When Gifts Become Clutter


oh-you-shouldnt-haveIf you are surrounded by stuff, especially stuff you don’t need or use (sometimes referred to as “clutter”), start with figuring out how it comes into your life. Can you put a boundary on it?

We’re not just talking about putting limits on charge cards or waiting three days before making a purchase. To stop the flow of clutter into your life calls for some serious creative problem solving.

For example, do you have clutter because people give you gifts? Here’s a question: when you give a gift, do you expect the recipient to make a lifetime commitment to that gift? If not, then why do you think you have to make a lifetime commitment to every gift you receive?

Also, isn’t there some way you can change the quality or quantity of the gifts coming your way? By quality, we don’t mean cost of the gift, we mean is there a way to make the change from stuff you DON’T need or use, to stuff you DO need or use?

Maybe you can change the type of gift; such as suggesting a gift certificate to the movies, a bookstore or a favorite restaurant, or maybe a membership to a gym, museum, or zoo.

Another example: Bruce and I are in a family that has a grab bag at Christmas time. One month before the holiday, everyone is invited to send suggestions for what they would like to receive.

We both decided we really have all we need, so we asked for a contribution to one of our favorite charities, The Heifer Project. This is an organization where you can donate any amount of money and it goes towards providing a pair of animals to a poor family in a poverty-stricken country. The animals provide eggs or milk or labor to help improve the quality of life for the family. The plan is that when the animals have babies, the family presents the offspring to another needy family in a village. So even the smallest of contributions can have a profound impact on a whole village.

When it came time for everyone to open their grab bag gift on Christmas day, all 36 members of our family gathered. In their usual style, everyone opened their gifts at once, with lots of noise, ripping of paper, showing of gifts, shouting “Look what I got” and general pandemonium.

In the midst of the chaos, Bruce called out, “I got a water buffalo.”

There was dead silence. Never had this family quieted down so quickly. A ten-year old broke the stunned silence with, “I’ll bet there’s a story behind that gift.” Everyone laughed.

Since then, several other family members now ask for contributions to their favorite charities. And Bruce no longer receives gifts of items he doesn’t need or use (sometimes referred to as “clutter”)[LG]Organizers make great gifts![/LG]

With some “Creative Problem Solving” you might come up with some great ideas to help stop the flow of clutter coming into your life. Do you have an idea that has worked for you?


10 thoughts on “When Gifts Become Clutter

  • July 16, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I don’t expect a lifetime commitment on my receivers, instead I’m so okay if my gifts are regifted. I’m all for gift certificates or consumable stuff.
    For my family, excluding the young kids, we finally came to an agreement that the adults will draw lots and give to that 1 person whose name we each pick and usually we make sure the gift is something the receiver has requested. This practice has worked very well for us!

    clara’s last blog post..Observations on foil, cling + parchment paper boxes

  • July 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    My husband and I pretty much keep gifting to only ourselves now… We exchange gifts with his family, but have asked that we only get wine or food gifts. The children in the family receive something nice, and contributions to their college funds.

    I’ve been slowly getting rid of the clutter by organizing a street sale with my neighbors once a year. We just had it for the second year last weekend, and we got rid of almost everything we put out. Then we had a BBQ for the neighbors who participated.

  • July 16, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Great ideas, Gals!
    Seems like so much work to organize a block sale, but probably well worth it.


  • July 16, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    I love Heifer first of all, and would give that as a gift to everyone I know. πŸ™‚

    I really love that you have it set where you can actually tell the other people suggestions of what to give. This would help so much.

    We use Amazon wish lists, but sadly not everyone else in the family does. Gift cards are great, but so are “disappearing” gifts like food, lotions, etc.

    Aimee’s last blog post..β€œGrab Bag” Giveaway!

  • July 17, 2008 at 5:22 am

    I completely agree…we get so much “stuff” as gifts we’ll never use but I’m still fighting that internal voice that says it’s rude to suggest gift certificates and such…like asking for cash! LOL I like the idea of donations to groups like Heifer Project tho! Maybe I can overcome my inner Emily Post and make a request like that this year! LOL

    Beth/Mom2TwoVikings’s last blog post..WFMW: Meijer Mealbox

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  • July 20, 2008 at 8:32 am

    I LOVE gifts that aren’t clutter. My mom’s birthday was yesterday and we gave her a horse ride as a trip – it’s one of the things on her life list πŸ™‚

  • July 24, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Oh my goodness, I can so relate to that. My MIL constantly buys things that she thinks I should have and then is offended if I don’t put them on display.

    Not only that, but she is never throws anything away, so she and her husband comprise buy giving US all the hand-me-downs.

    I have a garage full of “stuff” (to put it nicely) that should have been thrown away 30 years ago. Dried up craft paint, contents of junk drawers that have been packed nicely and stored (no I am not kidding) and my favorite . . . a bag of rocks. Yes rocks.

    THEN what does she give me for Christmas? A book titled “Secrets of an Organized Housewife.”




    I can tell you this housewife’s secret, throw all that junk away!

    Carla Alvarez’s last blog post..Economic Downturn? No One Told Small Businesses

  • November 14, 2008 at 7:23 am

    All parties, birthdays and so on. I hate all this junk that only takes place. But on the other side it difficult not to get them since you also give them away when you visit others. I try to keep them to the minimum.

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