In life, at some point, we all will receive a gift we do not like or want. It may be something for you or for your kids. Here are 5 tips for how to deal with unwanted gifts when you’re trying to maintain a decluttered home.

how to deal with unwanted gifts

How to Deal With Unwanted Gifts

Use these tips to help you deal with unwanted gifts that you’ve received.

Be polite & gracious

No matter what has been gifted to you, be polite and gracious. Receiving something you don’t want or like isn’t a reason to damage your relationship.

Even on the off chance that the giver is not well-intended in their selection of gift, still, choose to be the bigger person and be kind. You’ll almost never regret being kind.

When most people give gifts, they do so to show love to the person they are giving it to. While their choice may show that they don’t totally get you, choose to believe the best in their intention.

Some people have gifts as their love language and this is how they show that you’re important to them. Receive it graciously and thank them even if it is something you do not want or know you won’t use.

Have honest conversations

This is not to say you need to have honest conversations with everyone who ever gifts you anything. This may be awkward to do with say, your boss. You don’t need to have a conversation with him or her about your wants and needs and core values.

However, with relatives and friends whom you are close to and that you gift to each year, open up a conversation. Let them know about your journey to simplify your life and your home.

Explain to them your values as a family. Let them know how they can help support you in your goals.

Give suggestions and ideas

If you’re trying to simplify your life and keep clutter to a minimum, offer suggestions for friends and family who still want to give gifts to your family.

You could create an Amazon wishlist of things that you, your child, or family would like. Another option is letting them know your favorite places to eat or movie theater that you like.

If you are gifting to someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy gifts (like me), check out the ideas on this post. Consumables are a great option. Experiences are also another fun idea for individuals or families.

Start a new tradition

One way to deal with unwanted gifts is to change your traditions. Opting for an experience instead of a gift can be a fun new family tradition. Here are some specific ideas for traditions you could consider.


The holidays often cause an influx of gifts we may not want or need. When you are trying to simplify your life, you don’t want the holidays to become an enemy of your goals. There are ways to celebrate the holidays with more joy and less stress.

One thing we have done in our family is deciding that the adults will not exchange gifts. Instead, we opt to do a simple and fun gift swap. That means we each only purchase (or gift something we already own) with a $20 limit. It’s entertaining and fun and keeps us from having to stress about buying as many gifts.

For the kids, we have found a few new traditions that work well. One set of grandparents buys all the grandkids matching pajamas every year. The kids like matching and the gift is useful and great for a photo op.

The other set of grandparents (who only has 2 grandchildren) shops off an Amazon wishlist we create. The aunts and uncles have opted to share an experience with the kids instead of buying them individual gifts.

As for buying gifts for our own kids, the last couple of years we have done 4 gifts per kid. Each one received something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. Other families choose to do 3 gifts symbolizing the gifts Jesus received.


Admittedly, we are unlike many other people when it comes to celebrating birthdays. Most years we do very low key celebrations with our family.

We do a friend birthday party only every 5 years. Their gift from my parents is a meal out with their Nana and shopping trip to pick out something they need (usually shoes).

If you do bigger celebrations more often and are tired of the toys and clutter that comes with them, there are a couple different ways to manage that. One is to simply request no gifts.

Another idea is to request donations for a local food bank or organization. This can be a good teaching moment for your child so that they can notice the needs of others.

An idea that has gained popularity is a Fiver party where guests simply give $5 as the gift and the parents and child together can decide how to spend it.

Let go of gifts and guilt

All the tips listed are meant to help prevent some of the unwanted gifts you may receive. But what do you do when you get some regardless of your attempt to prevent them?

If the unwanted gift is something for your kids, this can be a bit trickier. If the gift is something that goes against your family values, have a conversation with your kids about why you won’t be keeping it.

Mostly what happens in our house is that the gifts for the kids just become too much and create a clutter problem. In that case, work with your kids on decluttering and have them be part of the process in deciding what stays and what goes.

If the unwanted gift is something for you, then graciously accept it and if you can’t return it, choose to regift it or simply give it away. The point of a gift is for it to bring joy and benefit your life. If it doesn’t have that intended effect in your home, maybe it will in someone else’s.

Don’t keep gifts you don’t love or won’t use out of guilt. That will land you in a house full of clutter and sadness. Deal with unwanted gifts by saying thank you and letting them go. Choose to stay on your path towards a simpler life and a less cluttered home.

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  1. OK, this is really more of a pre-emption, and it’s a tricky option, but a valuable one. If you have the opportunity to politely turn down an unwanted gift before receiving it, then you can stave off the hassle of finding a new home for it later. If your giver is an understanding type, you can simply describe how you are trying hard not to acquire new stuff in your home. Make sure to express appreciation for the gift (or at least, the thought behind it!).

      1. What to do when do when someone asks if you want something, you say no, and then they buy it for you anyway? This keeps happening with my grandmother.

        1. Great question, Nicole. I think it’s tough when the giver really values gifts, but the receiver maybe doesn’t. Is there anything you could suggest to her that you would find useful? It could even be to a store your regularly shop at or a place you like to eat. I once got a gift card to Trader Joes from a relative which was awesome because it was practical and thoughtful (she knew I liked getting groceries there). Or maybe you enjoy flowers or plants. I think just giving the person an idea of something you can use lets them show you love through gift-giving without giving you clutter you don’t want. I hope that helps :).

  2. How do you handle relatives or friends who “follow up” on the gifts they gave? We’ve had close relatives (think parents and grandparents) who have checked in months and years after they gave a gift to ask specifics on how we liked it–like which are our favorite songs on a CD we’d long given away. Once when asked, we admitted we had not ever hung up a huge clock gifted to us, and it caused awkwardness in our relationship with the giver ever since. So much is written in the minimalist world about feeling freedom to let go of unwanted gifts, but I don’t ever see posts on dealing with aggressive givers whose feelings are wrapped up in the enduring enthusiasm of the receiver for the gift. Particularly when a close family relationship is put on the line. Am I the only one who experiences this?

    1. Great question, Annie! I think it starts with having the conversations before the gifts are given. I’m really clear in telling family members what we do or don’t want. For most relatives, it is a non-issue. For a couple, they have a harder time with it because they are gift givers. That said, they understand my love for decluttering and need for simplicity so they aren’t surprised if we don’t keep things. I would never follow up on gifts even if completely well intentioned for this exact reason. I don’t have the expectation that people are going to love and keep everything I give them. If you’ve been open and honest and tried suggesting other things and they don’t listen, then the best you can do is be polite and gracious but still not keep things. I suppose they learn to stop asking after awkward interchanges. I hope that helps!

  3. Oh yes. All of these suggestions are excellent. I have told ALL my friends and family that I don’t want gifts …unless they are consumable—like a bouquet of flowers, etc. A card is fine. Going out together for a meal is a lot of fun. Going someplace nice is fine. But please, no physical gifts. As my husband put it: If we want or need something, we can just go and get it ourselves.

    It’s very important if you ARE a gift-giver, NEVER to follow up on the gift by asking how the person liked it, or prowling around their home to check to see they’re actually using it, etc. Once it’s given, the gift is theirs to do—or not do—with it as they please.

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