Tricky situation

I received a comment from one of my readers last week who found herself in a tricky situation in regards to decluttering a certain object.  Read the comment below to understand the dilemma. I have edited it so that the artist involved wouldn’t recognise it is about them if by some weird twist of fate they should happen to read it.

I have a tricky one for you and your readers! A very good friend who comes to my house regularly  created a painting AT MY REQUEST for my birthday. That was 4 years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really love the painting then, and I like it less now. It’s just too dark for my house, which I like to be light and airy. I’ve moved the painting from a prominent position to a sort of hidden spot in the another room, but I KNOW she would notice if it was gone, as it isn’t a big house. Maybe I could say one of the kids put their foot through the canvas?

The question is what should she do about the painting…

  1. Should she donate it and hope the friend never asks where it went.
  2. Should she be up-front and explain to the friend that the shade of it no longer suits her tastes and offer the painting back to her friend or perhaps ask if she can swap it for another piece that she likes better.
  3. Should she persevere with it in another room where she looks at it less and then if the person asks at least she can say she still has it but felt like she needed a change.
  4. Or is it alright to tell a little white lie (if the friend should ask about it’s whereabouts) that it somehow met its demise by way of a freak accident. Or perhaps say that another acquaintance simply loved it so much you re-gifted it to them because you were intending to buy a new one from her.

I asked my son the art student what he would feel/do as the artist who noticed it missing…

He said he would probably asked where it went out of curiosity but wouldn’t be upset if it had been passed on to someone else. He felt that four years was a reasonable amount of time to have had it displayed and would understand that a person may have changed taste and it no longer suited them. He said he would not be happy had it just been thrown away.

My husband tended to agree with my son but said he would prefer to have been offered the painting back.

Cindy suggested saying  “I love this painting, but the longer I live with it, the more I wish it reflected me/my lifestyle/ my beliefs / something, and I am wondering if you might warm it up / lightening it up for me.”

Not knowing the artist makes it hard for a third party to come up with the best possible solution but it also gives a more detached logical twist as to how to resolve the problem. I personally like the idea of offering it back to the artist and asking if you can swap it for one that matches your new shade preference.  That way the request in no way insults the painting or her/him as an artist but suggests that it is you the owner that has changed but would still love to own one of their pieces.

A true friend would understand and consider your feelings to be important so if this breaks the relationship then you have to ask yourself how strong was it in the first place. I know that I have given things to people and then have never seen them using the gift or displaying it, and I just chalk it up to me not choosing wisely in the first place. Unfortunately, not every one is this insensitive when it comes to giving.

I hope this has been a help to my commenter (who shall remain nameless) and to anyone facing the same situation.

Today’s Declutter Item

This was one of those foolish bargains too good to resist purchases before testing the product to see how well it worked. My guess is that they were a faulty batch and that was why they were selling them off cheap. Because they were crap and I am not sure why I thought 8 years was going to make a difference to their performance. Needless to say they went in the bin.

Useless Adhesive 04 01 2011

Things I am grateful for today

  • Those odd little things you come across during your normal daily meandering that make you go “Interesting”. Everyday should be different in its own unique way.
  • Lunch with a friend
  • Cute moments when your kids say things that are quite wise for their age.
  • Having a joke with my boy.
  • My little girl is taking action instead of just sitting back waiting for life to happen.

  • Below are photos of the Christmas pudding that intrigued some of my readers during the lead up to Christmas. The first picture shows the pudding hanging after being boiled wrapped in cloth for 3 hours. The 2nd picture was taken right after the pudding was removed from the cloth after another 2 hours of boiling on Christmas day a week later (You can hang it for much longer than that). The 3rd picture is of my slice of pudding with custard and cream MMMM Yum. And the last one is of the pudding after everyone had a slice. If you would like a better look just click on one of the photos and it will take you the Steve’s Flickr photo stream.


It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • A thought about gifts Recall for a moment an event where you received a gift that you really wanted. The perfect give that you used and enjoyed for some time. Remember the delight at the sight of such a gift […]
  • Stuff x Emotions ~ A guest post by Andréia It seems funny to talk about emotions and feelings when talking about inanimate objects that can be replaced, but we place emotion and feelings on stuff all the time. It can be good or it […]
  • Declutter your mind to declutter you home The hardest part of decluttering happen in you mind. The clutter itself isn't really the problem it is the preconceived ideas we have about what we should, could and must keep and what we […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Ahhh! I would absolutely NOT ask the artist if you could swap it or have them edit it up. That is their time and effort you’re asking for more of, and you didn’t even like the first one. Editing isn’t so bad, but it’s kind of like you having a masterpiece brownie and someone saying you need to change it up to suit them because they don’t like it anymore. Sort of, that analogy doesn’t really work.

    If you really don’t want it anymore, gift it and if she asks, let her know someone admired it and wanted it, so you passed it on after displaying it proudly for 4 years. She’ll probably understand. 🙂

    • I really must agree that asking the artist to edit the work would not be a great idea. While most artists who I know tend to feel that even their best work could have been better after they’ve got some distance from it, it feels like it would somehow be insulting to ask the artist to alter a finished piece.

      Overall, I agree with Lynn’s assessment.

      • Hi Adam,
        it is nice to hear a man’s voice in the mix we seem to get so few around here. Welcome to 365lessthings and I hope you are enjoying reading. I am inclined to agree with Lynn as well so we have that in common already. Drop by again soon and thank you for leaving a comment. 🙂

    • Hi Lynn,
      you make very good points and I rather prefer your solution to the problem over any other. That way it has been moved on and you have given a dignified excuse why you no longer have the piece. If this isn’t a reasonable I don’t know what is.

      I would like to think that no one would ever ask the whereabouts of something of this nature though as it seems to be the height of rudeness to put someone in such and awkward position. Gifts should have no strings attached.

  2. If you didn’t like the painting then, and really don’t like it now, then:
    1. PLEASE do not ask her for any others; and,
    2. Follow the advice written by Lynn (I agree w/ Lynn’s suggestion – well said!!!).

    GREAT POST! We ALL learn so much from these moments, THANKS FOR SHARING!!!

  3. In the original comment, the writer said she had admired the artist’s other paintings and should have just purchased one of those (or asked for a specific one as a gift). What about purchasing a new painting from the artist, one that will truly be to the taste of the buyer and can be gladly displayed? Then the other painting can fade away.

  4. Being that I’m an artist, and my only artwork is displayed at my and my parents house, I haven’t had to worry about this yet. I guess my thought would be in needing to know the artist better as well…are they the type to still covet their own work even if they give it away, or the type to do a piece for someone and then move on and forget about it. I tend to be more of the latter. Hopefully the writer knows their artist friend and can separate their own guilt on how they’d feel if someone did the same to them from evaluating someone elses reaction. Good luck!

    137/1000 so far 🙂

    • Hi Kathleen,
      this really is a touchy subject and very individual to the artist and owners involved. Thank you for your opinion on the subject and I hope the combined responses will help the person involved.

  5. I’m an artist and a piece of art is not something you want to go back to, or “fix” like you would fix a broken computer or something. When a painting is done, its’ done. It would be demeaning to ask that. Also that would mean they’d be forced to put more time and effort in it, and if you still didn’t like it, it would be even harder to get rid of!
    I would try finding it a new, more appreciative home as well.

    • Hi Cat’s Meow,
      I know enough about art to be inclined to agree with you about the touching up. This really is a tricky situation to be in and there are a lot of personal feeling at play and I appreciate everyone’s individual thoughts on the subject. Thank you for your take from an artists point of view.
      Please let us know how you would feel as an artist if you walked into a home and noticed one of your pieces had been removed from pride of place. Would you say anything and how would you feel? Take some time to really think about being in the other persons position assuming the artists has your personality and love of creating. Please get back to us with what you came up with I would love to hear.

  6. That was my question!

    Wow, thanks so much everyone! They are all such thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive answers. Just to clarify a point (which I didn’t mention in the original email to Colleen – my fault entirely), my friend isn’t a professional artist – though she has had a painting in a local exhibition – she is a talented amateur, who paints for the love of it. I don’t really think I could be 100% honest as she is quite volatile and is the sort to have her feelings easily hurt. She doesn’t have the time to just whip up a painting (not that art can just be ‘whipped up’ I know!) as she has a very busy life, and I knew I was asking for a very big thing when I asked for one as a present.

    For the moment, the painting is hiding behind a large chair while I think about all these wonderful responses. A big thank you to Colleen for posting this!

  7. Great post!! This is tricky but in the end we must do what we need to do with the best intentions we can find and then hope for the best. Thanks for posting this Colleen. You are really helping a lot of folks with your site…


    • Hi Boddi,
      thank you for those kind words and I like what you had to say about that tricky situation too. It is as you say – that in the end we must do what is right for us and hope it all works out in the end. After all it is our home and we should be entitled to live in it the way we want.

  8. Hi Colleen, hopefully this person became a regular.
    Tricky situation Jan 4th 2011
    I loved this one too! Oh poor Tricky. Recently I posed a question about de-cluttering Friends and it seemed that a lot of us had done it. One of the reasons I posted the question was because I got rid of a present that was given to me by the de-cluttered ‘friend’! Everytime I looked at the thing (although very functional it wasn’t to my taste and back then I used it out of peer pressure!) It kind of made me mad because I always came back to the fact that ‘she’ bought it for me, in the end the bowl ‘went away’! I no longer have to look at it or be reminded that she didn’t get my taste and I don’t have a reminder of ‘her’.
    As for Tricky Situation, even if the ‘artist’ has a volatile nature, it’s Trickys’ home and if the painting doesn’t suit anymore ‘off with the canvas!! I would suggest she be upfront and tell the ‘artist’ her taste has changed but it is now out in the universe somewhere being appreciated and the new owner is waiting for the ‘artist’ to become commercial or otherwise kind of famous! She would have effectively, parted with said painting, quelled a volcano, made somebodys’ day a little brighter with a gift and also given the opportunity to the ‘artist’ to reflect and push on with creativity!
    The ‘artist’ will get through it or over it!
    A dear friend of years & years made me a quilt, I had it for years and it served it’s purpose but I had grown tired of it, another friend had always coveted it so I gave it away to her to love & cherish & use however she saw fit! My quilt friend notices and I told her truthfully that I had passed it on to another. Quilt friend was miffed & ranted about hrs of work & love that went into the quilt, until I remarked that if I was to drop dead right then would she have taken the quilt back for any reason! She said “no I made it for you and it’s not my taste anyway!” I said “Exactly! It’s mine to do with what I please and as of this moment it’s making someone else happy!” She got where I was coming from! Gifts, whether requested or a suprise should never be given with strings attached!
    I do hope Tricky Situation solved her dilemma.

    • Hi Dizzy,
      yes the person involved in this post is still a very active reader/commenter at my blog. She is a very nice lady who I have met personally and I will check with her what the outcome was with the painting. I am sure I should know the answer to this but it escapes my mind at the moment. I am glad you managed to smooth over the quilt situation with your friend and I agree with you that gifts should be given without strings attached. Handmade objects are often a subject for this particular problem which our readers have discussed more than once.

  9. Hello Colleen,

    My tale is of the other side of a painting. When we moved here, we met a neighbour, who asked about a painting which her husband had done. Apparently, he had given it to a neighbour we both knew at our previous location. I guess the person gifted with the painting didn’t care for it and, when asked, lied and said she had given it to us! Now, I’m sure the wife of the artist thinks that *we* are lying about the painting that we have never seen before! She brought up the painting a few times. Needless to say, our friendship never hit it off…

    (I love your blog and have read it from the beginning. I notice you have another Sabine commenting, so I am signing as ‘Sabine in Canada’.)

    • Hi Sabine and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for letting us know you are out there reading and thank you for identifying yourself in a way that I won’t get you and the other Sabine confused.
      Interesting story about that painting. It raises a few interesting points the first being how sometimes we feel obliged to accept things just to be polite to the giver. This is fair enough but wouldn’t it be lovely just to be able to be honest with people and say thank but no thanks. Honesty is so often a victim to good manners. The second interesting point is that the wife didn’t accept the situation for what it was and just get over it. How rude of her for continuing to badger you about it. I am not surprised that relationship didn’t last. Goodness knows what resentment she harbours towards the other couple who accepted the painting in the first place. The best policy with gift giving (aside from avoiding it) is to give unconditionally and never mention the gift again unless the recipient broaches the subject.

  10. Sabine in Canada

    I agree, Colleen. A gift shouldn’t come with any kind of obligation attached. I know from experience that this can be hard for the gift-giver, especially when giving a hand-made gift that has taken many hours to make and/or is made of costly materials. Nevertheless, the gift belongs to the recipient to do with as he/she wishes. A little sting of honesty up-front can prevent far worse hurt feelings afterward.

    • Oh yes, those handmade items just add that greater level of complication. Which reminds me I really must rustle up all the knitted scarves in drawers and boxes around here and send them off to the thrift store. Fluffy knitted things not only give me itchy eyes and nose but shed on the furniture and my own hair is bad enough for that.

  11. Before answering this myself, I thought I would ask a friend of mine who is an amazing painter what her take is. Here’s mine:
    I would: be up-front and explain to the friend that the shade of it no longer suits my tastes and either offer the painting back to the friend, ask if I could can swap it for another piece that I likes better, or ask if I can give it to a friend whose taste runs that spectrum.

    Here’s hers:
    “I would say to tell the artist that it just doesn’t match her tastes anymore. When I paint for ppl, I always hope that they are honest with me. I would ask the artist if we can find a new home for the painting then start coming up with ideas for a brighter, happier painting, one id be happier with.”