

Mary and Talley Sue, you're both so wise!

I give my gift of cooking to people. My sister told me I should open my own fudge shop so she wouldn't have to wait until her birthday. And my gifts disappear quickly so there's no storage issues.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 1:31AM
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Surfer I wish that I had your talent. I'm sure your gifts are very popular. My mouth is watering as I type.

Quiltglo I think you are right. The person who made me the artwork has an incredible eye for beauty. I think she would actually be horrified by her work and would not want to be reminded of that time. Still what do I say if asked? "It was so ugly I felt compelled to trash it"? Perhaps the next time she is staying with us I can hang it in the guest room and wait for a response? Or is that mean?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:10AM
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TS, I think your insight on gift giving is fantastic. I especially like your notion that there was thought behind the gift, even if the gift itself failed in being what the receiver liked/needed. What did they WANT to give you? captures that beautifully. I also like your idea that getting rid of the gift allows one to remember the thought behind it, versus the off-target gift itself.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 2:03PM
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I would probably never toss artwork, but I would give it to a thrift shop. This is one case where beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Even if nobody buys it to hang on their walls, someone might want the canvas to paint over.

I was given a nice colonial-pewter-look salt and pepper set for a wedding gift. Our tastes developed to a more modern look but I never got rid of it. It would have gone to the thrift store/garage sale pile as I packed to move; but a relative who was helping me move loved it. I was tickled to be able to give it to her. But realistically I would have been happier had I dealt with all the things that cluttered up that house long ago.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 3:23PM
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I probably wouldn't throw away art work. Recently on our local freecycle someone asked for art donations for a women's shelter and someone else wanted some for a nursing home. So if the pieces are suitable for those places, you might offer them.

If not, send them to the thrift store, *if there's not a chance that your relative would see them there*. Someone can reclaim the canvas, at least.

Giving away unwanted gifts that were purchased, rather than made, is easier for me. Fortunately our family has gone in the direction of others' and we give few presents, most of them food or restaurant or event tickets, or known to be wanted (books, CDs).

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 8:45PM
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We live in an isolated community. Even though it's large, I wouldn't donate a "one of a kind" type of gift. Too many of my friends hit the shops almost as often as I. I paid way too much to ship quilt blocks to a charity group out of state. I couldn't take a chance that of my group (who made the blocks) would find them on a shopping trip.

tre, you know this person well. What's the likelyhood of her asking where her gift is placed? I would bet next to nil. I wouldn't put it up. I would just get it gone. If she asks, you can just say it's in storage for now, since you like to rotate items.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 3:04AM
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"If she asks, you can just say it's in storage for now, since you like to rotate items." Actually, Gloria, that's just what I do (the same old things would bore me if I had them on display all year). And many go into storage in the basement, never to be seen again. Until I get up my nerve and dump them. So I think that's a perfect response, if asked.

And I wonder if anyone really remembers what they gave as a gift. A few years ago I mentioned to one of my best friends that I was still enjoying her gift, these many years later. From her blank expression, I could tell nothing rang a bell. And her gift had been lovingly hand-painted. Oh, well. I tossed the picture frame, but I'm still using the cutting board.

And I think you're all right when you say that once a gift is given, it no longer belongs to you, so you have no say in what happens to it in the future. So the same should apply to anything you GET as a gift.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 4:42PM
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I can't remember gifts I gave people last Christmas. However I have found that in the rare event that anyone asks about a gift --just claiming that I haven't seen it since the last earthquake seems to intrigue them. If somebody told me the gift I gave them got swept up in a tornado --I would say "wow". Who can argue with a natural disaster. That doesn't work with my husband of course who still has that 57 Alfa in the garage.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 2:21AM
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This subject always intrigues me. When my Mom passed, we found all the things we had given her stored away in various places. In the cupboards we found beautiful dishes, expensive small appliances and gadgets. In her Cedar Chest was the beautiful Afghan I had almost gone blind knitting for her in Red...her favorite color! In the basement there were boxes of things, all in perfect, never-used condition. All of the things were appreciated and loved by Mom...she just didn't have enough self-love to use them. She always thought they were too nice or too pretty for her to actually use. It was so sad, but has helped me to have a different approach to the situation. If I don't like a gift or just do not have a use for it, I keep it on display for awhile and then it disappears. If someone likes it, it goes home with them. If not, it either gets sold or donated. The only exception to this are the gifts and artwork my children [when they were small] and grandchildren made for me. I would NEVER part with them, and if I did, I would never hear the end of it! LOL They never forget what they give me, and that's the way it should be, I think! As for the ugly artwork you received, I guess you could always say the dog ate it! LOL


    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 2:32PM
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I have an ingenius way of disposing of unneeded/ugly gifts which also keeps my conscience clean.

Wait until unwanted gift amasses some dust. Then pick it up, break it, and I mean really smash that little bugger to smithereens! Just think, how long has it sat in your home, every day with you having to look at it with anguish over its ugliness? Then just throw it away.

If asked, appear sheepish, and explain that unfortunately you broke it when you went to clean it.

Entirely truthful, but saves any hurt feelings as well. Thankfully, so far, I've never been asked "how" it broke lol.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 3:21PM
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My girlfriend asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said,"Take me to lunch." She didn't like that, so I said, "I'd like consumable gifts." So here's what I got:

A jar of Pomegranite-Lavender Jelly
A loaf of Artisan type bread, really yummy
A jar of special Italian Pasta Sauce
A jar of Chocolate River Rocks
A relaxation music CD
6 home grown oranges

Was this a nice gift?......you bet!!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 8:39PM
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Wait until unwanted gift amasses some dust. Then pick it up, break it, and I mean really smash that little bugger to smithereens! Just think, how long has it sat in your home, every day with you having to look at it with anguish over its ugliness? ......explain that unfortunately you broke it when you went to clean it.


This reminds me of a story.

We got a Capo di Monte vase for a wedding-shower present. From a woman who, I think, was not even invited, or at the very least did not come. (My in-laws' family's idea of a "small" shower is 75 people;)

It was brown, and ugly. Really, really ugly. I said, "Oh, how nice!" when I opened it. (according to the video, I said "oh, how nice" thousands of times, but usually I meant it)

My MIL tried to take it back to the store whose label was on the box. He said, it's from three years ago, I can't take it back. (It had been regifted--fine w/ me; my only complaint was, it was so ugly!)

My DH-to-be loaded it in the van w/ the rest of the presents, putting it in last, and leaning it against the hatchback, and leaving the top untaped, and opened the door REALLY FAST! He could not get it to fall out and break.

We were telling a friend, a real iconoclast, and he said:

"Take it out back and smash it with a hammer."

I got that guilty bubble of laughter. Bcs that's what I really wanted to do.

That became a sort of watchword for me--a reminder that really the issue is, who's in CHARGE? Me. Not the stuff. And I can smash it with a hammer.

We gave it away as a gag gift to a couple who was getting married a bit later in life, merging two complete households, plus his recently deceased mother's stuff. We explained in the accompanying card that, a marriage isn't really legit unless you get two of something, or an ugly present, and we feared that their friends were all too sensible (giving them cash) or had too good of taste (giving them beautiful things). We didn't want them to be challenged on a technicality, so here was something ugly (plus a check).

They thought it was a HOOT! And they passed it on, signing their names to our original card, to someone who thought it was a hoot, and did the same. The third couple, I think, thought it was beautiful. Fine!

But I have always loved that "Take it out back and smash it with a hammer."

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 10:12AM
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"Wait until unwanted gift amasses some dust. Then pick it up, break it, and I mean really smash that little bugger to smithereens! Just think, how long has it sat in your home, every day with you having to look at it with anguish over its ugliness? ......explain that unfortunately you broke it when you went to clean it."

How do you accomplish this? Do you wrap it in plastic bags first so you don't have to clean up afterwards? Or does cleaning up afterwards help to reduce the guilt?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 10:30AM
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I dread christmas every year. My partner has a big family and our attic is already full to overflowing with boxes and boxes of crap we never wanted and never needed, most of it gifts. My own family is much smaller and they (especially my mother) can't quite figure out why I don't want them to give us things, and why I'm not always enthusiastic to get another telephone, or set of towels. The best gift I ever got was the time my mother mailed me a box of her homemade christmas cookies--I tried lots of positive reinforcement but the following year she reverted to buying gifts. (Lately she's been buying us chocolates, which is a vast improvement!)

Even the little items add up--we have at least 3 or 4 BIG boxes full of LITTLE things. We have tried to let people know that if they absolutely have to give us something, homemade cookies are at the top of our list, otherwise other edible items like a box of chocolates or a nice bottle of wine. And we STILL get stuff we don't want and won't ever use. Our home renovation project will be a good excuse to have to have a huge yard sale because we just DON'T HAVE ROOM for all that stuff!

(That said, last christmas we got the most wonderfully hideous decoration from my partner's newest SIL--a large snowman's head with a bizarre rack sprouting out of the top of his tophat, hung with tacky, ugly little ornaments--that we have been showing off to everybody who visits. Our SIL is either completely demented or has the most deviously subtle sense of humor. There is also the scariest singing christmas tree making the regifting rounds, starting with us, that has a motion detector and giant eyes that open up, and dances and sings when anybody walks near it. It was a big hit at a party we had a few years back, although it scared the s*** out of several people.)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 1:27PM
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my dh mentioned to his partner that he liked to play tennis sometimes on weekends. for his birthday he presented dh with a professionally framed watercolor of a tennis racket. that has to be the most STUPID gift ever given or gotten. we kept it in a pile of other cra ...oh, stuff... and finally threw it into the dumpster when we were moving. since yours is obviously more personal i would keep it under the sofa and pull it out and display when the bearer visits.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 6:34PM
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MY SIL announced she wants only "experience gifts", not things. We have given her theatre tickets, gift certs for Blockbuster, a day at the beauty spa, things like that.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 7:30PM
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I've been a lurker here for some time (I'm usually over on the houseplant forum) and this post so hit home with me. A family member gave me some art that I've had on my wall for a few years---god help me, it's ugly stuff, and I mean ugly. It was in the main room to "honor" this person and every time I looked at it I *cringed*. After reading this post I stomped over and took those awful things off the wall, and drove them straight to the local thrift shop. Today I had a brief moment of panic when I read the post about the possibility of him seeing it at the thrift store (that never occured to me!), but you know what? Dang it, it was a gift to ME and I should be able to do whatever I want with it, including get rid of it. Now let's hope I can keep that same composure if he should come back and say "why is my art at the dime store?"!!!!!

Today I bought a beautifully framed print that is colorful and makes me smile every time I look at it. I would be so sad to hurt my family member, but honestly, doing this for myself has added quality to my life. Thank you for giving me the courage to go through with it!!!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 5:24PM
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Every year we attend a Christmas Eve dinner with DH's relatives. Years ago, we talked them into having a Gift Grab instead of individual presents or Secret Santas. This is where each adult participant brings an unwanted gift or something funky but it must be valued at $15 or less if purchased. The gift is wrapped but not labelled with the giver. We draw numbers for the grab sequence. #1 chooses & unwraps a gift. #2 gets to grab anyone's unwrapped gift or choose a remaining wrapped one. The person who loses his gift gets to grab another's unwrapped one or choose a wrapped one. The grabbing stops within a turn when a wrapped gift is chosen. No one can grab back his unwrapped gift in the same turn. The remaining #s choose in sequence. Finally, when all gifts have been unwrapped, #1 gets the final choice of whether to exchange his gift for any of the now unwrapped ones.

The Grab is something everyone really looks forward to & has a lot of fun with. It eliminates the pressure & expense of gifts to relatives. Sometimes there are individual exchanges afterwards & that's OK.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 4:06PM
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Last Christmas, DH I did a more laid-back version of gizmonike's Gift Grab.

We asked everyone to bring a "re-gift," an unwanted gift from their collection, but UN-wrapped. People could bring more than one and could take more than one. I agreed to donate any leftovers to a thrift shop.

The re-gift pile was a lively topic of conversation among the guests, and it was fun to see how one person's discards were a treasure to another. Among the items there were sheet sets (the donor had washed them once, never used them, then decided they didn't go with her decor), candles, and a new-in-the-box electric gravy warming pot. Some people were thrilled to leave without anything -- they'd gotten rid of something taking up precious space. Others scored treasures. And yes, one guy was delighted to score the gravy pot and has been using it. And most of us thought it was truly the gag gift!

My guests loved the idea that they would only take home an item if they wanted it -- and could examine unwrapped items before they made a decision. Several said they had done gift grab sorts of things and, in the end, gotten stuck with stuff they didn't want. (In contrast, one said that was the whole point of her Goofy Gift Grab -- to get rid of awful items and have some laughs.)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 4:46PM
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Every February or March, we have a "get rid of your junk" day at the office. Everyone brings in the useless gifts they got for christmas or during the year, as well as good things from their homes that they are just tired of. We fill up a large conference room and what ever is there is for any takers.

At the end of a day or two, whatever is left just goes into the dumpster.

Often someone will sort thru the left overs and take them to be donated if they are worth anything!

It is always fun to see someone actually really like the funny plates that Aunt Sally gave you!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 12:51PM
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Bonelady - that sounds like such a great way to have some fun and get rid of unwanted items at the same time! (And maybe find that one item you absolutely can't live without!) I think what is so hard about just throwing your unloved items away is that it feels so wasteful. This way, everyone would have a good time, and also end up not feeling so guilty. I'm also assuming that you really don't bring junk, right?

And Parrot - we used to play that game at the Christmas program of a fun club we belonged to. Just before the club broke up for good, we ended up with an old lamp: a wood base, a metal blacksmith with one hand missing, and tree leaves made of metal rising up above his head, ending in about 5 lights, which were all regular light bulbs - nothing glamorous. We still have it. Not on display, however. My kids all love it, but no one volunteers to take it home when they leave.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:23PM
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