New & NowHolidaysGifts

What Do You Do with Gifts You Don't Want?

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There’s no way around it—on some holidays, you may be given a present you didn’t quite want. What do you do with this? How do you diplomatically accept a present from someone and then decide how to dispose of it? Perhaps you were a kid who got clothes for Christmas; maybe you were hit with a truckload of presents you didn’t quite want one holiday. For years, I had my own surfeit of presents from board games to DIY chemistry sets just accumulating in the crevices of my closet.

This problem is a thing of the past for me, personally. But I’ve always felt that, for those of us who have the luxury of getting presents at all, we don’t talk about this pink elephant enough: the churn of holiday gift-giving inevitably leads to the reception of gifts you just don't see yourself using.

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My parents and I struggled with this for years. We found the practice of re-gifting—that is, repurposing our unwanted gifts and handing them out to others at a later date—karmically unsound. I’ve spoken to others outside my family who see nothing wrong with this; to them, it's utilitarian. My family's proposed solution, which gave us peace of mind, was to give gifts to local churches.

I know there are many more options, and perhaps you’re mulling them over right now, in the twilight of the holiday season. So, really, I’d like to know: What do you do with presents you don’t want? Consider my request to speak about this more openly, and to de-stigmatize this cultural silence. What’s the best way of getting rid of these gifts that doesn’t completely pervert the spirit of giving—or, to put it another way, a method that preserves that spirit?

Tags: gifts