Hello Rene,

Here’s my dilemma!

I live in Texas, about an hours drive from my parents, who visit about twice a month on average. We generally get on, though we have had some strained times over the years, but as we all get older I think we’re all mellowing!

Here’s my dilemma. Every year my parents buy gifts that are a) far too expensive and b) totally not my taste! Over the years I’ve had vases, clothes, paintings, furniture and all sorts of things that I’ve not liked – but felt obliged to keep!

I don’t want to be ungrateful and I think it’s very sweet that they think of me this way – but I don’t like that they ‘waste’ money on things that I just don’t like. I’ve tried to tell them in subtle ways – suggesting we give Christmas a rest one year or buy each other gift vouchers – but they either get offended – or don’t listen.

So what should I do? Should I be totally honest the next time a gift arrives and say I don’t like it? Feel obliged to keep it in my house -even though it’s really not my taste? Or move to another state!!!

I’d love to hear your thoughts Rene – and what you’ve done with some of the unwanted gifts you’ve received over the years!


Carol, Texas

Hi Carol:

Ha! I am laughing with you, not at you, as I have gone through this very same thing at times with my own mother. I think gift giving can be very tricky, especially when the gifts venture into personal taste territory. The question is not necessarily one of motivation; I’m sure your folks think they are doing something nice. But if they are buying Laura Ashley bedding for your Andy Warhol inspired apartment, well, there is a clear problem. Okay so what to do, what to do? Of course it all starts with communication.

EXPLAIN YOUR TASTE/STYLE: With a spirit of thankfulness and with a grateful heart, I would sit the folks down explain that the things they are spending (a lot of) money on simply do not match your taste. Be as explicit as you can without hurting their feelings because dropping hints hasn’t worked in the past. It’s possible they don’t know the difference between Shabby Chic and Art Deco. And if they are giving gifts in the spirit with which they are supposed to be given (for the recipient’s enjoyment) they should understand.

IF POSSIBLE SUGGEST A GIFT CARD: I’ve said it before I’ll say it again, I think gift cards/certificates are great! The person gets exactly what they want, the size is right and it’s hassle-free. Having said that though I will tell you that when I mentioned this to my own mother, she was sort of cool on the idea. I tried to get her to understand that being up on the grandkids shifting tastes, then having to pack it the gifts and ship them, was way more trouble than she needs. When I presented it that way, it made sense and she understood. Maybe a similar conversation with your folks would yield a positive result.

ASK FOR THE GIFT RECEIPT: I give all my gifts (when I do that instead of a gift card) with a gift receipt. If the person doesn’t like it and would rather have something else, they can exchange it. Could you ask your parents for that without offending them? If none of these work….

SUCK IT UP: Ultimately this is their money and they can do with it as they see fit. They are buying gifts for you but you have the right to do with that gift what YOU see fit. Maybe that ugly vase will make a great doorstop in a back bedroom. Perhaps that little glass box will be perfect as a steppingstone in the garden. I have received a few things in the past from various family members that don’t quite jive with the look I have or am trying to achieve and I have been quite creative about finding homes within my home for them.

Those are but a few suggestions. But if I could be bold to just leave you with one last thought. Your folks aren’t going to be around forever. Is it really so bad that they’re horrible gift givers who are out of touch with what you want? Personally I don’t think so. Try this, a heartfelt thank you and know they were just trying to make you smile.

Good luck!

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