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Ask Maeve: How do I tell family and friends I don’t need gifts?

UntitledI’ve been working really hard to pare down this year, and it’s been a great feeling! But with the holidays coming up, I’m a bit worried. Between my family, who is big on gift giving, work gift exchanges, and friends, I’m worried all my hard work will be reversed. How do I tell my family and friends that I don’t need gifts this year?

That’s a great question, and one that is on the mind of more people than you may think. My first suggestion would be to get in front of the issue. If you keep in touch with family and friends via social media or email, write a simple post asap to let everyone one know that you are ‘paring down’ and are not in need of any gifts this year. This might be tough for some people in your life to accept, so perhaps you can give them an alternative, like gifting to your favorite charity instead. If you are creative, try offering something fun in return like making a little video or offering a poem to explain why you are saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to gifts from friends and family this year.

And if there’s no stopping the gifts, that’s OK too, as this is a perfect opportunity for you to practice some conscious living. If someone gifts you something that you don’t need kindly say, “thank you” then take it home and in your own time, re-gift it or let it go. I suggest keeping a bag by your front door (or in your car or garage) where you can place holiday gifts that you don’t want so that you do not bring them deep into your home. And set a goal for both when and how you are going to get them out of the house. You can consider donating everything you receive to charity, or perhaps post the items online and turn your gifts into some cash.

An important part of taking control of our homes is being conscious about what we allow in, so do your best to stop things that don’t make sense this holiday season before they come in. But keep in mind that you can take charge of the situation after the fact as well. And don’t be hard on yourself if one or two gifts slips through your front door. Part of sticking to a new routine is practice, so consider this year a test run, and next year get yourself well ahead of the game by telling family and friends months in advance that you don’t need anything. And who knows, you may even be able to get others on board.

Best of luck, and let me know how it goes!

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at or @MaeveRichmond.

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