Yes, I am going there. Already.
It’s actually just over one month until Christmas and what I’d really like you to be able to do this year is enjoy the lead-up to the festive season, rather than frantically searching for gift ideas in the days before Christmas. So I’m here to give you the ultimate list of clutter-free gifts for your friends and family.
While the focus of the festive season certainly isn’t (or shouldn’t) be 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 a little 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, 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.
So with that in mind, 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
- you can broaden their minds as well as their horizons
- you can help less fortunate people
- you can encourage a healthier lifestyle
A Note on Gifts for Young Kids
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 our kids to manage their expectations, it is still so joyful to see them tearing paper from a present, squealing with joy as they spy that much-wanted gift.
That’s why Ben and I will always buy Christmas presents for our kids. We don’t go overboard and we do try to stick to the idea of:
“Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
And something to read.”
But in general we look to give our loved ones experiences rather than 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 fit into any budget, with costs ranging from $5 to $1000+.
Some Tips Before You Write Your Shopping List…
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. World Vision International site 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.
This is 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.
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!
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!
Google Play Voucher
Similarly, for those who aren’t on the Apple train, a Google Play voucher offers the opportunity to spend money on music, games, TV and movies, all of the gift recipient’s choosing.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t love going to the movies? It’s becoming an increasingly expensive outing, so vouchers to the cinema are a perfect gift to give. Great for teenagers, teachers and work colleagues.
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 buying vouchers from a travel agent or online booking agency. Combine your gift amount with others to give a more significant gift.
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.
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.
These are another gift that we often won’t buy for ourselves. 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 perfect for the people who don’t need/want stuff. 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. 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 (and lots of men) will always be excited about.
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/Nook/Digital Reader
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/Google/iBookstore/Barnes & Noble.
The ultimate clutter-free gift. A gift card from Amazon et al will give your most avid reader many hours of pleasure.
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.
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.
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.
Services like Blurb or Shutterfly allow you to create beautiful photobooks using online tools, then have the book printed, bound and shipped to your home address. Why not buy your loved one a voucher for one of these services and allow them to create their own photobook? While not strictly clutter-free, this idea was suggested to me last year, and I loved the idea of giving this to someone who has had a new baby or taken a great holiday over the past 12 months. It allows them to create a beautiful way of remembering.
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 so ask them to share it and pass them on to a new generation. Perfect for newlyweds or young adults who are leaving home.
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 worm farm, but when it’s something wanted or needed you should remember who the gift is actually 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.