Ten Uses For Unwanted Holiday Gifts

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

2009 might have marked the second consecutive year in which US holiday spending has dropped. But now that the ribbons and bows are all off, I'm still left with more stuff than I need. I suspect I'm not alone: Get another indeterminate candy dish for the already-packed cabinets? A scarf that's not quite your style? We should be thanking our lucky stars for being so fortunate, but that doesn't dispel the presence of one too many cosmetic organizers now in my closet. One man's trash may be another's treasure, but I'd like to think that just about everyone can find a use for anything on this planet. Even the most purposeless waste of money, energy and resources. So before you burden another by regifting, consider the following karma-friendly alternatives.

  1. Put it in a bin for the homeless shelter/Salvation Army. You won't gain a tax-deductible for the object, but it's one of the most hassle-free and healthy ways to get it off your hands.

  • Use pieces of it to make a scarecrow for your spring gardening expansion.
  • A questionable food substance? Fruit in a box? Have fun trying to trace its origins with Food and Water Watch's Global Grocer app, then make a well-informed buffet table for your co-workers.
  • Made of cloth? Collect scraps for a meaningful quilt (made by you or by a hired professional).
  • Make a time capsule and bury it along with your manifesto for future generations to amaze at.
  • Sacrifice it to toxicity testing: make example of the chemicals present in everyday objects like clothing, appliances and toys by sending it off to a lab.
  • Sacrifice it to the fireplace.
  • Make it an emblem of overconsumption by mounting it a la taxidermy on the wall -- spending overkill.
  • Make it the crown jewel of your post-holiday, get-rid-of-me swap.
  • In my experience, there are few things that can't be repurposed as a hat. Go for it!
  • Bonus! Five Uses for Unwanted Holiday Cards:

    1. Frame them to use as holiday decorations next year.

  • Cut out snowflake designs or do simple origami and thread hangers through the tops to make tree ornaments.
  • Cut out the images on the front and create your cards for next year with these and leftover wrapping paper.
  • Make stacks of them and papier mache them together as coasters (paint or glaze as a last coat optional).
  • Use as kindling for aforementioned fire.