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Don’t let Christmas gifts add to your clutter

ANGIE HYCHE, Community contributor • Nov 26, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is drawing to a close, Christmas gift purchasing has definitely moved up in priority on many “To Do” lists. I hope that my article a couple of weeks ago about choosing gifts that won’t contribute to someone else’s clutter was helpful for you. 

I am determined to make the best possible choices for gifts that are practical, personal and meaningful. I don’t want to burden anyone with something that they don’t want! Clutter is a huge problem in America, and Christmas can be a major contributor to the clutter if we don’t choose gifts carefully.

I read a great article recently that reinforces many of the points I made in my previous column. The article is called, “Don’t Buy My Kids More Toys. Try This Instead,” and it was written by Margaret Ethington (http://bit.ly/2ungMAY). Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Let me give you some advice of what you can do instead: Just spend time with them. Take them out for ice cream, or a date to the zoo, or even to the park down the street. They will love that more than any toy, I promise. They will remember it longer too.

“If you insist on giving an actual item, give them a book that you loved as a child. Write your favorite memory about the book in the front. Then read it to them after they open it. You really can’t have too many books.

“Buy them experiences. My kids love the zoo and museums. They love taking community education classes and music lessons. Support them in their passions and support them exploring the world instead of acquiring more stuff. Bonus points if you take them to the activity. But if you don’t, I’ll remind them of who lovingly purchased that karate class for them, and they will appreciate your thoughtful gift.”

But choosing the best gift is only half of the equation. What about the recipients of gifts? When the holiday season approaches, we know that we are about to receive even more stuff. Rarely do we ever think ahead enough to clear out some space for these new items. 

If the gift we receive is something we really need or want, it’s usually fairly easy to figure out what to do with it. But what about when we receive something we don’t really need or want? How do we keep from adding to our piles of clutter? What should we do with it? Here are a few suggestions to help you out:

1. Exchange it. If there are still tags on the item and you know where it was purchased, exchange it for something you do need or want. Most stores will take exchanges without a receipt. If you are lucky enough to have a receipt, you can use the money refunded to pick out something from anywhere you like. I really believe most gift givers would rather you have something you want than to hang on to something you don’t want purely out of guilt.

2. Donate it. You’ve heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It could be that the item you received but didn’t need would mean the world to someone else. For example, someone who already has a huge collection of craft supplies may not be overly excited about receiving yet another box of colored pencils, but the local elementary school students would love to have it.

3. Keep it. If the item is truly one of a kind but you can’t imagine ever using it, you might want to save it for next year’s white elephant gift exchange in which you are challenged to bring an unwanted item from home, the funnier the better. Or if you just aren’t sure whether you want it, you could try keeping it temporarily. Put a date on the box or on your calendar a few months ahead. If you haven’t figured out a use for it by then, get rid of it guilt-free by one of these other methods.

4. Regift it. But be careful. If you are as forgetful as I am, you might want to attach a note to it with the date you received it, who it’s from, and in what setting it was given to you. You certainly don’t want to wrap it up for a work colleague who was at last year’s party, where this gift was given by the boss to every employee. Some may frown on the idea of regifting. My opinion is that if it’s done with the recipient’s taste and interests in mind, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Without a doubt, the only thing you should NOT do with an unwanted gift is to just add it to your accumulated clutter. This is the easiest thing to do and what most often happens. I truly believe in the mantra “Clutter is postponed decisions.” This phrase, trademarked over 30 years ago by legendary organizer Barbara Hemphill, has never seemed more true to me since I began working as an organizer. 

Hundreds of postponed decisions over the years created our clutter problem. Don’t keep adding to it. In fact, why not make a decision to not only stop adding to the clutter, but also to take some time this winter to deal with the clutter? It can be a very eye-opening and rewarding experience.

Angie Hyche is a professional organizer and owner of Shipshape Solutions in Kingsport. Email her at [email protected] gmail.com. For information about her organizing services, visit her website at beshipshape.com.

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