The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide

The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide

Yes, I am going there. Already.

It’s actually less than 2 months until Christmas and I’d like you to enjoy the lead-up to the festive season this year, rather than frantically thinking of gift ideas in the week leading up to Christmas.

So I’m here to give you the ultimate list of awesome clutter-free gifts that will impress your family and friends.

While the focus of the festive season certainly isn’t (or shouldn’t) be completely on gift-giving, for many of us, it is a big part of our celebrations.

An Australian Christmas is a wonderful thing – it’s hot, we eat loads of seafood (prawns, oysters, smoked salmon) and drink too much sparkling burgundy. We share a meal with loved ones, enjoying good food, good company, good wine and awesome laughs.

We receive so much from simply sharing the table with our loved ones, that gifts feel unnecessary. And, in one way, I’d love for gift-giving to stop being part of Christmas altogether. It drives so much over-spending and provides so much fodder for decluttering in the months following – the idea can be depressing.

That being said, I love the giving element. Receiving gifts I could take or leave – I don’t need anything – but giving really floats my boat. Particularly when you get it right and the receiver is both grateful and excited.

I’ve put together a list of clutter-free gifts for you to give this year. Giving a clutter-free gift to a loved one means:

  • you don’t add to the clutter in their home
  • they are (almost) guaranteed to love their gift
  • you can broaden their minds as well as their horizons
  • you can help less fortunate people
  • you can encourage a healthier lifestyle

Most of these gift suggestions are made with teenagers and adults in mind.

Gift-buying for younger kids is more problematic. While we can help them to manage their expectations, it is still so joyful to see a young child tearing the paper from a present, squealing with joy as they spy that much-wanted gift from Santa.

That’s why Sparky and I will always buy our kids’ Christmas presents. We don’t go overboard and we buy quality things they will use. This year, though, for the other kids we buy for, we are trying to buy experiences over things.

So while most of these gifts below are suggested with adults and teenagers in mind, many of them would make great gifts for an entire family too.

Better yet, prices range from $5 to $1000+.

Before You Write Out Your Shopping List, Keep In Mind…

Giving gifts you have made yourself is lovely – it’s affordable, sustainable and from the heart. But considering aesthetic tastes vary so widely, even within families, it is best to make your gifts of the consumable variety, rather than the “I macramed this toilet-seat cover for you and it took hours, I hope you keep it forever” variety.

Make your Christmas shopping mantra: “Experiences over things.” Experiences over things. Experiences over things. Repeat it. Write it on your shopping list. Adopt it whole-heartedly. Experiences over things.

If you want to buy a physical gift for someone, make sure you get it right by asking them. Granted, it isn’t always appropriate to ask the recipient, but try to ascertain specifically what it is they need or want, so they are not gifted with something they don’t want or won’t use.

 

The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide

World Vision Gift Cards

Starting at $5, you can give the gift of a better life to children and families in developing countries. School pencils, immunisation, fast-growing seed packs, a goat, chickens, ducks or a sewing machine. Each of these gifts brings so much to the recipient and their community, and when given to someone you love for Christmas, you’re spreading the joy far and wide. Gift cards available here.

Sponsor a Child

UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision are all reputable international aid providers that allow you to sponsor a child. You can make a one-off donation in your loved one’s name or you can pay an annual amount for full sponsorship. While there is no gift to give your loved one, you are giving them the opportunity to improve a life – that is invaluable.

Restaurant Voucher

One of my favourite clutter-free gift options. Buy a voucher for a special-occasion restaurant and give the gift of a delicious meal. Each year my parents give Sparky and I a voucher to our favourite local restaurant. Baby-sitting services are an added bonus so we go for our wedding anniversary. It is such a thoughtful gift, completely clutter-free and a real luxury.

Wine

The ultimate consumable gift. Take the time to find out what varieties your loved ones prefer and gift them with a delicious and consumable gift. (We usually get half a dozen bottles for Christmas which are, ahem, rapidly appreciated.)

Etsy Gift Card

For the handmade lover in your life. Instead of taking a guess on which handmade items they would love, you can now buy gift cards for the world’s largest handmade retailer – Etsy. And while it is not strictly clutter-free, given they will buy something with the gift card, it is likely to be a gift the recipient will love because they can choose for themselves. Particularly great for teenage girls!

iTunes Voucher

While not very original, an iTunes voucher is a winner for good reason. Via the iTunes store, the recipient can buy apps, games, movies, music or TV shows – and it’s clutter-free. Teenage boys will love it!

Weekend Away

This is a perfect gift for parents or grandparents. You can give them the gift of relaxation, away from the pressures and responsibilities of home. You may want to include your baby-sitting services for added joy!

Homemade Vouchers for your Time

Your time is valuable so why not package it up for your loved one. Consider giving a homemade voucher for your services. Perhaps 6 sessions of baby-sitting, or 3 weekends of gardening help. Time is something so many of us are permanently short of – why not give the gift of extra hours?

The Gift of Your Skills

What skills do you possess that the receiver may need? Are you a hairdresser? Dog groomer? Painter? Crafter? Gardener? Sewing expert? Cooking whiz? Why not make up a voucher for your skills? You can give a free haircut, or help bake a birthday cake. Think about the person you are gifting your skills to – what would they need help with and how can you make things easier for them? Remember – a gift doesn’t have to cost much to be incredibly valuable.

Homemade Edibles

Shortbread, biscuits, jams, chutneys, sauces. Pickles, olives and infused oils. You can make all of these yourself with a little time and effort. Providing the foods are something the recipient actually eats, then they are the ultimate clutter-free gift. To up your green points, use recycled glass jars with sweet handmade labels. Ideal for teachers, great-grandparents and work colleagues.

Plants – The Gift of Green

While not strictly clutter-free, plants are a beautiful and practical gift. They clean the air inside the home and bring life and vibrancy to the outside. When deciding what to buy, make sure they are hardy or suitable to the climate of your loved one. Dwarf citrus trees and olive trees can be grown in pots, and a long, low planter box can be planted with herbs for an instant kitchen garden.

Movie Vouchers

Who doesn’t love going to the movies? It’s becoming an increasingly expensive outing, so some vouchers are a perfect gift to give. Great for teenagers, teachers and work colleagues.

Travel Vouchers

One of the greatest gifts in life is to broaden someone’s horizons and help them explore the world. Give this gift to someone you love by giving vouchers to a travel agent or online booking agency. Combine your gift spending with others to give a more significant amount.

Theatre Tickets

Another luxury many of us would love, but rarely buy for ourselves. Tickets to a show at the local theatre company, or a big show at one of the major theatres will be gratefully accepted. If they’re not so into theatre, you could buy ballet, circus or opera tickets instead.

Sporting Tickets

What do you buy the sporting lover? Perhaps a season pass to their favourite sporting team’s home ground or tickets to a big match later in the year. If the tickets aren’t on sale yet, make a voucher yourself and buy them when they do go on sale.

Concert Tickets

These are another gift that we often won’t buy for ourselves. This year, Sparky and I have bought each other tickets to two concerts – Weezer and Band of Horses. It’s such an ideal gift when you don’t need anything. Again – experience over stuff.

Tickets to a Local Attraction

A family ticket to the zoo, aquarium or water park is ideal for the people who have everything. It’s often an outing that gets put off due to cost or the time it takes to organise it, so buying a family pass creates a reason to go. This year, Sparky and I are going to a wildlife park with his brother’s family instead of buying gifts for the kids. Experience over stuff.

Massage – The Gift of Relaxation

The gift of relaxation is never going to be misplaced. A voucher for the local beautician or day spa is something women will always be excited about.

Facial/Pampering

Similarly, a voucher for a facial or other pampering is always appreciated. Rarely do we feel that we can spend the money on pampering ourselves, but receiving it as a gift is the perfect solution. Clutter-free and guilt-free pleasure!

A Kindle

Not strictly speaking a clutter-free gift, but for the avid reader it will save a lot of space on books. Particularly if combined with a voucher for Amazon.

Ebooks

The ultimate clutter-free gift. A gift card from Amazon will give your most avid reader many hours of pleasure.

Cooking Lessons

Check online for local cooking schools offering one-off or short-term classes. You can give a voucher and let your loved one decide, or you can book them in for a specific course.  From beginners to keen amateur chefs, there will be something for everyone.

Music Lessons

A term of guitar lessons or singing lessons is a thoughtful gift for the music lover or the teenager looking for a new hobby. Local music schools would offer vouchers, or you could pay for private tuition with a music student. It’s such a great way to encourage a new skill and get creative.

Learn a New Language

Enrol your loved one in a short course to learn a new language. This is something grandparents may be interested in, as well as those who plan on travelling in the near future. Check online or look up your local community college for course details.

Dance Classes

Has your nephew always wanted to learn hip-hop? Your sister interested in ballet? Sign them up for a beginner’s dance class. Often that encouragement is all someone will need to dive head first into a new passion. And if they’re a little hesitant – why not go along with them. You may just love it.

Yoga Classes

Everyone needs a little Zen in their lives. Why not buy a pass to an introductory yoga program for your loved one? It’s going to be beneficial for their health and well-being and it’s a clutter-free gift. Win-win!

Recipe Book from Family and Friends

This is an affordable and thoughful gift – take the best recipes from your collection and from your family or friends. Collate them and have them printed into a lovely book. Everyone has one never-fail recipe – share the love and pass them on. Perfect for newlyweds or young adults who are leaving home.

Practical Gifts

People roll their eyes at the idea of giving practical gifts, as if they are less worthy or interesting. But the reality is, sometimes all we need is something practical. And the money you would spend on an impractical gift – while appreciated – will be spent again when you have to buy the item you needed in the first place. Sure, it’s not that exciting to buy a new home phone, a cordless drill or a fire pit, but when it’s something wanted or needed you need to remember who the gift is for.

 

This year, give the gift of experience, not clutter. Your family and friends will thank you for it. Honestly.

What clutter-free gifts have I missed? Let me know in the comments below and I will add it to the list.

{header image via amazedtostumble on Flickr}

60 Responses to The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide

  1. I love these ideas. My wife and I have been practicing more meaningful giving at Christmas for years. It just seems so commercial and silly for everyone to give each other store bought items that they will not remember next year. Who really benefits? (retailers) We give homemade foods, plane or train tickets ( for relatives who would otherwise not be able to visit ), or charitable donations.

    Great message Brooke,

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

  2. Don’t forget Google Play on the music/books gift certificates. The ePub format of Books is supported by many more devices than the azw/mobi from Amazon, Music comes in DRM-Free 320k MP3s that are stored for free in the Google cloud (if that’s your thing, I keep them all on an SD card due to nonexistent cell service over much of my area) and stream very well on 3G even in low service areas, and it also works for apps, movies, TV shows, etc.

    I do own a Kindle, and have a pretty big selection of Amazon eBooks, but when it dies I’m very much thinking of switching to an ePub reader (probably the iriver) instead of the Kindle, especially as the new generation of Kindles has lower specs than the K3 I own and are far more dependent on cloud services since they still don’t offer expansion than the older models that had double the storage space. Not a big issue if you live in a reliable service area, but when you start getting in to areas of spotty service by AT&T (the company that provides Amazon’s 3G) you really want to store your entire library locally instead of switching them out from Amazon’s cloud service.

    Not trying to slam your list, it’s a good one, just pointing out that Google’s services fit my life a lot better than the combination of Amazon and Apple. If you’re someone who lives in the boonies, or use hardware that isn’t directly from Amazon/Apple, I find Google to work out much better.

    They are still a bit behind on TV and Movie content, and music is missing a few indie and obscure artists that Amazon carries, but they’re new to the market and catching up fast.

  3. This is a great list, Brooke. I’ve come to hate the gift-giving part of the season, and like you favor experiences over things. A few years back my parents and I decided to give donations to charities in each other’s names. I had such a good time researching charities to find the ones I thought would be meaningful to each of my parents. And I’ll never forget opening our cards from them one Christmas morning. Through an organization like World Vision, each of us had given (through my parents) animals to a village–ducks, goats, and part of a cow. It was great. I’ll remember that long after I’ve forgotten the sweaters and socks and games of other years.

  4. This is right on the money! I have been telling myself this exact mantra as of late. My daughter is 2.5 and she very much prefers experiences over things. I’m just wondering, how do I tell my extended family that? Sure we’d appreciate clothes (and even that can get overwhelming) but there are certain toys I’d rather not have. I’d much rather them take my daughter out to the park or beach or something for an afternoon. Any ideas on how to gently let them know without seeming like an ungrateful control freak?

  5. I love the idea of finding an experience first… there’s so many options to tailor to a person’s interests and you don’t have to know every detail to be right. Plus it’s a way to encourage a new interest too especially with some of the classes or outdoor experiences that are available.

    At the same time your comment about asking for physical gifts is dead on… you can be coy, subtle, even anonymous n how you go about it but reality is people will be happy with something they’re eyeing. Of course if you stumble into the perfect find that’s ideal but frustrating yourself and guessing for them doesn’t help. And for me the card while certainly common just isn’t the same… you can’t open it, you can’t see the smile.

  6. I agree Brooke. I moved to experience over things gift giving after watching my grandchildren meltdown one Christmas after so many things came at them. I was concerned they were losing the feeling of gratitude. Today, they know I am the weird but fun grandmother who will take them to a Broadway show instead of giving them the latest fad toy. I am not opposed to giving the young ones gifts; their parents do that along with multiple sets of grandparents. But need to work as a family to keep it reasonable.

    Your list is excellent and I love the idea of music lesson. That may be the gift of choice this year at our house!

  7. Good list. I might add the gift of flowers, sans fancy container, which is what we have been giving my husband’s mother the past few years. She owns vases, but appreciates the fresh flowers to put in them. Then when the flowers go, she puts the vase away — sort of no muss, no fuss. She’s in assisted living, so definitely doesn’t need more stuff due to space limitations.

    • I love that suggestion, Gayle – thank you! And I love the added idea of giving flowers without a vase included. There are only so many vases a home needs. (In fact, I’ve only got three. The rest are empty glass jars!!)

  8. I love the ideas. We tried the no gift thing for our son’s 5th birthday this year. I was a little worried about how it would go, but he didn’t even notice. Most of the parents were relieved that they didn’t have to try to find a present. We told them if they felt the need to give something then to have their child make a birthday card. The cards were sooo creative.

    • Allysen, I love that! I’ve often thought about the idea of no gifts for our kids birthdays and I think your suggestion of handmade cards is a fabulous one. Something that kids would really get a kick out of too!

  9. My brother-in-law saves all the charitable solicitations he gets at this time of year. On Christmas Eve the family all sits down with the pile and picks who wants their names on which ones this year. It becomes a game of I’ll do this one if you do that one so everyone feels like a winner. The recipients of those donations get the monetary gifts while the choosers get the gift of generosity.

    • I love that, Linda! It’s a win-win-win situation and pretty much encapsulates the spirit of Christmas. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I’ll be certain to keep this idea in mind, as there are so many charities doing it tough this time of year…

  10. I really enjoyed this list…I’m trying to cut back on the amount of stuff that takes up my life, as I’m in getting ready to move back out mode in the next year or so (post-undergrad life back with the parents, you guessed it) and I’m also into helping people to enjoy what they have and not need more of just ‘stuff’…. I would love a renewal of my local art museum membership this year and have been known to buy myself the gift of concert or comedy show tickets for holidays, also.

    One thing not on the list that could be a good addition is to purchase someone a giftcard to a website like Shutterfly, where they can create photobooks (or give them a completed photo book). You can put a ton of photos into one book and save a bunch of storage space that photos were in, say if you scanned in a bunch of them and only kept the absolute precious photos from the group. You could then have them all in one small book and not taking up as much space as a regular photo album (you could possibly fit 3-4 of the books atleast in the space it’d take for one ‘classic’ photo album binder). And you could also make one of these books to celebrate and remember your time on the vacation you gifted or adventures you documented that was given as a gift, too. =)

    • That is another fabulous and thoughtful idea, Jenny. Photos and photo albums take up a huge amount of space, and while there is the option to store them all digitally, I know many people still like having physical reminders of past memories. A photobook would be great because, as you say, it doesn’t take up too much space and holds a tonne of images. Love it!

  11. While not entirely clutter free, one of the best gifts we’ve ever given was a DVD that we burned a slideshow of pictures onto. We gave one each to the grandparents and great grandparents. They loved getting to see the various things that the grandkids had done that year and still watch it several years later.

    Another good one: my mom gave everyone *fleece* sheets one year – they are AWESOME and we are reminded of her every time we hop into bed during the colder months.

    Finally, I had my mother-in-law read and record some of the stories she enjoyed as a child and send the tape out. The kids have been listening to her homemade “books on tape” for about five years now. I’m trying to get my mom to do one with the songs she’s always sung on it too!

    • Tillie, they are such beautiful and useful gifts! The sheets gift is totally something my mum would do too. Thoughtful and practical – if you’re going to give stuff, it’s best to make it both of those things. The DVD and recorded stories are really beautiful ideas. Thanks for sharing them!! :)

  12. A fun gift that my husband gave me a few years ago for Christmas (and since then we’ve done each Christmas for one another), was that he checked out books from the public library. He wrapped them up just like any other gift (making sure not to harm them of course). When I opened them I was delighted! We live in a very small space and are very conscious of not accumulating material things (like books). This was the best of both worlds: I had a real book (I am still not sold on reading on our Kindle or other electronic devices) and I didn’t have to keep it! Plus, it is also fun to see which books we pick out for the other to read.

    • Lacey, I LOVE that idea!! It’s thoughtful and kind – all the things a gift should be. But also conscious and clutter-free. PERFECT! Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

  13. Got my hubby a totally stainless steel French press coffee maker. (Frieling) All the others have plastic and the glass always breaks… this one should last for a very long time I hope. Yes, it is stuff, but it’s stuff that he needs (coffee is so not an option in our house) and is healthier without the plastic. Plus, I shopped for a deal and got it 30% off…

    Per the kids birthdays without gifts. Instead of “no gifts”, where most people usually still bring a gift because they feel it’s not polite not to, ask that people bring a donation to the local animal shelter, like blankets or dog food or collars or… It tends to go over better as they still feel like they’re giving something and the shelter or other charity get some much needed help.

  14. I really like this list. My parents bought my 1 yr old daughter swimming lessons for her 1st birthday present. Far better use of cash than buying her junk. I’m taking the 3rd load of toys to Vinnies tomorrow. She’s only 1! I also had a no-gift birthday party and asked anyone who felt obliged to bring a gift to choose a suitable one for the Kmart wishing tree. Loving this blog! Keep up the simple life!

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  32. This may seem like an odd gift, but many has been the time we wished we’d had this. My husband and I latched onto the idea that a very valuable gift for any young couple starting out as a wedding, house warming, or Christmas gift would be a heavy duty plumbing snake. They will have many clogs and have to call a plumber — usually on a Sunday or holiday it seems — or rent this piece of equipment. Either is an expensive solution for a problem that will occur again. This isn’t an inexpensive item and while it may seem unexciting and rather an uninspired choice for a gift at first, they will appreciate it greatly over time realizing the expense it has saved them. It isn’t clutter, it isn’t another useless trinket, and it isn’t really so odd in the long run.

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