Have a “No Gifts, Please” Birthday Party

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For the past four or five years, I’ve been working hard to minimize the possessions in my home — including toys. Having fewer items makes me feel better, and having fewer toys makes my kids play better. “But what about birthdays?” you say? I say, “No gifts, please.”

You love your kids, you want to celebrate them, but youknow they don't need more STUFF, so what do you do? Have a "No Gifts, Please" Party!

Benefits of a No Gifts Party

It’s awkward to ask someone NOT to bring your child a gift. Birthday parties and gifts usually go hand-in-hand, but if covid has taught us (me) anything, it’s that BEING TOGETHER is special enough without gifts.

Foregoing gifts has a ton of benefits:

  • Less clutter in your home
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Less trash (wrapping, packaging, future disposal of toys)
  • Less plastic
  • Saves money (for your guest)
  • Saves time (guests don’t have to shop, you don’t have to clean/repair/organize/dispose of)
Celebrate birthdays without gifts!

Plus, there are a ton of other benefits for your children from having fewer toys in your home.

Gift Anxiety

I’ve enjoyed having fewer items in my home so much, gift-giving occasions such as Christmas and Birthdays give me a bit of anxiety. Not a ton of anxiety — not enough to avoid these occasions altogether — but enough that I needed to do *something* to minimize the clutter that’s about to enter my home in the form of gifts.

But how do I do that while still celebrating my children and sharing close relationships with friends and families?

“No Gifts, Please” Party Invitations

Several years ago I started adding “no presents, please” at the bottom of birthday invitations.

When I send out the invitation, I simply include “no presents, please” at the bottom of the invitation (or, let’s be real, text message).

Related Post: No Gifts, Please: Wording to Not Make it Weird

It’s kind of awkward because by asking for no gifts, it’s assuming that someone is going to purchase your child a gift, which feels weird to assume.

If you love your kid, but don't love the gifts, simply ask that party guests don't bring one!

It also feels awkward because it’s not the norm and I know it makes some people uncomfortable — they don’t want to be rude showing up to a party without a gift, even if it’s specifically at my request.

Finally, I always worry that SOME people will show up without a gift, as requested, but others will still bring a gift and then those that showed up without one will feel bad — even though they did what I asked.

Luckily, by now, most parents of my children’s friends know that I’m a bit nutty, so it wasn’t an issue.

Our No Gifts Parties

Gift-less parties can still be fun!

This year, my 7-year-old had 9 friends over to play, giggle, paint, and eat ice cream. Each came with a card — either store bought or homemade — and a few friends brought her balloons. Some parents snuck some cash into her card (which wasn’t necessary, but was very exciting for her).

The party ended and my 7-year-old was as happy as could be. She proudly hung her cards up and commented on how nice her friends were.

Cards were all that was left after our "no gifts please" party.

And then she went to take a shower.

The party was simply over.

There was no opening presents for a half an hour, no detritus all over the floor, no trash to take out (other than ice cream bowls), and no toys to find new homes for. There will be no returning items that don’t fit or that we have duplicates of to return to the store.

Did my child feel neglected because she didn’t get toys? Nope. Did she feel less loved? Of course not.

Her friends had just come over for three hours of laughing and playing. They sang to her and drew her pictures. They spent time with her and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over her pretty room. She felt loved, happy, and grateful.

She even thanked me. Seriously.

Environmental Benefits of a No-Present Party

After further reflection, I considered the party’s carbon footprint and how much I could reduce it by not requesting gifts.

Nine other families attended the party. That would have been 9 trips out to the store (or, let’s be real, 9 deliveries from amazon), 9 gift bags/wrapping paper/tissue paper that all didn’t have to be purchased, used, and then discarded.

Also, when the time came, it would have meant 9 more items in a landfill (because, let’s be honest, even if you donate your items or pass them on and they get a second chance, they’ll still eventually end up in a landfill).

No matter how careful we are, the sad fact is that every single item we own and buy will end up in a landfill - so let's make an effort to not add to that unnecessarily!

Every item you bring into your life and home has environmental repercussions, so I’m glad to have reduced that, even if it’s just a bit.

Common Questions

“What about family? There’s no way my relatives would go for that.”

Family still buys gifts (of course if they didn’t want to, I’d be fine with that, too), which actually makes the whole no-gift friends’ party much more palatable for my kids.

Kids will still get a few birthday presents, even if you ask for no gifts!

I keep an amazon wish list for each child. When they ask for something or if I think of something they’d love, I add it to their list. I then share items from the list with family members during birthday and Christmas seasons.

“If someone brings a gift, do you let your child open it at the party?”

I don’t.

This is something I discuss with my kids ahead of time. If someone brings a gift, they, of course, can accept it, but they can’t open it at the party in front of others what didn’t bring gifts.

I would simply set it aside to be opened later.

“Have you ever had pushback from another parent?”

Only once.

I’ve had parents express their concern that my children will be sad. I’ve had parents tell me they feel impolite coming empty-handed.

One time, a parent told me their child wouldn’t “go for that” regarding my text about not bringing a gift, so they brought a gift (which turned out to be something my son didn’t need as he already had a nicer version of the gift).

I’m sure other parents think I’m crazy. Do they talk about me and my crazy when I’m not around? Maybe. But I have to live in this home with all this stuff, so I’m okay with it.

No Gifts, Please

Does it feel awkward asking people not to give your kids a gift? Yes. It it also pretty wonderful to not have a bunch of toys to find homes for after a party? Also, yes.

It’s okay to not want more stuff, even if society is sending a different message.

Let’s normalize not wanting stuff — doing so will make asking for no gifts much less awkward!

So, when’s your No Present Party going to be??

You love your kids, you want to celebrate them, but youknow they don't need more STUFF, so what do you do? Have a "No Gifts, Please" Party!
Life with Less Mess - Organization, Minimalistic

4 thoughts on “Have a “No Gifts, Please” Birthday Party”

  1. Melissa, I think the world, our homes, our kids and the environment need more moms like you! I wish I had been brave — yes, brave — enough to request no gifts at my kids’ parties during their growing up years. The one thing I can do though is request no gifts for myself at my birthday and at Christmas. And for the most part, that’s going well. All I want and cherish is time with friends and loved ones.

    Great blog post! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I have seen my niece being so excited about her birthday not because it’s her birthday but because of all the gifts she is gonna get on the day. Though I totally understand the kid’s side but when adults also do this regularly, I feel kinda confused. Confused as to why put yourself with such useless traditions. It’s high time we put these traditions behind us. Instead why not just have wonderful events and play fun games at birthday parties to make amazing memories?

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