We have all dealt with it, whether we want to admit it or not.
You know what I’m talking about. That guilty, worried feeling you get when you’re trying to de-clutter and clean up and you debate whether or not to get rid of something that someone (doesn’t matter who) gave to you (doesn’t matter when) for whatever reason. You don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful, but you just don’t need whatever it is. Perhaps you don’t even use it. Maybe it’s been sitting on a shelf or in the back of a closet for the last six months just taking up space. Or even worse, perhaps it’s getting in the way or making things difficult for you.
You know you want to get rid of it, but you can’t help but feel guilty, after all, someone spent their time, energy and probably their money on. Even if you know you’re not using it and you know you likely won’t ever use it, you still feel guilty. And as if you didn’t feel guilty enough, this guilt is for many people, intensified by the gift-giver’s upset with your decision to get rid of something they gave you.
“You got rid of it? What?! But I gave that to you!”
We’ve all heard it, and most likely, we’ve all felt like shit for it at one point or another. Nothing makes you feel more guilty after giving something away than being accosted by the gift giver with shocked, angry and upset exclamations. If your gift-giver is especially dramatic, expect to feel ten times worse than you would have otherwise.
I used to struggle with giveaway guilt a lot. I was, in my opinion, a pretty empathetic person, sometimes too empathetic. I remember being constantly worried about what everyone else might think or feel all the time. It was consuming. I was constantly worrying about these things and the only one who suffered for it was me.
I can’t deal with clutter and junk. I begin to feel very disorganized and quite frankly, distressed, when my living area isn’t neat or organized. It has a severe emotional toll on me. I get depressed and I stop getting things done as quickly as I should. I have seen a noticeable difference in myself between an organized and a cluttered living space. Clutter and junk is stressful. Even if you aren’t tripping over it in the middle of the floor, it’s stressful and can affect your mood. For me, it has a huge influence and because of that, I don’t hold on to things for very long, including things I was given.
I appreciate the things people give me with good intentions. I really do and I would never get rid of a gift I received the next day or be blatantly obvious about it. But if I don’t use something, it’s in my way or it’s just collecting dust then I’m better off without it. If I get rid of something you gave me, it doesn’t mean I hate you or don’t appreciate you. It just means that I needed to purge my life of excess to stabilize my feelings and emotions. A gift is just a thing. It’s the thought that counts, right?
Even if I don’t keep the gift you gave me, I still remember that you thought enough of me to give it to me in the first place, and that is what should matter. Don’t take it as a personal attack or an insult. Just realize that this is what I need to do to keep my life streamlined, and stop myself from getting overwhelmed. And if someone else gets rid of a gift you gave them, their reasons are probably similar.
Imagine someone gave you a giant coat stand. You are living in a small home. Every time you go from the living room to the stairs or the bedroom, you trip over this coat rack. You try moving it, or even rearranging the other furniture around it, but still, you keep tripping over this coat rack. After a while, you begin to get irritated with this coat stand. Every time you see it, you get annoyed, and by now, you’ve tripped over it so many times that it’s scuffed up, knicked and damaged. It’s a sore sight, for sure. But still, you keep it. After all, it was a gift and you wouldn’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings; you care about them. So for months, you continue tripping over this stupid coat stand, over and over, perhaps even injuring yourself a few times. You’re stressed out about it. You hate that it’s in your living room. You hate tripping over the stupid thing, and you don’t even like the design, but still, you don’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings.
You shouldn’t punish yourself for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings.
But if the giver cared about you, which they likely do, since they cared enough to give you a gift they thought you would like, do you think they would want you to feel the way you do about the coat rack? If they care about you, they wouldn’t want you stressing out, feeling anxious, frustrated or upset, especially by a silly coat rack. If you don’t like it, don’t use it, don’t need it, or it’s in the way, get rid of it. Of course, it’s best to do so tactfully to spare feelings if you can. “Oh, the coat rack? We used it for a little bit, but a friend of mine was recently divorced and moved into an apartment with absolutely no furniture. We have the closet in the entryway, and I knew she could use it more than we could.” Of course, there might not always be a tactful way to explain something missing, but you can always be honest. If the giver is upset with you, they shouldn’t be, and if they are, that is their issue to deal with. Not yours. Don’t let your decisions and life be ruled by the fear that you may upset someone else.