A Hodge-Podge of Knick-Knacks: What to Do With Unwanted Gifts?

by Katy on August 5, 2012 · 52 comments

Gift giving is a minefield.

You want to spend about the same amount as the person with whom you’re exchanging gifts, (or at least appear  to spend the same amount.) You also want to spend the same amount as you did last year, but not more lest you escalate those vengeful gift giving gods.

Yup, a minefield. And what do you have when it’s all over?

A bunch of new stuff that you neither chose nor would have chosen.

Okay, okay, sometimes the gifts you receive are absolutely wonderful, the stuff of dreams. Luxury items you could not have afforded yourself, a gift card to your favorite store or theater tickets and a massage gift certificate. But what about the resin figurines, the awful DIY projects and for the love of all that is holy, what to do with all. The. Sweaters?!

Is it wrong to get rid of the gifts that others have kindly chosen for you? Because, let’s face it, it is very nice of people to buy things for us.

I know people who feel like they are required to keep a gift until the day they die, and their houses reflect this point of view. A hodge-podge of knick-knacks that do not enhance the recipient’s life.

When I receive a gift, I will often try to find a better owner. You know, a medium-sized person for that medium-sized sweater. I have worked very hard to declutter my house, (mind you, it’s far from a completed project) and I like to think that I’ve become more deliberate about what comes to live here. Not everyone is excited about this turn of events. (My older sister has told me she’s not buying me any more presents, although she has yet to make good on this threat.)

Although I have no solution for this matter, I do suggest that you choose your gifts carefully. And veer towards experiential gifts or consumables whenever possible. (I know I would love to receive a couple of movie tickets and a box of Junior Mints!) And there’s enough time between now and the holiday season to start that uncomfortable conversation about gift limitations with your loved ones.

And please, do not feel like to need to keep something just because it was a gift. And if that pisses off your friends and family, you have my permission to blame it on me, The Non-Consumer Advocate. I’m okay with being the bad guy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda in Indiana August 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

When you say “minefield” you hit the nail on the head. Wow, talk about having to tiptoe around all the birthdays and Christmas. I have had the “conversation” about simplifying, economizing and just plain not everyone not needing all that “stuff”. Talk about a Deer In The Headlights looks. You would think I was Godzilla. And let me tell you that in the extended they do keep tally of what you spend and if you wear or display their gift. So, I try to simplify in my own way. Sometimes you just can’t please everyone….so you give with love and remember you sometimes just have to be true to yourself. Definitely and ongoing value tug of war for this clan. We are even expected to buy for great-nieces and great-nephews….need a list that stretches forever. I think the getting together is the important thing…and all of the little kids just have a deluge of “stuff” that they have no idea of what to do with or vaguely value since they have gobs.


Jennifer in SE Portland August 8, 2012 at 7:14 am

Ain’t that the truth. My family pegs me as the “rude one” and laughs at how I honestly express my feelings about unneeded/ unnecessary gifts. I just figure if I’m not going to use it or if it makes me feel guilty, then it isn’t much of a gift, is it?


Laura August 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

I think there must be a better resolution to the gift thing all together, although I don’t pretend to know what that is! Some families, for major holidays such as Christmas (or whatever your equivalent is!) draw names – so everyone only gets one major present. My family is moving toward either the charitable gift or the gift certificate idea (at least with gift certificates you can add clutter of your own choosing!) and the Four Gifts idea for children (1 thing they want, 1 thing they need, 1 thing to wear, 1 thing to read.) Definitely gift-giving time is a time to think outside the box! Great blog! Thanks…


Katy August 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

The drawing names thing only work if there haven’t been multiple divorces, (I wouldn’t want my step-father to draw my step-mother’s ex-husband!) and for families who live in the same city.

Although we did try this a couple years ago with my in-law’s family and it was an utter disaster, as they had the kids and adults draw names. This meant that my family of four bought more presents that ever, and that I had to buy a grandparent-style gift for my own son. (i.e. — a *big* gift.) I was super pissed off! Also, there was no guide as to how much to spend, even though I asked for one.



Dusti August 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Both sides of my hubby’s family draw names. But we only draw for the kids under 18 and we can’t draw our own kids. The limit is around $25. The adults have the option to participate in a gift swapping game. Most of us check with the parents of the kids whose names we drew so we don’t end up getting them useless junk. This has really cut down on shopping stress.


Jen August 8, 2012 at 7:50 am

When our family decided to do this everyone was given the option to partake. If they chose not to they understood they would not be recieving anything either. Limit was $50, you drew one name and it couldnt be a significant others. Everyone provided a list of various items they actually wanted ranging from $0-$50 and the person who got your name MUST purchase from the provided list. Worked beautifully!


Anna August 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

How great! I have never heard of the four gift thing, but LOVE IT! Our whole family is on board with simplifying the gift giving, so this is something we could use as a fun guide. Thanks for sharing!


kathleen August 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

The best gift I ever gave was a sack of a dozen two-scoop cups of Baskin Robbins ice cream for my elderly neighbor…each in a different flavor. It was received with MUCH excitement and requested again in subsequent years. She loved ice cream, but didn’t like to buy a large container (before the advent of pints sold commercially) since she lived alone. She didn’t drive as far as the Baskin Robbins store, plus she probably would have thought it was too much of a splurge on herself. It didn’t clutter up her house, and it was a real treat that she wouldn’t buy for herself.

I came close with the success of last year’s Christmas gifts to my middle school grandsons. I gave them cash…but all in different denominations…and folded in different origame designs…presented in a candy box. They even delayed spending it, because they liked keeping it as presented. 🙂


Lily August 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I’ve tried proposing alternative giftgiving to my friends, for example with homemade presents, but most clearly stated they love the traditional ones, so… I just stopped giving much thought to what I buy for these people. I love choosing presents – nice, useful, the right ones for the recipient – but now I mainly try to save money! With sales etc.
It’s too bad, but really, people who buy me conventional, unpersonal presents deserve the same. So I don’t have any problem reselling or giving away some wrong gifts I got (designer socks? ME? Beige sweaters? Beige, ME???…)
On the other hand, another friend loves making and receiving homemade presents and I had the most fun making a diary for her which I decorated with pictures of actors she loves, riddles, quotations (even some funny ones from people we know) etc. She absolutely loved it and while she was using during the year she often texted me comments. 🙂


Megyn @MinimalistMommi August 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Oh gosh I have a love-hate relationship with gifting seasons! We do things oddly in our house. I grew up with lists, so we often got something off our list, which I still love to this day. It helps us all avoid wasting money/time/etc. However, when we had kids, I realized I didn’t want to inundate our boys with stuff or have them only like holidays for the presents. For their birthday parties, we ask guests to make a donation to a certain charity (as the boys get older, they get to pick). Yet, I often get a little grumpy when we have to go to so many kid parties and feel the need to always bring a gift. We may start donating to a charity the kid likes instead. For holidays, we’ve been REALLY emphasizing gift cert’s. My family gets it. My grandparets-in-law, not so much. They always make things (generally the same thing over and over and over again) for EVERY relative (and they have 8 kids all with their own kids!). I used to feel bad when I donated all of the hand-stitched wall hangings or wood toys, but now I don’t care as much. They are going to do what they want every time. It’s not my responsibility to keep it (or hang it up on my wall) just because they made it. It’s hard, but worth it!


Megg August 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I don’t give that much thought into gift giving. At least I don’t put the thought you’ve described into gift giving. I put a lot of thought into what I make, or what I find at thrift stores, however, when choosing a gift.
I’m very open about my gift receiving preferences, and I like to think most of my family has caught on. For example last year my mom gave me a value pack of space saver bags for our space saver machine (a seal-a-meal). I LOVED this gift because first, these things are expensive, and second, it’s consumable! We love using our seal-a-meal.

Anyway I came here to comment a suggestion about those knick knacks that you feel bad about keeping yet don’t need. Take a picture! Take a picture, put it in an album with a description of what it is and who gave it to you, and then donate it. That way you can remember the thoughtful gift without actually having to keep it around.


Jo H. August 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

This really is the best time to be thinking of this subject and talking about it, whether you decide on no gifts or a gift draw or a spending limit or whatever. Lots of people start shopping on summer vacation – ya gotta get in there early with your alternative suggestions! In fact, it may already be too late!


Erica August 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Being vegan, no one really knows what to get us anyway and usually ask. My great-grandmother and grandmother are the ones that usually give us unnecessary things (like chunky jewelry, creepy looking dolls) and I have one Aunt in particular who likes to give me things SHE likes (like a t-shirt with a picture of her dog on it).

Mostly, I just give things away on freecycle. As for the gifts I give, I love to give experiences, flowers, homemade edibles and bath & body gifts but only if I know they’ll use it or need it. Otherwise, I just don’t give gifts. I’ve never really had that obligating inside me to give gifts to everyone I know.


AnnW August 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I know that Katy doesn’t like her husband to give her gifts, but I don’t know why. Couldn’t he just give her movie tickets? I always thought that gift giving was a waste of time and had reduced it to my parents and the in-laws. They get Christmas presents, but no birthday or Mothers Day presents. Even that was too much, as I found most of my presents to my mother, carefully thought out, in the original box but never removed or used when she died. My father on the other hand used the sweaters I gave him every day. I made sure that I bought what he liked. Giving presents to other people takes a big chunk out of your family’s budget and time. It’s wasteful. When my mother had really big birthdays we gave her really nice jewelry. We weren’t cheap, we just thought the most gifts are meaningless gestures.


Katy August 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm

My birthday is in early January, so I am sick to death of holiday celebrating by the time it rolls around. Sad, but true.



Elaine in Ark August 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

Ann, I had the same thing happen with my mother. Gifts that I thought she would appreciate just went into drawers and were never seen again. We didn’t know then that she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and she forgot completely about them after she put them away.


Shannon August 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The one year we did a gift exchange in my family went sour. My parents decided that they would get everyone gifts on top of their exchange person. And they went over budget. My dad drew my name and gave me this humor book that baffled me. And I’m pretty sure one of my siblings was broke and drew my husbands name and just got him nothing at all. It was just weird.
Now we try to be the example by giving mainly consumables and gift cards. And putting the word out that we don’t want stuff. That no gift at all would be fine. But of course that drops on deaf ears. The new development is that our it’s are outgrowing toys. Plus they have been well trained to enjy books and movies from the library, and free video games on the computer. Now they onlynwant sports equipment, which I get mostly used, and electronics. I feel too weird to ask for a gift card so they can apply it to these things they want, because I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to buy, yet buying them five more LEGO sets when we could build ourselves a whole town, well it seems wasteful. Ugh. Can’t wait for the festive season.


Heather August 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I’m a mother of 9. I promptly get rid of what I don’t want or don’t want my children to have. I feel very loved by the thought, and encourage my children to see it the same way. Feel the love, but don’t feel the need to keep the stuff. Grandparents dont’ give alot of gifts, which I have found to be a blessing. We don’t give alot of gifts, either. Homemade gifts and food when we feel like it, feel no obligation to give to people outside of grandparents and a couple special people.


Laure August 5, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I also have a love-hate relationship with gifts. We tried the “draw a name”, with a $ limit, for a couple years, and it wasn’t good. For starters, it was like you *had to* spend that much $.
Similarly with gift cards — everyone knows the $ amt. I love to receive them but as someone with a tight budget, hard for me to give. On the flipside, we grew up with little $, and it means a lot that we can afford to give gifts to each other, as we received very few as children…and felt sad about it, especially seeing all that our friends received.
Last year somehow all of us siblings ended up giving each other consumables and we all loved it, so I think we’ll repeat. Things included wine, gourmet food, flower bulbs that could be forced in the winter, expensive shampoo, guest soaps, etc. Note that these could have cost the giver a wide range of $ — and it’s not readily apparent what was spent — so nice for those at all budget points. It seemed we all know each other enough that they were all hits, but, if not, most could be used for guests during the lengthy holiday season (we celebrate until Epiphany), with many parties between Christmas and New Years, so it would help the recipient anyway.
I never feel bad giving away gifts that I don’t wish to keep long-term. It is the thought that counts and, as a gift giver once said to me “You can always treat any gift as you would cut-flowers: enjoy it for a week or 2/enjoy the fact that it was generously given to you, and then get rid of it.” Among my family and close friends, we all tend to share any mis-gifts (not with the giver, obviously) but with somone who would like it more. A friend was thrilled to have my pizza stone, for example, and I’d never use it. Similarly, I (allergic to lavendar) give anything I receive with that scent to my mom, who loves it.


Constance August 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I have told all my friends that as I’ve worked hard to de-clutter my life I would appreciate them not giving me stuff, but rather wine, food and flowers. Or nothing, since I really don’t need anything. Everyone has been accommodating except one friend who gives me the occasional box of wonderful note cards. His taste is great and I send many notes to people–I love snail mail.


Another Rebecca August 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm

The hardest one is hand made gifts, esp baby gifts. I have only two or three things from each of my childrens’ infancies that I choose to keep and unfortunately I also have a huge bin of hand made baby blankets for each child. Why each baby needed their own, I have no idea. None of my babies ever used them, they liked the softer fleece ones I made them; the gifts were scratchy and bumpy, but my mother would have a stroke if I even suggested that I was passing them on. She didn’t even make them, my sis in law and other family did. I don’t want them, my kids are way past using them, and yet they linger on. Sigh.


Laure August 6, 2012 at 4:51 am

That is very hard. I don’t understand why so many people feel that making a gift involves an ongoing obligation on the recipient (to keep it forever), as you suggest your mother does, along with many, many others. I appreciate the thought, time, and love that goes into the gift, and those have already been freely given by the time the actual thing is given. In this case, donating it to a charity could allow a poor mother to purchase a lovely, handmade blanket for cheap and spend her other $ on food for a baby — so I see donating as sharing our things with others who need them!
Additionally, sometimes people — not saying in your case — give handmade gifts because they want to give a gift and cannot afford anything else, but might already have yarn, wood, whatever on hand. Again, giving time and love is lovely and I don’t feel we can say, “I want gift certificates instead”, but nor should it create an obligation on the recipient to keep it forever.
How old are your children? Could they enjoy the blankets as doll blankets? As afghans/throws in their college dorm rooms?


Another Rebecca August 6, 2012 at 10:16 am

I do in general like getting hand made gifts, provided they are something I can actually use, like food gifts or hand sewn items. The blankets are just not being used anymore and I would love to “pass on the love” so to speak, and have another baby use it, rather than get musty in long term storage just to prevent feelings from getting hurt. I passed on most of our other baby blankets to my sister in law before her second child was born.

My daughter probably would use hers with her dolls, she is 4 today! But my sons who are 6 and 7 are both autistic and for whatever reason have never like the texture of the hand knit blankets, they refuse to go near them. I am a little afraid if I have one out and my mom sees it she will inevitably ask where the other 2 are.

I think the hard part is that for some reason my mom, and to a certain part my husband, see getting rid of gifts as a way of disrespecting that person. We had for a long time an afgahn my husband’s grandma made us for our wedding. She worked hard on it, but with her failing eyesight the blanket was not the best made, and did not hold up well to our family’s use. We stopped using it for fear it would totally fall apart, and it got stored under the bed for years. But if I suggested we pass it on to a family member who might want it and use it gently my husb would act like I suggested getting rid of his grandma! Eventually I got him to understand that I felt it showed more respect to his grandma to give the blanket to one of his aunts who treasures it rather than keep it and let the cats sleep all over it. But my mom is a whole other story.


susmcl August 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Love your blog, love this topic, but …you are way better than using the phrase ” pisses off.” in print. Angers, upsets, disturbs, disappoints are just some choices. It’s a pet peeve of mine. 😉


Katy August 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm

But it sums up how I feel so perfectly!



Diane C August 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

It’s your blog, Katy. I’m here because you tell it like it is. It helps that you’re damn funny, too. It angers, upsets, disturbs, disappoints me that others chose to use your personal forum to chide your personal style. Politely mentioning, say, a typo is one thing. Asking you to muzzle your mouth on your own blog is too, too much.


Katy August 6, 2012 at 8:20 am

She can ask all she likes, it truly doesn’t bother me.



susmcl August 6, 2012 at 8:30 am

Oh my gosh…just mentioning, no way a muzzle! I’m here, stated I love this blog etc., .
I’m a reader with opinions …hoping that Katy would interpret it as a “for your consideration” type comment.
Love how you avoided the po’d phrase yourself, Diane. : )LOL!


Sarah August 6, 2012 at 1:09 am

Interesting post! For birthdays, my bf and I treat each other a dinner at a fancy restaurant. We do that too for my parents in law’s birthdays (both in July, so that’s easy).
For Christmas, as we are a family of 30+ people, we pick names and set a limit of € 10. Easy peasy, and we usually get nice gifts.
With my sister and her husband, we have an arrangement that we organize a surprise day trip every year instead of giving New Year’s gifts (so we only have to organize one every other year). Very nice, we always have so much fun!
For our parents, we also usually give experience gifts or books we know they’ll like.
My grandmother always buys her grandchildren (at least the ones that are working already, the younger ones get some money) 6 bottles of wine for their birthdays. Very good idea! 🙂
The few material gifts I get, are usually nice, either because the gifter knows my taste or because they asked me before what I would like. As I am buying less to none non-consumables for myself, I like to receive some nice material gifts as well. 🙂 And if possible, after receiving e.g. a new T-shirt, I look in my wardrobe and get rid of one or two old ones.
For my godchild (he’s 4), I always buy a piece of clothing, and I ask his mum beforehand what size and what kind he needs. On top of that, I give him some good quality toy (like Lego) or we go to the movies or a kids play together. But last year I got some very large pads of paper from my office that were otherwise being thrown away, and I gave them with some pencils. The best gift ever, he said!
I don’t feel ashamed to ‘hint’ someone that I know needs to buy me a gift. Usually they don’t mind, or are even happy. Then I usually ‘hint’ something useful, so I won’t have to buy it myself.
Many of my close family members love books, and so do I. I’m thinking of starting to gift them books that I’ve read and liked, as a way of slowly decluttering my bookcase. I hope they’ll like it. What are your ideas on that? Would you like it? I’m thinking of adding a nice bookmark with a personal message.


Laure August 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Great idea regarding the books! My family is a family who loves to read and, while generally books for gifts are purchased new, the bonus is that the giver generally reads it first. This is openly told to the recipient. My mom has recently begun purchasing used hardcover children’s books for her 15 grandchildren as a cost-cutting measure, and they seem to be big hits. The gift is the story, not the new item.


Ellie August 6, 2012 at 4:44 am

Christmas Lists!

It’s one thing I really give my in-laws credit for. Generally speaking, we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things – they like new, I like re-used, they like big new houses, I wanted a small old house – you get the point. But DH’s family has a simply wonderful tradition of “Christmas Lists”.

Every year, everyone submits a “Christmas List” via e-mail to everyone else in the family, and on person (usually the significant other, or for younger persons, a parent) is the “keeper” of the list. It’s just like the old-fashioned “list for Santa” – a list of exactly what you would like “Santa” to bring you for Christmas. And you can put whatever you want on the list. If you’re into malls and shopping, you can ask for trendy clothes or handbags or one-purpose kitchen items or whatever, down to the exact item. If you DON’T want a bunch of that stuff – as some of us never do – then you can ask for consumables and experiential stuff or a package of new socks. DH and I usually have lists full of requests for tickets and gift certificates, and the occassional bottle of good booze. (Once and a while we’ll throw something on their that we actually need because ours broke and I didn’t find anything good at the thrift store, but not too often.) Everyone picks what they want to give – obviously, everyone knows to put a range of price items on – and then lets the “keeper of the list” know what they’re getting, or notifies everyone by e-mail – sort of like an informal gift registry.

Amazinly, it works. It keeps the people who are “into” gift giving happy, and the rest of us don’t mind so much, because we get the massage certificate, wine, and socks we really wanted. Like I said – I totally give my in-laws credit for this one.


Mary Kate August 6, 2012 at 6:06 am

We have simplfied over the years. Since my daughter was in fifth grade she has collected for a charity for her birthday (often the loacl food bank, so most people donat items, not money).

We give mostly gift cards to places we know the recipients frequent (favorite restaurants for my parents, favorite store for my MIL). Nieces and nephews often receive gift cards. My sister sends gift receipts with her gifts so they can be returned/exchanged.

We look at it more of a I’m thinking of you expression of love.


Barb August 6, 2012 at 8:15 am

Like Ellie, we share “lists” ant it works wonderfully for us as well. the lists have things of all costs on it, giving folks a wide suggestion of ideas. I make manyof my gifts and was still able to do so. Just to give you an idea-for a couple years I had been “zapping” my tea water because I was too lazy to do anything about it. one of the many things on my list was a stove top tea kettle. I received one, it probably cost ten to twelve dollars and matched my kitchen. A small token but somthing I would not have gotten for myself.


Pamela August 6, 2012 at 8:18 am

I am very clear about the fact that I only exchange with my immediate family (and nowadays, my parents and my niece and nephew, as my sister, BIL and I all agree we don’t need Christmas presents anymore). I still had a couple of friends who got me things even thought I specifically asked them not to. I have a small place and do not need more stuff–especially candle-holders or potpourri burners or knicknacks. I’d rather we all get together for a meal at someone’s house or something.

By now, I’ve grown completely okay with regifting and/or donating. Office Yankee Swaps are good for regifting.


Kim August 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Why not hold a “white elephant” gift exchange at your super bowl party? We have done this for years with hilarious results. Be careful not to use a gift that one of your fellow party goers has given you, that could be bad. You might get something that is really good, or you might end up with anothe useless item to replace the one you just gave away. At last year’s party, I got really jipped. Believe it or not, my gift (and nobody tried to steal it) was one of those thin, old, wooden handled, steak knives. The handle was chipped and it had seen better days. I was a bit bitter about that, but it came in handy getting rid of the old grout in my kitchen.


Lightlycrunchy August 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

We do an ugly gift exchange at Christmas with our friends. We all attend a fundraising dinner each year and often end up with an ugly raffle item at the end of the night. These raffle items are added into the Christmas exchange every year. The rule is to display the gift for the year and then pass it along the next year.


Robin August 6, 2012 at 11:39 am

I finally convinced my family to draw names and I am truely so thankful! I LOVE not coming home after Christmas with a car full of crap. The kids are excluded and we set a $50 spending limit. I’m trying hard to work with everyone to get creative – many in the family just list one or two items. My brother-in-law really surprised me this year by getting me everything on my list! He is a bargain hunter! I have been saving little gift cards throughout the year and will use them when I got shopping for the person I draw this year.

On another note … before we drew names I set a personal limit of $20/gift – it was all I could afford. Have the limit was great in so many ways because the gifts I got had to be so much more THOUGHTFUL. Instead of just picking up some expensive crap I really thought about what was the best thing I could get for $20 for a specific person. I remember being so pleased with my gifts that year.


Robin August 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

I want to say something about feeling pressure to keep a gift you have received but don’t like.

I took the kids to see my husband’s parents (Joe and Lynne) not that long ago. When I got back my mother asked me if I remembered to put them in clothes that Joe and Lynne had gotten them. This really made me mad.

While I agree that it would be uber thoughtful to do such a thing, I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself or my kids. I remember every Thanksgiving that my grandparents visited from New York my mother would pull out this UGLY turkey platter (with a matching UGLY gravy bowl!) they had given her. She HATED it – we all HATED it, but yet my mother said we HAD to put it out because Granny would be offended if we didn’t. The “gift” caused us such misery – what is the point of that?

When I give a gift I completely release it to the new owner to do with it as he or she pleases. If they would be most happy giving it away or selling it – fine. I just want them to be happy.

Cary, NC


PigPennies August 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm

How about a $50 gift certificate to a store where absolutely everything costs at least $200? (facepalm)


Tequilla August 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I tell someone when I give them a gift. If it’s not your taste I don’t mind if you regift the item. Just don’t regift it at the place you recieved it, like if you get the present at work then regift it at church.



Azulao August 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Whew, I am Scroogey McGrumperpants on this one — thanking goodness that because I don’t have children, I don’t have to deal with 90% of the issues that everyone raises!

Silver linings.

Good luck, everyone.


Katy August 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I *love* “Scroogey McGrumperpants!”

Thank you!



Paula in the UP August 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

Scroogey McGrumperpants!! Haha! I also like this!!

I may be turning into one too! I just talked to my sister to ask if she wants to stop buying for each others kids. They are all in their 20’s. I told her we could wind it down over the next 3 years because of the age difference. Now to broach this with SIL!!


Jenny August 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Oh man. I hate the gift giving. My extended family is very reasonable but my Mom makes the holidays and gift exchange a stressful nightmare. We always do a list at her request but then she never gets things off the list and instead we end up with a series of bizarre one offs. For example, one year when I was in grad school, I asked for a textbook for Christmas. Instead, she got me a weird lap sized bean bag chair to rest my books on and then got her feelings terribly hurt when I gave it back to her. We really try to minimize the junky toys but she shops at Big Lots and buy my kids tons of crap that breaks (to many tears) within a few weeks.

I also got in big time trouble for not wanting to take a huge load of baby blankets perfect strangers (like a neighbor from a house we hadn’t lived at in 30 years) made for me as a baby for my own son. I make gifts for people because *I* enjoy it. If they want to recycle them or donate a blanket to a homeless shelter, fine by me. A gift is not a lifelong commitment!!! Let go the blanket albatross!


Lindsey August 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I give food and not things that have to ber consumed right away, when there is already too much food around. Facny crackers, home made canned goods…if they don’t like it, they can ditch it without hurting my feelings and it doesn’t crowd up the house. Either that, or toilet paper. I LOVE getting toilet paper.


genie August 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

OMG. When my daughter was born, my MIL gave me the baby blanket that was given to HER mother upon her birth – made by the base commander’s wife where my MIL’s dad was stationed. It was old, acrylic scratchy and horrible. I HATED it. It also came with some horrible clothes worn by my husband when he was little (despite having a girl) and a bunch of other stuff that had been carefully stored for 40 years… Never in my life was I so grateful that of the many many things that I miss terribly from my house that was lost in a huge wildfire, I did not think to retrieve that particular box during our evacuation. I am so GLAD that all of those horrible things are gone.

Unfortunately, the lessons I learned about “stuff” post disaster have not been learned by my husbands family, despite their proximity to our location. I know we will be expected to give gifts to everyone (a vast array of extended folks) and we’ll be getting just as many if not more – we have the youngest kids in the family (the only kids under 14 actually) and it is causing me to stress out already. I would really be quite happy totally skipping the entire holiday nightmare in fact. In fact, not only have the family not learned much at all, but they have no clue as to why I am reacting like I am… I would so rather they take my daughter for a movie and give me a moment alone than give her another noise making toy… ugh.

On the other hand, back when my family was younger and us kids still went home for the holidays, we eventually went to only doing stocking stuffers (everyone had a stocking and everyone put a little something in each other persons stocking) and then the great white elephant exchange. The rule was that we brought one nice thing and one not nice/funny thing… The rules of picking gifts can vary, but the results are that it’s fun, it’s a lot cheaper and you generally don’t end up with too much that you don’t want. Plus, if you do get stuck with funny stuff, no one expects you to keep it and it is known to be recycled back to the thrift store. Kids were the exception – they all got gifts from the grandparents, but otherwise… I SO WISH I could convince my inlaws to the wonderfulness of this system.


Queen Lucia August 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm

On my side of the family we exchanged names for years, with a $10 limit. A couple of years ago, my cousin encouraged us to pool our money for charity instead, which we did happily. We have a spirited conversation at Thanksgiving about where we will donate the money. But we still like to do a little something for each other, so we do a gift card yankee exchange with a $10 limit. It’s fun to see the variety of cards and what keeps getting stolen!

Now in my husband’s family, his mother’s bad behavior has driven such a wedge between herself and everyone else, it really simplifies things! The last time his extended family got together we decided to do Adopt-a-Family, which I love. We were very very very broke at the time, so I carefully chose clothing items from the provided list that I knew I could find inexpensively and I added a couple of unused toys from my daughter’s ignored stash. When we arrived to do the wrapping, we were expected to reimburse people who had spent more than us, even if they bought items that were not on the list (or didn’t shop as carefully as I did). I was distraught – it more than doubled our expense and all my trouble to be frugal went out the window.

We DO still get together with my husband’s parents, though. My MIL has a “perfection” issue that rears its extremely ugly head at any and all holidays, and is particularly horrible around gift giving. She loves to start planning the holidays months in advance, asks for extensive lists for the grandkids, wants to talk about the lists continually (where? how much? which kind? how about this? how about that?), then ignores the lists completely. Which doesn’t bother me – I just wish there wasn’t such a production made of it every year!


Tequilla August 8, 2012 at 4:48 am

I like Christmas in our family. Dh and I don’t really buy anything for each other because we have each other. As for the other family members we give them gift cards and the only one we really spend money on is dd, who I buy gifts all year long and hide them from her.


Jen August 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

I have just told everyone I know that I will no longer purchase gifts for anyone on any occassion and that in return I dont want gifts either. 🙂 Some people were put off initially but eventually there was some relief that they were off the hook too.
My rule of thumb for gift giving (should I choose) is that I have to 100% know they want what I am giving. And by ‘know’ i mean they have to have said so specifically.


Jess August 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The “minefields” of gifting is precisely the reason I founded GiftSimple. In fact, one of our hashtags is #saynotosweaters! GiftSimple is a social gift registry that lets users register for gifts they want and tap into their Facebook network to pool contributions from friends and family. Whether it’s a product, experience or fundraising for charity, GiftSimple is the simple way to get the big-ticket items you really want. And GiftSimple can be used to organize a group gift for someone else.


Nicky January 15, 2013 at 10:43 am

I am so glad you brought up this topic. I recently got married and my husband and I are living in a one bed room apartment until I finish school. My new mother-in-law and the other ladies in his family, bless their hearts, I believe have a knick-knack in every spare inch of their homes. I on the other hand am a fan of minimalism, especially in a one bedroom apartment. Needless to say his mother is constantly trying to give us items (these are not practical item). His grandmother recently asked when we want to come look at her basement and see what decorating items we can find. AHHHH! I know I sound unappreciative but it is extremely stressful because we barely have enough room to fit in the items we do need.

This past Christmas I tried as politely as possible to tell them it wasn’t necessary to buy me a gift. After that didn’t work I finally said just a gift card and named some of the places I like. They so graciously got me gift cards to places I love and I was able to purchase items we needed like paper towels and tooth paste. Please note, I am a very practical person. As far as gifts go, I would be super excited to see a stocking full of toothpaste, toilet paper, Q-tips, etc. Along with the gift cards though came large bags of random items that, I learned from my husband, are purchased throughout the year or are previous purchases found in the basement or spare bedroom. I really think they just can’t help their selves. I quickly listed items to sell so we would have money for groceries or gave things to others who might have a better use for them. Am I wrong in this?

His mom is the one we deal with most. Why can’t she understand that we don’t need knick-knacks or clothing that is two sizes too small? Why should I have to deal with the products of her shopping addiction (which my husband has confirmed she does have)? When we are in desperate need of basic items why can’t she just wrap up a giant thing of paper towels? I would absolutely LOVE this! (Although some may not admit it, I know many are thinking the same thing. Baby diapers instead of clothing, cans of formula, etc……) I understand that these gifts are given out of love and she means well but is there anyway to make it stop? I would even love for her to give to an organization on our behalf.

Please, if you are reading this, really know the person you are buying for. Rather than looking around your house for items or buying things just because they are on clearance and then figuring out who you will give it to, just give them a gift card. I promise it is NOT a cop out. They can get something they really want or experience something they have always wanted to experience.

I have probably come off as an ungrateful b*%#@ but I’m really not. I’ve just finally gone beyond my frustration level when it comes to this gift giving stuff. Materialism has gone way too far and my husband and I do not want to lead that kind of life. We just can’t seem to get that through his mother’s head.

When it comes down to it, the events where gifts have become socially expected, are not supposed to be about gifts, but sharing the time with family and/or friends.

Thank you to Katy for talking about this topic! I will gladly take any suggestions on how to deal with the situation my husband and I are in. Do we say something more direct (still nice of course) or do we keep taking the items as if we love them and turn around and give them away or sell them so we can buy necessities?


Katy January 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

Wow. You are not alone. Your mother-in-law sounds like some people in my family.



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