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Unwanted Gifts: Where do they all go?

It’s gift-giving season again and with it comes the dilemma of unwanted gifts.

Gift, New Year'S Eve, Congratulation

Gifts are something that we give to someone and especially to our loved ones. We give these gifts to show them that we love, care, remember, appreciate, and how much we value them in any way. Our gifts that will give to them will not just express, how we value them but also represent how and what they are to us.

The point of giving gifts on any special occasions like Christmas, birthdays or anniversary shows how much we value the person we are giving the gift to and what kind of gift we give them also shows what our relationship with them.

Planning to give gifts is one of the big decisions that we will make in our entire life. Sometimes just thinking of what gifts that we want to give to someone or our loved ones is also stressful. It tests our capability of being practical and at the same time being creative.

Why practical? Because literally, we will be spending and we know that we should be practical when it comes to this, because if we spend a lot on a gift then the person who will receive it did not like it, we just wasted our money, time and effort. Creative in a way, we either buy those gifts or create handmade gifts. This time, money, time, and effort are really your foundation if you really want to do it in this way.         

Many people love receiving gifts since it makes them happy. They make them feel pampered in a way that the giver really remembers them and it makes them feel loved.

Why do we give gifts?

The act of gifting plays such an important role in our social fabric. We give gifts for many, sometimes conflicting, reasons. For starters, we gift as our culture requires it, such as at Christmas or birthday presents. Then we also do it for social functions. Gift-giving builds and reinforces relationships with family members and potential mates, and can be done for a variety of reasons.

According to Olivia Goldhill, a Science reporter of Quartz, “It would be nice to believe that gifts are genuine tokens of affection, given without any expectation of recompense. (Indeed, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “gift” as something “voluntarily transferred” and “without compensation.”) But if you’ve ever had the niggling sense that something other than selflessness drives the presents you dutifully exchange with friends and family, then sociology has your back.”

Why do we receive unwanted gifts?

unwanted gifts

Receiving unwanted gifts is sometimes unexpected for us. So we have no choice but to accept it and be thankful. But there really is a time when we will reject it because sometimes the things or stuff that are given to us as gifts is not right for us. Even if it is not good to refuse the gift, we need to reject it for us to not be affected.

However, sometimes when we received unwanted gifts, it makes us excited and curious at the same time we feel overwhelmed because it is unexpected and especially if we are the type of person who appreciates everything, even though we do not want the gifts we still accept and appreciate it.

As much we love the idea of giving and receiving gifts, unwanted gifts are a moral and environmental dilemma. According to Finder, 50 to 60% of people worldwide receive at least one unwanted gift over the holiday season. Most of those gifts make the receivers feel disappointed. Of course, it’s the thought that counts. But if you give someone a gift they don’t want, doesn’t it mean that you didn’t think much of a meaningful gift for them?

Furthermore, we waste a lot of money on these unwanted gifts. Hundreds of millions, in fact, go to items that either end up in landfills or shuffled into the back of cellars, basements, and cabinets. I’m sure there are a lot of ways you can see yourself spending those cash that would only go to waste on unwanted gifts.

Worse yet, unwanted gifts exact a huge toll on the environment. Not only do they end up in landfills or in the oceans, but these items are also waste in the sense of wasted time, effort, and resources. All the process of producing, distributing, and giving unwanted gifts become useless and unbeneficial to the economy and the environment at large.

If you do receive give unwanted gifts, ask the giver. We should ask the person what is the reason behind those unwanted gifts. Considering the fact that he or she unwanted gifts, maybe it has a deep reason behind it and I think, as a receiver of the unwanted gifts, you should be informed about those reasons so you know how to handle those items.

What to Do With Unwanted Gifts

If we accept the unwanted gifts the expected where it will go is everywhere, it depends on the receiver what he or she will do about it. They can donate, swap, re-gift, or sell it as pre-loved or second hand, or they can just give it to someone. The last resort is to display it.

People who received unwanted gifts and still accept it for the sake of not hurting the ego of the giver can donate them to the needy. If you don’t like the gifts you received, give it to people who need it and would appreciate it more.


Pool your friends and family and do a white elephant gift giving or something similar. Put all gifts unwrapped on a table and let each person pick the item they like out of the pile. Or you can also go to swapping sites and Facebook groups to swap your unwanted gift for something you would enjoy. In either way, you ensure that the gift isn’t wasted and someone appreciates the item and uses it well.


This technique is very common because instead of throwing it or stocking it in the basement, they would come up with a plan that they know someone who will like the unwanted gifts that they had received. So they will re-gift it and it will make them feel relieved since buying gifts is very stressful. Re-gifting is very helpful for them as it saves time and also money.   


Sell unwanted gifts as second hand or pre-loved. This is very rare because sometimes we are just being forced to sell things if we really need money. But we can really make a lot of money selling unwanted gifts as second hand. Especially if the unwanted gifts that we received are popular or liked by many.        

Last Resort: Display.

If we receive unwanted gifts, sometimes instead of giving it to someone, we display it in our room or elsewhere in our house where it’s suitable. We do this because we appreciate the effort of the person who gives the unwanted gifts, even though not the gift itself, at least the giver is appreciated. But it invites room for unnecessary clutter, so as much as possible, avoid keeping unwanted gifts if you really don’t find a use for them.


Accepting a gift you do not want is really difficult. It’s a real dillema because we do not want that thing or stuff but we also do not want to hurt the feelings of the person who gave it. So most of the time, we accept it and just hide it away. But you need to think deeper. Make the gift work, even if not for yourself, so that it will not go to waste.

Just think that at least the person who gave you a gift remembers you. Just because you do not want the gift does not mean the gift has no value.  I believe that every gift to us has a value but of course, you need to figure out how you can benefit from it. Unfortunately, oftentimes that unwanted gift is just wasted because some people think that it is useless or it has nothing to do with them. But you can find ways to use or give it to others who will need it.

Most importantly, look at unwanted gifts in a way that still adheres to a zero waste lifestyle. If you can’t use it yourself, give it to someone who will. Then try to give meaningful gifts as much as possible. Give cash, time, or an experience that your loved ones will enjoy. Always remember that waste only happens when you choose to discard something and not use it for good.

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