Ways How To Declutter Unwanted Gifts

By Ray Arya •  Updated: 10/24/20 •  11 min read


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We all know the awkward and even annoying feeling of receiving gifts that don’t quite satisfy our needs or expectations. Whether on birthdays, Christmas, or any other occasion, they keep coming into our lives.

Most of the time, we accept them anyway out of respect and to avoid disappointing, insulting, or hurting the gift-giver. And we keep items for years and years out of guilt without even using them or with the hope that one day they will be useful.

But how to deal with unwanted gifts that really don’t serve us any purpose or are just unlikeable? Should we let them end up collecting dust in our homes? Give them back and ask for something else instead? Secretly trade them with other items? Or simply throw them away?

Let me share with you some practical tips I learned as a minimalist on how to declutter unwanted gifts and make sure that you prevent receiving them in the future.


  1. How to declutter unwanted gifts?

  2. How to stop receiving unwanted gifts?

How to declutter unwanted gifts?

1. First get rid of your guilt

The first rule to be successful in getting rid of your non-desired presents is to let go of your guilt. If you want to keep your home minimal and organized, you cannot let someone decide for you what to keep and what not.

Remember that it is your home and you decide what stays and what goes, also if it was a gift. After receiving a gift, it is totally up to you whether to keep and use it or not.

But sometimes decluttering unwanted gifts can be really difficult. Especially when you get them from your loved ones.

You know that it would hurt their feelings if you simply rejected the present or tell them that you didn’t need it.

In that case, it is beneficial to tell yourself some powerful arguments why letting go of those presents is neither bad nor mean.

Otherwise, they will end up cluttering up your home, which is not useful to anyone.

To get totally comfortable getting rid of the guilt, tell yourself:

Further, gifts are just things, and keeping them out of guilt is not a sign of having a good relationship with the gift-giver.

So be gracious for receiving gifts but also don’t be afraid of being honest if you don’t want or need them. Consider that letting go of unwanted gifts is not a bad thing to do, and your guilt will fade away.

2. Exchange your unwanted gifts

One of the easiest ways to let go of your unwanted gifts is to simply exchange them for other items.

The only requirement to be able to do this is to have the receipt of the item so that you can return them to the shop or online store and get something else.

Mostly, the gift-giver won’t include it. However, you can always politely tell the gift-giver that you don’t need the item or you already have it and ask for a gift receipt.

Most people will then understand why you would want to exchange the gift and therefore respect your wish. Instead of feeling insulted, they will appreciate your honesty and help you solve the problem.

3. Sell your unwanted gifts

If you want to keep the decluttering process for yourself and know that you would piss off the person who gave you the gift when discarding it, then you can always sell the item.

Remember, it is way better to find another home for your unused item than keeping it unboxed until you trash it. You want to keep your home as clutter-free as possible.

You can sell the gift on eBay, Craigslist, or any other preferred online selling platform. Or you can ask your friends, colleagues, or family members if they would be happy to use it.

4. Re-gift your unwanted gifts

Alternatively, you can also re-gift unwanted gifts. The next birthday or party is just around the corner, and you could keep the present until then.

Not only will you prevent the gift from landing in the trash or cluttering up your home. But you’ll make someone else happy who could really use or would appreciate the item.

In my opinion, this is an excellent and the most minimalist way of dealing with unwanted gifts that saves time and money and simultaneously avoids additional trash.

We, for example, don’t drink any alcohol. But every now and then we receive a bottle of wine or champagne when we invite people over. We happily re-gift them to others when we visit them at their home.

A more honorable and thoughtful way of letting go of presents would be donating them to people in need.

If we are honest, most of us already have everything we need. The whole point of minimalism is to understand that we don’t need more things. So why keep collecting them?

Donating is a more hasslefree and fantastic way to deal with unwanted gifts while helping others and showing the world that you care about your community.

Before throwing those gifts away, consider passing them over to your favorite charities, thrift stores, schools, woman shelters, or local families. They will appreciate anything from clothes to books, toys, and food.

How to stop receiving unwanted gifts?

Now that you have some ideas on how to get rid of gifts you don’t want, it is time to apply some tactics to prevent them from coming into your life in the first place.

You won’t always succeed, and you may hurt some feelings a little bit, but, in the end, you will be creating closer relationships and avoid misunderstandings.

Keep in mind that you want to stay on your path of creating a life with less, minimizing useless clutter, and reducing your waste output.

Here are three practical tips on how to stop receiving further unwanted gifts.

1. Always be thankful and kind

First and foremost, no matter what has been gifted to you, always show that you are thankful. Be respectful and polite because you don’t want to insult your gift-giver. Especially not while receiving the gift.

Understand that the person who gifted you cannot read your mind but intended to make you happy because he or she cares about you. Gift giving is mostly their way of showing their love and affection.

So even if you find it difficult to accept it, thank them, even if it is something that you don’t need or want.

2. Don’t hesitate to communicate your gift wishes

Once you know the gift-giver a bit better, you can share your core values and your view about stuff. Let them know about your journey to a simpler life and your optimism about living a more waste-free life.

Don’t hesitate to communicate your gift wishes and desires, but in a subtle way. Give others an idea of how you live and what makes you happy.

Having an honest conversation about gifts makes it also easier for others to find the right ones. They will exactly know what to buy, whether it is a physical product or an experience.

This will save them time, money, and energy and most likely make both of you happier.

Of course, this applies to your relatives and close friends as well, as they will give you gifts every year. Honesty will get all of you much further and misunderstandings and unwanted gifts.

It is also the most polite way to tell someone not to buy you a gift or that you just need specific things.

Your loved ones will surely want to support your goals and your quest for a better world. And who knows, maybe they will use the same tactic to get the right gifts from others as well.

3. Suggest new ways for gift-giving

Nowadays, we buy way too many gifts and spend tons much money on them as well. For what? And why is it that way? Have you ever questioned the whole system of gift-giving and what we do it for?

The intention should primarily be to make someone else happy. We should not buy gifts solely if we feel obligated to do so and not to come empty-handed to a party.

Gift-giving should be a sign of love and affection to the person you care for. But it has become a tradition, a thing that everybody does, and often without the right intention. That is why we so often buy the wrong gifts.

Luckily, it does not have to be that way, and you can suggest new ways of gift-giving.

4. Gift-giving for Christmas

As most of the gifts are bought in the Christmas holidays, you could start a new trend with your family and friends.

Show them how to avoid purchasing and receiving useless gifts that can cause stress and empty wallets.

What we do is simply exchange gifts. Everybody buys only one item with a limit of 20-30 Euros. Then we write our names down on small pieces of paper, put them into a bowl, and let everyone pick one name

This way, you only buy one gift for one person.

Sometimes we decide to not buy anything at all and wrap some things that we already own but don’t use and exchange those.

We find these fun and entertaining ways to give gifts and, at the same time, build a new tradition of keeping our wants few.

Plus, it reduces our waste output drastically.

Need some ideas for thoughtful and minimalistic gifts? Click here.

5. Gift-giving for birthdays

We have cultivated the tradition of not celebrating our birthdays anymore, or at least not the traditional way. On our birthday, we spend our day outdoors to reflect on our lives and be thankful for everything we have.

For birthday celebrations of others, we mostly ask the celebrants what they would need or want to avoid buying useless stuff.

We also often suggest giving them experiences like spending time together, doing sports, a day in the woods, or cooking together.

Giving your time is one of the most beautiful expressions that you care for somebody.

As for kids, they also don’t want stuff all the time. Mostly, they just want to spend time with you.

So be creative and spend a little more time getting the right gift for your loved ones.

Ask them what they need. The gift-receiver will notice that you are more intentional with your presents and appreciate them even more.

Final thoughts

I hope the tips will help you declutter and avoid some of the unwanted gifts you may receive.

Remember, the point of a gift is to bring you joy and benefit your life. If it doesn’t meet that intention, still gratefully accept it, but then you may re-gift or simply give it away. And hopefully, it will enrich the life of someone else.

Don’t feel pushed to keep gifts you don’t love or won’t use solely out of guilt. Stay on the path towards a minimal and simple life with a less cluttered home.

Finally, don’t be afraid to live your life honestly and truthfully. Communicate your wants and needs so that your loved ones don’t buy you anything useless in the future.

That way, they will respect your wishes and get to know you even better, resulting in a closer relationship.

You might also like these posts:

15 Best Gift Ideas For A Minimalist Boyfriend

How To Learn To Live With Less For Beginners

Ray Arya

Ray is a frugal minimalist who loves to travel and live in his self-converted camper van. He writes about the benefits of downsizing, decluttering, saving money, building wealth, and the freedom that results from the power of less. Minimalray.com is for everyone who seeks a meaningful life and is committed to contentment.

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