Finding a White Elephant Gift Around the House

Small present with festive Christmas interior in the backgroundSome people are old-school when it comes to White Elephant gift exchanges. To them, the idea of shopping for a present is absurd. No, a White Elephant gift should be something useless laying around the house – the shabbier, the better.

Of course, just because you’re old-school doesn’t mean everyone else is. Before you start ransacking your basement for something to bring to the upcoming gift swap, you should pause to consider whether used items are welcome. If there’s any doubt, you might want to lean toward bringing something new, just to be on the safe side.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about White Elephant gift ideas from around the house.

You know the saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The item you’re looking for could be a perfect example of that. Or it could be something that’s just plain funny. Here are some options to consider:

1. Christmas Decorations. If you’re like most people, you have unwanted Christmas decorations gathering dust in a box somewhere. Some may even be on the corny side, which is pure gold for a White Elephant gift.

2. Food. Your pantry is a potential treasure trove of misfit food items. Anything from old canned goods to leftover Halloween candy could make for a great gag gift.

3. Gift Cards. Maybe it’s a gift card to a store you don’t like or a restaurant that isn’t in your area. Or maybe you just haven’t gotten around to using it. In any case, a gift card that’s just sitting in your junk drawer could be a sought-after item at a gift exchange.

4. Kitchen Gadgets. That quesadilla maker seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it’s just taking up space in your cupboard. Why not pass it along to someone who will appreciate it (at least for awhile)?

5. Alcohol. Buying wine and liquor can be a real crap shoot. If you have a bottle of alcohol sitting around that you regret buying, consider putting a bow on it and bringing it to the gift exchange. Don’t let the fact that it’s half-empty stop you.

6. Funny Photo. First, find a funny picture or printable on the internet – or better yet, print out a goofy photo of yourself. Then put the picture in an old frame you no longer need.

7. CDs/DVDs/VHS Tapes. Most of us who are over 20 have piles of unwanted and outdated media stored away in our homes. These can make good gag gifts, especially if you can find a cheesy and/or nostalgic title to give. The fact that people might not be able to play the media is beside the point.

8. Coffee Cup. Novelty coffee mugs make easy, no-brainer gifts, which is why many of us end up with more of them than we need. Pick a humorous or tacky one from your collection and re-gift it.

9. Clothing. Bringing clothing to a gift swap is normally a big no-no, as people differ by size, gender, and style. But for a gift exchange where no one expects to walk away with something valuable, pretty much anything goes. So feel free to re-gift that loud sweater you’ve never worn (provided you don’t need it for an ugly sweater contest, that is).

10. Homemade Gag Gift. One classic gag is to put some batteries in a plastic bag with a note reading “Toy Not Included.” For other options, check out this article on homemade White Elephant gifts.

Those are just a handful of the more obvious ideas for White Elephant gifts you can find around the house. Once you start rummaging around, who knows what prizes you’ll find!

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Roberta Jeeves is author of the book White Elephant Gift Exchange: Rules, Themes, and Ideas for Hosting a Perfect Holiday Gift Swap. You can buy or borrow it at

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