Is it Bad to Regift?


So far this week, we’ve talked about letting go of the things that belong to the person you used to be, or never were and never will be. And how to make space for the person you actually are now. Today’s big idea is a bit of stickier wicket. And that is what to do about sentimental things that you don’t use, don’t need. But the thought of getting rid of them gives you a little pang. Namely, things you received as gifts, and things that were created by or belonged to someone you love. Is it bad to regift?

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So I have to give credit to Marie Kondo on the gifts thing. In her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she talks very explicitly about gifts and why you don’t need to keep the gifts you’ve received that never did or no longer spark joy. It can feel really heartless to get a sweater that you just can’t stand and return it. Or give it to a friend, or donate it, or regift it.

But, the value of the gift is fulfilled in the actual giving

The vast majority of gift givers never intended to make you keep something and store something that you hate, or just don’t like, or simply can’t use. They wanted to show that you matter to them. And you keeping something that drags you down in any way simply because it was a gift distorts the gift giver’s intentions. In other words, it doesn’t do anybody any good. Better to regift it to someone who will appreciate it. 

My Own Struggles with Parting with Gifts

When I was a teenager, I think it must have been on one of my big birthdays, like 18 or 21. My grandmother gave me a charm bracelet with one charm on it. A gold whistle that was about an inch and a half long. When she gave it to me, she told me, whenever you need me, just blow that whistle and I’ll hear it and come running. It was very very sweet. And the whistle and the bracelet were very pretty. But that big whistle clunked around awkwardly to the point that whenever I put it on to wear I took it right off again.

For this same birthday, my mom gave me a really pretty gold necklace that had a monogram charm at the end of it, and the charm could also be worn as a pin. The monogram was really pretty but also really preppy. Too preppy for my 18 year old self. So both of these pretty, thoughtful, and meaningful gifts sat in my drawer for YEARS. No, decades!! I felt because they were gifts they were an as-is kind of deal.

Then I read Marie Kondo and felt a little freer about the purpose of a gift being fulfilled in the act of giving itself

It made me feel like I had more of a say about what I did with those items. So I had the whistle taken off the charm bracelet and put on the necklace, and took the monogram off. And, boom, just like that, I have a favorite favorite necklace. And the bracelet with no charms on it is perfect!  (The monogram pin I’m still figuring out the right occasion for, to be honest.) So maybe you don’t need to regift or sell the present. Although you are well within your rights if you do. You could also repurpose it in some way that suits you better. It’s all good. 

And then there are the things that perhaps weren’t gifts, but that have a lot of sentimental value

Especially kids’ art projects, things that belonged to someone who has passed away, or mementos from your own childhood. It can be really hard to let these things go, even though you don’t really have a use for them. For those things that you’re truly not using but you hesitate to move them along, make it your mantra to Commemorate, not keep. You can do that by taking a picture of these things so that you feel like you keep the memory, but not the thing itself.

You can get those photos of these things printed in a book, or display them in a digital frame that rotates, or set your Apple TV to display them, and you’ll likely interact with these objects—albeit in picture form—more often than when they were stuck in a box on a shelf in your closet. Or something I’m planning on doing for my son’s birthday is having all the great t-shirts he wore when he was a toddler made into a quilt that he can keep on his bed. When in doubt, upcycle!

Again, all this decluttering is in the name of making space for who you are now

Where you want to go, and to allow energy to circulate more freely in your home. I know these long winter days, weeks, and months with nowhere to go are challenging, but a big opportunity within that challenge is to take care of your home and lighten your load. 

Come back tomorrow, when I’m talking about how to decide where to start your de-cluttering, and what to do once you’ve made that decision.


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