Oct 042008

In my “No More Kid Birthday Craziness” post, I wrote that I decided to put an end to big birthday parties for my children. I sent out a polite e-mail to our friends and family, explaining that we wish to celebrate the girls’ birthdays in a more simple way. In response, I received some e-mails from people, inquiring about when and how they could give gifts to the girls. I sent this e-mail in response:

“Good Morning Everyone!

In response to our e-mail about the discontinuation of birthday parties for the girls, several people have asked whether they should mail or drop off gifts.

Your love and friendship is the only gift we need or desire. The girls would love it if you came for a visit, or sent a card, but no gifts are necessary.

If it would make you happy to give a gift, your generosity will, of course, be much appreciated. However, we would like to respectfully request that no toys be given. Our home is quite small, and the girls are already richly blessed with toys, dolls, stuffed animals, and games.

Thank you very much for your understanding.

With love,


I did this because, like many parents, I feel that my children receive more toys than they can possibly play with and take care of, and we have nowhere to store them. I also think that gifts have become too much of a focus at birthday parties. Just today, I received two e-mails from concerned parents who just don’t know how to deal with this problem. One of my readers said that she has repeatedly asked family to limit gifts of toys, but they ignore her requests.

When I give someone a gift, it’s because I care about them, and I want them to have something they enjoy. I always try to include gift receipts, because if the person doesn’t like what I gave them, I want them to be able to return it for something they DO like. I don’t want my gift to become an unwanted burden to them.

The truth is, excessive gifts do often become a burden. They are a burden to children, who are usually overwhelmed and overstimulated by them. I make a commitment to purge and organize my children’s things regularly because I have observed Bee’s distress when she can’t find things in her cluttered and messy room. The more stuff children have, the more they have to take care of, and their young minds lack the ability to bring order to the chaos.

Excessive gifts are also a burden to parents, who must determine how to store and organize all of the extra stuff that they just don’t have room for. In our small home, storage space is quite limited, and I find myself actually dreading gift-giving occasions, because I know that there will be a huge influx of new stuff for the kids to scatter all over the house. Unfortunately, I’ll be the one who trips over it, steps on it, fishes it out of the toilet, picks it up, sorts it, organizes it, and stores it.

Enough is enough.

Now that I have requested no gifts, and specifically no toys, I believe that our friends and family will respect our wishes. I tend to be a pretty blunt and honest person, and I do understand that some of you may not be comfortable with the direct approach. If not, here are some other suggestions for limiting gifts:

1) Ask your guests to bring something to donate, rather than a gift. You can simply say, “In lieu of gifts, please bring a donation for the food bank/animal shelter/children’s hospital,” etc.

2) Have a book exchange. Instead of a gift, ask your guests to bring one new, wrapped book. Put them all in a basket, and have each child pick one to take home.

3) Instead of gifts, ask your guests to write down a favorite memory of your child, and put them all into a scrapbook.

4) If you aren’t comfortable asking for no gifts, try setting a limit. Ask guests to bring only one gift.

Of course, despite your best efforts, there will always be people who will give gifts anyway, because they just feel obligated to. When this happens, I have two suggestions for you:

1) Return or exchange unwanted items. Most stores are quite accommodating, even if you don’t have a receipt.

2) Put unwanted, unopened toys in a box and donate them to charity. Be sure to get a receipt so that you can take the tax deduction.

I know that for some of you, this may seem harsh. You worry, “What if the person who gave this to us asks about it later?” Honestly, this has never happened to me, and my attitude is that when you politely request no gifts, and someone feels free to disregard your feelings and wishes, you may just have to be truthful with them. They might be offended, but they’ll get over it.

Remember, it really doesn’t matter what people think of you, and only you can decide what’s best for your family. It’s your life, and it’s OK to take control of it.


  One Response to “Keeping Gifts Under Control”

  1. Hi,
    I’m so glad to read this, to know others feel the same way. I love your blog. I have a link to your site in my blogroll. I requested no gifts for my son’s first birthday 12/10/12 and christmas this year. of course…. my in laws alone… got him a new wardrobe (as if I dont clothe my child), and the room was so full of toys that you couldnt even find the Christmas tree.
    We tried to explain to everyone, that what we wanted to teach our son, was that Christmas (specifically) was about giving and we did our usual charity’s. We shopped with him and showed him that there were tons of kids that were not as lucky as him to get toys & clothes & food all year round.

    However, because he was such a good little boy, he too, would get a toy & an outfit from mommie & daddy on Christmas. Then on Christmas morning he would get a present from Santa as well, because we didnt want him to feel left out of that tradition either. All in all we wanted our son to get a few presents….
    I ended up taking sooo much back to the stores like you said. I also feel like my in laws took the opportunity away from us for buying him any clothes, no joke they bought that many.

    Anyway – I understand the burden, and it really is a burden. Its nice to say it that way out loud, it takes a weight off my shoulders. It’s hard when others dont respect your wishes.

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