DEAR ABBY: I am blessed with many wonderful friends. We exchange small gifts on birthdays and at Christmas. As much as I appreciate the gifts, I am running out of room in my closets because I have too much stuff. Sometimes the gifts are not to my taste or they don't fit in with my decor.
How long should I keep an item before I donate it to a thrift shop? Is it ungracious to give it away? Am I obligated to display or use something I don't like?
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I have tried suggesting that at our ages (50s and 60s) we should cut out the gift-giving, donate the money to charity and celebrate by going out to lunch on our birthdays. It didn't go over very well. They all enjoy the exchange of presents. I am happy to give one, but I really don't need anything more. Thanks for your help. -- TOO BLESSED IN SANTA ANA, CALIF.
DEAR TOO BLESSED: It's not ungracious to give away something you can't use -- in fact, the practice is so common there is a name for it. It's called "regifting." It won't cause hurt feelings as long as you are careful not to give an item back to the person who give it to you.
Donating something to a thrift shop is also a practical way to get rid of it, and you can do it anytime you wish. One person's "castoff" can be another's treasure. Everybody wins and a worthwhile charity makes money.
Because you are "thinged out" and prefer divesting to accumulating, I recommend you stop "suggesting" and have a frank talk with your friends. Tell them you have everything you need, that their friendship -- which you already have -- is the most precious gift they could ever give you, and on birthdays from now on you'd much prefer meeting for your celebratory lunch, but please to donate whatever they'd spend on your gift to charity. After that, the ball's in their court.