Ever since I was a teenager, getting gifts has stressed me out. While I appreciate the thought that goes into a gift, the gift itself can often feel like a burden to me.
- I feel that I have to use it or put it out on display.
- I feel pressure to keep it in good condition.
- I feel obligated to keep it forever.
- If it’s not quite what I wanted — but close — I feel like the gift actually prevents me from getting what I truly wanted because then I’d have to keep both things (see previous bullet).
- I feel guilty when lots of money is spent on gifts for me, especially those I haven’t been pining after.
The combination of the 2nd and 3rd bullets is what really stresses me out. As a result, if you poke around our small San Francisco apartment, you will find that a lot of our (very limited) storage space is devoted to gifts.
In high school I learned a valuable lesson about receiving gifts. My grandmother loved to dote on me, and every Christmas and birthday she would buy me a couple of outfits that suited her style but that I knew deep down I would never wear. I felt incredibly guilty accepting them, knowing she had spent money on these gifts and that they would just sit in the back of my closet, but I also felt that I couldn’t upset her by telling her the truth. For this reason, I never enjoyed getting gifts from her.
But then my mom had a wonderful suggestion. Why not offer to meet my grandmother a week or two before Christmas and go shopping with her? This arrangement allowed us all to have the gift of time together, and it enabled me to help choose gifts that I would happily use. Over time, we discovered that jewelry was an even better gift for us to shop for together. Our tastes matched well, and we both knew I could use the jewelry for years to come.
To this day, I wear my grandmother’s jewelry (both inherited and gifts from these shopping trips) nearly every day, and I love thinking of her when I do. A little proaction has meant that I feel glad to keep these gifts forever, to use them often, to keep them in good condition. I don’t want something similar because I got exactly what I wanted, plus some quality time to boot!
Of course, I have not had the opportunity to influence every gift that’s given to me. For all those other gifts, I still have to figure out what my end game is. I like to think of myself as a minimalist, but (as you can see) I struggle with sentimentality and guilt. It’s easy for me to pare down my wardrobe, donate books, toss old computer cords… but I just can’t seem to part with gifts, even those that are just collecting dust and taking up valuable space.
I’m curious — do you hold onto gifts? Am I being overly sentimental about them, or feeling guilt where none was meant to be caused? Would I be happier if I got rid of these gifts, rather than lugging them around from closet to closet each time we move?