While December might be the "most wonderful time of the year" according to all the holiday songs, for some, it's an anxiety-inducing hell. While family gatherings can feel stressful, so can the giving and receiving of gifts.
Especially if you already are struggling to get and stay organized. Or there's a family drama. Or you're struggling financially.
Thankfully, there's something you can do to prevent extra clutter and the emotions that cause clutter. Keep reading to learn how to stay sane and stop the emotional and physical clutter from building up this holiday season.
What Is a Gift?
Wikipedia says, "A gift or a present is an item given to someone without the expectation of payment or anything in return. An item is not a gift if that item is already owned by the one to whom it is given. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free."
The problem isn't always the gift, it's what's attached to the gift. Like the guilt that someone feels when they've neglected someone all year and use gifts rather than words and actions to make up for it. Or the guilt and resentment that arises when finances aren't flush but someone feels they have to keep up with everyone else.
How to Deal with Emotional Clutter in Relationships
If humans were perfect, a gift would always be given without the expectation of anything in return. Unfortunately, that's not always the case because human emotions such as fear, shame, guilt, and greed exist. And sometimes they're attached to the gift being given.
The way to prevent these unwanted emotions is to:
Respect each other
Keep healthy boundaries
What you can't do, unfortunately, is change another person. The only thing you can do is change how you interact with this person. And refuse to accept any guilt, shame, fear, or debt attached to the gift.
Gifts and the Chronically Disorganized
A chronically disorganized person receiving gifts is tough. It's almost like someone struggling with an eating disorder receiving chocolates as a gift. Also, the person struggling with chronic disorganization is also battling emotions such as depression, anxiety, fear, shame, and guilt.
Things feel even worse when you don't want or like what you're being given.
How to deal:
Create healthy boundaries. This will require you to speak up and use your voice to ask for what you do want and to state what you do not want any longer.
Be honest with yourself and others.
Realize boundaries often are met with pushback. Stay firm. Also, you may be surprised with their reaction - they may feel relieved to stop the cycle as much as you are.
Gift Receiving and Clutter: How to Break the Cycle
The great thing about a gift is that once it's given to you, it's yours. This means you get to decide what to do with the gift and how long you keep it.
Here's how to handle gift-receiving:
Acknowledge receiving the gift
Thank the person for thinking of you
Decide whether you want to keep the gift
If keeping it, decide where the item belongs and place it there
If you don't want it, donate it, sell it, regift it, or toss it
Let go of any feelings of guilt, fear, or shame
No need to share any of this with the gift giver and never regift it back to them. If they ask, simply say you appreciated it but no longer had any use for it. That's all the explanation you need to offer.
How to Stop Unwanted Gift Giving
Sometimes, you have someone who keeps giving you unwanted gifts. You have choices:
Do nothing and drink to forget your troubles (kidding).
Do nothing and accept the situation and the person.
Communicate your gratitude to them for thinking of you but tell them what you would prefer instead so they don't waste more time and money on stuff you don't want.
Communicate your gratitude and ask them to stop gift-giving and just enjoy the relationship.
Because, if you think about it, giving a gift to someone when you know they don't want the/a gift isn't an act of kindness or generosity. It's not about the recipient, it's entirely about the gift-giver.
And if the gift-giver thinks you want/like their gifts and you don't, it's kind of crappy of you to lie to them and force them to spend time, money, and effort on something you won't even appreciate.
Also, stay within your budget. Most people would prefer a small token that says you care (even a card) than a ton of gifts they don't want and you can't afford. This will eliminate a ton of stress, guilt, and fear from both sides.
Enjoy the Holidays
If you've lived your whole life accepting fear, guilt, and shame, it's hard not to continue the cycle. But once you're aware that those emotions are there, it's easier to find safe, healthy ways to prevent and get rid of those emotions.
Give yourself the gift of loving yourself enough to hold healthy boundaries with yourself and others in your life. A great gift to yourself is to finally schedule a session with a professional organizer.