Unwanted Gifts Cause Clutter

Do you feel like your organizing problem stems from gifts that became clutter? Yes, unwanted gifts cause clutter, but even gifts that you once wanted can turn into clutter over the years.


unwanted gifts cause clutter


Unwanted Gifts Cause Clutter

There is a big difference between a hand-crafted gift that was designed and lovingly given to you, a gift that was just chosen to “check the box” for a given occasion or holiday, and stuff that was dumped on you.

Whether you originally wanted or loved the gift, gifts can become burdens over the years. This may not feel like a big deal when you are young. In fact, when you are young and/or poor, you may feel like every new or used item given to you *might* be important, useful, or valuable. But at a certain point, your house becomes your personal expression of style, comfort and safety. You don’t need to keep everything given to you.

Categories of Unwanted Gifts

Separating “gifts” you’ve received into the following three categories will help you decide what to keep and what to part with, guilt-free.
  1. Treasure a custom-made and thoughtfully given given gift from a close friend or family member, but only if it brings you good feelings, works with your lifestyle, and you have room for it.
  2. Keep a mass-produced gift only if it is truly perfect for you. If not, pass it on. Someone else can use it if you can’t.
  3. Never feel obligated to keep gifts that were passed down to you because someone else couldn’t bear to throw them out, as often happens when your parents or in-laws are downsizing. You were just the most convenient dumping ground, and only the slightly better option than the trash can. You need not keep these things in your life. Donate them asap if they are in good condition; toss them if they are not.


The Art of Giving Great Gifts

Giving personalized, special gifts is a skill and an art. Not everyone excels at the gift of giving. Many people, myself included, sometimes give gifts because the occasion demands it. I’ve given you lots of simple gift ideas here on the blog over the years. Here’s one of my favorite types of personalized gifts, but I know for a fact that the receiver has enjoyed and offloaded it since she received it.

If you are an expert gift-giver, you may think everyone else is, too, but that’s just not true. The gifts you have received may not have been given with the same care and diligence that you always put into gifts that you give. Be careful not to project your own values onto a gift that someone gave you.

Hint: If you are downsizing, be sure to read this article before giving your cast-offs to younger family members.

Keeping Gifts of Obligation

One last thought…often my clients will say something like, “This gift was hideous, but my aunt/mother in law/ brother’s cousin’s friend would expect to see it on display if they ever visit.” That may have been true in a previous century, but that’s just not the way we live anymore. You do not need to keep a gift out of obligation. You are the one paying your mortgage or rent, and you get to decide what lives in your home.

If the offending gift was a family heirloom, the proper and kind thing to do is offer it back to the family matriarch or patriarch for safe keeping or for gifting to another family member. Usually, however, the items in question are common mass-produced goods, and they shouldn’t be loaded with misplaced sentiment or guilt. What is the worst that could happen if your fears did come to pass? A moment of awkwardness compared to years of useful space in your closet? I’d say that’s a good trade. If you have the kind of people in your life who would make you feel bad because you didn’t keep a thing that was never right for you, maybe they are the clutter you need to unload from your life.

This post was inspired by a discussion over at our Facebook group. FB has had its troubles lately, but our private Clutter-free group is still a lively place for organizing support and encouragement. If you could use that in your life, we encourage you to join us.
Have you ever received an unwanted gift that turned into clutter when you held onto longer than you wanted to? How did you handle it?