I recently had a webinar and someone asked this question:
“How do you tell your bossy mom you got rid of her gifts without feeling guilt?”
And I wanted to answer it here because I’ve been asked this question frequently.
Don’t try to control what someone else will feel
First off, you need to know: you are not responsible for protecting your mom from her feelings. If she is upset because you let go of something, it is not your fault.
And if she’s is upset with you, then there is something more there than just gifts- maybe she feels insecure, maybe she isn’t fully giving the gift, but expecting some sort of loyalty in return and in these cases, there are probably boundary issues in other areas of your relationship, not just gifts, and material items.
So talk to a counselor or read a book on healthy relationships, look to an outside source that can help you navigate that.
Once a gift is given, it has served its purpose
The point of a gift is to show someone you care, imagine the exchange happening- they give you the gift, you express appreciation and then after that, it’s yours to do with what you want. The actual purpose of the gift already happened- it was to express love and care and have that exchange.
I never set out to tell someone that I get rid of a gift. If they gave it to me and we had that exchange, and I decide it doesn’t fit my needs or desires, then I will pass it on as discretely as possible.
If they do ask about it, I will be honest.
I do tell them how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness. But I’ll say things like, “I passed it on to a friend that really needed it.”
If it’s a gift given to kids, I will let them play with it as long as they want and when they aren’t using it anymore, we’ll pass it on.
Express your gratitude in various ways
It may help to have the toy out when Grandma stops by to visit so she sees they are enjoying it, or take a picture with the kids playing with it and send it to her before you get rid of it.
Ultimately, remember that this is your home and the things in your home need to be there because YOU enjoy them and they have good emotions tied to them.
Let go of things kept out of obligation
It’s destructive if you keep things out of obligation- because when you walk by an item and have negative thoughts or emotions- that mental and emotional clutter and it is just as impactful as physical clutter in our homes.
The process of embracing minimalism and letting things go, being honest with yourself about what you want in your home, is addressing not just the physical clutter, the material things that you see- it’s also letting go of the heavy emotions so when you are in your home, you can completely relax.
You don’t want to be bombarded with visual clutter or emotional clutter.
And many times the emotional clutter hasn’t been noticed- as you look around your home, pay attention to the emotions that come up when you see or touch an item.
This is why Marie Kondo has people hold each item.
Now, I know that some people don’t like the emotional side of the KonMarie method- and say “my frying pan doesn’t spark joy.”
And that’s fine- there are many utilitarian things in our homes that we need – coat hooks, can openers, cleaning rags that we can be completely indifferent to- but we use them regularly.
Pay attention to the things that bring up emotion.
The picture that you got from your aunt, the statue of an angle that a co-worker gave you, the candle that someone special bought, but you don’t burn candles – whatever it may be.
If you find yourself thinking “it’s not my favorite. I wouldn’t have bought that color. I wonder if they would be offended if I got rid of it…”
And work through whatever you need to, to come to the point of letting those things go and understanding that there is nothing to feel guilty about.
You can help your relationships by letting these things go in the sense that there won’t be negative emotions aimed at that person anymore when you’re sitting in your house.
Want more help navigating the issue of gifts in general? How to simplify the gift-exchanges, determining what holiday traditions to participate in and which ones need to be let go…
Check out my Simplify the Holiday course where I cover: