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When Gift-Giving Gets out of Control

When it comes to holiday gifts, how do you kindly tell friends and family, "no thank you?"

What do you do with all those unwanted toys and gifts from the holidays? I’ve been battling through this a lot since the birth of my daughter not just during the holidays but for birthdays and general visits as well.

Since we wanted to keep our home to the bare necessities without a mountain of barely used and acquired “stuff,” we had tried to convey to family and friends our wishes for the holidays. Luckily, our friends were the easiest.

Most of them know us enough that when they do offer gifts for celebrations it is usually something handmade or recycled. But our famil? Hmmmm... well, not as easy.

We try to limit gifts for my daughter to just one or two per family member or household when we exchange gifts but mostly this is ignored. Usually, there is a flood of wrapped boxes and I cringe as I watch my daughter feel overwhelmed with joy and confusion.

She’s two now and the gift opening will probably be more exciting but I worry that too much is a bad thing, that she will not be able to fully appreciate her gifts and true sentiment.

Though we impressed upon her from her first Christmas the importance of giving to others than just receiving either by our personal experience or by having her involved in charity gifts (she helps us choose), this is not always the stronger force when pitted against all those shiny gifts.

Our plan of attack: the dreaded Christmas list. They serve a purpose but they seem to scream "gimme," and we do offer the list of a small handful of useful items as a guideline with a preface: no toys please.

Another way we try to force the issue is through constant reminders of our wish to declutter. Usually this goes much easier. As terrible as I feel about saying this over and over, I would feel worse giving away something they thought would be so loved. This is all to say that I am truly grateful to our family who thought and pored over their gifts. I know they are just being as generous with their love as with their gifts. But there does come a time when our wishes need to be honored or at least come to a compromise.

I have to say that my husband’s family has become much better at respecting our request and my family is coming along as well, even with the occasional knick knack they think is too cute to pass up. I think the more we gently remind them, the more it will stick without hopefully sounding too indignant.

As for the deluge of toys, we try to find useful homes especially when there are families who really need them either by donating, regifting, or offering them to daycares and when the occasional inquiry comes our way about that gift a certain someone gave, I try to be truthful that she was very appreciative of the gift but it found someone who could love it even more.

How do you handle too many gifts? Do you feel your child gets too many presents or not enough? 

Deborah Chapman December 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM
When you give a child too much they don't appreciate. If a child have 15 Barbie dolls, 15 cars, they have too many, how can a child learn to appreciate when the have too many. You are doing the right thing by telling family members not buy your child too many toys or gifts.

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