8 Things to Do With Unwanted Presents

Photo of a thirty-something white male sitting in front of a Christmas tree with an opened gift box on his lap. He has pulled out a pair of drab grey slippers with his right hand, and touches his temple with his left hand with a facial expresssion of slight dismay as he holds up the gift.

So you got a gift over the holidays or for your birthday, and you hate it? Don’t banish it to the back of your closet! Here’s what you can do with unwanted presents—without causing any awkward feelings.

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We’ve all been there. That moment of apprehension when you open Auntie Mary’s present.

Is it going to be another itchy wool jumper she knitted you, in a colour you hate? A shower gel and body lotion gift set with a horrific rose scent that makes you nauseous? Or a gourmet nut mix, when she’s forgotten you have a nut allergy?

What can you do with unwanted presents in such cases? On the one hand, you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. At the same though, darn it, you really would have liked to get a gift which you could, well, actually enjoy.

Don’t feel guilty about passing on what you don’t like! With a little bit of savoir faire, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Here are eight ideas for how to deal with unwanted gifts, and a couple of ways to prevent them, too.

Be Grateful… and Graceful

It isn’t always easy to graciously accept gifts, especially if they are things that you didn’t want or just don’t like.

Keep in mind though that the giver has made an effort to please you. Be sure to genuinely thank them when you receive the gift. It’s not advisable to go overboard or lie; don’t swoon how much you LOVE that itchy jumper when in reality, you hate it at first sight. Doing so could land you yet another edition of a woolly nightmare next year again!

Try putting the focus on the gift-giver instead.

“Wow, Aunt Mary! Did you make this yourself? It must have taken you weeks and weeks! Thank you so much!”

This gives Aunt Mary the recognition she deserves for trying to please you. It’s polite, and honours her consideration of you.

If you’ve been given something store-bought which you know you don’t want, be honest, but thoughtful:

“Woah, thanks Dad! Where on earth did you find these harlequin socks, they’re far out. Oh gee though… I really need new black socks for work. Would you mind terribly if I exchanged them? It’d be a shame if they just sat unused in my drawer.”

Show your appreciation for the giver’s good intentions, be diplomatic, and you can wiggle yourself out of any bad gift situation.


Avoiding unwanted presents all together is probably easier than dealing with the awkwardness of receiving them. Not to mention the hassle of trying to figure out what to do with them.

If you establish new gift-giving patterns, you have a better chance of avoiding unwanted gifts all together. For example, let your friends and family know if you’ve taken to minimalism and no longer wish to add any new clutter at home. Communication is key. If you don’t tell them, how will they know?

If they insist on gifting you something, perhaps for the holidays, suggest consumables or tickets to something you could do together with them. Or just send them a link to my minimalist gift guide, which is full of clutter-free ideas for presents!

Suck It Up and Keep the Unwanted Presents

Gifts are gifts, and generally speaking, you can do with them what you want. This can, however, be a delicate situation indeed if you are close to the gift-giver.

If gift-giving is important to them, or if you know they’re bound to ask you about the present down the road, it might be easier in the long run to suck it up and keep the gift in order to avoid hurting their feelings.

Or, to stick with our itchy jumper cliché: it might be worth your while to just wear the darn thing once a year when you see Aunt Mary, simply to make her happy and keep the family peace.

Return or Exchange Them

The best course of action you can take with unwanted presents is to return them to the store whenever that’s an option. If you received a receipt with the present, that is usually a clear sign from the gift-giver that they’re okay with returns.

With the receipt, you can typically opt for money-back or a store gift card. Save it for a rainy day or for when you really need something. Or go splurge somewhere else if you got cash back.

The other alternative is to simply exchange unwanted gifts. For cases in which you have no receipt, this might be your only option anyway. Just make sure to keep the original tags attached and the item in pristine condition so that the store takes it back.

Sell Them

You can also turn your unwanted presents into cash by selling them online at a marketplace such as eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, or Etsy. Be careful of listing things for sale on social media, however. If you’re connected to the person who gave you the unwanted item, it’s very possible they might find out you’re selling it through their feed. And that would be… awkward.

animated GIF of a girl feeling awkward

Selling unused, unwanted gifts can provide a good bit of extra money you can put towards other things you’re more likely to use, or put aside for a larger purchase you’re saving for.

Donate Them

Another way to get rid of unwanted presents is to give them to charity. Pick one that supports the cause for which the gift was intended. For example, if you received clothing you don’t like but the tags were already removed, this would be a most welcome donation to a shelter.

By donating items, you can help others while also getting rid of stuff you’ll never use. One way to find out more about what charities accept donations is by visiting Charity Navigator (US), Charity Intelligence (Canada), Charity Choice (UK) or ChangePath (Australia).

Gift Them to Someone Else

If you don’t want it, someone else will. You know the saying: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There might be someone in your immediate family or circle of friends who would love your unwanted gift!

Here again though, just be careful not to hurt anybody’s feelings. You don’t want to be giving a gift from Dad to your brother, lest he find out. Try to re-gift any unwanted presents to unrelated, unconnected parties.

You can also simply give away any presents you don’t want on sites such as Freecycle, Craigslist, or your local classifieds. It’s amazing how quickly people will come to pick up your stuff when it’s free!

Swap Them

Unwanted gifts can also be traded with friends or colleagues who might appreciate them more, or be able to put them to better use.

Mum gave you a cookbook of 200 recipes for pot roasts, but you’ve gone vegan? Ask around if anyone wants to swap.

A white elephant gift exchange at the office holiday party might also be a great opportunity to swap an unwanted gift. Or you could trade it in through a retail trade-in programme.

I hope these eight tips have given you some ideas for dealing with unwanted gifts. Whatever you decide, don’t let them go to waste in the corner.

How do you deal with gift-giving as a minimalist? Have you ever gotten any gifts you don’t like, how do you deal with presents you don’t like? Do you hang on to them, or do you return them, give them away, or re-sell them? Comment below and share your experiences preventing unwanted presents from becoming landfill fodder.

Photo of a thirty-something white male sitting in front of a Christmas tree with an opened gift box on his lap. He has pulled out a pair of drab grey slippers with his right hand, and touches his temple with his left hand with a facial expresssion of slight dismay as he holds up the gift. Caption reads: 8 things to do with unwanted presents.
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