Follow Up on The Unwanted Gift
2 weeks ago, I wrote a post asking what I should do with unwanted gifts. It elicited strong reactions both sympathetic and not-so-sympathetic.
My tone might have tipped the balance toward the unsympathetic. I called the particular gift “crap” and might have implied it was beneath my refined aesthetic sensibilities (I’m paraphrasing). To many, I sounded like a stuck-up ingrate. Fair enough. This was not my intention and I apologize for coming off as such.
Had I to write it over again, I might have made clear that the post was not about what great taste I have, how thoughtless gift-givers are or what to do with stuffed monkeys in wicker baskets.
For this last question, there were suggestions galore about places to donate the gifts such as women’s shelters, animal shelters, Secret Santa societies and other places where the gifts will go to those with limited financial means.
Other suggestions erred on the side of politeness, including taking ”a picture of the monkey with your baby (the baby will never know) and then send it to them” before getting rid of it.
Though I tread back into these contentious waters haltingly, I would posit that donating and being polite is more of a short-term solution. It does not change behavior. As commenter eva put it:
taking one trip to the goodwill is simple and may not have a big impact, but it occurs to me that taking a hundred trips to the goodwill is another and [gets] complicated over time.
Nor do these strategies does help communicate to the gift-giver what’s important to you; and isn’t that what giving gifts is about: giving based on what the receiver wants, not the giver?
And while I won’t press this point too far, it should be noted that cheap consumer goods are not necessarily benign. They depend on cheap overseas labor and carry heavy environmental tolls. Watch the Story of Stuff for an expansion on this point. Just saying.
One of the best suggestions I found came from Beth who wrote:
If a person lets it be known in a nice way that they are ‘picky’ it also allows others to become ‘picky’ and in the end you save lots of money, because you are not wasting money on something that will be dumped or given away.
In other words, let people know you’re picky and they’ll be less likely to get you an obligatory gift. Dealing with the stigma associated with this designation is probably easier than dealing with the choreography of managing these situations.
Another suggestion came from kirjsten who wrote:
Next time you have a party or an event where you expect gifts may be given, tell people explicitly “In lieu of gifts to us, please make a donation to “Greater Chicago Food Depository” or whatever charity you prefer. This way, people can honor you & your milestone, whatever it is, and you will maintain control over what comes into your home.
This is a useful suggestion as it says what people should give rather than what they should not. Some people will refuse to show up without a gift. It also handles those casual events where smaller gifts often stack up.
Of course there may be no easy way to do this. Choosing a lifestyle that runs counter to mainstream values is usually beset with communication breakdowns as commenter Em highlights:
The hardest part about being a minimalist, I find, is explaining to others that you have thought carefully about some of society’s expectations and are choosing to reject them. How do I impress on people the difference between not wanting anything and wanting nothing?
Then again, maybe behavior change is an incremental process–one that requires tact and leading by example–as Doris Anne Brady suggests:
Better to approach a situation slowly and let people make grass root discoveries. Being too harsh, too soon could destroy what you would ultimately like to do.
Do you have any further thoughts on this matter, let us know?
image credit: Beauty and the Budget