Not another one: dealing with gifts you get again & again

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ADORABLE! Too bad I already have a half dozen of these… Ness Teapot in Romantic Print © by NessByPost, used under Creative Commons license.
As part of spring cleaning, I’m sifting through closets and trying to figure out what I need and what I’ve got too much of. As part of this process, I’m realizing that I’ve got an overabundance of certain objects … all of them gifts. See, Andreas and I seem to attract certain types of presents, and while each gift has been deeply appreciated and a great idea, I have several boxes full of duplicated great ideas that I’m now guilt-battling to say “I don’t need all of these, get rid of some.”

When I looked at the gifts that just kept on coming, patterns emerged. Once I’d identified the gifts we got over and over again, I decided to start dropping hints about related alternatives…


Total number we have: Six (and this is after giving away several)
Why do we have so many? Because in a coffee drinking world, everyone finds it novel that Dre and I chug tea in the morning. We do indeed love our teapots, but one can only drink so much before getting saturated.
Alternative gift idea: actual tea!


Total number we have: Approximately 20 sets
Why do we have so many? Because we’re known to enjoy sushi, pho, Thai, and other Asian cuisines. This has made us an easy target for chopstick sets.
Alternative gift idea: gift certificates to local Asian restaurants.


Total number I have: More than I can count
Why do I have so many? I got a dragonfly tattoo on my right arm in 1996, inadvertently identifying the insect as some sort of totem animal. I now own dozens of bits of dragonfly jewelry, clothing, art, stuffed animals, dishes, lamps, etc.
Alternative gift idea: gifts for my REAL totem animal, my dog Sassy D.

As for these alternative gift ideas, they get tastefully mentioned around friends and family during visits to our home, or around holidays. I’m always grateful when I get a familiar gift, but I’m finding that my campaign to mix things up a bit has been pretty effective.

So, which gifts do YOU get over and over again?

Comments on Not another one: dealing with gifts you get again & again

  1. We recently moved from California to Michigan, and in response, everyone we know decided to give us slippers and throw blankets. I love slippers, and the blankets are all gorgeous, but really, how many can the two of us use? Fortunately, because (unfortunately) here in Michigan many people need slippers and blankets even more than we do, it is easy to find worthy places to send them.

  2. Since I’ve lived and worked in Japan, people tend to give me a lot of cheesy Asian-themed things, like … miniature bamboo wallscrolls, or plates that you can’t actually eat off of because the glaze is toxic but they’re covered in AZN LETTERS. I’ve been receiving this stuff for about, oh, 13 years now. I’m really over it … Hahaha. I try to express to people that I have OTHER INTERESTS AS WELL, but it never seems to register.

    Also, people default to giving me coffee mugs a lot, too, because I happen to drink coffee.

    Oh well. I’ve at least got it better than my Alaska-living aunt, who receives nothing but moose-themed things SIMPLY BECAUSE SHE LIVES IN ALASKA. I don’t think she even LIKES moose-themed things.

    • LOL at the moose-themed things simply because one lives in Alaska! I live in Alaska but I’ve never gotten a moose-themed ANYTHING! Maybe because people know it’s already everywhere up here. I actually don’t get the same things over and over again…

  3. After receiving more teapots, bowls, vases and plates that I can recall, I chose to make it clear that if people want to offer us something (which is deeply appreciated), we’d rather have them spend their money on experiences/edible gifts rather than stuff, because what we want is to live, and not to own.

  4. The dragonfly tattoo reminds me of my own nature-inspired tattoo. My elephant tattoo sprung into a deluge of elephant figurines I’ve received for birthdays, Christmases etc. I have too many to count. It started with a few select figurines from far away places (when family or friends went on vacation they’d bring back a little elephant made with local wood or stone). Now I feel like I’m getting everyone ELSE’S hand me down figurines, even those dollar store plastic ones. It’s awful, I don’t know what to do with all of them!

      • That’s so funny…the piles of ornaments and housey stuff that my mum constantly receives from people for birthdays etc always end up in her garden. Consequently, her garden looks awesome!

    • When I was 3 my favorite stuffed animal was a cow. Everyone decided for me that I loved cows because of it. Every birthday and Christmas instead of receiving toys as gifts like every other kid in my family, I got cow stuff. By the time I hit high school I lost it, telling everyone I know that I hate cows!

      • same here, but with ducks! i had a small flock of stuffed ducks as a kid, which meant that by the time i graduated high school i had something like 30. i’m in my mid-20s now, and my mum STILL gives me them — seriously, we have a tiny apartment and i don’t have anywhere to keep the few sentimental ones i actually want to hang on to, so please don’t send any more random ones my way!!

        • OMG. Yes.

          I had a small rubber ducky collection and brought three little ducks to decorate my cubicle at my new corporate gig. Suddenly, ducks started showing up randomly! New ones, all the time! By the time I left that job, I was overwhelmed with little duckys of all kinds.

          At home, I had rubber ducks in the bathroom so they were a common birthday gift (my birthday is before Easter – prime duck season!). I was running out of room.

          Over the course of my last few moves, I have culled the flock down to my very favorites and put the word out that I have other interests and the duck stuff was cute but too much. That announcement helped but I still got a stuffed duck and a duck Pez dispenser for my birthday this year.

  5. Dolphins!

    About 10 years ago I spent a couple of summers volunteering for a whale watching charity in Tenerife. I do love whales and dolphins (which I actually only saw on the second trip) but it was a random impulse as much as anything. Apparently friends and family did not see it that way. Suddenly dolphins were my thing and everything I got had to have dolphins on it or be dolphin related. It’s died down a bit now but still comes up every so often when someone insists they must find a dolphin themed for me.

    Also sci-fi/fantasy books. Which is actually great because I do read a lot of them. The problem is my family don’t so they don’t really have any quality filter when choosing books. A few people also have this odd logic that they shouldn’t buy me the next book in a series because I’ve “already got one of those”…

    • I get books too, but luckily people my family DO read a lot, so they know. I’ve had really good luck with asking one person for a specific author/series, and then for every birthday/Christmas after that, I can expect whatever the next one in that series is.

    • I REALLY hate book gifts. This probably sounds ungrateful, but I read quite a lot (former English major, current grad student) and the chances that a friend/ aunt/ co-worker/ secret santa is going to gift me something I a) haven’t read or b) actually want to read is pretty low. I get a lot of top-ten-at-amazon/ on-sale-at-costco books and despite hinting with “You know, half the fun of reading a book is choosing it youself” or “a good trip to the bookstore is a great adventure” people STILL give me generic best sellers (which luckily can usually be exchanged, but a gift card would save me from the unhappy cashiers).

  6. Action figures and other useless nerdy collectibles.

    Okay, I get it. A mid-twenties female choosing to openly display her collectibles is novel and that’s all anyone really sees when they come over. What they don’t understand is that I pre-order all the figures I really want and have them shipped from Japan, and I have limited space to display them. Because I move a lot, ‘stuff’ is a real liability. Oh, and t-shirts. I wear a lot of t-shirts, but it is my last year of graduate school and I’m trying to transition to a more professional wardrobe.
    What I wish people would understand is that I appreciate the more ‘pedestrian’ gifts like housewares and especially jewelry/accessories a lot more. I don’t have much fashion sense so I really love it when people get me things like a set of earrings or a scarf. But really, I wish that the dumb ‘nerdy’ gifts would just stop.

    • Oh my god, yes. I can relate. I would love to start receiving more “grown up” things, so to speak. I own almost zero jewelry, and I have only just realized (being in my mid-late twenties myself) that accessories make you look a little more composed, and.. yeah. But I don’t know how to say to people “stop buying me things you’d buy a twelve year old just because I’m offbeat!”

      • Make a point to wear a really notable piece of jewelry when around the people who most frequently buy you gifts. Even if you have to go out and buy such a thing. If its out of character, people will probably comment on it, giving you a great chance to say “yeah, I’m really trying to expand my jewelry and accessories collection. I figure, I’m in my late twenties, it’s time to start looking into collecting a few more grown up and practical things.”

      • agreed! when i was in high school i loved pink and sequins and sparkles and mile high heels… now when i am in my late twenties and end up with pink furry sparkly clothes i’m just not sure what to do with them.

    • I love getting gift certificates for places I won’t shop on my own. You could always try dropping hints like “I really love the clothing at X store (I like anthropology a lot for slightly offbeat work clothes), but its just a bit too much for me to spend all the time. Or gush a bit about getting a gift certificate that allowed you to buy something you love, but would never have bought if you had to pay for it yourself.

  7. My mom has to have a ‘theme’ for everyone. And buy them stuff they don’t need or want constantly. For many years, I was inundated with Tigger stuff, simply because he was the only cartoon character I liked. Not loved, just liked. She’s backed off a little now that I have a husband and kids she can focus on. My hubby gets more Star Wars knick knack crap than we can stand. My son gets mostly stuff he can actually use because his room “theme” was dragons and it’s too hard to find age appropriate dragon items. We toyed with naming our daughter Elora Seraphine and caling her “Ellie Phee” and doing an elephant theme if our son was a girl, though, and now my mom is obsessed with getting elephant stuff for the new baby even before we knew the gender. >_< I don't even really like elephants that much and Elora Kylie's room is going to be Neverland/Mermaid Lagoon themed.

    • Alas; I fleetingly expressed an admiration for Winnie the Pooh. Ya know, like when I was 8. It has resulted in a lifetime of merchandise crap, like when I was 14 and received a Pooh watch. My mom also loves to buy large quantities of things, often of poor quality and no use to us.

      I’ve tried to dissuade her by telling her our small home is full, we definitely don’t need a single gadget for the kitchen, etc. This was not successful. I think we now may be making some progress because I have given up feeling guilty about getting rid of these items. My new mantra is “just because you bought it for me, doesn’t mean I have to be enslaved to this item”. Shamelessly regifting or donating a lot of things she gives us, and not hiding that we have done so, seems to be making her a little more selective in what she gives us.

  8. Sweet Pea gift baskets from Bath and Body Works.

    My then-boyfriend, now husband, got me a travel set for Christmas when we first started dating, and apparently mentioned it to his mom, cause now she gets me a regular-size set every year for the past… 5 years now.

    Problem is, because it’s a little on the floral side and I’m not a huge fan of floral scents, I don’t use anything but the body spray (and only a spritz or two at that, since it fades quickly). Now I’ve got 4 or 5 unopened bottles of lotion, body cream, shower gel, a couple bottles of body spray, etc etc. I think I’m gonna find a scent I like better, and ask her for a different one.

    Say, anyone interested in some Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea stuff? It’s free!

    • I don’t see anything wrong with re-gifting when one has an abundance, it makes perfect sense. May I suggest you donate the unused bottles to a homeless shelter or one of abused women..i mean bath and body works is pretty nice stuff, and that floral scent may put some SprInG in someones step who really needs it 🙂

    • Yeah, I’ve gotten B&BW scents from my sister before that I DID NOT like. You can totally take them to the store for a return. (They might not take really old ones, you’ll likely want to donate them.) But in the future, you can always take them back for stuff you actually like or use. (I returned two lotions and got a ton of hand soap for my bathroom, hurray!)

  9. My favorite animal since childhood has been the octopus. Most of the time I get great octopus related things- neat pictures, cool little statues, a wall hook, clothing. But sometimes I get things like a sand sifter in the shape of an octopus, meant for a 2 year old. I don’t have a sandbox, or a child. Or a necklace that is neat, but really not my style (and it’s a choker which I can’t wear). It’s not really that I’m geting once specific thing, it’s that I get some things that are really off base just because it has a cephalopod on it.

  10. Oh my god, if you ever want to rid yourself of any dragonflies I will be glad to take them off your hands! I will even fly out there and personally collect them! I love dragonflies. I have 11 dragonfly tattoos. My friends and family always know to just buy me anything dragonfly related and I will be happy.

  11. For a really long time everything was dolphins. Yes, I am 22 and live in an under the sea bedroom, but there are only so many dolphin figurines and pictures you need. especially when you have a whole wall that is essentially out of commission because of your mural on it. Now things have moved towards pigs or princesses. Pigs became an inside joke with my family because I am somewhat sloppy, and I also think piglets are super cute. Princesses because that was my nickname for a long time. For christmas, I got a piggy bank wearing a tiara. I already own 3 piggy banks. And there is only so much Disney a 22 year old can handle

    • My cousin and his wife once let slip that they kind of wanted a potbellied pig as a pet. That was 15 years ago, and the pig-themed gifts keep on coming.

  12. My mom had a boyfriend who was constantly giving her presents, and they were ALWAYS yellow, because my mom’s favorite color is yellow. It started to get obnoxious, and her house looked like the inside of an egg yolk. She solved that problem by getting a new boyfriend. (But not only because of the yellow gifts.)

    I tend to get a lot of Amazon gift cards, because people know I love to read. But the great thing about Amazon is that you can get almost anything from there, so I’ve never had cause to complain!

    • OH MY GOSH this reminds me of a story that my Nana told me about my great-grandmother. At some point in time my great-grandfather thought that her favorite color was red. Their entire lives he got her red everything. After he passed, my great-grandmother confessed to my Nana that she actually HATED the color red, but her husband had been so excited to give her red things that she never had the heart to correct him. Kind of cute and sad at the same time, hah.

  13. My brother was bit by a squirrel a few years ago. Because my family has a weird sense of humor, people keep getting him squirrel related items… When will the joke die??

  14. My husband loves bird watching. Sometimes I have to remind my mother, who is terribly thoughtful and loves buying gifts, that she doesn’t have to get us every bird-covered thing out there.

    Also, my birthday is in February so my birthstone is amethyst. I’ve always liked purple, but people have given me far more purple/amethyst jewelry than I’ll ever wear!

    Everyone knows I love to knit. Really, they should be buying me more yarn!

    • for four years straight(!), my dad gave me amethyst studs as a birthday gift. i really like amethyst jewelry, but what do i do with that many pairs of studs?!? i don’t think he remembered from year to year that he did that, either. at least they’re all different shapes (round, oval, rectangle and square)…

        • I got a amethyst ring for my 16th bday 🙂 I think sometimes dads can be more practical. It seems like he has figured that amethyst is a pretty nice stone and that, you could pretty much wear them with anything..and that if he gets you all the cuts, you will be set with earrings for all occasions! lol.. kinda cool that he is trying, but i think after he is done with the earrings he will move on to rings or pendents! sometimes they need a lil more guidance..if you are still willing to get jewelry you could bring up something “new and exciting” i.e. ooo it was a *ruby* so red and vibrant…lol i know it seem a lil manipulative but..its nice to let them kinda figure it if you dont really want jewelry at all, thats a lil harder to just throw out *cough*gift certificates*cough*

  15. Art books. For years and years family members gave me books about artists and paintings and so on. It was ridiculous. I liked to make things and draw a lot so therefore I got art books. I like art. I really do, but very heavy books about art are very heavy and best as text books.

    • this is also my problem, but I would LOVE to get myself some nice, heavy duty art books on artists I actually like. As and artist myself, people assume I like ANY art, and gift givers don’t usually have any idea what my art tastes are. So in recent years I have received DOZENS of books on Dali, Picasso, and Andy Warhol. Seriously, bring on the gift certificates for amazon or art supplies already.

    • Art books can have a crazy good resale value. I interned at a major art museum library, and they were weeding some books. The librarian told everyone to take what they wanted, I grabbed maybe 5 books, some stuff to read and some stuff to cut up for arts and crafts. Before starting to cut them up, my husband suggested I check how much they were going for on amazon. I ended up selling them for $800. Nothing looked particularly expensive or old either.

  16. i’ve been studying buddhism for about 7 years now, and whenever i go on a trip i try to pick up a small (like…under 3″ tall) buddha statue. i bet you can see where this is going. bathroom readers with quotes from the buddha or various monks, giant plastic gold buddhas you would see in a tacky chinese resteraunt…on one unfortunate case i got a bix gold buddha with a strobe light in his belly….not fun.

    also…journals. i’m extremely picky about my journals, they have to have the right size, shape, page thickness, layout….they have to be just right. I have a stack about about 35 journals that i will never use. luckilly they make good gifts to other people.

    • Yes! Journals! I’ve found out that even when you narrow it down to only one brand (i looooove paperblanks) – there is still too many choices where it can go all wrong: size, magneet position and worst of it, wether they are lined or not. I use only blank, but people keep giving me lined 🙁 so sad, because it’s hard to find them in Russia, so mostly friends and relatives bring them from overseas. Sigh/

  17. I have a similar problem! I’m known to make cupcakes on a fairly regular basis (to the extent that I’m considering starting up a side business with them) so everyone buys me cupcake related things. This was great at first, but there are only so many cupcake recipe books a girl can use (especially when she generally pulls recipes offline). I need to find a way to tactfully suggest something else – like a cool ingredient I can use to bake something instead (vanilla paste, flavored sugars or salts, beer, etc.)

    • I started asking for cupcake papers instead of books. They’re really cute, cheap, and store pretty easy, AND if I have too many, I can toss some away and no one would know. And I ask for icing die or fondant.

    • Oh my gosh yes! I’ve got this funky contraption for icings, a bunch of decorative measuring spoons (impossible to clean!), and about 10 aprons. Cupcake flavored lipgloss, cupcake pajama pants. Blegh!

      My brother-in-law did get me an awesome baking related gift though. He found me the most ridiculous cookie cutters he could find and challenged me to find occasions for them. I got a buffalo, the state of Tennessee (i live in Massachusetts), a lightning bolt, a tractor, a jesters hat, and a squirrel.

  18. First of all, clearly, there needs to be an Offbeat Crap We Got Too Much of Gift Swap.

    I was born on the fourth of July. So NATURALLY I love the American flag, right? … right?
    Alternative gift idea: FIREWORKS. Those I do love.

    Ladybugs have always sort of been my totem animal, and I’m actually not yet sick of the ladybug-themed gifts. Apparently, I’m the one that’s giving your families the very wrong idea that it’s okay to do this.

    • Ha! This spring-born gal always ended up with Easter junk. Too.. many.. pastels.. and.. bunnies……

      Alternative gift: jellybeans. They’re “in season” so easily found ’round my birth time.

      • High five to THAT. The exception is CADBURY CREAM EGGS. Oh god do I love them. My parents eventually caught onto that and just started giving me different incarnations of those and yummmmmm

      • I love bunnies (I have 4 and also have fostered them in the past) and everyone jokingly calls me the crazy bunny lady, but the only bunny themed gift I’ve been given was a glass karlsson wall clock with a tiny bunny kits photo on it. It was a wedding present! My as-yet unborn child though has received a plethora of bunny stuff. I find it rather odd!

        • My daughters theme was bunnies! she is 18 now! still plenty of bunny stuff floating around..thank goodness she is pretty much out of stuffed animal

  19. The tattoo = gift must be an easy idea for people to latch onto. I have a Tinkerbell tattoo (for very deep reasons. Plus, she’s awesome) and my dear mum cannot restrain herself. Tinkerbell merchandise seems to be spectacularly low quality — I’ve given away more teacups and statuettes of her sitting on mushrooms than any girl should have to endure.

  20. We get tea stuff, although not just tea pots (but we have 4 now, ranging in sizes, but only one of them gets used). Our friends and family know we like tea and we’d asked for travel press mugs for the wedding. We didn’t get those, but we did get an assortment of tea plus pots.

    I also get bath stuff occasionally (especially soap) because my friends know I love it. The problem is that I am picky and I really only like specific things. I should gather up all my still wrapped stuff and donate it somewhere. Lots of lovely things, just not things I want.

    I have very few people I receive gifts from though so that generally keeps the overload fairly limited.

  21. I don’t attract a lot of repeat gifts (most of my friends give food or we take each other out for drinks or dinner) but I remember when I first moved abroad, someone gave me a chopstick set as a going away gift.

    It was a sweet gift, but…err…

    I was moving to ASIA.

    I would say I own approximately 20 chosptick sets, too, but I still live in Asia and we actually use them as regular daily utensils, including with guests.

  22. this all makes me very grateful that my boy’s parents just give me gift cards. Thought I do get an abundance of sewing stuff in general and would like a little less sometimes…

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