Tired of waking up each Boxing Day with a social conscience as overburdened as your digestive system? Tony Ryan shows you how to alleviate the guilt that comes with a stocking full of unwanted Christmas presents.
This Christmas, my family instigated a Kris Kringle arrangement. So while my arms were relieved when I carried home a considerably smaller pile of Yuletide bling this year, my conscience was equally relaxed – I didn’t have to stuff a cupboard full of unwanted presents, unlike many previous Christmases.
Not that I blame my kind-hearted loved ones. Sometimes family members just get it wrong. You can drop all the hints you want about the latest Grand Theft Auto video game but end up with John Hopkins University Press’s history of auto theft, Stealing Cars. (Which I’m told is an authoritative account, but which no-doubt lacks the fun factor of the game.)
Then there’s the always-awkward double-up present – your dad and your partner get their wires crossed and end up buying you the same gift. They both know your tastes, but they failed to coordinate their shopping. This year I received two boxed sets of the entire run of Friends … ahem, I mean two copies of the complete works of Leo Tolstoy. And as mad keen as I am on Leo, that’s too much Russian profundity for Christmas time.
Luckily for me, there are a number of ways to deal with gifts like the 2015 calendar that my sister gave me this Christmas. (Seriously, Sis, put some effort in next year.)
Perhaps the most time-honoured way to deal with the fifth set of cheese knives Grandma has given you in as many years is to donate them to charity. St Vinnies, the Salvos and other charities will accept just about anything, but many other organisations will take your unwanted gifts. Libraries accept donations of books, and local sports clubs will take soccer balls, cricket bats and the like. GiveNow lists organisations that refurbish and donate unwanted bicycles, and Givit and Good360 allow you to search for ways to donate specific goods.
You can always stockpile your novelty mugs and give them to people who might actually appreciate them next Christmas. But, unless you want to make a point and risk a tense Christmas dinner this year, it’s best not to give Uncle George the same Star Wars-themed chess set he gave you in 2015.
There are many online and offline exchanges that allow you to find someone who will love your unwanted presents and happily accept them in exchange for theirs. Swishing is the practice of swapping clothes and accessories for others, saving you money and reducing your environmental footprint. Then there’s Clothing Exchange, Thread Swap and Oxfam’s Exchange for Change. With all these options, why not see if you can go the whole year without buying a single item of clothing!
Selling your unwanted presents requires a bit of discretion. Don’t sell that jelly bean-scented phone case (yep, unfortunately, that’s a thing) online if you know that the person who gave it to you regularly scopes out your eBay page. Likewise, if you have an aunt or uncle who relays to the entire extended family every scrap of gossip they come across, don’t tell them you’re heartlessly selling the bacon-flavoured dental floss (which, you guessed it, is also a thing) that Mum gave you.
But with a bit of caution, you can make some moolah from those less-than-desirable gifts (if you can find someone who’s in the market for toilet paper printed with brain teasers).
If your generous but misguided loved ones haven’t yet adopted a Kris Kringle, bring it up well before Christmas 2016. You’ll save yourself the hassle of shopping for fifteen nephews, aunts and grandparents, and spare yourself the emotional energy required to grin through gritted teeth and thank cousin Jim for the spectacles that double as chopsticks.