The Best Things You Can Do With Unwanted Christmas Gifts

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“Oooooh thank you, it’s beautiful, how did you ever know?” is the mantra of the gift receiver, whatever the gift. Even when it’s your third winter onesie this year, and it’s just going to join the sad pile of unwanted gifts as soon as you leave, you’re still too polite to say anything. It doesn’t seem to matter that everyone would prefer gift cards or cash, the unspoken rule is that people must have gifts to unwrap on Christmas morning, even if that gift is going to burden them for the foreseeable future.


So what do you do when you’re the proud owner of a million gifts you don’t really want, including a tie that plays Christmas carols (very novel), a million different bath bubbles, a balloon animal kit, and a nose hair trimmer? Well actually, you’ve got loads of different options available to you, depending on how callous you’re feeling. The gift world is your oyster, so to speak.


Donate them

The kind thing to do is to give them to the less fortunate. Take toys to a local school or children’s hospital, and adult presents to an old people’s home or hospital. Those kids are probably going to enjoy all the weird crying dolls and fire engine toys a whole lot more than your own children will, and it’s a great way to pass on the Christmas cheer.


Give them to charity

We shouldn’t really complain about the terrible gifts we get when there are people out there with nothing. Make yourself feel better by taking them down to your local thrift stores, so charities benefit from the money. Just don’t be surprised when the thrift store workers aren’t too pleased to see the fiftieth bag of unwanted gifts that week – they’re the unfortunate people who have to try to sell Christmas sweaters in January, which is basically exactly the same as selling ice to Inuits.


Sell them

On December 26th eBay and Craigslist become the best place to pick up second hand, “barely worn” singing Christmas ties, onesies, and other unwanted gifts. The only problem is if you’re selling, the marketplace is a little bit flooded. Everyone else in the country has posted their unwanted Christmas presents, so buyers have 600 onesies to flick through before they, hopefully, settle on your onesie to buy. Although who knows why they’d take to eBay to buy themselves a Christmas onesie when they probably unwrapped four of their own on the day. Maybe it’s all they ever like to wear. Or maybe they’re making a patchwork blanket, or they enjoy dressing their dog up as a Christmas elf. Who knows?

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Make something with them

Collages, patchwork quilts, sock puppets, dog clothes – all it takes is a little bit of imagination. You could even completely unpick a Christmas jumper and use the wool to re-knit yourself something you’d actually like to wear. Don’t think of the unwanted gifts are things – think of them as potential new things. If you’ve got children, almost anything can be thrown into a fancy dress box. Imagine how cute (and ridiculous) they’ll look pretending to be Jackie Chan with a Santa Claus tie wrapped around their heads. Especially when it plays Santa Claus Is Coming To Town every time the end hits something. Adorable.


Convert them

Ordinarily, gift cards are one of the best gifts you can ever receive. Who doesn’t want free money, even if they are limited to the one shop they were purchased from. But sometimes you’d just prefer the money, Christmas can be super pricey after all, so it’s good to know that you can convert unwanted gift cards to real cash on websites like The best thing is that you can still tell Auntie Mabel how grateful you are, and you’re still not technically lying.


Swap them

Between you and your friends you’ve probably got a mountain of unwanted gifts, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so they say. Why not arrange a gift swap between a few close friends, and you might actually find something you want. Have some wine, some food, come away with a Frozen fancy dress outfit and a Pilates DVD, everyone’s a winner. Just be super careful that you don’t bring a gift that one of your friends bought you – that’s just plain awkward.


Gift them

Do you have a “future present” cupboard? It usually lives next to the “anonymous greetings card” drawer. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know exactly what I mean. When another birthday party looms, and you’ve got no time to run to the store to buy a gift for the twentieth toddler since January, the future present cupboard is a life saver. This cupboard mostly consists of unwanted gifts, mostly yours and your children’s (they never notice a couple going missing), but when you’re feeling particularly resourceful you occasionally think to top it up with a couple of store-bought toys too, for the good kids. It’s a great way to make sure that unwanted gifts go to a new home, so then they’re some other poor mother’s problem, but at least they’re not taking up space in your house. Again, a word of warning, keep note of the original givers of these gifts – regifting is fine as long as they don’t get returned to their original gifter. That’s a social faux pas you’ll never recover from.


Trash them

It seems wasteful, but sometimes there’s just nothing else for it. Nobody else is going to want to buy a Christmas jumper that sings Let It Snow, especially not when thousands of other people are trying to shift them on eBay too. Your only options might be to literally pay someone to take it off your hands or just to chalk it up to a loss and stick it in the trash. At least then you haven’t got the risk of the gifter finding it on eBay, in the future present cupboard, or being gifted it themselves.

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Actually use them

In some cases, maybe this unwanted present is something that you might end up actually enjoying. It might seem a long shot, and your nose hair trimmer probably depreciates in value once it’s been shoved up your nose. But you don’t know how much you’ll enjoy the feeling of a hairless nose before you try it, do you? And if you don’t think you’ll enjoy a hot chocolate set, or a bath using glittery bath bombs, maybe someone else in your family will. Don’t write it off as a loss straight away – hope someone else in the room is eyeing it up as you unwrap, and that it mysteriously goes missing during Christmas dinner. Who knows, if you’re lucky you might end up with a brand new hobby – I bet you didn’t realise you had quite such a flair for balloon animals until you received the kit, did you?


Exchange them

If you’ve been really lucky – like, ridiculously lucky – they might have included a gift receipt. Which means you could go back to the store and change it for something you actually want. This is a dream many of us bad-gift-receivers dream regularly, but for many of us it purely remains a myth, and we’ve seen no proof of this practice anywhere.


Push them to the back of your wardrobe and hope they go away

So what do you do if you’ve not got a future gift cupboard, you just know nobody will ever love the unwanted gift, and you haven’t got the heart to donate it to the trash can? Do what millions of us do every year and pop it in the back of your wardrobe in the desperate hope that you’ll think of something to do with it. And if you don’t ever think of something to do with it, you might be lucky if it somehow speedily decomposes, or develops legs and walks off, as long as it saves you from the guilt of having to dispose of it yourself. Then next time you move house, you’ll find so many stashed Christmas ties and onesies you could have a yard sale.


Take them back to store

The most awkward, but perhaps the most adult thing to do, is simply say to the generous gifter “thank you, that’s very nice of you, but I think I’d prefer to take it back to the store and exchange it”. Yes it’s awkward, but if they’re a good friend they will understand, give you the receipt, and hopefully take note of it for following years. And look on the positive side, if they do take umbrage at your honestly, at least you won’t get another terrible gift from them again next year.


If you want to be really churlish, but guarantee that you’re bad gift free for 2017, why not regift them their own terrible gift for their birthday? You’ll lose a friend, but see it as a political statement – bad gifts are bad for everyone. I hope you have a very merry Christmas, and that you and everyone around you get lots of wonderful gifts!


About Beth

Beth Larrabee is a stay at home mom of 3 wonderful children and is married to her wonderful husband Scot. Beth is an active member in her community and is currently the Vice President of the PTO, President of The Friends of Cumston Library, and proud leader of a Daisy and Brownie Girl Scout Troops. In her spare time, Beth enjoys musical theater, singing, gaming, books, spending time at the lake and all things food.

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