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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

Letting Go of Physical Gifts

The two of us tend not to accept physical gifts. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to understand this cultural shift. The best way to approach the no-gift-getting concept is to be proactive: we set the expectation with our friends and family we don’t need any more stuff, and if they want to give us gifts, they can get us experiences we will enjoy; they can celebrate our lives with us by spending time with us, not by piling on more stuff.

Of course, most of us don’t want to piss people off: we don’t want to offend. We worry what others will think.

Case in point—we received an interesting email from a reader, Dena, about Joshua’s essay, Letting Go of Sentimental Items:

“I recently started my minimalist journey, and up until now everything I have let go of has been pretty easy. I just wanted to thank you for this post because you helped me see that we are not our stuff. I now realize I do not have to hold on to something in order to remember a loved one; their memories are inside me. However, I am having trouble getting rid of gifts. It’s not me who has a problem getting rid of them, it’s the people who gave them to me who might get a bit upset. I was wondering if you had any suggestions? I want to get rid of this stuff because I feel like it is holding me up from moving on with my new lifestyle but I do not want to offend anyone.”

Joshua’s response:

Most people won’t notice or won’t care. A few might get offended, and that’s okay.

When I left my corporate job, some people got offended. When I stopped checking email every day, some people got offended. When I said “no” to certain past commitments, some people got offended. When I untethered from negative relationships, some people got offended.

We can’t let these things bother us, though. I think my friend Julien Smith said it best:

“Yes, it’s really happening right at this moment. Some people don’t like you, and guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. No amount of coercion, toadying, or pandering to their interests will help. In fact, the opposite is often true; the more you stand for something, the more they respect you, whether it’s grudgingly or not. What people truly respect is when you draw the line and say, ‘I will go no further.’ They may not like this behavior, but so what? These people don’t like you anyway, why should you attempt to please them?”

It’s okay to toss the stuff if it’s not adding value to your life: donate it, sell it, recycle it. Let go of it so you can focus on what’s important in your life. Most people won’t even notice, especially the people who care about you.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.