The Gift Stalemate

Most of us accumulate too much stuff over time. When the stuff starts to prevent us from using the cupboards easily, then most of us just stuff the excess into the closet. And when the closet gets too full…well, yes, that strategy has a limited time of effectiveness.

At some point, you must purge the excess to reclaim your space. If you haven’t used something in a long time, you may decide to donate it. That sounds easy enough, but what if the item was a gift given to you by a dear friend? Got you there, didn’t I? Most of us don’t find it very easy to consign gifts from loved ones to donation.


Gifts can cause your good intentions of organizing to fizzle out. You don’t use the item, but you don’t want to get rid of it, either. And it’s taking up space you need. So, you put it in a box with some other gifty-type things that you can’t quite let go of and put the whole box in the garage.

The box gets moved from side-to-side in the garage, as you maneuver for space, migrates towards the back, settles in with other heaps of boxes and years later you realize you have run out of space in your garage. Darn. It didn’t just go away.

Now when you go to clean out the garage, there they are. A whole collection of lovely little things that were thoughtfully picked out and presented to you by family members and friends. Sigh.

How Do You Let Go of Gifts?    

Let’s think about the act of giving a gift. Imagine your friend who likes you so much that she wants to give you something tangible. She picks out a special item and presents it to you with, “Jennifer/Sally/George <insert your name here>, I just wanted you to have this as a token of my sincere apprecia-tion. And I hope it’s a burden to you for the rest of your life.”

Wait a minute. Did she say that? She didn’t say that. And I bet that she didn’t think it either. Your sincere friend does not want her gift to become a burden to you. The real gift is her love and appreciation for you, not the vase or candle holder or the wine glasses or whatever was in the box.

That item that she gave you is not being respected by being consigned to the back corner of your garage. I’m sure that it’s a lovely little thing, but for some reason it just doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Wouldn’t it be more respectful to make it available for someone who would love to take it home and enjoy it?

Personally, I love to shop in thrift stores. Finding a special item in a thrift store seems so much more exciting than just picking the same thing up at Target. At Target, it would probably be sitting on a shelf with five others just like it. But in a thrift store it is a one-of-a-kind find and you get the thrill of the hunt with it.  What if you could make a donation that gives this thrill to someone else?

Give yourself permission (and if you can’t, I hereby give you official permission) to give away items that were once given to you as gifts. Donate those lovely treasures so someone you don’t even know can experience the delight of discovery. Or consider having a night with your friends, where everyone can bring books, gifts, gently used clothing and other treasures for a night of dessert and exchanging of items. Treat yourself to the great feeling of knowing that you have done some good in the world. Make someone’s day and get your space back!

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