Today’s question comes from Melissa and she writes,
Hi, I have recently started following your blog and I love it. [Thank you so much, I love you for reading.]
I have a 7 month old baby and am forever being given stuff for him by well meaning family and friends. Whilst I appreciate their kindness I am constantly being overwhelmed with stuff. I have much less time now that I am looking after my baby and I feel like just as I sort out a pile of stuff given to me another arrives.
I have asked many times for everyone not to buy stuff but it seems to fall on deaf ears. The other thing is the stuff often needs to be stored until he grows in to it. I swear I am going to scream if I get given one more pack of nappies that will fit him when is 2 (usually purchased by someone because they were on sale).
I know this is very much a “first world” type problem and that I probably sound ungrateful but we only have a 2 bedroom house and it is sending me crazy.
Any who – I would love to hear your thoughts sometime via your blog if you have any suggestions on how to deal with this.
Ps I love your website/blog. Not only useful but funny and lots of beautiful pictures.
Melissa- first off, I love your question. I know it’s a topic that many people can relate to, both on the specific level of baby gifts, as well as dealing with gifts in general.
Gifts are tricky. Once a thing becomes a gift, we can no longer just treat it as a regular object. We are forever aware of the wonderful and generous intentions behind that purchase, which leads us to feel love and gratitude, and if we don’t like the gift, or like you, don’t have space for it in our lives, it causes great amounts of guilt, obligation, and stuckness.
Let’s throw out the obvious:
– We know this is not an issue of being grateful or ungrateful on your part.
– We know your gift-givers have the best of intentions to help nurture your family, and include themselves in your family.
This is a collision of emotion and the material; the baby gifts are an emotional expression of love vs. the material reality of limited space. As I see it, you’ve got 5 options.
Option 1- Write it out
You say that your attempts to cut off the gift supply have “fallen on deaf ears,” and while I can’t be certain, I suspect this means that your previous efforts have been made verbally. If you haven’t already, I recommend sitting down and composing those sentiments in a letter/email. Seeing it in print will likely be more effectual than a small side comment made here and there. If there are many people involved, you may send one email to all of them. It should read something along the lines of,
“Dear blah blah blah,
Thank you so much for your generosity and support. It is so wonderful to have you involved in our family and we hope you will continue to have a presence in baby _____’s life as he/she grows.
Due to limited space in our home, we currently cannot accept any additional baby gifts. We want to ensure that baby _____ has sufficient room to crawl and play, and that he/she doesn’t feel stifled by a cluttered house. If you have purchased goods meant to be used/worn in future months, we are requesting that you hold onto those items until baby ____ reaches that age/ stage.
Until then, we welcome your gift of visits and time together, of which there is no capacity for in our home.
Thank you for your understanding,
– Melissa & co.
Option 2: The Return
This option does take some guts, I’ll admit, but you have full permission to actually return any gifts to their giver. The script for this option might go something like,
“I know this is awkward, but I made a mistake in accepting this very generous gift. Even though I so appreciate the kindness, I simply don’t have room for it in my house right now.
I would still very much like baby ______ to have it when we have room/when he/she grows. If you have room to store it in your own home until then that would be wonderful. If not, I would completely understand if you wanted to return it/ gift it elsewhere.”
Option 3: The donation
If you’re so buried under baby stuff that you just have to clear out some space immediately, you can go ahead and donate any items you have been given. This option also works well in conjunction with #1, The Write it Out; the aforementioned note will be even more absolute when you add the phrase,
“Unfortunately, any new gifts we receive after this point will have to be donated to_______.”
“If you have baby items you need to get rid of immediately, I invite you to donate them directly to_______.”
Option 4: The Storage Request
I understand that it isn’t that you don’t want these baby items, but that you currently don’t have space for them. Knowing that you will want to utilize them in the near future, you may ask around to see if anyone close to you has storage space to spare. A parent who lives nearby would be apt, or a yet-childless-friend. This script might sound something like,
“I was wondering if you had any extra space where I might store x number of boxes of baby goods for z number of months. I will label the boxes, and make sure that they are organized according to category/ age range so that retrieving them, when the time comes, will be easy for both of us.”
Option 5: The Flat Refusal
Here’s where I’m going to kick your butt a little, Melissa. Ultimately, girl, your home is your own. That means it’s your responsibility to lay down the law when necessary. No one can actually force gifts upon you, and if your house is filled with stuff you wish wasn’t in it, it’s clear you haven’t been executing your power as homemaker and mother enough.
You need to create boundaries and then ensure that those around you adhere to them. Remember, no one is going to know you don’t want more baby stuff or stop giving you things unless you make it really clear. And trying to say no, having it fall on deaf ears, and then accepting more baby stuff afterwards is wussing out, my peanut.
Make sure that your crew is vastly aware of the reason you are turning their gifts down as well. If you’re vague about this, it may be taken as simply, “Oh, she’s just trying to be gracious, but I know she really needs this stuff so I’m going to give it to her anyways.”
“I have no space in my house to put your gift. Therefore I cannot accept it.” Boom. There’s a flat refusal.
* * *
Melissa, I hope these 5 options for dealing with over-baby-gifting helps. Please report back and let us know how it all goes. And if you, dear reader, have any suggestions for how to handle this situation, please don’t hesitate to throw them into the mix. If you have been in a similar situation, we would all love to hear how you handled it, what worked and what didn’t.
That wraps it up for today, apricots! Thanks for reading, and until next time–