What should I do with unwanted gifts?

The post-Christmas comedown is upon us. Or maybe it’s not a comedown. Maybe it’s a relief that you have dispensed with family duties and no longer have to answer aunt Jen’s questions about your career and love life.

Either way, there are probably some unwanted gifts on your table you are trying to ignore. Hungover and disappointed, you ponder their destiny as you head to the fridge for more leftover ham.

What to do with unwanted gifts?

Accepting unwanted gifts with grace is a life skill. So let’s hope you nailed that part.

“Thank you Aunt Jen, I have always wanted a packet of blank CDs. And they even come with cases – awesome!”

Fingers crossed the unwanted gift is not THAT bad. Maybe an ill-fitting T shirt or ugly throw rug. Here goes:

1. Return them to the shop
If you are lucky enough to have tags and/or a receipt, this is the gold standard of what to do with unwanted gifts. On Boxing Day the returns desks are crowded with post-Christmas dismay and regret. You will not be alone. And you can spend the money on something you actually want.

2. Give them to another family member at the event
I adore this option because ideally the unwanted gifts never make it through your door. If Aunt Jen notices, hopefully the new recipient is keen enough to make her puff up with pride. If this doesn’t seem likely, do a quiet swap when she is snoozing on the couch later.

3. Give them to charity
– Toiletries and handbags can be donated to a Share The Dignity drive for homeless women. Eligible items include unused shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash, and deodorant.
– Melbournians, baby items can go to St Kilda Mums. Even if they have been used. A comprehensive list of acceptable items is available here.
– If you are able to keep your unwanted gifts until next Christmas, in December department stores often collect new toys for disadvantaged children.
– Op shops are everywhere. Perhaps don’t use the shop right near the giver’s house, just in case they wander in and see the unwanted gifts in question. Oops.

4. Give them to the community
– Try the Freecyle, Good Karma and Buy Nothing networks. They all enable you to pledge free stuff, and were doing easy contactless pickups before it was trendy. After a brief correspondence with an interested party you can just leave the unwanted gifts on your porch. Join the group nearest you and get listing!
Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace enable free listings. Again, all you will have to do is pop the gifts outside for discrete pickup. Feel free to peer through the blinds at them as they pick up the freebie and scuttle away. It’s not weird at all.
– Place them outside your house with a ‘free’ sign. Not a great idea on a rainy day, and I have seen too much of this frankly. “Hey there is a storm coming, let’s drag the three-piece lounge and old mattress outside and hope they are snapped up after they are all soggy.” Nah.

5. Sell them online
– You can sell some items to soften the blow of disappointment. Aforementioned Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace do listings for sales as well as giveaways. And don’t forget eBay, the true original. eBay is the most fiddly and expensive but grants you the most protection. Gumtree and Marketplace are a bit Wild West but you can whip up a rough listing fairly fast. Having said that, if the unwanted gift is of low value, it’s generally not worth the hassle of selling. In that case, refer back to previous paragraph.

6. Keep within a time frame
Put them all in a tub and set a reminder electronically or in your diary, to revisit them in a few weeks. By then, the guilt and raw Christmas feelings have subsided and you can look at the items more objectively.

7. Repurpose
Turn the ill-fitting T shirt into a crop top. Make the earrings into a bag tag. Take heed: the new incarnation may be recognised by the giver, but that may just be ok.

8. Establish a gift drawer and save them for another gifting occasion
Regifting is as old as time, but it’s fraught with danger. Don’t double-dip and regift back into the same group from whence it came. Pop a sticky note on it with the gift-giver’s name before you file it away, to streamline the regifting process next year.

Take solace in the fact that regifting is an acceptable practice in Japan. You can tell that to the person who finds themselves on the receiving end of a rebounded gift they purchased themselves one year ago. Sumimasen.

Gifts than have remained in this space for more than two years need to go back to points 1-6. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

– Be careful of public online listings, op shops and curb dumps if the gift giver lurks there. Things could get awkward real fast.
– Is aunt Jen expecting to see the throw rug next time she comes over? Be armed with an excuse if need be.
– Avoid the temptation of taking unwanted gifts to your holiday house. If you don’t like it at home, you don’t like it on holiday. Don’t have that holiday house that has nothing but blunt knives and cheap novelty mugs that are awful to drink from.

Feeling Guilty?
– Have a look at the 5 Love Languages. For some people, gifting is how they express love.
– In a similar vein, Marie Kondo says that once the gift has been given, it has fulfilled its entire purpose. To express love and be received. What you do with it after that, is up to you.
– The culture of gifting is deeply entrenched. I have expressly asked for no gifts on many occasions, but for some guests that prospect is too uncomfortable to bear. This is a terrific breeding ground for the unwanted gifts scenario. Or maybe they, themselves are regifting. That poor, repeatedly-regifted trinket is on a string of bad dates with no permanent home in sight.

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