Last Updated on November 10, 2021
Are you trying to live sustainably or more minimalist but your family or friends love giving presents? This can be a difficult topic and conversation to have, but it’s worth it!
You might get resistance at first but if you follow these suggestions most people will understand and eventually come around. In my experience some are often very grateful or appreciative of you initiating a shift!
Tips to Reduce Unwanted Gifts
Keep the conversation positive
This is the most important. Gift giving can be very personal to people so telling someone you don’t want “junk” or their sweatshop-made gifts is hurtful and will make them upset and defensive. Instead focus on how other things make you happy or bring you joy.
For example you could explain how you’ve worked hard on decluttering and instead of physical gifts the thing you’d love most is to enjoy some quality time together.
If there’s something specific that you’d like, instead of talking about how other similar items might be unsustainable or unethical, focus on how that item would work really well for you and be a meaningful gift.
If you don’t want anything but know people will definitely want to get something, ask for a donation. Explain that you really care about a certain cause so it would mean a lot if instead of gifts they made a donation to a certain charity/organization you support.
You want them to see how this is something that would make you happy, not feel bad about their gifts or like they are unappreciated.
Make alternative suggestions
Maybe your family, friends, or coworkers are feeling the same way about all the gift-giving but no one else has expressed it. Try offering some other fun ideas to change up your traditional gifting:
- Instead of getting individual gifts you could suggest that everyone draws names and buys 1 “big ticket” gift for 1 person. This way you can spend a little more on the gift and get something the person truly wants.
- You could agree to gift experiences – dinners, movie tickets, coffee dates, or any activity they enjoy. Instead of giving gifts why not spend time together and make memories!
- You could decide to gift consumables like homemade cookies, coffee/tea, favorite liquors, etc.
- Or another option if you’re all crafty is to give handmade gifts
- You could all use a wishlist. There are apps like Giftster where everyone lists things they’d like, you can share it with a group and mark things that are purchased so there won’t be duplicates. This way people can ask for things they actually want and it makes shopping easier for everyone.
Show extra appreciation when people respect your wishes
Remember that it can be a big deal for some people to change their habits. If your relative who loves piles of presents gave you a charitable donation like you asked, they might be worried that it’s “not enough” or you’ll feel left out when everyone else get their gifts. Make an extra effort to thank them and explain that it’s a wonderful gift and really means a lot to you!
Of course you should show gratitude, but taking extra time to explain how meaningful it is will help the person know they made the right choice and they’ll also likely remember for the next time how special that gift was to you.
What about when you receive an unwanted gift?
I think it’s important to still be gracious receiving unwanted gifts and then try to find that item a home where it will actually be used. I really like how Courtney Carver explains gift giving; that the “gift” isn’t the physical object, the gift is meant to be an expression of love or appreciation so you can keep the intention of the gift but still let go of the object. The person who gave you the gift likely wouldn’t want it to cause you stress or negative feelings.
If you know someone who would use and appreciate the gift, re-gifting can be a great option. Also look for charities you might be able to donate it to, for example if you received skincare products that you won’t use try to find a local shelter that takes care and hygiene products.
Then try again with gentle suggestions next time. Remember that it can be a process and take a while for people to adjust.