Are you someone who is trying to attain or maintain a minimalist lifestyle, but has friends or family that love giving gifts? This post is for you! My husband and I also struggle with this, but we’ve found some ways to hopefully lessen the influx of stuff that comes into our house.
Some back story…
My husband & I are trying our hardest to become eco-minimalists. Consuming & purchasing as little as we can for environmental, financial, & ethical reasons. We also believe less is more & crave a clutter-free, minimal home.
For both of us, our least favorite love language is gift giving. We both no longer buy each other gifts for holidays or birthdays. We already have everything we could possibly need & don’t want something if we don’t need it. Here’s the problem.. both of our mom’s top love language is gift giving.. this is a struggle for us. If you are also a minimalist (or are trying to be, like us) I’m sure you’ve encountered this problem as well, but maybe with a friend or grandma.
It’s easy to say no to a stranger, acquaintance, or distant relative offering you something for free, but when it’s your mom & it’s a gift they picked out specifically for you, it adds another layer of complexity.
Of course you don’t want to hurt their feelings or reject their way of expressing love, but you also really don’t want more stuff.
We’ve all gotten a gift we didn’t want & it is such a burden. Now you need to figure out where to store the item, then you need to deal with selling or donating it, & you hope each time they see you or come over they don’t notice it’s gone. Not to mention the guilt of getting rid of an item someone you love gave you, the wasted resources, the wasted time, & the wasted money. This one, simple, well intended gift, quickly morphs into a knot of unpleasant emotions & waste.
So.. what to do to avoid this situation:
First, recognize that we all express love in different ways. My husband’s love language is acts of service and mine is physical touch & words of affirmation. Some people though, like both of our moms, express love through gifts. Keep this in mind before you start rejecting every single gift. If someone’s love language is gift giving & you reject it, they will take it as “I don’t love you.” even though that is not at all what it means to you! So ask yourself if you not getting a couple gifts a year is worth rejecting your friend or family member’s way of expressing love. Which it may be! depending on the gift or frequency of the gifts.
Next, once you’ve decided the level or amount of gifts that you think is appropriate (which may be all of the gifts you are offered or may be none or somewhere in the middle!) now it is time to manage the gift giver’s expectations. When you hang out with the “gift giver” maybe let them see all the decluttering work you’re doing, talk about how you love having less stuff & bring up the benefits. Talk about how you & your significant other no longer buy gifts for each other because that love language is your least favorite one. Discuss what you prefer instead of getting more things.
Another great way to lessen the amount of gifts you get is if you know there is a holiday coming up, a birthday, or an event like a baby shower, you can say something like, “You always give such great, thoughtful gifts, but we’ve really been working hard on decluttering our home, are loving having less stuff, & gift giving is the bottom of our love languages, so we would really prefer to just get a gift card this year.” You can let them know maybe a couple things you actually really need & let them buy it for you, or say “We really prefer only receiving items we truly need please!” if they insist on giving a gift still.
Another sneaky thing you can do is frame an act of service or them getting you food as gift giving. For example, maybe your mother in law keeps bringing over gifts after you have a new baby or something, but while she’s there she does the dishes to help out. Praise her for doing the dishes more than for the gift and say things like “Thank you for the gift of doing our dishes, we really appreciate that you gifted your time to us” or “Thank you for bringing over food, that was a wonderful gift. We really prefer you gifting us your time by helping out with chores or food, more than physical items. We already have everything we need for the baby.”
Finally, if they’re not respecting your boundaries or the gift giving gets out of hand, you may just need to flat-out reject a gift right away. Just say “Thank you, but I know I will absolutely never use or need this item.” You can’t really argue with that, & if they try to, explain why/how you will never use or need it or are happy with what you have. Obviously, it depends on the situation, if you’re in-front of the whole family at Christmas, probably not a good time to reject a gift, but if it’s random and just you two, that’s a great time to exercise that gift rejecting muscle.
I literally did this a couple days ago with my mom. Out of no where when she came over she said she bought me two bracelets & I never wear any jewelry other than my wedding rings & maybe a necklace once in a while for work or a special occasion. I never ever wear bracelets. It was random too, no holiday or anything, I didn’t ask for it or want it, & I’ve been talking about decluttering, organizing, & minimalism to my mom a bunch and she still thought it was a good idea to randomly purchase me bracelets. I just immediately shot the gift down as soon as she presented it, I said “Nope, I never ever wear bracelets, they would sit & collect dust, I don’t need them.” My mom said, “Oh, okay! I will take them then.” & that was it.
If you’ve followed the steps above to manage their expectations by talking about how you’re getting rid of things, don’t like gift giving, enjoy having less, or whatever your reason may be, then it will be much less of a shock if you do reject their gift. It will be a lot easier for them than if you just randomly said “No, I don’t want it.” without any explanation or back story. Now that they know the context for why you rejected the gift, they see that it has nothing to do with them at all, it’s all your personal preference for stuff.
Well, I really hope this blog post helps! I’ll probably re-post it once it’s closer to the holidays in November so more people can read it!