Cleaning Up after the Holidays

Under the tree by R Stanek (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I love the holidays. Sitting by a fire with a warm cup of hot chocolate is the best! Now that the holiday season is coming to an end, I thought I’d borrow from my brother Zippy and be a superhero for the day! What superhero tips do I have to give to you today? Well, I want to share some ideas about how to get rid of unwanted gifts and unwanted Christmas trees. We all know about regifting, but there is so much more you can do with a gift you don’t want!

What to do with Your Unwanted Gifts

Give to friends and family: Try moving your gift along to someone that actually wants it. One idea that I love is to have a party. Invite everyone over to have an unwanted gift exchange! You can even make it more exciting by re-wrapping the gifts (in reusable gift bags, of course!) and having a white elephant party.

Donate: In this tough economy, a lot of people are having a rough time during the holidays. Do you know someone in need (a neighbor, friend of a friend, coworker, etc.)? See if they would like to have your unwanted gifts. Or, you can call around and ask if any

local hospitals, homeless shelters, animal shelters, or nursing homes would like you to donate some gifts to them. New and used cell phones along with small appliances like toasters, microwaves, and coffee makers are perfect gifts to donate to Community Action Agencies and various support centers like a domestic violence center. These unwanted items can help someone start a new life. If you still need somewhere to unload your gifts, consider donating to a charity thrift store like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Charity toy drives like Toys for Tots are also good places to help unappreciated gifts find new homes.

Resell: You can always try to return a gift to the store that it was purchased at, but that doesn’t always work out. Move your gifts out of your closet and try reselling them on websites like Ebay,, Amazon Marketplace, or Craigslist. You might also want to check out The Freecycle Network™. These community green groups help reduce waste by providing an outlet for people to connect with each other and swap or give away gifts they do not need or wish to keep.

Upcycle: Put your creative hat on and get DIY-ing! If you love how soft that sweater your grandma gave you is, but it just didn’t fit right, why not make it into a hat? You could also make it into a pillow, a cat bed, a scarf, or anything else you can imagine! There are plenty of ways to repurpose gifts that you might have thrown away. Check out our blog posts on recycling your cotton and upcycling your newspaper and magazines for some fun ideas! The website Craftstylish also has some great tips and tricks to help you transform your gift into something you actually want.

Saying Goodbye to your Christmas Tree

Recycle it: It’s always sad to see your tree go, but just remember that you get to have a

new one next year! If your tree is small enough and you have the proper tools, cut your tree up and fit it into your green waste trash container to be picked up with your normal garbage. If you can’t cut your tree, most garbage collection services will pick up your tree curbside on your normal waste collection day for the two weeks following Christmas. Don’t forget to take off all the ornaments! If these two options don’t work, most communities have drop-off sites where you can recycle your trees. For the LA area, the drop-off day is Sunday, January 2, 2011 (9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) at these locations.

Other uses: If you have access to a tree chipper, you can use your Christmas tree for mulch in your garden! Simply remove the branches and chip the tree to make wood chips. Remember to never use your tree as firewood. Pines, firs, and the other evergreens are high in flammable oils that can buildup and increase your risk of a chimney fire.  One option I love is to get a living tree (roots attached, so you keep it in a container inside during the holiday season) and then after Christmas is over, plant it outside in your backyard!

What do you do with your Christmas trees after the holidays are over? Got any great ideas about how to get rid of those gifts you don’t want? We’d love to hear about them!