Gifts: To Toss or Not to Toss


One of the most difficult things to get rid of is a gift. We feel guilty about not wanting the things our loved ones have picked out for us. I’m going to teach you how to get over this. 

  1. Presents are not people. Selling that silver samovar Aunt Agatha gave you 12 years ago is not the same as sending her away to live with strangers. We need to really grasp that the item is not a stand-in for the person, it’s just a thing. Gifts are tokens of affection, freely given. Let’s not turn them into anchors.

  2. Special events do not confer extra value on their gifts. Why is the gift you got for your 21st birthday more important than the one you got for your 23rd? Why is a pair of wine glasses you received as a wedding present more valuable than the pair you chose at a flea market? Major life events are important because of what they say about us: I found the love of my life. I worked my butt off and graduated with honors. I gave this company 25 of my best years. The tokens we receive from friends, family and coworkers commemorate those events - they do not add to the value of the work we did or the love we found.

  3. The gift-giver might not even care. Sometimes we spend a lot of time and energy picking out something special for the person we love. And sometimes we grab the first appropriate thing we can find between downing lunch and getting to the gym. Think about the last three presents you bought. Would you be devastated if the recipients decided to pass them along?

  4. Who’s going to know? Most gifts aren’t houses or cars or major pieces of furniture. Chances are that your sister hasn’t noticed that you donated that orange scarf she gave you three years ago;  she’s not really looking for it every time she sees you. We live in fear that somehow a huge alarm goes off the minute we put an unwanted present in the Goodwill box. Honestly, it’s unlikely that the gift giver will notice that the gift is gone.

  5. Grow a backbone, already. The reason you’re getting rid of clutter is because you want to take control of your life. If the fear of Aunt Agatha’s ire is forcing you to hold onto a samovar that you hate, how is this helping you to be your best self? It might be time to embrace the discomfort and let Aunt Agatha know that you really loved having that samovar in your house, but that it is no longer useful or appropriate to your current life path. Tell her you sold it and donated the profits to the Society for the Preservation of Afternoon Tea. Stand up for your own life! Don’t let junk fester in your house because someone else thinks you should own it.