Thanksgiving is behind us, the turkey is all eaten and the harvest décor has given way to the reds and greens of Christmas. This time of year is full of parties and celebrations and gift exchanges. Which brings up the taboo topic of the unwanted gift. Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but sometimes it happens. Maybe it was the office gift exchange. Or maybe it was the aunt you haven’t seen in years. The thought is nice, and you appreciate it, but the fact remains that you are now faced with a gift that you simply won’t use. From regifting to donating, the ideas for tastefully dispatching of the unwanted gift are endless.
Rule Number One of dealing with this type of gift is simple: always thank the giver without any reservations. Pull out the classic, “It was so nice of you to think of me” and “Oh, what an imaginative choice!”
After Rule Number One, however, it becomes complicated and it all hinges on avoiding hurt feelings. You can regift something if the original giver is not going to find out and the recipient you choose will not be offended if they find out. You can donate something under just about any circumstances; the only complication there is how close of a relationship do you have with the original giver, and how likely they are to find out you donated the item.
Before regifting, ask yourself if the recipient would actually like, enjoy, or use the item (if not, you’re simply pawning your problem off on them). The gift must be brand new, still in its packaging, and with all of its parts and instructions (no cast-offs allowed). So, if you already own a coffee maker, and you’re given a new one by a distant relative you can give the new coffee maker to your sister, whose coffee maker just broke. Or if you received two copies of the same book, and you know your best friend across the country also wanted to read it, you can gift one copy to your friend.
If regifting isn’t an option for any reason, the next choice is to donate unwanted items. You can simply find a local thrift or consignment shop, or look around for a local shelter or other charitable organization that could use the item.
Though the idea has gotten a negative reputation, the fact is, regifting or donating gifts that don’t suit your taste is a greener choice than letting them sit unused in your closet. A little thought and planning can help reduce the number of unwanted gifts, however, and every little step toward a greener life is a good one.
Be up front with close friends and family and ask them to do the same. Offer a list of wants or needs, or even a list of “don’t wants” to help guide choices. This is especially important if you have very specific lifestyle choices, like only consuming organic foods, or using sustainably sourced products.
When it comes to Secret Santas, White Elephants and other casual gift exchanges, encourage the planners to set some green boundaries. Either make it a true white elephant exchange, or put requirements that gifts must be food or drink related. Alternately, ask participants to list their gift suggestions so whoever draws their name has a better chance of picking something that will be used.