The Cold, Hard Truth About Gifts And Clutter

I always loved my mom’s wedding ring and I lovingly harassed her for years about how, since she and my father were divorced, she did not need it anymore. Mom had long ago set the engagement diamond into the band and I thought it was so lovely. She’d been single since… well, just this side of forever, it never really felt like a wedding ring to me. It was diamond ring that, like me, had its origin in my parent’s relationship but wasn’t really about them anymore.

Wow, I don’t think I ever realized that about the ring and me until just now when I typed it. That happens a great deal with this process. As we interview the items in our physical space (to see if they are of more value to us than the space they occupy), we sometimes discover surprising details of our relationship with those things. If we ask the right questions, we can explore the deeper, more intimate understanding… the secret stories between us and our stuff.

Where did this item come from?
What does it mean to me?
Do I use this item, why or why not?
How would my life be different without it?

Anyway, for years I offered to take that ring off of her hands, to enjoy it on her behalf, and on my 21st birthday she gave it to me. I was stunned and thrilled. She told me later that she’d worked hard to convince me that I would never get it just so she could surprise me.

I loved wearing that ring… for a while.But, then there was a time–somewhere beyond all of the harassing and the gift giving–when my tastes began to change. Or perhaps they were not changing but rather, emerging. I was fresh into adulthood and I started to get to know myself. It turns out, I don’t actually care that much for yellow gold. I prefer silver and platinum and before too long, my special family treasure was spending its days and nights in the jewelry box tucked safely away in my the back of my closet.

I had options. I considered having the diamonds reset into something that I would enjoy wearing. I considered letting it sit there in my jewelry box. I did not consider selling it but I could have. I might have put it away for my own daughter but, as you may have already noticed, I’m not that into keeping stuff around. Also, that would have really stretched the re-gifting time line to the max because when this all went down, she was not yet a resident on planet earth.

As I considered my options, ironically, my mom kept popping up. She really loved that ring, and only parted with it to begin with because she loved me too. In the end, I gave it back to her and asked her to wear it for me for a while. She was pleased. I was pleased. It all worked out for that ring.

So, here’s the thing about gifts. We give them because it feels like a good idea. It’s an act of love, or affection, or at least appreciation for social rituals. We can’t possibly know if it actually is the perfect gift, that the recipient will love it and use it. We can’t know if they want this exact thing, in this color, shape, and size, and there is no way in the world we can assume that it will be perfect for them forever.

We give gifts… we don’t harness people with them.

This is the same for the gifts you receive. If it no longer serves you, it’s okay to let it go.

Like I said… The Cold, Hard Truth About Gifts And Clutter.
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Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

I treasure my mom's jewelry. I feel close to her when I wear it. Thanks for sharing.

Mac C.
mac C5 years ago

Gifts aren't necessary, friendship is. Thanks for your great article.

Carol B.
Carol B5 years ago

putting thought into a gift and choosing something that really fits someone and that they can actually use or appreciate requires skill and insight.

Howard C.
.5 years ago

I would far rather receive something of little value that was given with genuine feeling (something homemade ha s an especial place in my heart) than I ever would be given a 'stock' gift but out of the need to 'get me something'. I have more pairs of trousers, shirts, socks etc than I will ever wear; even if I were not to be given anything more I would have enough of these items to last me for the rest of my life - I 'start' a new pair of trousers when one of my old pairs have holes in them! I do have a gift which I really treasure. It is a beautiful wooden box, made out of Indian Sheesham wood. It has been hand-made, a machine might have made it better, but my box is unique, someone in India (a wonderful country) took time (probably working at home) to carve that box; someone else took time to make the small brass lock that it has, someone (my wife) took the time to choose it and buy it for me.

Callie J.
Callie Johnson5 years ago

You know , it's never mattered to me if a friend gives me a gift that isn't "me". It's truly the thought that counts. A friend once gave me, IMO, a very twee statuette of a Persian cat. I'd never in a million years buy it for myself. And yet, every time I see it, it gives me a smile and brings to my mind all kinds of wonderful memories of the times we spent together. She's now living 3000 miles away and we keep in touch via email and mail, but that tangible object keeps her present in my daily life as well.

Justyna D.
Justyna Z5 years ago


John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

I think some people just like clutter, gift or not.

Bob Etier
Bob Etier5 years ago

When you give something to someone, it's theirs. That means they can do whatever they want with it, whether it goes to their personal collection, charity, the trash, or someone who actually can use it. Too often, people hold on to a gift because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings or the giver expects to see them wearing it or displaying it in their home. If there are strings attached, it is not a gift; once an item leaves my hands, its fate is none of my business.

Kiana S.
Kiana S5 years ago

I often feel harnessed with gifts. I keep things that don't quite fit (always meaning to alter them and rarely getting around it it), or things that I don't regularly use because when I look at them they remind me of the person who gave them to me. I do try to re-home things when I think a friend will make better use of something, but sometimes it's difficult.

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L5 years ago