What to do with unwanted gifts from relatives

 

Answering a question from a reader today. If you have a topic you would like discussed here just email me at theminimalistmom at gmail dot com.

From reader A:

Several family members are shoppers/pack rats and have been so incredibly generous to us, particularly since we had our baby. However, this means that we have a huge influx of stuff, even though neither my husband nor I shop. If I wasn’t such a purger by nature, we could have been featured on an episode of hoarders by now. As it is, our reasonably sized apartment is completely packed to the gills.

Do you have any experience/advice on how to deal with the sometimes unwanted gifts from others without hurting anyone’s feelings? Suggestions that we could give them on what to give us instead of more stuff? I would hate to seem ungrateful or to offend anyone, but I end up giving so much away, and that doesn’t feel right either. . .

Our first Christmas after the big purge I opened every gift for my son, and there were many, and I felt deflated at the thought of storing it in my home. The gifts felt like a burden instead of what they were: gifts.

I was torn with guilt at not feeling gratitude and frustration over the work these gifts would be: sorting, donating, stressing over if someone noticed we no longer had them in our home.

Since then I’ve worked on a few things and have come to a happy place on what to do with unwanted gifts and how to gracefully and lovingly deal with generous relatives.

Make your wishes known.

My mom and my mother-in-law know about this blog and read it. We’ve talked to them about our hopes of raising Henry without a lot of stuff.

But, you know, they’re still grandmas.

They love giving their grandson gifts and clothes. Moving overseas has not deterred them. They pay exorbitant amounts of postage to send Henry clothing and toys on his birthday and at Christmas. And even someitmes just because they saw something for him that they couldn’t resist.

They’ve toned it down a shade, which is helpful, but we still get a lot of things from them. So I don’t get frustrated by it now. If they still want to send a lot of stuff they know we might donate it if it’s not something we will use.

Let them know what you need.

Another thing that has greatly helped is that we give them gift ideas and let them know what we have used from previous gifts.

Both grandmas love buying clothes so I make sure to tell them about the ones that they have bought and that we use a lot. When we were visiting family in Canada recently I pointed out when Henry was wearing something that they had bought (which was most of his outfits) and thanked them again for it. Side note: I rarely buy clothes for my son. We get enough from the grandmas that I only need to buy a handful of things when Henry grows out of a size.

You can also use a list making tool, like Amazon Wish List, and share it with relatives. That way they are buying things they know you will use.

Ask for experience gifts.

We suggested, and received, a family pass for the Vancouver Art Gallery one year. Every time we went to the gallery I mentioned it to my mother-in-law and thanked her again for the gift.

If people want suggestions for gifts ask for passes to the zoo, aquarium, children’s museum, etc. Make sure to send a quick note of thanks or mention it in passing when you use those experience gifts. It reinforces that they gave a gift that kept on giving and they’ll be more likely to give an experience gift again.

Keep things for a short time and then donate them.

Prolific gift givers tend to forget what they bought. Unless it’s an heirloom item, store it away for a few months and then pass it on to someone that will use it.

Are you running the risk that someone will ask about it and you’ll have to tell them you donated their gift? Yes. It might feel awkward at first but thank them again for the gift and then say you weren’t able to use it.

I know it doesn’t feel right to donate gifts but if you’ve made your wishes known, if you’ve suggested experience gifts or things you could use, and the gift giver still hasn’t taken the message, move on. It’s your home and you can decide what stays and what goes – regardless of if it was a gift.

Always be thankful.

I’m a terrible gift receiver. Long before embracing minimalism I felt awkward and embarrassed when I received gifts. The reasons are many fold and have to do with receiving charity as a child, growing up without a lot of money and my dad. Too cliched and boring to get into here.

I’m trying to be a better gift receiver now. To be thankful and cheerful even if I’m getting something that is going right to the donation pile.

Because the gift isn’t about me. The gift has nothing to do with my son’s minimalist toy box or my two pairs of jeans or my small home.

The gift is about the person giving it.

So smile for them and be thankful.

Anyone else have suggestion for dealing with unwanted gifts from relatives?

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Comments

  1. Steph says

    That’s basically what we do. My mom is pretty good about asking if we want/need something and my mother-in-law usually asks for a list for holidays. And if we get something we don’t want/need we pass it on to someone who does want or need it. It was easier when we lived in an apartment to just explain that there wasn’t room. Now that we’re in a house it’s a little tougher to explain that just because we have more room doesn’t mean we want more stuff.

    • theminimalistmom says

      This is a tough one but I also think it goes along with no worrying about what other people think or say about you. Be thankful and move on – even if moving on means donating the gift.
      PS. We talked a lot about no room for stuff when I was pregnant. Helped keep gifts small :)

  2. Apple says

    Hmmm…we still have a couple of rather expensive paintings we received as presents hidden on the top of our wardrobes. At least they are increasing in value as time goes by…

  3. Marissa says

    We had the same issue and it was a VERY touchy subject for a while with my family who takes HUGE PRIDE in big Christmas and birthday celebrations. We followed the same steps above and in the last year and a half things have definitely improved. My mom, in particular, still “teases” me about how they have a list of gifts they are “allowed” to purchase our family at holidays or she checks with me before sending something because “I don’t want to send you something that will just end up in a garage sale.”
    On the same token, my mom and my sister have also (albeit a slower process for them) really started cleaning out their own lives and home. I can preach to the choir all I want about how amazing this life is, but really, the more they SEE how amazing it has been for my family, the more they are taking their own action to live it too.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Similar journey here. It’s been a few years and people are seeing that we’re out of debt, pretty happy and not reverting back to our spending/buying ways. They give us fewer things and are themselves more open to buying less stuff.
      Slow small change over time = big results. :)

  4. Freedom | Rethinking the Dream says

    We’ve also had to figure out what to do with gifts. When we were going through our big purge, my parents had a hard time understanding. They ended up buying less of the stuff we would actually use, like clothes and books, and ended up buying more dollar store items. I think they were afraid we would end up throwing it away or donating it, and so they started giving us stuff of lower value. Of course this was a complete opposite of the direction we were moving towards — a direction of buying (or keeping) higher value items when of the things we needed and getting rid of all the junk.

    The Amazon wish list helps. The nice thing about the Amazon wish list is that you can also add items from other stores.

    I’m not sure I have much good advice here, since it’s something we still struggle with. One thing we’ve had to do out of necessity is to become a little less afraid of hurting feelings, because our needs come first.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Interesting that there are a few comments on getting dollar store or inexpensive items once you said you want nothing or less.

      I heard an acquaintance say her parents give to each of their children different things: some need money, some need more phone calls and some need very little to them. They say, fair is not equal when it comes to giving. I have tried to tell my MIL and mom that just because they gave another grandchild something doesn’t mean Henry has to have something as well.

  5. Jennifer says

    What do you do when you’ve made your wishes known and they completely disregard them, or worse throw it back in your face, “you make sure to tell him YOU’RE the reason we aren’t giving him a gift”? My son gets the worst useless crap (cheap 4 page books, sets of markers that are dried out, crayons that are so cheap that they barely color on the page, etc) from his grandparents since my husband and I have told them that we don’t want them giving him “gifts” outside of his birthday or Christmas (just to prove to us that they can do it even though we don’t want them to). Should I intercept and save them for stocking stuffers and such? Or should I just try to gently remind them that if they didn’t waste money on junk throughout the year, they could buy him nicer (read: nicer single gift, not tons of cheap crap) for his bday and Christmas?

    • theminimalistmom says

      I would tell them what would be appreciated. Tell them you already have quality colouring books and supplies and that they don’t need to bring a gift at every visit. Tell them what your kids will really use, even if it is expensive, and say that you would appreciate fewer gifts.

      I’m still dealing with similar gift giving myself. It is slowly getting better and moving overseas has helped (do you really want to spend $100 on postage to send $20 worth of useless junk?). I’m not afraid to thank the gift giver and then turn around and donate the items. I’m also not afraid to steer the buyers towards thing we will actually use.

      It’s hard but try not to sweat it too much. Just makes you frustrated and you can only do your part.

  6. EcoCatLady says

    Oy! I am all too familiar with this particular problem! And the funny part is that the worst offenders are the ones who always complain about other people giving them unwanted stuff! Who knows, maybe they’re just re-gifting all of the crap they don’t want?

    Anyhow, my step-mom has a remarkably complex system for dealing with this. She actually keeps a list of who gave her what – then – the next time that person visits or she sees them or whatever, she makes sure to display their gift prominently (wear the jewelry, put the trinket in a place where they will be sure to see it etc.) After that she tosses it!

  7. alexis says

    what do i do with a mother in law that after 11 years of being in the family… she STILL is trying to change me to be more like HER. i received a COACH purse from her for my bday. it is still in my closet with tags on it. my birthday was last month and she knows i will never use it. these are the items i get all the time. jewelry, makeup, vases, purses, etc. my husband is finally getting annoyed by it too. its obvious that i am not into these items and never will be.

      • alexis says

        I don’t use any of the stuff she gives me so I would think that would be a huge hint. If I did discuss it with her … she would ignore me. She loves to ignore me. The problem with selling the purse is that she purchased it while in China. It looks like a real Coach purse but who knows if it is fake ? She paid 1/2 the price for it. If I tried to sell it on Ebay and it is fake then I don’t want some psycho girl after me. LOL. Sigh… Sorry my post was more of a vent. I love your blog by the way. I just signed up last week. Have a good one ! A.

        • theminimalistmom says

          Thanks, A.
          You’re situation with your MIL sounds frustrating. I’d put the stuff away for a few months and then donate it. And keep working on those delicate conversations. Oh, and maybe have a glass of wine (or two) when you know a gift is coming. :)

        • Marie says

          Sorry to hear that your mom in law is such a pain! As for her purse, you may want to try something like Buffalo Exchange or another consignment shop. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s real or not. If it is, they’ll probably buy it from you, and if not. . . well, then at least you know it’s not worth much :)

  8. Charisma Moran says

    Great advice. I have a very large family so I deal with this a lot. I try to give the kind of presents that I like to recieve so I stick to a lot of experience presents. People are starting to catch on and gift the same things back to me.

  9. Rachel says

    Now that our son is 2, both sets of grandparents are on the same page with us. We live minimally so we don’t want a lot of excess stuff but more importantly, we want our children to love their grandparents as they are instead of associating them with receiving stuff. {So many grandparents just give, give, give and the children simply expect to get when they’re around!} This is what we’ve explained to our parents. We understand they want to give so we’ve encouraged them to give experience and memories. To celebrate our son turning 2, my parents took him to the zoo { they also and gave him 2 books that he loves and will be read over and over!} Last week, my husband’s dad was in town and took him out to lunch. They’re still able to give, they’re just giving of their time and making memories!

    I read somewhere several years ago, treat gifts like flowers. Appreciate the gift, appreciate the giver and don’t be afraid to throw them out when they’re no longer beautiful/useful. You can still be thankful and touched when you receive a gift you don’t love but that doesn’t mean you have to hold on to it.

  10. Karen (Scotland) says

    OK, this sounds awful but my ungrateful children have solved this problem themselves…

    After YEARS of telling grandparents and great aunts not to continuously purchase gifts, the obvious ingratitude of my children for small, irrelevant gifts has become evident and relatives have stopped buying things.
    As a mother, I feel shame that I haven’t trained my kids to ACT grateful and happy for any gift, even when they already have it, don’t like it or don’t want it.

    However, as a minimalist, I am proud that my five year old told his aunt “Right, I have a plan. Don’t buy me any more little presents. I don’t want any more little presents. I want you to add it all up and wait and get me a big present later. So no more little presents, OK? At Christmas you can get me something really big if you don’t buy all these little presents now, OK?” Very rude and he was given a row but I applauded his reasoning…

    Kids stop being grateful for poundland toys by a certain age, especially if they are inundated with it. I hate being judged for the kids’ ingratitude but I reason they pick up the vibe from me that we don’t really want the stuff so I can’t get too mad at them.

    The presents are becoming more spread out now so I’m seeing
    1. more gratitude and
    2. better quality presents.
    Karen (Scotland)

  11. Amy says

    When my oldest was little I was given gifts for him a lot. I bought him a lot of gifts. When we decided to live with less well meaning Aunts and Uncles gave him gifts, but as they started having their own children they realized what they were doing and cut back majorly. We rarely receive gifts from family members outside of birthdays or Christmas now. My Dad and Grandmaw just send money so we can get what they need. My Mother crochets small toys or useful gifts for the kids. The rest of the family tends not to give gifts. We do however pass along clothing that no longer fits our children to the cousin who will wear the size next when we see the person (a couple times a year).

    • theminimalistmom says

      I bought gifts for my 2 month old for his first Christmas. Ridiculous. Toys he couldn’t open or even use yet. We stopped giving gifts until this Christmas when we bought him a train set (great investment – he uses it every day).

  12. Terri says

    I have tried to tell my husband’s family to please stop all the gifts. He doesn’t help even though he doesn’t want them either. Amazon wish lists have worked well for Christmas and birthdays. However, this recent Easter my 4 and 1 year olds received baskets full of dollar store junk and tons of candy, sours, gummies,…I just about died. They know we eat organic, with no trans fats or HFCS. And who gives a 1 year old all that candy and sours?! UGH. I easily got rid of all of it, but as they get older it will be harder to do.

  13. Deanna says

    Thank you for the Always be Thankful reminder. I tend to get frustrated, angry when after making my wishes known, we still get unnecessary or useless gifts. I still show my gratitude but carry some anger with me. You reminded me the gift isn’t about us but the gift giver. I will practice being a good gift receiver! Thanks!

  14. KT says

    We also have relatives that live farther away, the one thing I have found is that I gave my mom a category of toys that are from her. We have an ‘American Girl’ like doll which she bought for my daughters. For holidays, or just because she will send items that are for the doll. We end up with things that she knows my girls will play with, and the girls know that all of doll related stuff is from grandma.
    My father in law bought a wii (very generous) and he will buy them games.
    Once you feel you have enough, you may have to come up with a new category, but at least you can try and direct the spending (which in my case, they will spend whether we want it or not) and avoid overlap…

    Another option – is to simply ask that they contribute money to an RESP (education fund) instead, but that can be harder to do.

  15. Jessica in Canada says

    I think you have to start in steps. If the gift giver asks what you/your child would like/need, you can tell them. If they don’t want to be “told” what to buy, or you want them to buy less the key is to encourage: CONSUMABLES. They take up room, but only for a short time. So craft supplies, organic teething biscuits, some fruit juice candy, vitamins, Pull-Ups, etc. They want to buy SOMETHING and SEE the grandchild enjoy it; this is a good way. I have a friend who asked relatives to give money to their child’s college fund; that is just not as much fun to the gift giver.

    But in the end, if they don’t understand, really, the gift is about the gift giver. People give gifts to feel good about themselves. They get joy out of it. Let it go. Let them get joy out of giving it, thank them, then figure out what to do with it later. If the gift is truly about the receiver, the gift giver will want to give them something they want and it won’t be a fight.

  16. Erin says

    Tons of great ideas Rachel! The one thing that I’ve changed in the past few years is to stop buying things for my kids myself. That way, when the grandparents arrive with a toy or a gift, the kids are grateful and I am not standing in the corner steaming with irritation. :) Seriously, it works. Less shopping for me and the grandparents still get to treat the kids occasionally.

    We have also shared with them that we have been asked to participate in a documentary about plastic consumption and that we are collecting our plastic for an entire year – seeing the pile of plastic sitting in our bathtub has done a lot to cure my mother-in-law’s impulses to buy a ton of plastic junk for the kids as she now knows ultimately where it is going to end up!

      • Erin says

        For right now we are collecting all of our plastic (even recyclables) in the bathtub, with the goal of collecting one year’s worth of plastic. We are like the guinea pig family for how much plastic we consume. :) Even though we use reusable bags and refuse to buy things because of plastic packaging, there is still a lot of plastic being consumed in our daily lives (particularly as it relates to food packaging). I tell you, seeing my family’s plastic consumption staring back up at me out of the bathtub sure is a humbling experience – and motivating to consume less!

  17. Megyn @MinimalistMommi says

    I’m surprised no one has said this yet, but ask relatives to donate to a certain charity. For our sons’ b-days, we always pick a charity together that coincides with the theme of their party (or when they were younger, a child-related charity). The problem with this method is that very few actually adhere to this no gift policy. However, friends are great at adhering for parties. We just set the example by NOT buying our sons’ b-day presents and instead make a donation (and pay for the party–an expensive enough gift!).
    As my nana has aged, she now asks for donations to important charities to her. Thankfully, most family members listen to her requests after seeing the food baskets, etc. go unused. Good luck to those out there! If all else fails, just donate it. And if anyone asks, tell the truth–the toy, clothing, etc. went to someone who was able to use it.

  18. Jill says

    This is such a sensitive topic to say the least. I am SO grateful to hear that there are many others who have had this similar challenge with their relatives. Since being pregnant with our son, now four years ago, we have been struggling with this topic still to this date with my mother. We now have a six month old and it still looms over my head. We explained to both sets of grandparents that we did not want more things for the kids and wanted the focus on time spen with each other more than what gifts the kids received at every visit be it at our place or theirs. Needless to say it has been a sensitive topic that no matter what I say or how I say it to her, it still causes a lot of stress for me and for our visits. My mother continually ignores our request to be minimal and keep the gift giving to birthdays and Xmas. So there is always a fight at each visit with her and then subsequently I have one with my spouse because “it happened AGAIN”. My mother has called me ‘selfish’ and blames my spouse for restricting gift giving when we know she loves to shop and GIVE to any moving being that she meets. Needless to say I am getting better at standing up to her but it is still hard. My spouse and I have have tried to live more minimally over the years. We love it and are much happier about it. It’s amazing that some people find the concept strange or ‘not normal’. I love your blog and follow regularly to read more tips and encouragement with this lifestyle choice. Thank you for posting this topic.

  19. Erin says

    Recently, my step brother and his wife had a child, and if anyone was drowned in gifts, it was his daughter. Last time I went home to visit for my dad’s birthday, the gift I offered was to help clean out the garage. I went through getting rid of anything that was broken, duplicates, etc, but also used it to go through the things stored with them, going from several boxes to only 2.

    As I was going through my things (which included a largeeeee amount of stuffed animals) I looked for things I could pass down to my brothers daughter, choosing the softest, nicest of my stuffed animals for her. I cleaned them up, made sure they were safe, and finally passed on these items which held a lot of memory. It felt nice to give a gift, and think of the love they would continue to receive.

    After the garage cleaning incident, and explaining how my stuff was mostly just objects, I think my parents got a bit of the minimalist bug, and I started to hear of the clearing out they were doing. I think they appreciated that they could finally park the cars in the garage :)

  20. idreamofdownsizing says

    THANK YOU for this reminder that it’s more important to be gracious to gift givers than to get our way when it comes to what kinds of gifts we want (or don’t want as the case may be).

    I have been amazed by the number of minimalist bloggers and commentors who go on and on about how relationships are more important than stuff (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and then they turn around and treat people rudely for buying them stuff. That doesn’t really seem like it’s putting the relationships over the things.

    We deal with receiving gifts pretty much the same way you do. We give people ideas when they ask and otherwise we just accept things graciously and then choose to use them or not.

  21. Sissy says

    I had been almost dreading our son’s upcoming first birthday ( how awful is that?) as we’re basicallly inviting everyone and their brother to a casual picnic. I knew we’d get a bunch of crap we didn’t need. Toys, clothes, just…. stuff. I was stressing about it. Then I read your post on the Toonie party!
    http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2011/10/10/10-minimalist-but-fun-ideas-for-your-childs-birthday-party/

    We don’t have a $2 coin so I’m going to make it a Lincoln party – a five dollar bill. Then we’ll donate half the money and put the rest towards the wagon I’ve been eyeing :)

    I’m sure some people will still bring gifts… but that’s why God invented resale shops.

  22. Valerie says

    This is something I really struggle with, my almost 3 year old son was bombarded with gifts from my inlaws this past Christmas (after I thought we had made it clear that we didn’t want him getting a lot of stuff) and we can’t see them without getting more “stuff”. I also just had a baby girl and I am already having anxiety over all the things I know are coming. Donating the gifts has gotten easier for my husband and I, however, my son is starting to realize what is going on. I’d love to hear your input on letting your son open the gifts and then not letting him enjoy playing with it.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Haven’t had to do that one yet but I am sure it is coming. So far we’ve just let him open things, play with it if he is interested in it, and then culled his toys every few months. He really doesn’t notice things are gone. Right now he is very attached to his train table and train set and a few books. I watch for what he’s really using and interested in and then donate the dust gathering toys.

  23. MarieG says

    Thank you for sharing your feelings here regarding how you feel as if you are a terrible receiver. I feel this way so often when I or my husband or son receive a gift. We have been minimalists for 5+ years and though I didn’t really have a huge problem before, with my son in the picture it is much more difficult. Instead of being thankful I am immediately thinking what are we going to do with this! As I am saying thank you, my face must be saying otherwise because I sense they can see it. It is not about what the gift is, but that they thought of you I know, but it is still difficult. It was particularly difficult when my family knows how we choose to live and purposefully buy my son something they know we do not want him to have. As a four year old it is difficult to take something away from him once he has opened it and told how great it is. So, we have done one of the things you have suggested: we keep it for a few months and pass it on.

  24. Anne says

    Here’s somthing to consider. My mother gave my 2yo TWELVE soft toys this Christmas. Hand knitted and beautiful, but TWELVE.

    She died at the end of January.

    Yup.

    My feelings now? Don’t let the gifts stress you out. Try to minmize them; don’t feel bad about re-homing them – but don’t let it drive a wedge between you and the giver. Allow yourself to appreciate the love that those gifts embody. Life’s too short :)

  25. Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry says

    When my husband saw how much the constant stream of clothes and toys was stressing me out (my MIL wanted me to label all the clothes she brought for my kids so she could get them back and have a yard sale one day– even though most were yard sale purchases to begin with) he started to block the stream at the door. When she arrived with a garbage bag of clothes after my second was born (after I had specifically said “We don’t need any clothes, and having more stresses me out right now”) he put the responsibility back on her. He asked “What would you like me to do with any of these clothes that we don’t need? Should I just put them back in your truck?”. I think she felt a little hurt and was huffy with him, and I was mortified that he would be so bold. BUT he was supporting me/us in our efforts to keep it simple and reminding his mother of something we had communicated several times before.
    I think it is a hard concept for her to understand because she loves to buy buy buy and give gifts, but I’ve loosened up a bit over the years (read: not fuming anymore when she shows up with a few things) and she has really tried to honor our request for “experience” gifts, so we are meeting in the middle.

  26. Laura Anne says

    We started giving experience gifts to my sons friends this year – we gave bowling and mini golf trips with my son – the kids have so much fun together and it has given an opportunity for play dates and new experiences with friends.

  27. Mary says

    We have a big extended family and I have 4 kids under age 8. I feel like we operate “at capacity” all the time when it comes to toys. Then when another birthday happens we get inundated with toys and the “overstuffed” feeling takes over. It makes me depressed. When the kids were littler it was easier to make the toys disappear after a while. But now that they are older I feel that it’s not my right to give them away because they are not mine. After all, these toys were not given to ME, they were given as a gift to my children. I’m trying to teach them to pass along the things they don’t like or don’t play with. But it’s definitely harder now that I don’t just sort through the pile of toys and make all the decisions myself.

    On a different note, I really can’t stand Disney Princess stuff. I have 3 girls and it always finds its way into our house. Ick. Anyhow, a while back another family felt like they owed us a HUGE favor. Actually, we had done them a big favor and didn’t expect anything in return. But they really wanted to show us their appreciation and so they gave us an Ariel Princess Kitchen. It was big and pepto-bismol pink and every time I looked at it I wanted it out of my house. But I was overwhelmed with guilt because I knew that they wanted to express their appreciation for how we had helped them. My girls on the other hand, had a lot of fun playing with it. I guess that’s what matters. But between my disdain for Disney princesses and the guilt I felt for wanting to get rid of it….oh my goodness. Certainly an exercise in how to be a graceful receiver of gifts.

  28. Emily says

    LOVE that you said that once you have told people that you are working on minimalizing, and asked them to please limit/stop gifts, you are under no obligation to keep the the things they give you, or your children! A brilliant idea I had not thought of!

  29. JosieKat says

    I live in a small apartment and my mother is constantly buying me unwanted gifts, usually large housewares. I am in my 30s. She repeatedly ignores my wishes and brings over huge carloads of massive sized gifts. I feel like I am 10 years old again fighting for the right to wear the clothes I want to wear. I want to pick out my own housewares! I have a large junk pile in my new apartment and a massive purge underway as I adopt a minimalist style of furnishing. I can’t have any clients over until my place is clean and presentable so this is now affecting my livelihood. I live alone and have no one else to help me with my place except my mom. At every chance she brings more stuff, although she promises to help me get rid of it and hardly ever does. I have huge anxiety at the mere mention of an incoming gift. I have wasted countless hours waiting for packages to arrive that are full of large unwanted items. I have tried all of the above strategies. Ironically her boyfriend is an obsessive compulsive who does not allow her to keep anything at home. This is really starting to affect my income, my mental health, and our relationship. The problem is really starting at her house, and it is coming to mine. I get so much anxiety now though, I am losing the will to deal with the junk and clean up and sell things and organize my place by myself. It is a difficult job and I have no one to help. I am reading this board because it helps to see that other people also struggle with this! I don’t know how to deal with it without being cruel, as it has not worked to express my feelings. It makes me sad to send her home with carloads of unwanted items. But I can not allow myself to end up homeless because of it!

  30. Jody says

    One thing that we do at Christmas is have all of our kids draw names of their cousins. This way they are only receiving two gifts each at my family’s Christmas – one from their grandparents, and one from one of their cousins. With 9 grandchildren on my side, the cost of Christmas would just add up too fast otherwise! We don’t do gifts for my siblings, just birthday and Christmas cards. We’ve done this for years now because it started turning into a gift card exchange. It saves us all $$. Plus, we know that if we actually need anything, we will buy it for ourselves anyways.

  31. Faith says

    I could easily be Reader A. My mother has always liked ‘things’ and often shown love by buying us things, in spite if not always having financial stability. Things got worse after we moved overseas. Random packages would arrive and although I always appreciated the sentiment behind her giving, I really had no idea why she would send some of the things she sent. We relocated to another city a few years ago, and needed to downsize due to shift in property prices, and still wanting to live in a desirable neighborhood. Trying to cram everything into the smaller home eventually led me to seeking a more minimalist lifestyle. I am still a work in progress but I feel, like Reader A, that every time I sell/donate/toss stuff a new package arrives with more stuff. I do eventually get rid of many of the items but do feel guilty over the expense spent on shipping. I also feel drained at the thought of finding places to put the items. I did speak to a family member casually stating that my son has loads of toys, and that we have no room for more ‘stuff’, but my words seem to fall on deaf ears.

    Thank you for the tips and suggestions and I will open discussions again and will set up a wish list, and suggest they check it in the future.

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  1. […] The Minimalist Mom┬ásensibly suggests that you let potential gift givers understand your desire to live without a lot of stuff. We have tried to do this, on many occasions, but we live in a house that is still a work in progress, and I think until our family walk through our doors and see a zen paradise, they will not truly understand our desire to have less. […]

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