Etiquette Expert-Approved Ways to Ditch Unwanted Gifts

SAN DIEGO (MainStreet) — There are the gifts you love getting and the gifts that, well, you just don't have any use for: The ugly sweater you'll never wear. The ratchet set you don't need. The perfume you can't bear.

What to do with them? Etiquette experts agree there are guidelines to unloading unwanted Christmas presents. Chief among those guidelines: Don't sell the not-so-great gifts. Not on eBay or Craigslist, or any online site for that matter.

"You shouldn't be making a profit off a gift. That's a little bit lowbrow," says Elaine Swann, a San Diego-based lifestyle and etiquette expert.

In addition to being lowbrow, selling a gift can come across as cold and calculated, says Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, and there's the danger of the gift-giver seeing the gift for sale online. That could lead to hurt feelings.

"I would look at other options," Gottsman says.

Here are a few:

  • Repurpose it. Maybe you got an ashtray and you're not a smoker. All is not lost, Gottsman says. "Repurpose it. Put candy in it." Or perhaps you got a lamp that just doesn't align with your sense of style. "If you can bear it, put it in a guest room. Repurpose it that way," Gottsman says.
  • Donate it. Is there a less-fortunate person who might be able to use the gift — a family member fallen on hard times, a housekeeper? If you don't know anyone who might enjoy your unwanted item, consider donating it to a local charity or nonprofit. "Donate to a worthy cause," Gottsman says. "If it's a nice sweater, but not something you particularly like, as a gesture of good will, donate it to a charity. Pay it forward."
  • Regift it — strategically. One man's trash is another man's treasure. You may not be crazy about a sweater with pink and green stripes, but someone else might see that same sweater as a thing of beauty. Swann has three rules when it comes to regifting, though: Don't regift within the same circle of friends or family; rewrap or repackage the gift, removing all telltale signs it was a present; and make sure to give the gift to someone who will actually enjoy it. "You're not regifting just to get rid of it - you really want to be thoughtful," Swann says.
  • Sell it at a garage sale — eventually. If you absolutely must sell the gift, the most harmless way to do so is a yard sale or garage sale, which tend not to be held for pure profit motive. And even then it's best to wait a few years. Beyond that, be careful about which gifts you chose to part with this way. "Don't sell a gift at a yard sale if it was a neighbor who gave it to you," Gottsman advises.

There's one final tip regarding the Christmas gifts that left you less than cheerful. In the age of social media, refrain from complaining online, blogging, tweeting or posting on Facebook about the unwanted items that turned up in your stocking or under your Christmas tree. You never know who will see those posts.

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