Going on our clutter free journey will eventually lead us to bump into stuff that other people have given to us that we don’t want.

  • What happens when a friend unloads their unwanted stuff on you because they thought that you might need it more?
  • What happens when a family member keeps giving you stuff for Christmas and birthday that you don’t like or need?
  • How do you get rid of the clutter that’s from someone else, someone that you care about, which means you care that they took the time to think about you and pay good money for something for you? 

Unfortunately, it’s not something you want, need, or the very worst — it stresses you out. 

I had a family member like that. She had such a hard time getting rid of stuff from her house. She would hold onto everything for “Just in case” and no matter how many times people came in to help her declutter, the clutter would come back.

It was deep and emotional for her. No judgment whatsoever. 

So when she came to me with boxes and boxes of stuff for my little girls from her big girls, I would just open my trunk and say “Yes,” to the “Did you need some clothes?” question.

I felt great. I felt like I was helping her out.

Until the pattern repeats itself over and over over the years. It got to the point where I now had junk pilling up in my house again (a constant battle right?!) Her stuff was stressing me out. But I couldn’t say “No.” I was starting down a place that I never should have started.

But as the years went on I got really good at a quick sort of donations, garbage, and keeping piles right in my mudroom before these boxes would come in the door and it all worked out in the end but esh!

Why is there so much pressure on keeping unwanted gifts and stuff? 

I think when we are in different stages of our clutter free journey and our life how we accept or need these gifts will change.

For example, when I have little babies I want all the cozy, easy to use sleepers that there are because babies need like 2 – 4 a day. I love to overstock on those as mom fog brain settles in. And doing the laundry is not a top priority when you’re a new mom. So yeah at this stage of life I love collecting all the sleepers. 

Different stages = your interest in keeping different things = your interest in keeping the gifts and stuff that people have given to you. 

Freedom over gratefulness

How you read this article depends on how you look at gifts.

  • Do you feel like it’s crazy to get rid of people’s gifts?
  • Do you look at gifts as a burden?
  • Do you look at them as nothing at all — as in whether you have them or not doesn’t bother you?
  • Do you wish you received more gifts?
  • Do gifts speak to your love language and you are so excited to receive a gift? 

How you look at gifts matter.

But how you feel and prioritize your clutter free journey matters too.

While you can receive a gift or donation with gratitude you need to really approach it with the eyes of looking at this stuff people are inviting into your home as a possible roadblock on your clutter free journey. But maybe those gifts are not a roadblock but a blessing.

How do you keep your clutter free life, even though you are grateful? 

How to sort the gift clutter?

Give yourself permission to declutter those unwanted gifts 

I think giving yourself permission to go there (to go to a place where you choose clutter free freedom over the feeling of gratefulness that someone thought of you and gave you a gift or a box of their donations) is the first step of this journey to tackle the stuff from other people that has this huge emotional connection.

When you give yourself permission, saying 

“It’s okay if I don’t keep grandma’s china. The world will not burn down. She won’t mind or she’ll never know. And she will still love me. And I choose a clutter free lifestyle of keeping only the things that I love, use, and would buy again over the approval and lack of judgment that other people will think of me. A.K.A. my family” 

Fear is not going to be dictating what stays and goes in your home. Fear is not going to keep all the china when you hate it or don’t know where to put it or just the thought of it stresses you out. 

Stress relief granted. Permission granted.

It starts with you saying “I’m worth it! I’m worth making the hard choices of deciding whether or not to keep things that other people have given me with the emotional attachment I feel towards it.”

Yes, you are worth the hard decisions and the possible judgment. 

Shift your mindset around the unwanted gifts 

As in stop thinking of them as gifts from such and such person. Just think of it as the stuff in your house that will one day, eventually, break or be consumed or rust or rot or chip or go out of style, etc.

But shifting what you call “unwanted gifts” or “gifts you hate” or “gifts you don’t need” to calling it stuff in your life, you are peeling off the emotional layer, the layer that is forcing you to stay emotionally connected to this thing you no longer want.

When you no longer have an emotional connection it makes it easier for yourself to see the thing for what it really is and place it where it really needs to be placed in your life.

Which is “out.”

Use these 3 simple questions to discern whether or not you keep toss or give away the gifts 

I love these questions and when I’m decluttering I use them all the time. It makes decluttering fun, simple, and easy. I didn’t come up with them. These are from Kathi Lipps’s book “Clutter” and the questions she asks herself are:

  • Do I love this? If yes then keep it.
  • Do I use this? If yes, then keep it.
  • Would I buy this again? If yes, then keep it.

Whatever is left in the “No” pile you can sort, toss or donate.

So super simple. 

Related Post: The Top 10 Thing You Can Toss Today

Have a conversation with the gift giver about your clutter free lifestyle 

Even if they don’t understand your clutter free living. Even if they don’t live that way themselves that’s okay. The point of the conversation is for you to excitedly share about your life and how decluttering your life is shaving off your stress and saving you time for the things that you really love.

I mean if it’s a one-off present that shows up that you think you’ll never get again, like whatever, just get rid of what you don’t want.

But say it’s a mother-in-law that keeps buying you clothes that you don’t want or love or need. Okay, possible time to have a conversation. 

I like to have a backup option too where if we are having a conversation like this one then I’ll say something like

“How about we spend time together doing ____ and that can be my present?”

Like a non-clutter suggestion of what they can do with you instead to build your relationship … which matters more than stuff. 

In a way, it’s like you are gently educating your people on who you are. Like:

No, you really don’t hold value in the tradition of keeping grandma’s china. You would rather keep a beautiful scrapbook you made of all the memories you had of her plus writing out her virtues as a keepsake than china that you have no space, no way to use, and always forget about the 2 chances a year that you could be using china.

Grandma’s china does not equal family.

Grandma’s china does not equal my self-worth.

Grandma’s china is stressful to take care of and use. Grandma’s china is from a time where friends came over or family members came over and we served on delicate china plates, we serve our friends on everyday plates … it’s fine and what we’ve chosen to do — embracing the conversation and not impressing our friends with our stuff. 

Figure out how these unwanted gifts are leaving your house 

This could be shoving those boxes into the hubby’s car and asking him to stop by the donations center on his way to work.

Maybe this could be not even touching the box after you’ve closed it for the fear of opening it and keeping it for real.

This could be you packing up the boxes and then storing them in your basement for a while as you decide whether or not you are actually going to keep the stuff. (Although if we are talking about unwanted gifts here, you probably already decided that you don’t need this thing in your life.) 

And lastly, here is one of my favorites …

Burn or destroy the gift myself.

I know how it sounds, put your eyebrows down. But this example only works on wood or paper things that are super hard to get rid of but are really rather useless.

I had this 3-foot wood doll my mom gave me when I was in my teens and she had made it. That doll was a decoration in my room and I loved it. I had even lifted up its dress and with a sharpie, I wrote on the doll my deepest secrets and dreams. But when I left for college and left the doll behind I also left that phase of life. When I eventually came back home got married and set up my own home, I still had this doll and nowhere left to put her and the dreams and secrets I no longer needed.

I held onto that doll for 5 more years … I don’t know what to do with her and I couldn’t bear the thought of “just tossing her in the garbage” and there was no way I was going to give her away.

So sitting in front of our woodstove one night I burned the doll.

And it was a perfect moment.

I said a prayer to honor my mother that gave me a beautiful, safe, and loving childhood that I never appreciated and understood until I became older and a mom myself. I also said a prayer about the young girl I was that wrote those dreams and secrets on the doll. I’m so grateful to who I was that led me here to where I am. And burning my doll that I had hung onto for years, carted from house to house to tuck back into a box was cathartic. I’ve done that with papers and lace things.

Almost like a mini release ceremony. 


Take the pressure off yourself about keeping unwanted gifts. You have enough going on.

~Move into the space of embracing your clutter free freedom more than the grateful indebtedness of receiving unwanted gifts and donations.

~Give yourself permission to toss, permission to look at your stuff … ALL your stuff as just stuff without the emotional connection.

~With that detattachment, you can ask yourself 3 questions in order to figure out if you should still keep it.

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you use it?
  • And would you buy it again?

~Lastly, get creative about how you are going to get rid of those unwanted gifts. The sky’s the limit. 

Alrighty, happy decluttering. You’ve got this.