Gifts From Hell 1 & 2



My mother and sister-in-law are garage sale junkies. During the holidays, I receive gifts for my kids picked up from their garage sale and thrift store hunts. Trust me, I’m not a snob. I’m talking about torn and written on books, toys that don’t work and items with $.25 written in magic marker on the item. It’s hard to believe they even wrap such things. They both can easily afford to buy a new item from the dollar store – it’s more about their desire to “get a deal.” Besides, I have told them in the past that gifts are not necessary especially since I don’t give them anything since they both have rudely requested that no one give them any more junk during the holidays.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get the stuff from coming in the door without sounding rude? Most of the items are so bad they are not even suitable to donate to a charity. I just don’t get it.



What is rude is the fact that your mother and sister-in-law are giving gifts with no thought or care. Let me say very clearly that this has nothing to do with what they cost but is all about the condition that they are in. I have seen bargain items, cleaned up and presented in such a way that they are transferred into special and thoughtful gifts. That is not what is happening here.

My answer is, be honest with them. Tell them that their grandchildren and nieces/nephews deserve clean and intact gifts. Then paraphrasing what you wrote to us. You could then finish with one of two solutions.
1. That you have respected their request about no more gifts and would appreciate the same consideration.
2. You will provide them with a short and reasonably priced list of what the children would like for Christmas. They must be bought from sources other than garage sales. Amazon has good quality second hand and for other items there are Bargain centers and dollar stores.

I know that you said that they don’t want to go to places liked the dollar store but by using that as one of your stipulations they will not be able to say that your objections are about the value of the gift.

Jill hit the nail on the head and as far as realistic or polite and direct suggestions I have nothing more to add. With that said, I have a little inner imp that’s dying to come out and make some mischief with this!

They say that actions speak louder than words, so take some action and dish it right back. You said that they requested no junk for the holidays – OK be respectful of that, however Christmas is now a year away and I’m sure your mother and sister-in-law’s birthdays will be coming up before then and you didn’t mention whether or not birthdays were off limits!

Keep two cardboard boxes somewhere you have room and when you see a garage sale go on in and look for the most beat up, especially broken, junk you can find. Things like one chipped plate. Wrap these things up individually and on their birthdays offer them their “SURPRISE BOX”.

Now do have a nice gift, a real gift set aside but out of their sight. Watch each of their expressions as they open their gag gifts and comment on their expressions, even if hey keep a poker face. When they are finished opening everything tell them that you can see from their expressions how disappointed they are in your choices. Let them know that that’s how you and the children feel when you receive broken gifts. Then hand them their real gifts and remind them that you love them, you just want them to understand how you feel and that you will make a list for them for the children as Jill suggested.




OK, you may laugh at this one but I need some help. My husband bought me a painting for Christmas and it is truly ugly. He wants to hang it in the living room and I want to burn it. What should I do? I don’t want to hurt his feelings but…!


Four possible answers
1. Have the “Honey, I love you but………….” conversation
2. Hang it and learn to live with it.
3. Tell him that it would be perfect for the guest bedroom.
4. Accidentally drop and damage it one day while he is out of the house.

I’m a believer in “honesty is the best policy” and “the truth will set you free”.

You didn’t mention what initial reaction you gave him when you opened the painting. Keep in mind that he may have bought it thinking that it was your taste and he may not like it himself. He may have suggested hanging it in the living room if you expressed delight over it. If you told you loved it when you opened it it’s time to back track. Or you run the risk of hubby getting you more gifts you don’t appreciate – set the tone now!

As far as not hurting his feelings, it’s no what you say it’s how you say it. Sit him down and tell him the picture is not to your taste, this assures him that you aren’t insulting his taste in art, after all it isn’t like there’s a right or a wrong there. Ask him if you can set a date for the two of you to go shopping together to find a painting that you both enjoy for the living room. Then make a day out of it that will leave both of you with a terrific memory; that will end up being a priceless gift you will both treasure for years, especially when either of you look at the painting.


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