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. When I was 12 I picked out a bedspread with suns and moons and stars on it, and my mom painted a mural of the sky on my wall. It was really cool until someone decided that was my theme, and the gifts kept coming. At one point, I had a wall dedicated to all the sun/moon/star shaped stuff that people kept giving me. It was actually pretty cool, because they were all mosaics or mirrors or other shiny things, so the light bounced around my room. That died down after a few years, but then I got a sun tattooed on my shoulder, and it started back up again. I keep the more unique stuff, but the cheap plastic things get donated.

    Also, people think that scented bath stuff is a good gift for someone they don’t know very well, but I can’t use any of it. I have really sensitive skin and I’m super picky about what soaps I use. This means I end up re-gifting or donating all the soaps and lotions I get.

    • Agreed on the bath stuff. I don’t take baths, I take showers. I HATE getting smelly bath stuff because I never use it. Lotion is fine sometimes because winter is murder on my hands, but the rest of it, I have no use for. And it’s like a “go to” gift for the “I don’t know what to get you” crowd.

  2. I haven’t had too much of a problem with this since I told people to NEVER buy me action figures. I’m the kind of person who only hangs onto things for utility purposes; I’m not a display gal. I love The Simpsons but they have A TON of action figures that I just wouldn’t have a use for, but, say, a Marge Simpson whisk? I’d hang onto that, if it were a real thing.

  3. Tea, candy in unnatural colours, and bath products. I am known to like all of these, and because they are (relatively) cheap and consumable, every gives me tonnes at every holiday. The problem is one can only take so many baths, drink so many flavoured teas, and ESPECIALLY eat so much candy before it is too much.

    Also, in high school, I liked to wear ties (but with dress shirts, BEFORE AVRIL LAVIGNE RUINED TIES FOR CANADIAN GIRLS OF HIGH SCHOOL AGE!) and I was gifted over 50 ties. People were like “hey, neat tie, thought of you”. I bought an ikea glass rack to display them all on but NEVER could even make a dent in wearing them. I got rid of all of them in a great rooom purge and kept only like my… 5-10 favourites (and the two LCBO ties that were required uniform ick!).

    • +1 for Avril fucking Levigne. Not only Canadian high school girls, high school girls world wide. No more ties, no more badges/buttons, no more plaid skirts. Even though I was *clearly* wearing all those things long before Avril (and what the hell kind of a name is that anyway, sounds like a painkiller) suddenly I was an “Avril-wannabe”.

      She makes me angry.

  4. My parents brought me back a beautiful harlequin puppet from an overseas trip once, and somehow that turned into “alienspectacles likes clowns” and my roommates and friends started buying me clown ornaments and toys. I didn’t want them staring at me in my bedroom so I displayed them in the hallway and much later a former (non-clown giving) roommate confessed that she refused to use the bathroom at night because it involved walking past all the scary-ass clowns in the dark.

    I’m not sure how I got people to stop giving me clowns. Now they just sit at my parents house and are presumably giving my nieces and nephew clown phobia when they visit.

  5. I just thought of what I get too much of – shoe related things! Everyone at work knows I’m the resident “shoe queen” so any time there is a gift giving occasion (like Christmas parties and “Secret Santa” type things) I always get something of the shoe persuasion. Even if I have no idea what it actually IS, if it looks like a shoe, I get it. So far it’s okay because this is a pretty recent phenomena. I want people to buy me ACTUAL shoes though, not pretend ones dang it!

    • Love this! ‘Hey, you love shoes, right? So, I’m not going to get you *actual* shoes… just things that look like shoes. To taunt you.’

  6. as a wedding gift, one of my dad’s sisters gave us a gurgling cod (, a codfish-shaped pitcher. it’s awesome, quirky, VERY boston-ian (where that side of my family is from), and we loved it.

    fast forward two years, another of dad’s sisters gives us a belated wedding present, and it’s…another gurgling cod. thankfully, a different color — this way, we keep the new one for beverages only since the old one has been used as a vase.

    aunt #2 was super embarrassed about the duplication but i think they’re hilarious and said i absolutely do not mind having a collection…which my brother overheard, and promised to make good on. =) while we don’t have a lot of space for collections of things, the fact that the “real” gurgling cods (and part of the absurd wonderfulness comes with it being a codfish) only come from one retailer and are a little bit pricey will help keep our gurgling codfish school down to reasonable numbers. =)

    • I liked reading “gurgling cod” in my head so much I’m now repeating it in my head. Gurgling cod, gurgling cod, gurgling cod …

      Followed by “say you’re a codfish!”

  7. Currently the go-to gift that the fiance and I receive is wine, beer, and specialty salts. Pretty cool, but we can’t consume it as fast as we get it (I would go blind and die if we used all the salt). It’s kind of forced us to be social just so we’re not wasteful.
    When I was in high school I received tons of those wooden art kits you get at craft stores. I was looking to go into art school, so the thought was there, but the quality of the products in those things are unusable. Plus a lot of them are filled with supplies made for children. That ended when I started working in an art supply store in college.

  8. Halloween stuff is mine. And owl related things so there’s a lot of overlap. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I literally have four of those huge plastic bins filled with with decorations and other Halloween type things, and the coolest stuff gets displayed year round. Luckily I’m not sick of it yet.

    I’m also incredibly lucky that my entire family demands a list of specific things for holidays and then they FOLLOW IT. I very rarely end up with stuff I don’t want, thank goodness.

  9. My family demands “wish lists” before birthdays and holidays, which I dislike but it’s my family so I go with it. Money and gift cards are considered impersonal, and not allowed to show up on the list. Many many years ago, I put “accessories” on my wish list, and it turned out very well. So I’ve left it there, and have gotten some very cool, random, unique accessories that I have loved. I always think this is a great answer, because even if I get 2 headbands from 2 different people, it’s not likely they’ll be the same headband.
    This year for Christmas, I got 7 scarves. One from my husband, one from my MIL, and 5 from my dad and his new wife. Wtf? And granted, one of them was a shawl, and one of them was a warm wintery one. But two of them were the exact same color, except one had a pattern and the other did not. Not only that, it just happened to be the exact color of a shawl I got from my sister about 5 years ago. Le sigh. Also, I have noticed that my favorite scarf of all continues to be the one they gave me the year before.

  10. Photo albums and picture frames! People know I love taking pictures, but they’re ALL digital photos, and I NEVER print them out. They go on facebook, and a choice few go to DeviantArt, and that’s it. So, I have a ton of empty photo albums and frames that usually eventually get sent off to the local thrift store.
    Suggested alternative: rechargable AA batteries. Not very gift-like, but useful at least.

    The other thing is jewelry that I can’t wear (this was a bigger problem before I had pierced ears – people assumed I wore earrings because I was a teenage girl). I have metal allergies, so cheap jewelry causes rashes. >_< Suggested alternative: find out what type of jewelry someone can wear first, or get them a gift card to a jewelry/accessory store. OR buy jewelry that doesn't contain metal.

  11. My sister raises chickens. This was pretty notable for a teenager living on an island off the coast of Charleston. So people started giving her chicken stuff. Raising Chickens for Dummies actually makes sense, but the chicken oven mitt? She likes her actual chickens, but that doesn’t mean she wants her decor covered in the creatures (plus she doesn’t even have her own kitchen). I mean it would be like giving someone dog themed stuff just because they happened to adopt a mutt from the pound. They’re pets, not an identity.

    Don’t get me wrong, they’re cute, practical items. They’re just totally not our style (I say “our” since she lives in my house). C’est la vie

    • I have two adopted dogs, who are like my children, and I’m a dog groomer. I Have Got No Dog Stuff!

  12. My husband is notoriously difficult to shop for, so one of his college friends got him a garden gnome. (He does not garden, and in fact has *terrible* allergies.) Anyway, his family picked up on that, then we met and my family picked up on it…. We were ready to call it to a halt about the time we got 2 mooning gnomes from different relatives for Christmas.

  13. Music. I was big into music growing up, and I’m a professional musician now, and especially my extended family thinks that means I want stuff with music notes on it. The hot pink music note boxer shorts were the pinnacle.

  14. When my sister met her now Mother-in-Law, one of her MiL’s first questions was “What do you collect?” Her MiL collects a variety of things.

    My sister was like “Um, nothing really.” This was not an acceptable answer to her MiL, who noted that my sister had a couple of Willow Tree statues given to her by friends. So now, her MiL gets her Willow Tree statues for every occasion. It drives my sister nuts, and she’s tried to give her MiL clues that she doesn’t want to collect things that are essentially clutter but, her MiL is kinda stubborn, and frankly a little odd, and keeps them coming.

    • Ha, that sounds like my aunt. On one visit she insisted in buying me some crystal glass, despite the fact that I lived in a tiny rented apartment a loong plane ride away (and was 25 and more interested in going clubbing than drinking wine at the time). I managed to divert her onto a more modern set of wine glasses, which happened to be black glass. Of course, this meant that every time she saw me she produced another set of black wine glasses… and another… and another… and then started branching out into other black glass homewares. The point where I had to ask my mother to have a serious word with her was the giant shell-shaped black glass canape platter. You know, for the posh soirees I was having in my tiny apartment with no dining table. Ten year later, about 6 of the black wine glasses have survived clumsy drunken flatmates, 3 house moves and are actually useful now, but the rest of the stuff is looong gone to the land of ebay.

  15. Ladybugs.
    I have a particular set of friends that love to buy me ladybug stuff (yes, I have a ladybug tattoo). Some of it is fine, if it is something I could actually use like cute socks or earrings. But then they reached the point where they were obviously just buying ANYTHING with a ladybug on it. The worst was a tiny child size craft apron. I’m a larger lady & I don’t have kids. Was I supposed to hang that around my neck like a bib? I just don’t get it.

  16. Lotions and other bath products. I have excema (which I do not advertise – I just say I have dry skin), so I always carry lotion and chapstick with me everywhere. Friends know they can always use some of mine if they’re with me. So I guess they think that it makes a great gift for me.

    The thing is, only certain over the counter products even work on me, and I am particular about smells. (For example, most people love lavender, but the smell of it makes me feel sick instantly). Only one person (my boyfriend’s mother who is also highly sensitive and asked him to check what I actually use) has ever bought me a set I could use.

    Luckily, I have learned to label who gave me what, and then I re-gift it to an offender from a different group of friends. (I figure if they do it to me, then it must mean one lotion is the same as all the rest to them.)

  17. My birthday is in August, and so every year I get school supplies. When I was younger, it sucked because who wants school supplies for their birthday? My sister’s birthday is in May, and she got birthday presents AND school supplies. I was so jealous.

    Now, it’s a lame present because I don’t need them. Yes, I’m still in school, but you know what? I have a system. My notes get hand-written, and then scanned, and then stored digitally. I don’t need spiral notebooks, or binders, or bic pens. If you’re going to buy me school supplies, buy nice ones. I’m a graduate student, after all, and know the value of a nice pen.

    Also, history books. I like history — you can tell by the way I’m getting an MA in it — but my area of focus is public history, and my primary research interest is presidential assassinations. I don’t want books about the Civil War! Not all history buffs like the same thing!

  18. Flower vases!

    I love flowers, really I do, I have always fresh flowers in my apartement, but never enough for my 12 SIMILAR GLASS SYLINDER VASES!

    Which I have gotten the last year, when moving into my new place.

    And WHY are they all the same? I have tiny tiny sylinder vases with enough room for one tiny rose, to big onces you have to have on the floor, but still…

    How about giving me actual flowers?

  19. Ugh, tell me about it. I rescue rabbits, so everyone assumes I want rabbit things. Occasionally it’s nice, but I really don’t want that cheesy stuffed rabbit you picked up. Secretly, these go straight to my rabbit, who rips them up.
    People also try to give me goodies for my rabbit really upset me. It’s good at heart, but most rabbit “treats” sold in stores aren’t actually safe for rabbits. So I can’t even donate it to a rescue.
    And STOP with the Happy Bunny stuff. That does not coincide with my interest in bunnies.

    Also, my mother thinks I’m obsessed with Eyore. I have 10 pajama pants with Eyore on them from her, and I don’t even wear pajamas. I have nothing that says I like Eyore!

    • Clearly, your mom has the two of us mixed up. I adore Eeyore. When I moved from the States to the UK, my stuffed Eeyore was one of the few non-useful things that I brought with me.
      It’s an understandable mistake – I mean, our names are very similar. 😉

  20. Anything purple. My birthday is in February and my parents are gift givers, so everything is purple. I own so much of it now people think it’s my favorite color and are shocked when I say it’s really green. Purple does compliment my skin tone well, as well as all the other colors in my wardrobe/things I already own so it’s not really a problem. I do have a tendency to open things and think to myself “wonder if this came in green…”

    And speaking of green, my parents keep giving me frogs. I have no clue how this started. Literally, no idea. They just started buying me frog stuff one day. Right now it’s enough to kind of sprinkle throughout the house and not be overwhelmed, or gardening stuff that makes sense in the landscape, but really? Frogs?!

  21. from the other side, sometimes shopping for people is REALLY HARD. i mean, my own husband gets something star wars-related every year for christmas – just because he doesn’t really like stuff in general, and that’s the only thing i can think of when i am desperately wandering target on december 24.

    so maybe the real question is – why does everyone feel so obligated to buy people crap? maybe we already HAVE enough stuff and could just say, hey, i love you, let’s give some money to charity/pay off some loans/save up for a vacation/etc. etc.

  22. I don’t have a theme. So my mom gets me SO MUCH stuff for this other mystery daughter that is NOTHING like me.
    I hate knick-knacks, I don’t like pink except for in weird stuff like kitchen appliances and power tools, I wear flip-flops all of the time. My mom sent me care packages in college that included a feather boa, sparkly shoe cell phone holder (I didn’t have a cell phone), a leopard print pillow with a D on it, a stack of post-its with “princess” on them (I HATE being called princess. I have, in in past circumstances found it cruel and borderline abusive).
    It hurts my feelings when she gets me things like that. I feel like I would rather her get me nothing and still feel like my mom has been paying attention for the more than two decades since we met. It seriously stung in college and now makes every Christmas and Birthday a little bit sad.

    I just throw everything away or give it away. Except the pillow. I used that for years to throw at my roommate when he snored too loud. I gave that to his wife later.

  23. Fancy soaps! I’m bath-obsessed, which is probably why I’m always receiving these, but I’m also kind of particular about personal care products, so I usually end up regifting them asap.

  24. BIRD SHIT. Not literal shit, of course, but BIRD STUFF. I have an owl tattoo and my spouse likes penguins, so we get bird EVERYTHING. Dishcloths, socks, sweaters (really?), statuettes, ornaments, a sheet metal owl coat rack, you name it, I have it in bird form. Solution?
    If his parents gave it to us and he thinks we should use it (ahem, ugly-ass owl coat rack), we use it. Everything else I just treat as normal items. As in, I do not hesitate to scrub the floor with a cardinal dishcloth, or walk through the grass in my owl socks. I just use them, and when they’re shot, I toss them.
    I wish people would give me things I could eat. But not birdseed.

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