Although some of us can be bold and ruthless when it comes to eliminating clutter, we all tend to come unstuck when it’s a question of an unwanted present. The danger is that we’ll keep the gift so as not to offend the giver, but it’s clear that this won’t help our clutter problem. So what’s the solution? 

Well, it all depends on who the giver is. There are several categories of gift giver:

1. The Distant Relative

This type of giver hasn’t seen you since you were four years old and really couldn’t care less about you. They know nothing about your personality, lifestyle, or taste, but feel obliged to send you a gift at Christmas out of a sense of family duty. Their ignorance about you means that their gifts tend to be wildly unsuitable.

The solution to this problem is easy. You never see this person, they’ll have no idea whether you’ve kept the gift or not, and you’re not emotionally attached to them. Feel free to give the present to a charity shop with a clear conscience, but write them a polite thank you letter.

2. The Close Relative or Friend

These presents are usually more palatable because the person knows you well, and will normally be able to guage what you like or need. However, occasionally even close relatives will buy you a completely unsuitable present, in a fit of absent-mindedness or madness. If the relative visits you frequently and will be offended if they don’t see the gift prominently displayed, then you have a problem.

There are two solutions to this dilemma. Solution one is to tell them that the gift wasn’t really your cup of tea. They may be offended but are unlikely to make the same mistake twice. Then you can get rid of the gift or give it back to them.

However if you love them dearly and really want to avoid hurting their feelings, then use solution number two. Display the present for a reasonable period of time in a prominent position, say six months. Your relative will be suitably delighted. Then find an excuse to move the gift, for example re-arranging the furniture, or decorating the room. Once the gift is moved to a room that is less visible, your relative won’t notice it so frequently. Then after a few more months you could quietly remove it and give it away.

The chances are that it’s absence will never be noticed, but if the relative should notice then you can always say that it’s in your bedroom, or some other obscure place. This strategy takes longer and is not strictly truthful, but a little white lie can often save a lot of angst and hurt feelings.

3. Your Children

Presents from your children can range from bizarre objects they’ve made at school or nursery, to unusual gifts they’ve selected for you and bought with their own pocket money. I have always pretended absolute delight upon receiving these odd offerings.

How you deal with these later depends upon how sentimental you are about things connected with your children. I will keep all of these gifts for a good twelve months, as I’ll admit to being a pushover when it comes to my offspring.

Then I’ll take a fresh look at them. I’ll keep my favourites; the objects that help me to remember them at a particularly cute age, or paintings that show artistic merit. Then I’ll discreetly dispose of the more impractical objects, like gigantic paintings, or artwork that sheds seeds or sequins like confetti whenever you pick it up.

After all, if we kept all of these offerings then we’d have cupboards full of them! Especially if you have more than one child.

4. Your Co-Workers

Gifts from your co-workers tend to be fun, sometimes bawdy, and are guaranteed to raise a smile when you open them. Examples are mugs with rude slogans, novelty sex toys, silly hats, or joke books. Once you’ve all had a  laugh about them, you can take them home and bin them. No one expects you to keep this type of gift, as they are very much ‘of the moment‘ and have no lasting use or value.

5. Grateful Parents

If you work with children then you’ll probably be inundated with gifts from parents, who are grateful for your efforts, or who wish to curry favour with you in the hope that you’ll favour their child. These usually consist of boxes of chocolates, flowers, or toiletries, but occasionally can be more imaginative.

My suggestion would be to give the chocolates to your own friends or relatives as gifts, after all there are only so many you can eat yourself. Enjoy the flowers, and dispose of gifts that are completely unsuitable in some other way. Don’t feel you have to keep them all, but be grateful, because not everyone is thanked in this way by the people they work for.

Your Present Defense

My guide on how to cope with the dangers of gifts, may not cover every situation you find yourself in. However it will give you some ideas on how to cope with some of the gifts we all tend to be inundated with on every special occasion.

The most important thing to remember is that you mustn’t feel you have to keep each and every gift you are ever given. That way lies madness and a cluttered home. It’s the thought that counts, and as long as you’re not offending people, then don’t keep presents out of guilt.