Dear Well-Meaning Relatives: Please respect our request of fewer gifts for our kids.

posted by Andrea | 12/5/2013

dear well meaning relatives

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be offensive, rude, or disrespectful — and it is in NO WAY directed towards Dave or my relatives. It’s simply intended to be a humorous letter in response to the loads of emails I get from frustrated parents who don’t know how to get this message through to their well-meaning relatives.

Dear Well-Meaning Relatives,

Let me start off by saying that we love you, our kids love you, and we know you love us. We also know that you enjoy showing your love by generously lavishing our children with an enormous amount of gifts for every single birthday, holiday, and special occasion.

It’s sweet, we know you mean well, and we love that you love our children so much.

However… our kids don’t need more stuff!

In the past, we’ve tried to gently imply that we’d be totally OK with fewer gifts, we’ve suggested clutter-free options, and we’ve set spending limits — but you still continue to graciously bestow massive amounts of gifts upon our children each year.

We totally understand that you are just trying to be generous and helpful, but here are a few things you might not think about when you load up your shopping carts with gifts for our kids…

1. Our kids already get so much stuff.

Unlike when we were kids (or you were kids) our children get stuff, trinkets, toys, and gadgets given to them ALL the time.

Free cookies at the grocery store, special prizes and trinkets with every single kids meal at every single restaurant, a pig toy (and Smarties) at the bank, stickers at music class, a book of the week at play group, a special magnet at Children’s Church or Sunday School, prizes and treats at school, etc. etc.

Everywhere we go, they get more stuff — it’s almost to the point where they EXPECT stuff to be given to them just because they are cute or because they smile. (Nora already knows to ask for Smarties at the bank!)

Add in all the birthday and holiday gifts on top of these everyday gifts and we’re simply drowning in stuff.

2. Our kids don’t need much, but they naturally want everything they see.

Aside from a few basic necessities, our kids really don’t need much — we are so blessed. However, the minute they see something, they want it.

They might be perfectly happy playing with older toys or reading the same favorite books over and over again — but as soon as something new and different is introduced to the mix, they simply push away the old and focus on the new (even if they were completely happy and satisfied with their old things).

After a while, they get bored more easily and continually want more newer, bigger, and better toys… obviously, this is not what we want to teach our children.

3. We’re already fighting a loosing battle to keep our homes clutter-free. 

Yes, I realize a clutter-free home is not the most important thing in life, but for many of us with small children, it’s already so difficult to keep things relatively clutter-free — more gifts and more stuff just add to the issue.

And yes, we are the parents, so we should just be able to purge our kid’s toys when they aren’t looking… right?

Well then you try explaining to a 2 year old or a 6 year old (with an amazing memory) why their precious rock, sticker, or stuffed animal is suddenly missing due to the accumulation of so many new toys and not enough room to store them all.

Purging kid’s toys can be a pretty traumatic event, and the more stuff we get, the more stuff we need to purge.

4. We actually like to buy our own kids gifts every once in a while.

Believe it or not, we like to do fun things with our kids and buy them special gifts every now and then — but when so many others are giving them SO much stuff, it’s hard for us to get super excited about adding more gifts to our child’s stack (and the amount of stuff in our homes).

When you give our kids so much stuff, it actually takes some of the fun out of it for us :)

5. “More Stuff” is just not the message we want to send our kids.

Yes, it’s fun to get special gifts on birthdays and on Christmas. Yes, it’s exciting to receive a special surprise every now and then. And yes, it’s really enjoyable for us parents to see our kids so happy with all the gifts they get to open.

BUT… that’s really not the message we want to send our kids — especially at such a young age.

The purpose of Christmas is not for us to give them more stuff. The focus of Easter should not be special candy, dresses, or gifts. The point of doing a good dead shouldn’t be to get a reward.

However, when our kids continually receive gifts for every special day, every good deed, and even “just because”, we’re sending them the message that “stuff” is the priority.

It’s difficult for us to just come out and say “don’t buy our kids so much stuff” — especially when we really do know that you mean well; and we certainly don’t want to offend anyone. So instead, we’ve tried to drop hints, beat around the bush, and subtly imply that less stuff would be preferred.

But since our efforts have fallen on deaf ears, here is our relatively simple and straight-forward plea:

Please respect our requests of fewer gifts for our kids.

A couple gifts are fine, clutter-free gifts are even better.

Thanks — we really appreciate it!


All the totally-overwhelmed-with-clutter-and-stuff parents.

OK it’s your turn… how would YOU answer these parents’ emails?

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Filed under: FamilyHolidaysKids StuffOrganizingParentingPurging



  1. Gina, book dragon


    I love most of the letter . . . only because I gave up after the smarties at the bank comment.

    My side of the family doesn’t exchange gifts. My husband side does. Christmas? We draw names. Not only to have only purchase one each, we only get one each and so much now it turns out to be a gift card. Dinners and movies are very popular with the family. Birthday are done differently, Card and $10 only. Those $10s add up and you can get something nice instead of six smaller things.

    I read in a novel about “empty stocking fund”. If I’m going to be spending $20 on each gift them I would write you a note and let you know that I donated to the empty stocking fund. Toys for Tots, a local food pantry, it sounded like such a nice idea.


  2. Claudia Karabaic Sargent


    I have 2 nieces (26 and 21 years old) and a nephew (14), and what I started doing was making donations in their names to Heifer Foundation. Last year, “they” gave a flock of ducklings, a flock of geese, and a flock of chicks to help a poor family sustain itself. We ALL felt good about that, and there were cute visuals to go with the warm fuzzy feelings.


  3. Michele


    I love this and wish I could do the same because, like you, I’ve tried over & over again, and I’ve been quite direct, asking to have experiences instead. However, in my family, if I were to write a similar letter, I’d be called a b**ch behind my back, and it would give more reason to speak negatively about me. So I keep the peace, and just deal with passing on my values to my kids. That might mean donating more than they feel ready for. I’ve had to come to terms that I can’t control people’s actions about buying stuff. It’s not worth having family members not communicating with me for several weeks or not being understood, or being considered the black sheep. Those things aren’t for me, but maybe someone stronger wouldn’t mind! If anyone has done this letter, please let us know how it went!


  4. Holly


    Thank you for posting this, I’ve had friends who have this problem, and it’s so hard on them when they have to get rid of things that family have given them because they just don’t need them.
    I’ve been so blessed in this respect. My parents don’t have much money and I have siblings, most with children, so they tend to talk to me about what our daughter needs/wants and get one or two things she’ll really use. They’re also more likely to come visit, they live a distance away and we only see them 2-3 times a year, presence is better than presents. Plus my mum knows I’m struggling with my clutter. My husband’s mum tends to buy a few quality gifts, often clothing and toys that encourage open ended play. Our daughter still plays with the blocks she got last Christmas. Plus she gets her a book or two most months.


  5. Jenni


    I like this, but am also at peace with the fact that people like to give gifts and sometimes you just need to let them give them. We do have generally understanding family who like things like Amazon wish lists, and our wish lists are usually filled with items like books, educational games, and art supplies.


  6. Weekend Reading: December 14, 2013 | Life Your Way


    […] Dear Well-Meaning Relatives: Please respect our request of fewer gifts for our kids. | Andrea Dekker […]

  7. Lynne


    I’m a grandma, and it IS a different world from mine where things meant more and were harder to come by. I take my cue from my own mom, who instead of giving lots of things to my children, gave herself. She was the fun grandma, the one who played with my kids, and laughed and knew how to speak their language. May I be even half the grandmas she was.


  8. Weekend Reading: December 14, 2013


    […] Dear Well-Meaning Relatives: Please respect our request of fewer gifts for our kids. | Andrea Dekker […]

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