You’ve done your best to minimize the wrong-for-you gifts. Perhaps you’ve politely discouraged gift-giving in general or you’ve directed people to the types of gifts that would be welcome. But, you still may wind up with well-intentioned gifts that totally miss the mark for you. So, what do you do?
Express your thanks
You may not be thankful for the gift itself, but you are thankful for the love, friendship, and/or camaraderie that was behind the gift.
As Richie Frieman said: “If someone took time to consider, buy, and wrap a gift for you, they deserve your gratitude, regardless of what’s inside the wrapping.”
Don’t feel obligated to keep it
“The bottom of my wardrobe is stuffed with thoughtful but unwanted gifts,” wrote a commenter on The Frugal Graduate.
This is a pretty common situation, and it seems so sad to me. Having a bunch of stuff shoved into closets or buried in basements doesn’t do anything good for anyone. As Deron Bos said on Twitter: “Your friends gave you the gift to bring you joy. If it doesn’t, imagine that their love also grants donating it to others for another try.”
Are you afraid the gift-givers will inquire about those gifts, especially if they don’t see them being used? As Erin noted a few years ago, most givers will never ask you about the item. Some gift recipients choose to have some white lies prepared, in case they are asked. These suggested responses were mentioned by commenters on Apartment Therapy:
“Well, a friend of mine saw it and was absolutely smitten with it, and frankly although it was lovely it wasn’t quite my taste, so I gave it to him/her.”
“It got broken in the last move, unfortunately.”
Here’s a slightly different approach, which tries to prevent future off-the-mark gifts:
“I shamelessly blame my cats for knocking it over or throwing up on it. Then I say, ‘It was such a sweet present, but maybe, given those rascally cats, we should just go out to brunch next year.'”
And another Apartment Therapy reader chose to be more blunt:
“We addressed it head on by saying, when someone asks where that hideously freakish tchotchke they’d gifted happens to reside, that it found a happy home through eBay and the proceeds went to benefit the local animal shelter or food bank in their name.”
Real Simple summarizes it well: “When you receive a present,” says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan “… your duty is to receive it and thank the giver — not to keep the gift forever.”
Remember there are always exceptions.
Example: You enjoy doing extensive holiday decorations. A beloved family member, who usually selects great gifts, buys you a decorative item for your collection. It’s not hideous, but it’s definitely not your taste. But, it’s only going to be on display for a few weeks each year, it doesn’t have to be center stage, and the beloved family member will be delighted to see it gracing your home each year when she stops by at the holidays.
There are no absolutes; sometimes we do choose to keep something because that makes someone else happy or avoids hurting someone’s feelings. But, in most cases, we can keep the warm wishes behind the gift, and exchange the gift itself or move it along to a better home.