Although you may have wanted to limit your participation in gift exchanges at work or with different groups you belong to, sometimes it is easier to go with the flow and plan to speak up again next year about sending the money to a charity or suggesting another option to exchanging tangible gifts.
If you’ve received mugs, candles, calendars, or other small items through gift swaps and you truly don’t want the items, donate them.
Did you receive gift cards this holiday season? Don’t hold onto them for so long that you risk losing or forgetting about them. Gather the cards you received (and those you’ve been holding onto to) and make some plans to go to specific restaurants, schedule that manicure of massage, or plan a shopping trip. Really, put these dates in your phone’s calendar or your paper planner!
This way, you won’t have to carry the cards around waiting for inspiration to use them (and then leave the store realizing you forgot you had the gift card in your wallet).
At one point, I had three handmade snowmen ornaments sitting in gift bags just in case a neighbor or an acquaintance appeared at my door with a holiday gift. I’ve heard from other people who keep candles, scarves, chocolates, and other gifts on hand just in case they needed something. Do you do this? If so, do you keep these items in one location so that you can keep track of them or are they wherever you found space to tuck them away?
Have you ever decluttered a closet and found items that you weren’t really certain if you bought to give or if you received the items? Although we can feel a moment of awkwardness when the neighbor appears with a bottle of wine, we can always reciprocate on another day … and save ourselves the stash just-in-case gifts.
If this task doesn't apply to you - Release an item that you received as a gift that you've kept out of feelings of obligation.
You’re convinced that you’ll use all those scraps of gift wrap, but do you? Recycle the scraps from previous years and start fresh.
If today’s task doesn’t apply to you: Do you save scraps of paper to use for shopping lists and to-do lists? Do you have more than you'll ever use?
Whether the ex- is a former friend, steady, or spouse, you are under no obligation to hold onto items that bring up negative feelings. If you love the item and the split was amicable, then, no problem. However, if you have a piece of jewelry or a knickknack that you’ve tucked away because you don’t want to think about the person who gave it to you, you are under no obligation to keep the item. Sell it or donate it and clear some negative energy from your home.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Donate a knickknack that you don’t really like.
When you hold onto items that you don’t like or want but you keep them because you received them as a gift, you are saying that the feelings of the other person matter more than your feelings. I know, I’ve ‘given in’ on many occasions because I didn’t want someone to be angered or saddened by my actions or words. However, I know that I’m not really in charge of how that person feels. They decide how to react, they are in charge of their own emotions.
If you don’t care for an item and you know that you would have never purchased such a thing for yourself, let it go.
Did you start talking to friends about exchanging holiday gifts? How did that go? Family can be more difficult because gift exchanges are wrapped into other traditions. However, if it has become a burden, and you know a few other family members are of the same attitude, it might be worth a group email or text to see how many would be interested in foregoing gifts or instead exchanging consumable gifts.
Check out this article for other suggestions (it links to the same article as yesterday)
Decluttering isn’t easy. It requires making a lot of decisions. It occasionally makes you face difficult decisions because someone else gave you an item you don’t use and don’t like.
So now is the time to start talking to friends with whom you normally exchange gifts. Explain that you’ve been decluttering and you’re enjoying the extra space and ease of not cleaning things you don’t care about.
This article here can give you ideas for alternatives, which is helpful since a lot of people like giving and receiving gifts. Tomorrow, you’ll start talking to family.
I don’t know what your just-in-case item or items are. It could be clothing or a hobby item, or something connected to self-improvement. Maybe you’ve held onto the item for six months … or six years … or, ah hem, much, much longer.
I’ve seen the suggestion that if you can acquire a replacement for less than twenty dollars or within twenty minutes, then you don’t have to hold onto an item out of concern for not having it when you need it … if you ever do.
If you’ve attended a conference recently, you probably left with a bag of stuff screen-printed with the names of prominent vendors or your organization – tote bags, lanyards, key rings, office supplies, etc.
If the items are useful, use them … put the pen in your desk organizer, tuck the tote in with your reusable grocery bags.
Of course, conferences aren’t the only places to get this sort of stuff – when I went to the podiatrist, I received a tote bag with my walking cast (not that the air cast was supposed to stay in the tote). We still get mail from charities trying to get my deceased mother-in-law to donate … any many include a free note pad printed with the name of the charity.
If an item is useful to you, use it, otherwise it is nothing more than an advertisement, so don’t feel compelled to give the items a space in your home.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.