What to Do About Receiving Presents You Don't Want
If you're into minimalism, you've probably wondered at some point how to avoid your kid being given a heap of gifts you don't want in the house. It's a sensitive issue. So here is the first and most important thing you must do:
Be grateful for every gift you (and your children) receive.
If you can't approach this without an attitude of appreciation, then to be honest, wait until you can. Otherwise you'll just come across as selfish, ungrateful and rude. Just saying it upfront.
With that said. Here are a few tips:
1. Accept all gifts and simply don't buy anything yourself. This approach works for me! When I realised that my kid loved the presents family were giving her, even when they were weird gifts I would never choose, I realised I actually didn't know what the best gifts to buy her would be. So instead of asking others to stop buying her gifts, I started limiting the amount of things I bought her. Same result, just less control over the types of things in the house.
2. Tell gift givers you'd prefer quality over quantity. Ask those who you know will buy gifts to only buy one thing special. This way, you get less gifts and they will last longer.
3. Tell gift givers you want to teach your kid to appreciate gifts instead of take them for granted. This is another approach to ask for one gift per gift giver. This works well for older generations who like to spoil grandkids but also have a 'kids these days are spoilt' attitude.
4. Create a list of things you would like, so if people ask you can tell them your ideas. If appropriate, let people know you've got a list if they need help with ideas. You could even suggest buying special gifts which will be used instead of played with (e.g. bed sheets, library bag, special shoes, drink bottles). These gifts allow people to express creativity and find unique items without taking up extra toy space in your house - after all, you need those things anyway.
5. Explain why you are cutting back on gifts or why you have changed your approach to gift giving. Sometimes people just need to understand why it matters to you. Try asking what they want to get out of giving gifts, as this is a really helpful conversation to have, too. They might want to make special memories with your kids, or be the one to give the favourite toy - whatever their motivations, you'll be able to work out some ideas or approaches that suit both of you.
6. Ask them to keep some gifts at their house so your kid has things to play with when you visit. This is a great approach if they give you gifts that are difficult to store at your place too.
7. Ask for experiences instead of things. This could be vouchers to somewhere, or even a 'voucher' to a special date with the gift giver (e.g. morning tea).
When people really don't want to give up buying gifts, or buy ridiculous things:
8. Do a declutter while they are visiting . Let them see how ruthless you are and how much isn't kept in your house. They won't want to buy things if they know the gifts will just be taken to the op shop. They'll also see what sorts of things you don't keep.
9. Instead of cleaning when they visit, literally make the biggest mess you can with all the toys the kids have. Have toys everywhere. Most people will be shocked into thinking 'they already have everything, I better just buy things they need' or 'these kids have too much stuff, I better just buy experiences'. (This approach may not work if you're already a minimalist.)
And when you get things you just really don't want:
10. Re-gift it to someone else or donate it. Pretty simple for babies or toddlers who will forget about things once they're out of sight. A bit harder to manage with older kids. Whatever you do, just make sure you still appreciate the thought and intentions behind the gift.
Or learn to appreciate gifts you didn't want.
11. Find a way to use it and appreciate it. Seriously, try relaxing a little bit. Let the kids enjoy the gift until they don't anymore, and then make the move to pass it onto some other family who will enjoy it again. And sometimes things can have a different use than perhaps intended. For example, random objects can make great flower pots, and hand me down clothes can become teddy bear clothes.
I realised early on that while this is my home and I get to choose what stays and what doesn't, I also don't get to control every aspect of my kid's childhood. So what if they like some big clunky toy that I would never have chosen? So what if they'd prefer to have an ugly toy instead of a cute, classic one?
It helps to remember nobody gives your family gifts because they want to annoy you. Most people buy things they genuinely think your family will love - because they love you. So, however hard it is, maybe it's ok to actually just accept gifts and enjoy them for a little while. Even if those gifts aren't things you'd choose for yourself or your kids. Maybe that's not the most minimalist approach, but it's certainly a more mindful one, because it's important to be mindful of everyone - the gift giver and the kids included.