Holding on to unwanted gifts can be a burden
Try honoring the thought behind the present before giving it away
by Alice Inoue
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I have many gifts from others that are mostly things that are not “me” or things I don’t need or use. Some I keep in a closet, others around my home. What is your viewpoint on what I should do with these items?
I get this question often, and I’m happy to share with you how I usually answer it, though I must warn you that my advice is a bit controversial. I have had more than a few people publicly disagree with me because my advice goes against conventional custom. In the beginning, it was challenging to change my ways, but it has worked well for me because it allows me to have more freedom and diminishes any guilt when it comes to gift receiving. So, what do you do with the gifts you get that just aren’t your style or taste? From ugly shirts and complicated gadgets to boring DVDs and useless figurines, many times the gifts we receive just don’t resonate and end up gathering dust or stored away somewhere only to take up precious real estate in our home, adding to our clutter.
In my introductory feng shui classes, I teach three basic rules, the second of which is, “Keep only the things you love around you.” The basic premise is that by having only the things you love in your environment, you are surrounded by things that emanate “good vibes,” enhancing the positive energy. When you do not love or like the things in your environment they zap your energy and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are visible. During this part of the class, I talk about gifts and what to do with those we do not care for. When you receive a gift that you don’t love, honor the intent of the gift and then donate it or give it away. When I say this, I often hear gasps or verbal outbursts, such as, “I’d feel too guilty,” or “That’s inconsiderate.” I completely understand this line of thinking, but my perspective is that the gift is about the intent, not necessarily the item itself.
When you let go of the gifts that are likely to become dust-collectors or clutter in your home, you circulate the energy, do something good for yourself and allow that gift to go out into the world, potentially bringing pleasure to others. I’m sure the gift giver doesn’t want you to feel burdened by guilt. Flip the situation around in your head. Would you rather someone hold onto your gift out of guilt or would you rather the gift go to someone who can actually use it? The key to being okay with this perspective is to give yourself permission to stop living by a set of rules that don’t suit your situation or your current mindset.
In my opinion, the best time to give away a gift is when you are ready to. The right time to let a gift go is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t like it. Most people have a hard time with this and tend to keep the item around for at least what they consider a courteous period of time. It is natural to worry that when you let go of the gift you’ll be hurting someone’s feelings or diminishing the memory of someone or something that happened, but the truth is that the love and spirit in which the gift was given and the appreciation for the time and energy it represents is everlasting and could never be thrown away.
No need exists to announce to the gift giver that you gave the gift away, especially in the case of a generic store-bought gift. Once you have expressed gratitude for the individual’s intent, and feel complete, you can part with the unwanted gift without guilt or the need to say anything about it. Remember, it is the intent of the gift, not the gift itself that is important. Use discretion. Don’t sell the item at your yard sale where the gift giver may attend. If the gift giver happens to asks about it later, say something about how much you appreciated their gift, but it just didn’t fit with your other things. Also, keep in mind that the chance of someone asking about a gift he or she gave you in the past is slim to none.
In the case of gifts where a great deal of hard work, time, or effort was put in, rather than disposing of it on the sly, it’s best to be honest and give the giver the opportunity to take the gift back. You can say something like, “I really appreciate what you did. Your gift is so special and I am deeply touched by your thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, this painting just doesn’t fit with my decor and I have no place to display it properly;” or, “This hand-knit sweater is fabulous, but not a color or style I usually wear. I’d much rather this item be showcased properly. You are so amazing and talented. Again, thank you so much.” While it may initially be a tough conversation, not only is it truthful, but you will also feel so much freer afterwards.
What I shared in this article may be a new way to deal with the gifts you have received. See what resonates with you, and ask yourself if it is time to change your ways.