27 Dec

How To Deal With Unwanted Gifts

The indulgences of the festive season may seem like a distant memory. But unwanted gifts – those unwished-for legacies of Christmas – linger long after the last slice of leftover ham is finally gone from the fridge. So here’s how to deal with those items you can’t find a place for in your life.

Australians were tipped to fork out an estimated $10 billion on gifts for Christmas 2016 (with $1.6 billion of that being spent on last minute items), but with nearly 70% of Australians have been disappointed by presents, it’s clear that a considerable portion of this retail frenzy was money not well spent.

So what should you do with unwanted presents if you’re not among the luckier 30% of recipients? Read on for some ideas.


Donating unwanted presents to opshops and charities is fairly foolproof. The age-old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true – no matter how ghastly you may consider your gift, someone else out there will love it. Plus, the proceeds of its sale go to supporting a charity or worthy cause, so as long as the item meets the opshop’s guidelines (including donating during operating hours and not leaving donations when the shop is closed over the holidays), it’s a win-win situation.


Regifting is an obvious way to handle a present that’s not quite right for you but perfect for someone else. However, it has its downsides, one being that you have to store the presents until potential recipients have a birthday or some other occasion which calls for a gift. If you were inundated with unwanted items at Christmas, that could make for quite a pile taking up space in the spare room – plus, you’ll need to remember who gave you each gift so you don’t unwittingly return it to them. This option, therefore, is probably best for the highly organised, patient and tidy among us.

If patience is one of your strong points and you love the warm fuzzies you get from doing good, you may like to hang on to the presents until October, when charities start asking for donations of gifts for the disadvantaged in local communities and further afield. Check out Kmart’s Wishing Tree Appeal to give to someone in need in Australia, or if you have small items that could help out a child overseas, try Operation Christmas Child. Ladies who were overly spoilt with beauty creams and potions on Christmas day can pass on personal care and pampering items to family violence victims via New Day Box or pop them into a handbag for Share the Dignity’s It’s in the Box campaign.

What if your unwanted presents are perishable? In the event that you receive a Christmas hamper but have given up sugar or decided to forego various other indulgences that these fancy food parcels tend to contain, your best bet is to regift it. You could do this bit by bit (take that box of shortbread as a present for an uncle, keep the crackers and olives on standby for last minute barbecue invitations, take the jam into work when you’re having a special morning tea, etc) or in one fell swoop (hampers make an impressive contribution when you’re staying at a friend’s holiday house, for instance).  There’s also the option of donating it to those in need through your local charity, church or Foodbank.


Wanting a more hands-on way to farewell “not right for me” gifts and catch up with friends into the bargain? Unwanted presents are the perfect excuse for starting a post-festive-season tradition: the New Year Gift Swap. Once the silly season is over, invite friends and loved ones to bring over their disappointing gifts (making sure you don’t invite the givers, unless they have a sense of humour) and enjoy some premium nibbles from a Christmas hamper (unless you’ve already regifted yours) as you swap presents. If there are still unwanted items left at the end of the swap, head back to the start of this article and read again!

Discard Your Christmas Decorations Mindfully

While most unwanted presents can easily be given a second chance, Christmas decorations are not always treated so kindly – brown, dried out trees are left on the nature strip and tinsel and fake reindeer antlers spill out of rubbish bins along with reams of scrunched up wrapping paper. Sure, sparkly, shiny decorations are cheap enough to buy new – and throw out – every year (thanks to an entire town in China devoted to their manufacture), but why send things to landfill if they can be used again?

Save wrapping paper to grace presents next year, recycle it or find out whether your local kinder or primary school art room can put it to use. The same goes for tinsel that has got tatty – or take up a collection from your neighbourhood and drop it off in bulk at a recycled craft supplies service in your area (such as this one in Melbourne or this one in Sydney).

Rather than having to get rid of decorations every year, though, why not create for-keeps items that become part of family traditions, starting with the Christmas tree: invest in a small potted pine or spruce that can be brought into the house every year but won’t take up too much space outside, or paint a tree branch for a more contemporary look.

As for decorations, old Christmas cards and ribbons can be refashioned into baubles, use odd lengths of yarn to make pom poms and old wrapping paper to form paper chains or jump online for more inspiration. Your unique creations can be stored in a box and added to every year via an annual pre-Christmas Crafternoon before the decorating of the tree, creating environmentally friendly festive cheer and family memories – treasured gifts that money can’t buy.

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash.

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