Day 189 Communicating feelings

One thing I have observed during the process of writing my posts, answering comments and emails, and reading other decluttering blogs is that lack of communication is a real problem when it comes to clutter. It causes clutter in the first place by people giving well meaning gifts that are not wanted by the receiver. Also because we try to protect others feelings people keep items they no longer want.

Although it is commendable to try to be thoughtful about others feelings, sometimes your own personal needs should take precedence when the result effects your new sustainable way of living. Sometimes we assume we know what the reception will be and give up on communicating before even trying. We fear what the reaction might be if we tried to assert our needs but often we underestimate how understanding others might be.

Taking into consideration what your motivation is behind decluttering and the passionate need you have to clear your space it would be very unreasonable for another person to reject your feelings. Even if the giver is a little disappointed I am sure they will forgive you this little indiscretion. If, however they are just totally unreasonable then I have to wonder if their selfish feelings are worth protecting.

Here are some examples of how you might go about refusing a gift or explaining the absence of one in your home on inspection by a giver etc.

  • Refusing a gift: “Thank you so much, this is a really lovely gift but I really can not accept it. Please don’t be upset it is nothing personal. I have recently embarked on a more minimalist lifestyle and I am no longer bringing anything into my home that is not a necessity or consumable…”
  • Inform friends and family you no longer wish to receive gifts: I just want to let you know that in future I would prefer that you no longer send/give me gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc as I have recently embarked on a more minimalist lifestyle and I am no longer bringing anything into my home that is not a necessity. If you would like to give consumable gifts or donate to a charity on my behalf I will be happy to accept.”
  • When someone asks about a previous gift that no long resides in your home. “I am sorry please don’t be offended but I have recently embarked on a more minimalist lifestyle and I am greatly reducing the number of non-functional items in my home. It was a lovely item that needed a new owner that would appreciate it  so I have…  1) donated it to charity 2) given it to a friend who has admired it for some time 3) sold it and used funds to…”
  • When returning something to the giver that you no longer wish to keep. “I am sorry please don’t be offended but I have recently embarked on a more minimalist lifestyle and I am greatly reducing the number of non-functional items in my home. This was a such a lovely/expensive/thoughtful gift and I wanted to give you the option a taking it back rather than me giving it away. I have enjoyed it up to now but it no longer fits into my new way of living.


It has been a while but at last we have another ebay sale these Rugby League Football magazines sold for $20.00

Football Mags $20

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Day 242 Cleaning Out the Closet A guest post by - My Husband During a recent overseas business trip I read about an experiment to choose six clothing items and only use those items for a month. You could have multiple […]
  • Day 86 Recycle & Reshuffle While looking in the linen closet to determine whether there were any old towels I could throw away my attention was drawn to some rolls of gift wrap and a box of gift bags. Which got me […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. In my opinion, not accepting a gift is the epitome of rude. Someone in your life has spent energy and money to get you a gift. To refuse it, as far as I’m concerned isn’t an option.

    Accept it graciously and do with it what you want, but never reject a gift, because you reject it’s giver.

    My two cents- might be worth less with the exchange. 😉

  2. I’d have a hard time not accepting a gift from someone. I’d be inclined to accept it. I would not want to risk hurting someone’s feelings in pursuit of less. I’d give it away or donate it if it was something I didn’t need or want.
    I think letting people know you do not want to participate in gift exchanges in advance is a great option.

    • Hi Carrie,
      thank you for your comment and welcome to my blog. I appreciate your input and I hope you will keep tuning in because the more we learn from each ohter the more informed we all become. Please read on to get the rest of my response to yours and some other comments as I have had serveral that are of the same feeling about this as you.

      Hi also Loretta and Christy,
      I understand fully what you are saying here about hurting others feelings. I also wouldn’t like that to happen. Maybe I should be more specific about the gift giver. If it is someone who would regualarly give you gifts and has been made aware of your wishes and they keep insisting on buying you gifts anyway I do not see that their feelings on gift giving should usurp your feeling on not wishing to recieve them. One could be forgiven for thinking that the though that went into buying such a gift is “I just love giving gift and I am going to buy it for you whether you want it or not”.

      Were someone to ramdonly give you a gift maybe to thank you for a kind deed or some such thing it would not hurt to accept graciously and then give the gift away. Hopefully this person will not notice that the gift does not make an appearance at anytime and you will not be put in the awkward positon of explaining it’s abscense.

      I hope I haven’t alienated any of you lovely people with this post. I can assure you I would not like to be put in the situation of having to resort to this sort of tactic either which is exactly my point. It is awkward for everyone involved but the enviroment is the ultimate loser in this.

      I hope I am not just digging myself into a deeper hole here. Please respond if you have more to say on the subject I really appreciate your input.

  3. Interesting! Most of my friends and family know that I don’t really want any more stuff and accept that (for example, my in-laws give the children money for birthdays and Christmas so they can choose their own gifts).

    However, I tend to agree with Christy. If someone is kind enough to give me a gift, I really don’t think I could refuse it (at this stage in my life). I’d certainly have no problem passing it on or giving it to the op shop if it wasn’t needed though.

  4. Calico ginger

    Colleen, I’m with you! It’s time we called time on the whole gift giving “industry” – it’s a major stressor to both the givers and the receivers, and just puts zillions of tons of unnecessary, unwanted stuff into circulation to the detriment of the planet. The way to ease hurt feelings is advertise the fact that you are not giving (or expect to receive) like that anymore BEFORE the event/holiday or whatever.

    • Hi Calico ginger,
      Oh dear with fear of sounding a little “BAH HUMBUG” here I must say I am releaved that my family no longer send me or expect from me gifts for birthdays or Chirstmas anymore. When we are together we do the secret santa thing so everyone only gives and received one gift. We just send cards for birthdays (often handmade with love) and maybe a couple of scratch lottery tickets. My friends all understand my wishes and are usually pretty good at respecting that and my work mates also now do the secret santa thing. My Children have received money for years and usually add it to their savings which are spent on flying back to America to visit their friends. Everyone is happy!
      Like you and I think all of my readers, I believe it is important to the environment to reduce the materialism in society today. There is so much more I feel I could do to improve my footprint on this planet but this is a good starting point.

  5. I don’t know if I could ever work up the nerve to refuse a gift because of the time and thought involved on the giver’s part. It would be easier if the giver was told ahead of time about my minimalist lifestyle. When we moved here, I made it very clear in the invitations to my birthday/housewarming party that gifts were not wanted (we downsized drastically and they all knew it), but if they insisted, then either a cutting from their garden or a bottle of wine to share would work. To this day I can point to some lovely flowers from those first shared cuttings

    Last Christmas our little family established similar ground rules: no non-consumable stuff unless it was on the wishlist.

    Amongst friends, there is just the sharing of wine and breaking of bread. None of us need more crap and none of us can really afford to shop for crap, either. We just want the fellowship, and sharing food is good because we all gotta eat anyway.

    • Hi Meg,
      it sound like you have it covered already. What you have written here is beautiful and brings a tear to my eye. The thoughtful consumable gifts you speak of were so warmly given and equaly warmly recieved. You are lucky to have such understanding friends and family and I bet you are all happier for it.

  6. I think the secret to managing gift giving and receiving is to work out with your family and friends in advance so that everyone is on board and happy with the arrangement.

    My husband and I started having the talk with our families a few years ago when the gift giving with his side of the family had just gone into the abyss of ridiculousness. We brought up the “let’s scale back” conversation with his parents, and it was like the whole family breathed a collective “oh, thank God.” From there is was easy peasy.

    On my husband’s side of the family and my Dad’s side (which is HUGE) we do kids gifts only. On my Mom’s side, my mom, stepdad, and sisters (3) and I still exchange gifts. We start circulating a Master Wish List in early August (all our birthdays are between Aug 2 and Nov 26) and we buy only from the list, going in together on larger items. It works out well because we know giving (and getting) something that is really wanted and/or needed. With friends gift giving/receiving is a case by case basis.

    • Hi Donna,
      brilliant on all levels. You have bit the bullet discussed your situation with all the family and have come to a satisfactory arrangement that probably everyone has been wanting to happen for years. All these wonderful examples I have received in comments to this page will be an inspiration to those who have been scared to do the same. I especially love the wish list idea for the side of your family that do gift give. At least everyone will receive something they true want or need, perfect!

  7. No worries, Colleen. You can’t alienate anyone by kindly expressing your opinion. 🙂

    I think it’s true that many people who love you and to whom you have communicated your wishes will respect them about gifts. But there are some people who just don’t get it and I refuse to argue or refuse a gift, because ultimately it *is* the though that counts. 🙂

    I just have a regular trip to the thrift store after I get presents from them. lol

    • Hi Christy,
      lets hope you are right about that first line, this is the key to this whole situation. Thank you for sticking with me and listening to what I am trying to say. i respect you opinion also.

      Read what I wrote in my reply to Loretta today. Check out The Five Love Languages maybe for these peoples gifts is their love language and they just can’t get past that. In this case donating the gifts or even re-gifting them to someone else like this is the only way to deal with this situation without upsetting them.

  8. Colleen, I have a lovely friend who *always* buys me something when she comes over. It’s usually quite expensive too (and in very good taste). It’s gotten to the point where I am now giving her something each time I see her (ridiculous!) so it is a never-ending cycle. I know it gives her great pleasure, because she loves shopping, but it is a chore for me (I usually give her nice sweets, or a book). After mulling over this post, I think it’s finally time to stop it and be honest with her. We can be friends without all the extra accoutrements!

    • Hi Loretta,
      Good for you! If she is the beautiful friend that it sounds like she is I am sure she will understand. Maybe at a sad point in her life she thought it was necessary to “buy” friends or maybe her love language is gifts but either way I am sure she will be happy that she can be your friend with no strings attached. Please let me know how this went because it is an interesting and important example we can all learn from. Good luck and best wishes.

      • Hi Colleen,
        Thought I’d let you know how this went, since you so kindly asked!
        It was my friend’s birthday this week and I asked her out to lunch at one of her favourite restaurants and insisted it was my treat (as my present to her). We had a lovely time and she thought it was an wonderful idea and wants to do the same for my birthday. She is the sort of person who buys what she wants, but wouldn’t take herself out for lunch, so she was most appreciative. And the bonus was, I didn’t even need to have that awkward conversation about gifts 🙂 Thanks so much for all your wonderful posts, they have been a daily source of inspiration!

        • Hi Loretta,
          isn’t that fantastic. Sometimes we don’t need to confront people just subtly show them another way of doing things. You exectuted that plan so well and now you have started a new tradition that you are both happy with. Good for you!

  9. I’m glad you mentioned the five love languages as I was just going to write a comment here about that. I have family members who love me by giving gifts and I am happy to accept them in the spirit of love in which they are given (and then ‘recycle’ them)

    • Hi Willow,
      I am happy that so many of my readers that accept gifts in the spirit of love don’t have a problem with recycling them. I wonder if any of these precious gift givers notice that their gifts never make an appearance. I hope not.
      Do you ever wonder if in the spirit of not refusing their gifts they also don’t mention that they never see the gift with the receiver. Kind of an odd situation really, both might know what is really going on so there may be not reason for all the pretence in the first place.

  10. Colleen, it’s a difficult area, and the debate is no doubt set to run on this one. I have had to be pretty tough on people who keep trying to give me stuff, even when I have already said I don’t want anything. Kudos for not shying away from discussing a difficult topic. I’m enjoying your blog!

    • Hi Tony,
      nice to have you drop by. I have been reading your blog for a while now and I must say I am enjoying it very much. Your post “Do you have a life purpose”was particularly relevent to my life at the moment.
      Shying away from this topic wasn’t an option because these difficult subject need to be thrown out there for discussion. Besides even if sometimes I think I won’t quite articulate what I want to say perfectly my fabulous readers will soon polish off the rough spots fo me. It sounds like you have opted for the “make it clear that you no long want gifts and please respect my wishes” approach. Please let us know it you have lost any friendships or alienated any relative with this. I and I am sure my other readers are curious to know.