How do you stop the flood of unnecessary baby gifts?

Vintage baby toys (Julia Wright, Flickr)

We’re expecting our first baby this summer, and the gifts are just starting to roll in. They’re so sweet, and we really appreciate the thought that went into each and every one of them. At the same time, the minimalist in me does not want to have much more than the essentials.

We set up a registry and carefully selected only the things we think we really need. When people send other gifts, it’s because they’ve put thought into what we or the baby might love, and I appreciate this thought so incredibly much. But these extra gifts take extra space and can feel unnecessary. In the worst case scenario, they can even begin to feel like a burden.

(I should pause here to clarify that I’m talking mostly about toys and clothes, and not about handmade quilts or other such irreplaceable gifts that we’ll adore and treasure.)

What are expecting parents to do? Here are the options I’ve considered:

Keep the gifts

And be thankful for such nice people in our lives. Store them away somewhere or find a way to use them.

Return the gifts and use the money for other baby gear we really need

And still be thankful for the nice people in our lives. My worry is that if these friends or family ever come over they might notice that we don’t have their gift anywhere in sight. Often they’ve put a lot of thought into a gift, and I’d feel bad rejecting such a gift. Do you worry about this? Or is it not such a big deal since baby gear changes as the kids grow older?

Tell friends and family in advance that we’d prefer registry or cash gifts

We could cite the small size of our apartment as the reason behind this request, but this one still feels a little bit uncomfortable to me, like we’re assuming that they will want to get us a gift in the first place.

Fill the registry with more essentials, including things for older ages

This option is based on the assumption that if the registry has enough options — price points and types of gifts — that people will have a better chance of finding a gift there that they are happy to give, and feel less compelled to add other extra gifts. My concern here is that we won’t get the registry items that we really need for an infant if people buy more of the gifts intended for an older age.


I think I’m leaning toward the first or second option, depending on the gift and the likelihood that we would use it.

The most heartwarming thing I’ve observed about parents is that they share and pass along things they don’t need or use anymore. This virtuous cycle means there is another option.

We could try trading some extras for things that we do need.

It would even better if our extras were exactly what other parents were looking for. It could be a win-win for everyone involved.

Parents, I’d love to hear how you keep all these toys and extras at bay. Non-parents, I’d love to hear what route you would recommend. And all gift-givers, which option would you prefer that your recipients take if your gift wasn’t something they really needed?

(Photo credit: Julia Wright, Flickr)

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4 thoughts on “How do you stop the flood of unnecessary baby gifts?

  1. Ah the stuff of children! If you crack this one I will give you a medal (a virtual one, not a clutter one). People love giving gifts for babies and that is lovely – but it can easily get too much. Its a really tricky on as you don’t want to offend people or appear ungrateful. You can be grateful for the sentiment behind the giving of the gift without really wanting the gift itself. But this is not easy to convey well.

    I was really concerned about a flood of baby stuff too as we have a small place (by choice). Luckily my immediate family is 1) small and 2) on my wavelength. I suggest having a quiet word to anyone that you think will understand your desire for less/space issues and maybe steer them towards cash/vouchers.

    Other things you might not have considered are “non-thing” gifts e.g. a cleaner, meals/meal service, paying for a mother and baby class or swimming lessons or other such activities. Also for people that like to give practical gifts – laundry powder!!

    In terms of giving on/returning unwanted gifts, I can’t bring myself to do this – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. One word of warning, its general practice to send a picture of your little one wearing/playing with the gift to the giver. But you could alway say it got ruined by a poo explosion!

    Adding essentials for old babies to your registry is a good idea.

    Also don’t buy much, if anything, yourselves, that way you can just top up anything lacking after all the gifts come in. Its so easy to get baby stuff delivered quickly via online shopping if it turns out you do need it.

    You might find this article useful ihttp://www.theminimalistmom.com/2011/02/minimalist-guide-to-baby/
    Congratulations on your impending baby and all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your joke about the medal made me laugh out loud! Thanks for all of your thoughts and suggestions. I think I’d have a hard time returning a gift too. I love the idea of non-thing gifts! I read that adding notes to your registry makes people more likely to buy them so I’m going to try that — and add a note to the gift card option about those non-thing expenses we would be thrilled to use that money toward. Thanks so much!!

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  2. We have our baby shower coming up in a few weeks and a lot of people have done the right thing and have asked my sister (the organizer) if we have a registry. I wasn’t planning to do one, but the shower is 4 weeks before our due date and I realized that if I didn’t give people some kind of direction to go in then we might spend the weeks leading up to baby’s arrival (if he’s on time) driving around various areas of the city returning things because we received way too many of certain items. I’m having flashbacks to our wedding where we received about 40 wine glasses!! I love wine, but come on people!! I went slightly overboard on the registries as I wanted to give people options of lots of things we truly wanted/needed instead of putting only a few things and people being left with only expensive things if they are procrastinators. I did put some older baby items on there like teething toys, little books (we want our kid to love books), some bath toys, and some feeding things for when little guy starts eating solids. I figured that we don’t want/need much at all for a newborn baby, and he’s going to grow out of everything so fast that there is no point in people focusing on those first few months.

    My sister specified, when she sent out the registry to everyone, that we would prefer everyone to provide gift receipts for their gifts just in case of double ups or we already have the item they picked. Whether people do this is a whole other story.

    Our plan is probably to hold on to gifts received from closest family members and closest friends, as they are the ones that are likely to be coming over and/or ask about the item they bought. For the more “distant” friends who I only see every few months, we will likely return the items if it’s not something we need or want. Chances are that they won’t be visiting in our home for awhile after baby is born so they won’t even notice that the item they bought isn’t in view. When it comes to clothing, we will likely take a picture of baby in it (if it’s within the first 4 weeks of his life or still within return time), hide the tags in the photo, send it to the gift giver, and then return or donate the outfit. I’m a bit particular about what kind of clothing I want our boy in as I’m not a fan of superhero/cartoon character/sesame street/Disney character clothing (no offence to those who are. it’s just not our thing), so if anyone gifts us those then they likely will be returned or donated.

    We are also holding off on buying too many things until after the shower too. We have the key necessities of crib, bassinette, stroller, car seat, rocking chair, change table, some clothes, and we will likely buy some more basic onesies, diapers, as well as a few receiving blankets just in case the little guy comes early. But otherwise, we will pick that stuff up once we see what people have gifted us at the shower. It will suck shopping when I’ve got 4 weeks left in the pregnancy, but my husband loves shopping so I could easily send him out with a list as well.

    I should also mention that we live in a small condo of about 900 square feet too and want to avoid the place looking like a kid bomb went off in it so we don’t want a ton of stuff either.

    Sorry for the novel 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your situation sounds just like ours! We live in a small apartment and don’t want lots of kid clutter, and our showers are both about 4 weeks before our due date, which stresses me out a bit (I’d prefer more like 8 weeks or right around now). We have most of the basics too except a car seat, but with Amazon Prime it will be easy to get that quickly if need be. I like the idea of considering how close you are to a friend when deciding what to do with a gift. I think it’s important to remember that they want us to have useful gifts that we love, so exchanging for something more useful may be what they would want us to do. It’s all so complicated! Thanks so much for commenting with your experience and thoughts! It’s helpful to know I’m not alone 🙂

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