You know the scenario: a holiday or special occasion arrives and the inevitable happens. You receive unwanted or unneeded gifts that will serve no purpose but to clutter your newly-minimal space.
Every minimalist knows this struggle. While you may be inclined to feel guilty or ungrateful for thinking “Oh, you shouldn’t have (you really, really shouldn’t have…),” it is completely okay to have boundaries about the physical possessions that come into your life – just as we have boundaries about basically, well, everything else.
Below, I’m rounding up my tried-and-true ways for dealing with unwanted gifts as a minimalist while preserving your relationship with the gift-giver.
1. Do Your Best To Avoid Unwanted Gifts From The Start
Communicating your minimal lifestyle with family and friends is important.
When people ask you what you might want for a holiday or special occasion, don’t be afraid to tell them! It isn’t rude to indicate a couple of things you might need or like, or to ask them to gift you an experience, such as going to dinner together.
Generally, people want to buy gifts they know the recipient will enjoy, so don’t be shy!
2. Be Honest And Return Or Exchange It
I’ve received many gifts that were similar to things I already own, or that didn’t fit quite right no matter what size I tried. In that instance, the best thing you can do is just be honest.
Usually no one will ask what you’ve done with their gift, but if they do, you can say something like:
“Oh, the sizing didn’t work out for me unfortunately, but I exchanged it for this. That shop has so many great things!”
“I actually already owned something similar, so I exchanged it for this since I’ll get a lot of use out of it. You know my style so well.”
Or simply, “It didn’t work out for me, unfortunately, but it was so thoughtful!”
This shows an appreciation of their generosity while still being honest that the particular item didn’t work for you.
If the giver did not provide you with a gift receipt and you aren’t comfortable asking for one, you can usually exchange an item or receive store credit.
3. Regift It
I know regifting is controversial in some social circles. However, when we consider how many items are produced and consumed each year, it’s clear that it is good environmental sense to regift things we may not want but that someone else might love before we go out and buy something else.
Depending on your comfort level, you can regift the item for a holiday or special occasion, or simply pass it along to a family member or friend who you think will enjoy it as a surprise token of appreciation.
As a rule, it is polite to not regift the item to someone in the same social circle (though you know your friends and family best).
4. Resell It
If you can’t return an item for whatever reason, reselling it is always an option. Brand new items also tend to be quite easy to resell on sites like eBay, Poshmark or some of the selling accounts on Instagram.
5. Reimagine It
Maybe someone gave you a shirt in a color that isn’t your favorite, or piece of jewelry that isn’t quite your style.
Why not try a simple dyeing project? Or swapping out a pendant’s chain? There are a lot of ways to modify items you’ve received in ways that honor the gift giver and better suit your personal style.
I’m not particularly good at reimagining items myself but have taken many items that just needed some adjustments to a local tailor or jeweler. There are so many options available to you if you aren’t able to reimagine an item yourself, too!
6. Swap It
Get together with friends and host a regift swap! Make it a fun evening with refreshments and ask friends to bring a couple of gifts they’d like to swap amongst the group.
7. Donate It
Donating the item is my last recommendation, after all other avenues have been exhausted, because many charities already receive more donations than they can realistically process. Good places to consider are your local shelters and crisis centers.
What are your favorite ways to manage receiving unneeded or unwanted gifts?