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How to Return, Exchange or Get Rid of Unwanted Gifts After the Holiday Season

The holiday season is officially winding down, and there are some tried and true rituals that always mark the end of Christmas and start of the New Year. These include, but are not limited to, taking down the Christmas lights and storing them properly so they’re ready to use next year. There’s also the disposing of the Christmas tree, unless, of course, you’ve joined the artificial Christmas tree camp instead. There’s also the enjoying of the great gifts you got from friends and family who actually listened when you said “stick to the list,” and, presumably, figuring out what to do with the few unwanted gifts that somehow always appear.

We’ve all been there: you’re cautiously intrigued by the present your weird great aunt got you, or your neighbor dropped off, but when you open it, womp womp, it’s a gross sweater, a funky smelling candle or kitchen tool you have no interest in using. Getting weird, unnecessary gifts is a part of the holiday season, just like Christmas music and holiday movies, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them.

Now the question becomes, what should you do with these unwanted gifts? It feels wrong to just throw them in the trash, but regifting comes with all those social politics…

Not to worry, we’ve put together a guide for returning, donating and generally getting rid of unwanted gifts in a way that reduces waste and spreads holiday cheer, because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Here are four methods for getting rid of unwanted gifts after the holiday season in 2022.

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Option 1: Regifting

This is the most obvious, and cheeriest, option of them all. In our opinion, regifting is a totally legitimate way to relieve yourself of unwanted gifts and clutter post-holiday season. You just have to follow a few best practices.

You should wait a reasonable amount of time between receiving the gift and regifting it, so it’s not totally obvious to the new recipient that you got it from someone else. Around the holidays, a few weeks into the new year is a must, ideally an entire season. If it’s something holiday or Christmas-related? We recommend exploding one of the other options we’ve outlined below.

The second best practice, that’s arguably more important than the first, is you should re-gift to someone who doesn’t know the original gifter, or at least has a few degrees of separation from them. The worst nightmare of a regifting scenario is the original gifter finding out, so you must choose your new recipient carefully, and consider the nature of the gift. An obvious, unique piece of home decor? Less giftable than some bubble bath no one will ever see.

You should also ensure that the gift itself is of use to the new person and minimize the chances of a double regift. Although there are objects that inevitably get passed around amongst friends forever and get lost in the gift space time continuum. We wish them well.


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Option 2: Donating

Charities like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, as well as your local homeless or foster care shelters are open year round and ready to accept donations of goods of all kinds, including odd presents. That random throw blanket, car accessory or charging bank you don’t want? Someone in need may love it, and selling it will help fuel all sorts of community programs at both institutions that help people of all walks of life get back on their feet.

There are some stipulations with the Salvation Army and Goodwill in terms of what they will and won’t accept, and it’s important to follow their guidelines to ensure a smooth process.

The Salvation Army accepts most items that aren’t broken, worn out or stained.

The Salvation Army DOES accept:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Household Goods
  • Appliances
  • Cars

Goodwill is a bit more particular in terms of what they will and won’t accept. In fact, as of November 1st, 2021 they’re no longer accepting furniture of any kind. They also don’t want large exercise equipment, household chemical cleaners, larger appliances like freezers and refrigerators and personal care items like shampoo and conditioner.

Goodwill DOES accept:

  • Cars
  • Clothing, jewelry and shoes
  • Books, records, CDs and DVDs
  • Housewares including dishes, lamps, utensils and other small appliances
  • Hand tools and power tools

Most giftable items like books, items of clothing, candles and household decor are free game at most donation centers, and your contribution may be tax deductible!


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Option 3: Reimagining or Recycling

Perhaps there’s a way you can reuse or reimagine the gift? Can you repaint it with a color you enjoy? Break it down and remake it into something else? Exchange it for a different piece from the same store, or receive credit on a gift card? If your gifter followed certain gifting etiquette you should have a gift receive to use, and if not, get creative!

If not, recycling is always an option. Objects made of plastic, metal or glass are recyclable and are better thrown in that bin than the trash.


Option 4: Trash

Sometimes, the best thing to do is throw something out. If your gift is a perishable food item you can’t consume due to allergies? Trash. A perishable item you can’t consume because it’s, well, bad? Trash. If your gift is broken, expired or malfunctioning in some way? First of all, we apologize, and second of all, you should just throw it out. Something with those descriptors isn’t of use to anybody, whether they’re in need or an unknowing regift recipient.


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