No Excuses series (part 3): "It was a gift"

6 February 2017


This is the third in a three-part series of posts debunking the three excuses I hear most frequently from clients for wanting to keep items they no longer use or love. Click here to see the other articles in the series.

The third common excuse I hear for keeping an unloved or unused item is that it was a gift. This is a tough one. People tend to have a difficult time parting with items that were given to them. (As an aside, this has completely changed how I give gifts, knowing that my gift may some day become clutter for the recipient.)

What do I say to clients who tell me they can’t let go of something because it was a gift? The first question I ask is:

  • Do you think the gift giver would really want you to keep something you don’t use, just because they gave it to you? If they knew you were investing time and money in paring down your belongings and getting organized, would they care if you let it go?

Usually that’s enough to help the client release it. If that doesn’t do the trick, I might ask:

  • Is there another family member you can pass this on to who would love it?

That can be very helpful, especially when the gift giver has passed away. (I’m the thrilled recipient of some paintings that my grandmother created, given to me by her nieces when they were decluttering.)

Really, what I find is that the client just needs permission to let gifts go. So let me do that for you right now: You are not obligated to keep an item you don’t use or love just because it was a gift. I give you permission to re-gift it or donate it. Don’t stash it in a closet. And try not to worry that the giver will ever ask about it. Chances are they won’t.

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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