I’m not ungrateful, I just don’t want your gift

Receiving a gift isn’t normally considered a problem but when you’re an aspiring minimalist and have spent a lot of time decluttering and cutting down the items you own, it is.
I celebrate my birthday at the end of the month and I have already had the ‘what do you want for your birthday?’ conversation with my sister and my best friend.

I told them both I don’t want anything, I’d be happier spending time with them than receiving something I don’t need (or want), and got an eye roll from both of them. Their argument is that we’re going out to celebrate my birthday anyway so they HAVE to buy me something.

It’s not that I’m being ungrateful, I just genuinely don’t want or need anything, but it’s really difficult to explain that to people who love you. I’m sure that many people feel any rejection of their gift is a rejection of their love, but of course it isn’t. That’s just one of the lies that consumerism has sold us.

Frank and I haven’t told anyone outside of the online community what we’re doing because, honestly, we think our friends and family will think we’re bonkers. We’ve chatted about how we’ve had a huge clear-out and sold our possessions but we haven’t told anyone just how far we’re going.

The idea of bringing another bunch of items into our home makes me feel a little bit down. We received a present for our wedding anniversary last month (it’s an ‘inspirational quote’ plaque) that I don’t like and now feel I have to keep because otherwise it will hurt the feelings of the person who gave it to us.

It’s currently in the drawer of ‘stuff we’ve been given that we don’t like’ and will be brought out when that person visits so we don’t offend them. The thing is, I’m loathe to add anymore to that drawer.

How do you deal with family and friends who think you’re just being eccentric or contrary when you tell them you don’t want any gifts and insist on buying you something anyway?

And once they’ve given you the item, how long are you obliged to hang on to it for?

If anyone can help me with tricks and tips they use, I’d be very grateful.


32 thoughts on “I’m not ungrateful, I just don’t want your gift

  1. I do believe however difficult that honesty is the best policy!! Perhaps now is the time to talk about your quest for minimalism? Otherwise you could ask them to donate the amount they would spent on your gift to a charity instead? If you’re not careful that drawer of items could end up turning into a cupboard! x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have exactly the same problem. I have told family and friends in no uncertain terms that I DO NOT WANT PRESENTS!! And still they come armed with gifts, only now they pass them over with the words “I know you don’t want presents BUT ….. “.

    I think the only thing to do is accept the gift with grace and then do what you want with it. I give things away, donate to charity shops and sell at car boot sales. The thing is, and it’s something I read only last year, for the giver it is the choosing and presenting of the gift that is what they want to do. What YOU choose to do with the gift is what you WANT to do, As long as everyone is informed that you don’t actually want things, they cannot in all honesty complain if you choose to donate it to somewhere where it will be wanted.

    I tried going down the route of “if you want to buy me a present buy me food or wine”, but I ended up inundated with ‘sweet treats’, (I don’t have a sweet tooth and my husband is diabetic) and the most awful wines, so now I am strictly ‘if you want to give me something fair enough …. but I probably won’t keep it’.

    I don’t think we should be obliged to have and display gifts that we don’t like, anyone that truly loves you will eventually cotton on and understand.

    Remember …. ‘Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind’.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sue, I’m glad I’m not the only one who has this issue. I haven’t been firm about it and you’re right, if it ends up in the charity shop they’ve been warned. Hopefully they’ll finally get the message! M


  3. Because I have recently changed the way I think about a lot of things, these days I aim to stick to buying and receiving more consumable items as gifts. Could they buy you something that you use regularly i.e. food stuffs, natural toiletries/makeup or perhaps gift vouchers for digital music, books?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think other members of our household would be quite happy to do this. No one usually asks me what I want, instead they just buy what they think I’d like. I haven’t specifically asked anyone in our extended families or our friends to buy me these things, but I am buying them consumables for the most part.

    We no longer exchange gifts with many people, instead concentrating on giving presents to the children in the family. Sometimes I do occasionally receive a gift I don’t like and to be honest I’ve got better at donating them to charity shops straight away rather than keeping them. I guess because we live quite a distance from family this helps, as they don’t visit our home often enough to notice the absence.

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    1. We only bought presents for children in the family last Christmas as there are quite a few adults and it can get very expensive. Everyone was happy with this arrangement as it’s a reciprocal gift giving event but people don’t seem as keen to do this for birthdays! Maybe I need to move further away from my family- haha! M


  5. I face the same problem so I’ve learned to ask for nice shampoos, soaps or chocolate. Things that I enjoy and will consume. A nice beeswax candle would be nice too and makes your home smell wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree this is a really tricky part of becoming more minimalist.. I think with time it gets easier to donate unwanted gifts – try and do it fairly soon otherwise it can trigger negative thoughts each time you come across it or remember it’s still in your house. By accepting gifts graciously you are honouring the kindness of the giver and by donating it to charity you are adding value to others’ lives. Other than that ask for consumables or practical gifts and try and lead by example with your own present buying (vouchers, consumables, experiences or home made gifts).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Claire. You’re right, leading by example is the best way to go. The best presents I’ve ever received are the ones that let me spend time with the giver – a lovely afternoon tea springs to mind. I think I might give away some of the bits in the dreaded drawer, they do trigger negative thoughts! M


  7. Agree that it can be challenging to establish similar frequency with others at times. Remembered when invited to a house warming from a friend, she openly shared a list of items she needed for her new place. We were invited to contribute to any item(s) on the list, as we wished. Thought this is a great way to ensure you get what you need.

    If you really have zero needs, perhaps a list of charitable organizations that you would like to support may be shared. Well wishers can therefore make donations on your behalf. Guess this act will be rewarding for everyone – for you, your loves ones and the beneficiary 🙂


  8. It is so difficult to break emotional habits of feeling guilty at not liking things. At times I still feel heartless at opening a gift and thinking well that can go to charity. I appear to have caused all my friends and family to get very anxious about birthdays and Christmas presents as I’m very open about being a minimalist (well at least on the journey). I have found the balance to be being clear about what I need/want. Last year I had a sewing machine for Christmas and love it! This year I’ve identified that I need a good waterproof coat. Everyone can contribute and I’ll wear it to death. Interestingly I bumped into a friend on Saturday after the Minimalist meet up and asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She very shyly said “Socks. I really need socks!” Socks she now has but it was as though she was embarrassed to ask for what she both wanted and needed. My advice, be brazen – about both your minimalism and what you need (even if it’s socks.

    And if in doubt and need of further inspiration, check our Joshua Becker http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dear-loved-one/ x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I could do with some new socks! After all the helpful comments I might ask for something cycling related. There’s always something that’s on the verge of falling apart. That, or donating to charity! Admire that you’re open about your minimalism, I’m still quite worried about what people will think for some reason. M


  9. I’m very much in favour of the ‘consumable’ type present – food, wine,a candle, really nice smellies which you wouldn’t necessarily buy for yourself (I’m fond of Clarins shower gel, but wouldn’t pay those prices for it – but happily ask for it as a gift for me), a voucher for a massage/ manicure etc, or vouchers for the theatre or a restaurant – something where the only thing left afterwards is the memory, not an unwanted object with guilt attached to it! :S

    I’m applying that principle to much of my Xmas gift giving this year – I like the idea of giving ‘memories’, as opposed to ‘things’, so shall be gifting vouchers for the local theatre and some massage vouchers. Others will be getting a really nice candle – with the instruction that it is for burning, not just to look at! – and others a selection of homemade and purchased food and drink goodies. There are 2 of my relatives who really and truly want nothing at all, so I shall give them an Oxfam present – where I donate to Oxfam and they just end up with a giftcard saying what the money will be used for (I try to choose something as appropriate to that person as possible if I can)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember as child when my parents hosted dinner parties everyone came with chocolates or flowers or wine. It was great. I try to do that when we go to people’s birthdays etc and buy something high quality like a really nice wine or fancy chocolates, or failing that a voucher for an experience like a night in a fancy hotel or movie tickets. I hope people will do the same for us. My parents do… the normal gift I’ve got from then since 17 is my car rego or part of it paid. Best gift!

    I am struggling for baby’s birthday and Christmas. She already has so much. I think we’ll just have to start the tradition of giving away things we are ‘too big for’ the day before an event like this to make space. People seem to think of she doesn’t have everything she is deprived…i guess that’s the consumer society we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Haha! I actually laughed aloud when I saw this post because I’m experiencing it right now. Its my birthday this week and I don’t want any presents, I need less things already and the reaction I get is hilarious ” what, there must be something you want!” or need maybe? As a matter of fact, no there isn’t. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been telling my friends that if they really want to spend something, donate the money to a charity they want. That way, they still feel like they are giving me a ‘present’ plus it also makes them feel good and I don’t have extra stuff I don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ugh, I have this problem with people giving gifts to my kids! It’s SO HARD to tell them no…especially when certain family members express their love through gift giving. I’ve finally started asking for useful things the kids actually need. People rarely give me physical gifts…usually if they do, they pay for dinner or a drink, which I highly prefer! Experiences over things, please!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Just found your blog …. love it im starting at the bottom and working up … so on this issue I have an E/D/R rule that I tell people , if you want to get me something then make sure I can either EAT it / Drink it or its Recreational ( so we can do it together ) … so far so good … though I did receive a wooden owl once … which was a bit odd but hey I suppose I could burn that in the event of a cold snap 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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