Monday, April 2, 2012

Refusing Birthday Stuff

One of my favorite blog's, Zero Waste Home, taught me the importance of refusal.  Her slogan is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot... in that order.  It's a lot easier to avoid clutter when you simply refuse to allow it into your home in the first place.

I recently shared with you that I've started refusing receipts, mostly to avoid the BPA on the paper, but also so that they don't collect in the bottom of my purse.  This has been a simple enough thing to do to.  However, I'm a little more challenged when it comes to birthday presents.  April is a big birthday month in my house... four of us will be celebrating another year.  There are two levels of refusal to tackle: (1) Avoid temptation to buy things for each other, and (2) Handle incoming gifts from family and friends.

When it comes to buying gifts for each other, I typically try to use birthdays/holidays as an "excuse" to buy things we need in some way.  The husband will probably be getting a new glass water bottle, since I recently disposed of his numerous plastic ones.  For me, I'm hoping to get a BPA-free, re-usable coffee filter so that I can stop using disposables, or some large glass jars to replace aluminum canned goods. (Even minimalists have "the wants" sometimes!)

As for the fur babies, although I could come up with lots of things to spoil them with, I'm trying to stick to our annual donation to the ASPCA. It does a lot more good than a new toy laying in the yard.  My parents did a similar thing with me as a human kid, taking me to volunteer at the animal shelter as my birthday gift.

Donate to ASPCA

The second challenge is the ever-awkward task of refusing gifts from friends and family. My husband observed that most of the clutter I've hung on to so far has been saved by the fact that it was a gift.  I do struggle with emotional attachments to things I've received from loved ones, even if I really really don't want it.  To avoid more of this problem, I really need to ask my friends and family to refrain, although I do fear seeming rude or ungrateful.  I'd be thrilled to see a donation in my name, and I'd be perfectly content to get nothing at all.  But how do you convey this in a respectful manner?

I'll let you know when I figure that out, but in the meantime, please share your stories of gift management!


  1. I'm a big fan of the wishlists. You can use the registry browser button ( to add anything from any site to your wishlist. Then, I fill a wishlist with lots of either consumable goods (eg. chocolates, fancy dried fruits I like and cheeses) or experiences. We put a few restaurants' gift cards, a month worth of veggies from our local CSA, and tickets to our favorite band's local show on our Amazon wish list. We then emailed everyone saying "please, please don't get us anything. We really don't have the space. But if buying a gift is important to you, here are some things we enjoy. And thanks." It actually worked! We hardly got any stuff last holiday.

  2. What a good plan!! I have actually been using Amazon Wish List for years... isn't it the best invention? I like your approach for asking for nothing, then giving options. Good plan!