The Right Way to Have A "No Gifts" Birthday Party

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There are a few questions that make their way into my inbox on a near-daily basis.

“How do you handle gifts for birthdays?” is definitely one of them!

And I totally get it.

You’re trying to simplify, you’re letting go of all kinds of junk that made its way into your home quietly and sneakily, and here comes a birthday party. More clutter on its way posthaste.

What do you do?

You don’t want to undo all your hard work, but you also don’t want to deal with push-back from relatives who want to give your kid gifts.

Don’t stress out! I’m gonna go over how I handle gifts and a couple other options that would work too. As my girl Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable :)

In this post, I’m specifically talking about birthdays. If you’re finding this post around the holidays and would like help with that specifically, click here.


HOW I [USUALLY] DO BIRTHDAYS

I don’t usually do “no gifts” for my kids’ parties, although I like the idea and see why people do it. We did it one time for Hudson’s first birthday, but I’ll get into that in a minute.

What we normally do is one of two things:

  1. Celebrate without a traditional birthday party (go somewhere awesome or go out for a nice dinner and dessert)

    OR

  2. Have a traditional party, get gifts, smile and be grateful.

I’m not super strict when it comes to people getting my kids presents. I think it’s nice and my kids love it. Most people ask what the birthday kid wants, and I take advantage of that and tell them!

Bella is really into using charcoal to create art right now. If you got her a nice charcoal art set or a new easel, she would be ecstatic!

It’s not rude, it’s honest. It’s also helpful for both parties when you come forward and answer this question. Now they don’t have to play guessing games and worry about wasting their money on junk your kid won’t care about, and you can rest easy knowing the new “clutter” coming into your home will at least be loved and used by your kid.

Sometimes I do a registry on Amazon or at Target and give it to people when they ask. That’s always super clear and helpful.

We have regular toy purges throughout the year (we try to do them seasonally), so I can relax and know that a few times a year, any toys that aren’t getting played with will get donated and out of my hair. So who really cares if we get some new ones for a birthday party?

My kids have been raised on minimalism and are very used to our lifestyle of simple. Their toys and getting them to let go of things isn’t a point of stress for me.

Side note: with consistency and practicing what you preach, your family will get to this point too!


Hosting A Party?

Ever wonder what to do with all that stuff leftover from hosting a party? Let's talk about what I keep and what I don't keep after I host a party.   

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THE TIME WE DID NO GIFTS

When we passed on gifts for Hudson’s first birthday, it was mainly because it alleviated stress during that period of our lives. We had just moved into a new house and were going through a miscarriage, and Hudson was way too young to miss his presents (or even know that his party was about him).

On our invitation, we simply said “no gifts please!” and asked friends to please consider bringing a gift to donate to a local children’s hospital instead. At the party, we had an empty box for donations in lieu of a gift table.

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I might do “no gifts” again in the future - I have nothing against the idea - it’s the attitude behind it sometimes that I think is wrong.

I see a lot of moms coming at this with an almost aggressive attitude - seemingly angry that loved ones want to give their kids presents.

I’m of the mindset that it’s incredibly narcissistic to expect everyone else to get on the same page as you.

Sure, it’s your kid, your home, and your family’s party (and that’s why you can have boundaries and do whatever you want to do), but do you have to be a jerk about it? Not really.

I like letting people bless my kids - it makes them happy, it makes my kids happy, and like I said, it’s not like it’s causing me a ton of extra stress.

My kids like gifts, and I don’t feel particularly compelled to get super minimal here. Also, I’m minimal in most other areas of my life, so I don’t feel like I need to get crazy with this.

Plus it’s a chance for me to have the kids practice gratitude and writing with their thank you notes, which I really like.

I also feel very strongly that I never want my kids to look back on our simple lifestyle and hate it or become hoarders. I’m careful about not creating a joyless life of deprivation. Most of the time, there’s no real reason to pass on gifts, so why do it? That’s where I’ve landed :)


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WHY YOU MAY WANT TO SAY “NO GIFTS PLEASE”

>> If you’re new-ish to minimalism and your kids are not like mine are now (you’re worried they’ll get new things and never let them go).

>> If you’ve got a relative who goes completely out of control and you feel passing on gifts as a whole will solve this problem.

>> If the thought of more stuff truly stresses you out and is coming at a bad time for your family (like a super hard season where you can’t even handle one more thing - like I was during the move and miscarriage).

>> Because you can do what you want and you just don’t want to deal with gifts. Maybe toys is an area you’re choosing to really simplify so you can feel freer in other areas of your life. That’s your perogative, mama! You do you!

HOW TO DO THE “NO GIFTS” THING WITHOUT BEING RUDE/ANNOYING/HURTFUL

You’re not an awful person for wanting to say “no thanks” to people’s gifts, it’s just that it’s really easy to come off that way. Ultimately, you’re the mother of your kids and it’s your call.

In fact, there are perks for your guests when you say “no gifts” on your child’s party invite. For one thing, you never know who’s struggling financially, and toys ain’t cheap! Lots of people will feel the sweet waves of relief when they read your party invitation - one less thing on their to do list!

No gifts at parties can feel really annoying, rude, ungrateful, and steal joy from family and friends who want to love your kids. I DO think there’s a way to do “no gifts” parties right though!

1. Don’t have a party.

Do something with your kid instead. No party usually means no gifts. You might get a few straggler gifts from super close relatives who go out of their way to bring your child a present or two, but that is far less than you’d get with a party!

2. Have the party, and say simply on the invitation “no gifts please”.

That’s it. You don’t have to explain yourself or say anything more.

If Grandma calls hysterical, have the conversation with her about your reasons and how you feel. You can decide if you’d like to tell her she can bring a gift and give it to Sally aside from the other guests or not.

Personally, I have seen people make a fuss and use their love for your child as an excuse to be the favorite relative and show up with an outpouring of clutter. Set your boundaries where YOU feel they should be, and stick with them!

You could also ask for an experience gift from relatives who just can’t deal with this sentence on your invite. Say something like, “look, we’ve really been wanting a zoo pass. If you really want to get something, that would be incredible.”

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Sometimes we overthink things and feel like it has to be a big deal. It doesn’t. You can simply say “no gifts” and let that be that. How other people respond isn’t something you have to let stress you out.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Do you have a creative solution for birthday party gifts? Share in the comments!

Allie Casazza

Allie Casazza , Murrieta, CA