Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a minimalist is trying to sort through all her excess stuff and ends up with a bunch of gifts that she knows she won’t use. She tells a friend about a couple of things she’s planning on giving away and he looks at her incredulously.
“You can’t get rid of that!”
“Why? I don’t use it, what should I do with it?”
“Just… hold on to it?”
Today I want to talk about gifts.
This is something that I’ve been having a bit of trouble with myself so I figured I would make a post about my struggles. As I’ve been downsizing, I’ve found a surprisingly large number of my possessions are gifts. Necklaces for Christmas, earrings for birthdays, books I can get on my Kindle, and the infamous “knickknack” category several of my friends seem to favor (what do I need with a dinosaur pinata?!).
This leads to one of my big problems with going minimal: what do I do with them? I’m trying to declutter and don’t have any use for them, but I can never guess for sure who will remember what they gave me. There are some friends and family that I know won’t miss the necklace they gave me four years ago, but some people will remember–and ask if they notice it’s missing.
So here’s my dilemma: do I tell people I’m downsizing and ask if they want their gifts back, or just give them away and hope they don’t notice? The main issues are for the big items I’ve received in the past–an expensive necklace that bothers my neck, or an old sentimental rotary phone that I can’t use… On one hand, it would be nice if I could just get all the big (as in expensive or memorable) gifts together and tell each person “hey, I’m decluttering, do you want your gift back or should I give it away?” But then that opens up a new can of worms. Then they’ll ask questions about why I’m getting rid of my stuff and it will eventually bring up my attempt at a minimalist lifestyle. I know from reading a fair number of minimalist blogs that a lot of people can somehow get offended by this–because it clashes with how they choose to live their life, and they just can’t handle that for some unbeknownst reason. But *then* there will be the ones who will get offended–not by me giving away stuff and the life I choose to live, but by me not “appreciating” their gift. Why can’t I keep the purse they picked out just for me? (Because I already have three purses! And I only want one!) Isn’t the gift good enough for me? (Of course your earrings are nice, but I don’t even wear earrings!) I must simply not love them if I can’t appreciate their gift!
I know one solution to this is to “declutter” my relationships. “If they don’t want to understand your lifestyle then they’re not worth having around!” But I care about my friends and family too much. Just because they don’t understand my way of thinking and get a little offended by my actions doesn’t mean I want to cut ties! And I also think it’s far too harsh of a response considering they have an entire culture and society pressuring them to think that materialism is the way to go. If I had given someone a gift and lived with a materialistic mindset, I’d be offended if they tossed it too! I would much rather have patience with these people than regret living without them years down the road.
Which brings me to my main thought about all of this…
Why is it that in our society the only way to congratulate someone, or to show love to someone is to buy stuff for them? If I love you, I would rather spend time with you than receive a gift. Let’s play a board game, bake some dessert, or go explore someplace new! If you *must* get me something, get me tickets to a show, an event, something I can *do* not something that will sit around on my dresser collecting dust. I’m tired of getting material gifts that end up cluttering my home and my life, and I think the people we care about are worth more than just a credit card swipe at the mall. So no, I won’t just “hold on to it.” I’ll get rid of it, and I’ll still love the person who gave it to me.