Coping with unwanted gifts

In a nutshell – It’s horrible to feel ungrateful for gifts but sometimes they are just not what we want. Here are some ideas for coping and stopping it happening.

Firstly, it’s ok to not love someones gifts. If you love the gift giver this can make you feel a bit rubbish but it’s ok to feel like that. We do not all share the same tastes. The practicalities of getting rid of these type of gifts isn’t the problem here, it is what to say when the gift giver asks about them.

White lies

I am generally a very honest person and despite once persuading my 5 year old that the ice cream van plays the jingle when it has run out of ice cream I generally do not lie. I do lie when it will save someone from being hurt and here are some top white lies to pull out of the hat when you are asked where a gift is.

  • ‘We are going to redecorate soon and we were worried it would break in the confusion of moving stuff out of the room’
  • ‘The thingy came off the back and it’s being fixed’
  • ‘I love it but a friend came around and couldn’t stop talking about it so I gave it to them, they were so happy…”
  • ‘I was so worried it would get broken while (my son is toddling, I spring clean, the cat is alive) I packed it away to be safe’
  • ‘I’m making space for a new bit of furniture’

‘Sorry darling, that tune means they have run out of ice cream’

Make a shrine to clutter

This might sound counter intuitive, but devoting one place to display gifts can give you an excuse to get rid of one when a new one comes in. This will not work if the clutter shrine looks like a collection of any sort, you are just likely to get more of the same kind of thing. Top tip – make the shrine look as bad as possible so nothing will look good there. Revel in its nastiness!


Try giving a persistent gift giver a huge and unsightly bit of clutter and see how they deal with it. They may teach you the way to deal with them.

Display in a precarious place

‘I’m so sorry, the cat broke it, yes in retrospect having it on the edge of the windowsill where he loves to jump up wasn’t the best place for it but we loved the way it looked in the light….’

Ask for specifics

People often give presents as a way of showing love and affection. You might have a hard job persuading them that you don’t need presents and they may also feel a little rejected.  Instead, you can ask them to get you something specific. If you don’t actually need anything make the specific thing as difficult to find as possible, make it clear that no alternatives will suffice, make sure they understand that you only want this specific thing if they happen to see it, they are not to go searching on eBay.

If you have kids you can always ask for clothes or books – they get grown out of and can be passed on without any guilt.

An auntie who is keen on car booting and sharing her finds could be asked look out for books about cheese or a particular colour teapot instead. Start a pretend collection of a particular print of vintage teacups that are impossible to find, “if you ever see a small bowl with foxes and elephants in bikinis on it, in raspberry pink……. ”

There is a risk that the gift giver will actually find the thing you want, in which case you will need to show it lots of love and you might be better going for the next strategy instead.

Tell the truth

In reality, this is what I do and it has always worked, the people I have told the truth to tend to get me consumables as presents now and I am very happy with chocolate/smelly bath things and alcohol.

Repeat after me

“I really appreciate you thinking of me but I am trying live with less stuff”

If you need substantiation remember that with less stuff:

  • cleaning is easier
  • it’s quicker to find things
  • lots of stuff can be stressful

Try not to feel like a horrible person when you don’t like a gift. You are the only person who knows what you like, and you do not need to live with someone elses tastes forced upon you.

You got this!