Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: I have no room for gifts in my tiny NYC apartment. How do I avoid sounding like a jerk?

By Dianne Ackerman  | March 1, 2019 - 3:00PM


I recently downsized from a large suburban home to a small New York City apartment. My friends and family, however, keep gifting me with stuff that I have no room for and do not want or need. How should I handle their generosity? Signed, Overloaded with Stuff

Dear Overloaded,

I feel your pain. When I moved into the city, I threatened people with their lives if they brought anything into my small apartment.

Your place may be small but your backyard (think Central Park) is a great place to play. What is better than brunch at a lovely restaurant, a stroll in the park and an afternoon at a museum? How about movie or theater tickets? What about a walk down Fifth Avenue and afternoon tea at the Plaza? Isn’t that a perfect day?

And then there are treats that only take up space temporarily. Bring me a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a box of chocolates and I am one happy camper. 

When I was younger, I thought the phrase “less is more” was a contradiction in terms. Now that I have everything I need, I understand it completely. Less is less and much better than living with too much of anything. I still want to see people and celebrate birthdays and holidays but without the tangibles that I have no room for. And, tacky as it may sound, you could let friends and family know, if they are so intent on getting you something, that gift cards and cash are always welcome.

After all, they hardly take up any space at all.

Ms. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email


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