House Rules: Unwanted gifts
You mention that you like china pigs: next thing, your windowsill has become a sty. What to do?
And this little piggy went to join his family in the charity shop
Nothing mars the harmony of a beautifully crafted design scheme quite like a well-intentioned gift. You’ve got your Waterford wedding presents chiming nicely with your Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic range for Dunnes Stores, and there’s just enough wit to add colour without getting overcrowded. Then home comes a friend from a trip to Moscow and all of a sudden you’ve got to give houseroom to a samovar.
Most homes can take one or two standout pieces of holiday kitsch, and depending on your backdrop it’s more or less delicately balanced. Chic cool minimalism can manage some Killarney shamrock mugs, but add ceramic delights from your neighbours’ ski trip to Austria and you’re likely to be over the limit.
Likewise, French provincial in the kitchen can swallow up most things as long as they’re pale green, powder blue, cream or lavender, but add hot blasts of Iberian colour and everything’s out of whack.
It’s possibly worse for those who once expressed a liking for some sort of animal. People seem to think if you have three or four china pigs in your livingroom, because you were too polite to refuse them, suddenly you’re the Pig Person and your windowsills have become a veritable sty.
So what do you do? Taking a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (tidyingup.com) you might anchor yourself in serenity, and then holding each piece of tat, ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, then, still speaking aloud, wish it well as you say a gentle goodbye and chuck it in the bin or send it off to your farthest-away charity shop. (Wait until you have the house to yourself, as loved ones may think you’ve gone mad. Avoid eBay, as it’s easy to trace junked presents to the source. And never use a local charity shop; your friends or neighbours might buy it for you, seeing as you so liked the last one.)
Alternatively, cut the problem off at the source with Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k. Using Knight’s philosophy as a guide, say to your friends before they go away, “Do have a lovely trip, but if you want to bring me something, please make it wine, as my house is full of crap from your previous holidays” (or something similar).
And , short of asking your children to “accidentally” break things for you, you could do worse than copy Queen Elizabeth, who keeps a note of every gift and has them dusted down and put on display when the giver comes to tea.