Why I Hate Gifts?

It is a common belief that everybody loves to receive gifts. However, the more people are embracing minimalism, the more gifts are becoming a botheration. Ever since I started my minimalist journey, gifts have become a source of botheration and irritation for me. Before you start judging me for being rude to the sentiments of the gift giver, please give me a chance to explain myself.

There are two types of gifts, the first are those where a person puts in a lot of thoughts, love, respect, compassion and care to choose a gift. However, the second is when a person gifts you out of obligation and social conventions. I have problem with the later.

When I started de-cluttering, I realized that most of the things that I was throwing away came as gifts. For example, I received almost thousand gifts on my wedding. I know many of those gifts were ‘re-gifted’ gifts. Indian families are famous at re-gifting. I remember, one of my BFF got married couple of months before my wedding and she gifted me a rice cooker. When I opened it, I found a card that had her name as recipient. I understood that she re-gifted me something that she received on her wedding. All of us got some items in duplicates like toaster, casseroles. flasks, etc. on our wedding. Don’t you find this similar?

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Over the years, we received gifts on birthdays, anniversaries, Diwali, new year, return gifts, and travel souvenirs from friends and families. Things and stuff just started getting accumulated.

The gifts we give are often part of social obligation. It is not always something people give out of love. They give it because they are expected to give it. When people gift out of obligation, they are often not mindful while choosing the gift. Let us be honest, we all are guilty of this. However, when we feel like giving a gift from the bottom of our hearts the gifts are usually mindful.

I honestly appreciate those couples who mention clearly on their wedding cards not to bring gifts. I wish, I had the wisdom back then to ask people not to bring gifts. Recently, I attended a wedding where the couple had requested to give saplings and seeds as gifts. They plan to plant those saplings and grow a forest. Isn’t it a beautiful thought? I wish I had done the same.

As a society, we should stop focusing on material gifts and start gifting experiences. For example, why not we gift someone a holiday, a restaurant voucher, a plant to grow, a pet, or an experience. My son once receieved a neem sapling as a birthday return gift. Initially, he didn’t like it as he was expecting a toy. However, 7 years later the plant is still alive while most of his toys are either broken or lost.

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As per Wikipedia: “A significant fraction of gifts are unwanted, or the giver pays more for the item than the recipient values it, resulting in a misallocation of economic resources known as a deadweight loss. Unwanted gifts are often “regifted“, donated to charity, or thrown away.[3] A gift that actually imposes a burden on the recipient, either due to maintenance or storage or disposal costs, is known as a white elephant. One cause of the mismatch between the giver’s and receiver’s view is that the giver is focused on the act of giving the gift, while the receiver is more interested in the long-term utilitarian value of the gift.[4] For example, many receivers prefer a future experience instead of an object, or a practical gift that they have requested over a more expensive, showier gift chosen by the giver.[4] One means of reducing the mismatch between the buyer and receivers’ tastes is advance coordination, often undertaken in the form of a wedding registry or Christmas list. Wedding registries in particular are often kept at a single store, which can designate the exact items to be purchased (resulting in matching housewares), and to coordinate purchases so the same gift is not purchased by different guests. One study found that wedding guests who departed from the registry typically did so because they wished to signal a closer relationship to the couple by personalizing a gift, and also found that as a result of not abiding by the recipients’ preferences, their gifts were appreciated less often.[5] An estimated $3.4 billion was spent on unwanted Christmas gifts in the United States in 2017.[6] The day after Christmas is typically the busiest day for returns in countries with large Christmas gift giving traditions.[6][7] The total unredeemed value of gift cards purchased in the U.S. each year is estimated to be about a billion dollars.[3]

We do realize that the tradition of gift-giving is also leaving carbon footprints behind. However, the consumerist world will always encourage us to give more gifts. They would say that you can express true love only through gifts. However, as a human being, if you are concerned about nature then gift something that serves a greater purpose. Do not gift something that simply creates clutter and eventually lands up in the trash bin. As we are approaching the festival season, let us commit to be more mindful while giving and receiving gifts.

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11 thoughts on “Why I Hate Gifts?

  1. Steven Colborne says:

    I loved this post! I completely agree that receiving gifts can be a burden when one is a minimalist, especially when we perceive the gifts have been given merely out of obligation. The one thing that I disagreed with in your post is that you mentioned people could give pets as a gift. I think this should only be done with prior agreement, because pets are a huge responsibility and could be an unwanted burden for a lot of people. Thanks for a great article! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Balaka says:

      Yes, I agree that pets should be given after taking consent from the person. Peta are a huge responsibility and shouldn’t be randomly given. Thank you for reading. I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Georgiana says:

    In my country there’s the tradition to offer money at weddings and christenings , which I find a lot more useful than receiving different objects. However, we recently moved in a new house and it was a struggle to convince our friends and families to not give us anything or at least to wait until we make up our mind about certain things we need. Thankfully we “escaped” without receiving any random things! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      In my country cash gift has mixed opinion. Some people find it ideal while others find it rude. I personally would prefer cash over random things. Refusing or throwing away gifts is rude but often we are left with very little choice. Thanks for reading. I enjoyed your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Modern Gypsy says:

    Makes a lot of sense, Balaka. I love receiving gifts from close friends who put in thought and care into what they give me. The gifts that come as social obligations more often than not just create more clutter and eventually clog up the landfill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Holly Jahangiri says:

    I agree. There are many reasons why it is “better to give than to receive.” Like you, I love thoughtful gifts (or, let’s be honest, just ask: “What would you like for your birthday?” and if the answer is “nothing” or “I don’t know” then plant a sapling in my name). Gifts I love: writing, art, crochet, or other hobby supplies; books; Amazon gift cards; things from my Amazon wish list. Travel souvenirs used to be special, but now – no matter where you go – 99% of them are cheap and made in China, so what’s the point of using valuable suitcase space to haul them back? Order online, then, if you must. Some are cute mementos, but seriously – they’re not made where you bought them. Why bother? A lot of places have lost their character as a result of “globalization.” Same is true of those “obligatory gifts.” A few years ago, we all agreed that the only people who were getting gifts at Christmas were the kids, and after the age of 10 or so, just our OWN kids. And they don’t have to give everyone gifts in return. Some years I make handmade gifts for everyone, or maybe bring sweets or “stocking stuffers,” because, let’s face it, grown ups do like thoughtful little gifts, too. Just not the obligatory kind or the “useless reallocation of resources” kind (e.g., I give you $20 at my favorite store and you give me $20 at your favorite store).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Corinne Rodrigues says:

    What about recycled gifts? They’re are pretty funny too.
    I do believe that we should start gifting experiences instead. For my Dad’s 90th birthday, a cousin gave Dad vouchers to take us all to Taj Faluknama for a tea. It was one of our last outings all together and it was a great experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Recycled gifts are the worst. I also feel we should gift something that can be experienced. I love to receive movie tickets, restaurant vouchers, hotel coupons. I love gifting them as well.


  6. Vinitha says:

    I agree with you, Balaka. Gifts given out of social obligation are really a botheration. We got a lot of showcase pieces as our wedding gift. So many of them were boats. Why do people do that! My MIL put them all in the attic. You can’t part with such gifts neither can you give them a decent space in your house. I hate return gift concept too. When we were growing up return gifts were not so much popular like today. Here in the US I am familiar with return gifts. The difference is when you go to a birthday party hosted by an American family the return gifts are small inexpensive stuff. I think its unnecessary to give such items. But you go to an Indian birthday party the returns gifts are usually way too expensive for my taste. I don’t understand why such show off! Either way expensive or inexpensive return gifts in my opinion are an unnecessary activity.
    I hope everyone finds this unnecessary gift giving because of social obligation a tiresome one and do away with it!
    Loved reading your thoughts, Balaka.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Vinitha, I am so happy to read this comment. I am glad that we are on the same page regarding gifting. Showpieces are the worst. Most of them are ridiculously tacky. In India, return gifts have become the latest way to show off. You wouldn’t believe I even recieved return gift at a shradh ceremony. Indians love to compete in showing off and I can imagine the situation in US. When we were growing up forget return gift, even the birthday child used to not get anything more than a pencil box or sketch pen set. These days people splurge on birthdays. And if you do not spend then you are judged. I really wish that like numerous old traditions the social obligation for gifting should come to an end. Thanks for reading and this beautiful comment.


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