Have you ever received a gift, feigned praise and thanks, but secretly wondered what you would do with it, or how you could regift it? Many have, but unwanted gifts are seldom discussed. Instead, some politely ask for gift cards or create and circulate wish lists to guide potential gift givers, hoping for appropriate and valued gifts. Many, however, do nothing. The result: large sums of money are spent every season on unwanted gifts, which contribute to clutter at home and consumer debt. According to finder.com, it is anticipated that in the US alone almost $13 billion will be spent on unwanted gifts in 2018, at $88.60 per gift.

Top Unwanted Gifts with High Clutter Probability

Here are some items to avoid if you want to reduce the number of unwanted gifts in the homes of your friends and loved ones.

  1. Clothing and Accessories. These seem like easy gift options, but are very hard to get right. Many people have specific and nuanced tastes— whether they realize it or not. In my view, it’s always best to go with a gift card for a store where they like to shop, than to try and get this right. Beyond colour and style, there are so many other variables at play that it’s much better to let the recipient make a choice they’ll love.
  2. Decorative Items. Most people don’t need more decorative items– the epitome of clutter. I would avoid this category altogether. But, if you are hellbent on giving a decorative item, give a gift card to a store where they like to shop. Or, take them on a shopping adventure and give them the option of choosing something. Like clothes, likes and dislikes around decorative items can be difficult to navigate, even if the recipient has tried to describe what they want. If given as a surprise, they are hard to exchange or decline.
  3. Gift Baskets. An easy option for gift shoppers, especially for those they don’t know that well. Already assembled, pretty to look at and offering so many different items, there is sure to be at least a few things in the basket the recipient will like. Sure, but what happens to all the other stuff and the basket itself? Why not buy the one or two things in the basket you know the recipient will like and skip the rest. Unsure what they might like? Make some discrete inquiries or give them a gift card for a consumable gift they can choose for themselves.
  4. Cosmetics, Fragrances and Bath items. Once again, these items can be really hard to get right. Most people I know have their go to brands and products. They are typically not interested in others unless they’ve had a hand in the decision-making process. If you think there is a great new product they should try, give them a gift card for a store that sells their favourite products as well as this new one, and include your recommendation in the card. They may be interested in the product, but it is best if they make the purchase for themselves.
  5. Plastic Junk. This is a more general classification based on the materials and functionality of gifts in every category. Keep it in mind as you consider all your gift purchases. Examples abound, especially with low spending limits like office gift exchanges– a great source of unwanted gifts. Also, especially gifts for children, like plastic dollar store toys that break easily and/or are quickly forgotten. Lots of small plastic bits that end up all over the house and eventually in landfills are maddening for parents. Look for consumable gifts for kids instead. Be kind to your friends, family and planet this season. Skip cheap plastic gifts altogether.

If you have other categories of unwanted gifts that cause clutter and would be better to avoid, we’d love to hear from you. Sometimes the thought counts negatively. Our current traditions are adding a lot of unnecessary stress and clutter to our lives, the season and our planet. It’s time to discuss and re-assess some of our gift giving habits and look for meaningful gifts with less stress and clutter.