Miss Manners is my go-to person for all questions of etiquette. I own her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (the older edition), and I read her syndicated column on the Washington Post web site. But I just found her column collection on the MSN web site - and discovered it had all sorts of advice which can help eliminate clutter!
On giving gifts that won't become clutter:
A hand-made item or a $2 second-hand book that you know that individual would want really is a better present than a randomly chosen expensive one.
On politely requesting "no gifts":
The ban on "no gifts" is one that Miss Manners hates to have to enforce. The idea behind it is so much nicer than the "Here's what you have to buy me" idea behind proliferating gift registries.
But it is impolite because it shows you have been thinking about getting presents, even if you are willing to forgo them. ...
However, you can sneak in that ban if you do it casually. When talking about the party, say, "This is just for fun -- there will be no exchange of presents."
On getting rid of a gift you don't really want:
Reader: To me, a gift is a gift and the person who bought it for you spent their time, money and effort choosing it for you. If you don't care for it at least have enough manners and good sense to thank the person and keep your opinion to yourself. If you receive, a purse let's say, from your mother-in-law that you absolutely hate, suck it up and carry it from time-to-time only when you know you'll see her. ...
What are your thoughts?
Miss Manners: The same as yours with the exception of your comment about being stuck with the item. ... As long as the recipient does not come back with complaints or, worse, a demand that the giver exchange the item, she may do what she likes with it.
The only requirement is to prevent the donor’s knowing that it has been rejected. No yard sales in the same neighborhood, for example.
Miss Manners: How to Say No
Miss Manners: Shopping Parties Can Lead to Clutter