For many aspiring minimalists, a certain temptation arises at this time of year. On the one hand, you have the urge to purge your household of unwanted things; and on the other, you may be expected to produce gifts for friends and family. It seems like the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; but can declutter-gifting really be pulled off with panache?
It’s tricky, but I think it can be done—as long as the declutter-gift meets one of the following standards:
It’s an heirloom. And by heirloom, I don’t mean the velvet Elvis that’s been sitting in your basement for the last twenty years. It must be something that a family member would actually want: like a special piece of jewelry, an ancestor’s (interesting) journal, or that antique Tiffany lamp.
It’s an extravagance. Your teenage nephew is not going to appreciate old sweaters or socks. But if you’ve been inspired to go TV-free, it’s a good bet your 52-inch flat screen will make his holiday. Similarly, a friend or relative may be overjoyed to receive the old iPod, laptop, or other electronic device you’ve recently replaced.
It’s a rarity. If it’s a desirable item you can’t find in a store—an out-of-print book, a work of art, a vintage Gibson guitar—it’s certainly appropriate for gift-giving. It doesn’t even have to be particularly valuable; a vintage purse, for example, may make the perfect present for a niece with a unique sense of style.
It matches their interests. If you have something to give that matches the interests of the recipient—whether it’s a set of Kung Fu DVDs, a collection of architecture books, or a stash of knitting supplies—it’s sure to be appreciated.
It fills a true need. If you have a young adult on your gift list who’s trying to furnish an apartment on the cheap, it’s a great opportunity to declutter-gift a hand-me-down couch, old set of cookware, or other household necessities.
That’s not to say that you can’t declutter-gift more generic items, like a scarf, candleholder, or picture frame. In fact, they can make fine presents for acquaintances or co-workers—as long as the item looks brand new, and is similar to what you would have bought them in a store.
The most important point to remember: declutter-gifting isn’t an excuse to dump your junk on someone else. Rather, think of it as an opportunity to pass on special (or valuable) items that you know the recipient would want, and you’d have difficulty parting with otherwise. Sometimes it makes all the difference knowing they’re going to a good home, and the presentation of such a “treasure” can make the occasion all the more memorable.
(Note: don’t try this for the minimalist or fellow declutterer on your gift list; it’s only appropriate for those who want, or expect, a physical gift!)
What do you think of declutter-gifting? Do you have any other tips for doing it with style?