This Many Gifts Are Never Touched After Christmas

If Christmas gift giving seems super wasteful, that's because it is! A recent survey shows that a third of children's gifts are ditched on Christmas, never to be touched or used again. And it seems like adult gift waste can't be far behind that figure, if that pile of novelty mugs, unread books, and unworn clothes in everyone's closet is any indicator. Is there any solution?

Judging from a recent survey of 1,000 parents, children put 36 percent of gifts aside by Boxing Day (that's an average of four gifts per child). Frustratingly, 25 percent of these parents have noticed children playing with gifts' boxes longer than the gifts themselves. The lesson here is that children mostly enjoy (and benefit from) opportunities for unstructured play. The game inside a box may have too many rules, but the box itself won't judge — whether it ultimately becomes a fort, or a hat, or whatever.

Although these statistics are about children's gifts and toys, the general point is no doubt applicable to adults as well. You probably don't use even much of the stuff you bought yourself, let alone the random gifts that others chose and gave to you. Then you feel obligated to keep them due to sentimental value, and it starts to take a toll on the organization of your living space. What's the solution?

With your family or friends, you might agree in advance to exchange only small gifts, or to collectively chip in for an outing instead of stuff. But maybe it's too late this year, and the gifts have already been given. What now?

As professional organizer Marie Kondo explains in her recent best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a gift's value might sometimes (or often) be just in the giving. The giver has expressed care, and the recipient has expressed thankfulness. The gift itself has little to do with these practices in the end, so it hasn't really been "wasted" in the first place, and you can trash or, better yet, donate it without guilt or regret. Otherwise you'll keep it around out of obligation or maybe-I'll-use-it-someday wishful thinking, but we all know how that goes.

This is a powerful message to send kids, too. Sharing is caring, and you can't make your life better just by keeping things around anyways. So maybe it's time to make a January trip to Goodwill a new post-holiday tradition.

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