Unwanted Gifts

Today I am going to share with you a little story from a relative of a friend which I found most amusing. It is in relation to unwanted gifts and goes like this…

One Christmas this mother whose children were grown and left home decided to do something a little different for Christmas. At sometime previously she had ceased purchasing gifts because they neither needed nor wanted anything. So prior to the Christmas in question she collected up things from around her house that the children had left behind. She then wrapped them up and put them under the tree.

On Christmas morning as the unexpected gifts were unwrapped plenty of laughs were had. Her daughter’s response to her gift of a porcelain figurine was ~ I didn’t want this when I received it for my 21st birthday, so I sure don’t want it now. The stunt had the desired effect. It was determined that neither of her daughters wanted their gifts but the son kept and took away his shirt and video cassettes. The unwanted items went to charity. This has become a Christmas tradition. As she finds things that belong to the kids she puts them aside for the next Christmas season.

I thought this was one of the most amusing and ingenious decluttering ploys ever. And there is no reason to wait for Christmas, why not give  your kids a gift of their left-behind clutter for their next birthday.

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

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Oh wow – I love this idea, but since I don’t have any kidlets, I’d have to reverse it back to the parents. 🙂 I am ashamed to admit it, but this weekend I ended up with yet another afghan – this time from my MIL’s sister, who was recently moved to an elderly facility. I didn’t have the heart to say no. Gads, when will I develop a stiff back on this stuff??? Now I have TWO!!!! When will it stop?? Oh, wait, I know the answer to that question. Only when I say so.

    • Michelle, Michelle, Michelle! Another afghan? LOL I needed a giggle this morning.

    • Perhaps the elder facility could use both afghans?

      • Jo H., I like that idea. It’s just that one was made by my husband’s grandmother and the other by my husband’s aunt’s husband’s mother (does that even make sense??) and as such, being “family” items, I would have to clear the giveaway with my MIL and there ain’t no way I’m telling her that I want to get rid of them. Someday I’ll develop a backbone and do it, but now I am a wimp.

    • Can you suggest that she share one with someone in the facility that she lives in who may be lonely. They may enjoy it as much as you have enjoyed the two you have, and since you don’t need any more that may be a good idea. Maybe she doesn’t know who else to give it to.

  2. What a great idea. I don’t have anyone I can do that with but if I did it would sure happen.

  3. Love it. That is such a funny story!

    But I sure hope my mother doesn’t try it on me! I still have stuff at her home and I have adult children of my own.

  4. I don’t have anyone that I can do this with either, but I do like the idea. It would definitely make for an interesting Christmas morning.

  5. A cute and funny story, Colleen. I can only hope that I bring my kids up well enough so that we can have a laugh like this over silly material items :).

  6. Colleen,
    This was a wonderful story. I do not have any children who have left things behind, but I have friends and family members who do. I will share this with them. Regarding the afghans: There are many charities that can use “unwanted” afghans for homeless shelters, for disaster relief efforts, etc. Many churches are involved in this type of effort. For those of us having too many afghans/blankets, it might be something worth investigating.

  7. Brilliant story, Colleen! Thanks for sharing it!

    I think there could be a twist on the theme: We rotate the kids’ “keeper” toys (as opposed to the ones we donate or consign) into basement storage and bring them up again in 6 months or so. That way, they’re all excited to see the toys again. Maybe if we leave the toys down there longer, they’ll be extra excited to receive them at the holidays!

    My in-laws kept warning my husband that he needed to take his stuff once we got our own place. Two apartments and two houses later, they brought over all of the boxes he still had stored in their house. That day was a major groaner, as we were still trying to unpack the stuff we actually wanted from our own move, never mind all of the junk he’d squirreled away from his youth!

  8. A couple of times a year, we have a ‘clutter amnesty’ in my house – its bit like a library amnesty where they set a few particular days whereby overdue books can be returned and fees wiped – during a clutter amnesty, anyone in the house can put out anything in the box and there is no explanation required or lecture or ??? Its a great opportunity to get rid of items that they simply don’t want (such as unwanted gifts) or say, items of clothing which may not be worn out or outgrown or perhaps were bought against advisement and have turned into a fail and its time to move them on without a “I told you so”.

    • Hi Moni! I just have to share a story with you: last Sunday my oldest son’s godmother was visiting and asked him what he wanted for Children’s Day (just another day with a name as an excuse to incite us to buy more toys and stuff our kids don’t need 😀 ). He looked at her and said: “I have enough toys.” So she asked if he wanted clothes and he answered: “I also have enough clothes.” So she asked if there was anything he needed. That was when he looked at me (he had answered before without even glancing at me! ) and I said that his flip flops where getting too small for his feet and, as he had only one pair, he needed new ones. So he said new flip flops where good. I am so proud of my little boy!!! It is so good to see the things you are doing every day in your house being repeated without you even saying it to them. So it is true that children learn by example…

    • Moni, what a good idea!

    • When two of my kids were in high school, they went through their clothes and got rid of TONS of clothes. As I saw the pile in the hall, I felt sick knowing how much money I spent buying those clothes many of which were not even worn. I have not bought them clothes except for a very rare occasion any more. I think I was the one who needed to learn from this!

  9. Colleen! How clever this mother is. Rather than a gruff demand to take their junk away or passive aggressive nonsense, she made her point clearly and with tact. An excellent example of how to handle a problem with intellect and not brute force. Have a hot tuna of a day!

  10. It seems to work the other way in this family. My mother will ring up for a chat and then at some point in the conversation she tells me about some stuff she is getting rid of and I might like. As she lives in a massive house that is full the to the gunnels it is possible that there might be something I would like. I use the word possible guardedly.
    A couple of weeks ago she offered me some clothes, she has good taste and buys well but I don’t need or want them. So for the first time I politely refused. Poor woman, she almost dropped the phone. Finally I agreed she could email me a photo of them so I could see how lovely they were before she sold them on ebay. Next up was some glassware. Just because I took some rather lovely and very useful glass plates does not mean I am now collecting anything made of glass. My polite refusal was met with genuine shock.
    A week later she rings again, offering me the same items plus a few more. AAGH!

    • Maybe you can spend a day with her and help her sell the items or take them to a pawn shop or resale place. As a mom of kids who are getting older, you have provided for them for so long and it takes a little bit of time to realize that you can let go of that responsibility. Suggest that she save the money and take you out to lunch or take the family to the zoo instead.

  11. This post has made me realise how much stuff I’ve still got at my father’s house. I’ve also just acknowledged that I leave things there so it’s still “home” even though I haven’t lived there for 30 years! I think I’ve got a little spot of clearing out to be doing next time I visit him. Ah well that’ll be a few more items towards my first 365.

    • That sounds like my co-worker who received something from his mother. She found his medical kit from his Army days. He served in Vietnam.

  12. I have four adult kids. My rule when they left home after college was that they had to take everything with them. I told them, “I’m not your storage unit!” My only exception is my grad student son who is currently outside of the country doing research–I keep his finance and important papers in a file box and a small backpack of stuff he left here when he left the country. He’s most minimalist than I am.

  13. What a clever idea. We are going to do a white elephant gift exchange instead of regular gifts. The real focus is having fun together now acquiring stuff!

  14. This is a delightful little story. I wonder if you could do a variation with people who give you gifts you don’t want. What if, for people who give you gifts when you don’t want them, you gave them back to them the next year?

    • Mark, what a great idea. I have also been very open with those who think they need to get me a gift. I tell them I don’t want gifts because I don’t need anything, that the only thing I might spend money on is books for my Kindle. It’s getting to where no one gives me gifts.


  1. […] Read this story. I’m not a mother with grown up children, but this gave me a good laugh. Perhaps if you do, this might be an idea to get rid of other people’s things this holiday season. […]