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5 Clutter-Free Gift Ideas

Giving and receiving gifts can be pure joy. But the added clutter isn”t.

Cut down on the added stuff by giving (and requesting!) clutter-free gifts. Here’s a few ideas.

1. Digital

Think beyond the iTunes gift card—digital can mean a whole range of interesting gifts for all types of people:

  • Audiobooks: Fiction, non-fiction, dramatizations of kids novels. There’s a huge variety of audiobooks available (try Audible).
  • E-books: a no-brainer for the e-reader user (we’re big fans of the Kindle Paperwhite), but many people use e-reading apps on all sorts of devices. You can even subscribe to newspapers and magazines!
  • Albums: Choose a specific album (I like iTunes or Amazon) and simply print out the gift receipt to give in an envelope. Also consider a Spotify premium account.

2. Experiences

What places do your kids love to go that aren’t part of your everyday budget? What band would your boyfriend be thrilled to see in person? Does your mom enjoy the symphony?

A ticket (or pair) to a special event is meaningful and memory-making. A few ideas:

  • Shows: concerts, symphony, opera, theatre (plays or musicals)
  • Sports events: basketball, hockey or football game, ice skating performance
  • Physical activity: recreation center passes (swimming, aerobics, racketball), set of yoga passes
  • Activities: museum, science center, zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, movie tickets

3. Lessons

It can be expensive to put your kids into all of the lessons that you”d love to give them. Why not ask the grandparents to help with the cost?

Maybe you have a sister who wants to study photography, or a daughter that would like to take a coding course. Lessons are a valuable gift to give and to receive!

  • Music: singing, piano, guitar or other fine arts like drama or dance
  • Art: painting, sculpting, photography
  • Cooking: either in a local recreation center or even online
  • Language: know someone who has travel plans or simply enjoys learning language?
  • Sports: soccer or gymnastics are perfect for young kids

4. Practical

Nope, no socks or underwear. Just last week I got an email from a sweet friend who bought my husband and me a Groupon voucher to a restaurant on a nearby beach. Along with the free meal, she offered babysitting for our kiddos.

A free date night where I don”t have to arrange for a sitter? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some practical gift-giving possibilities:

  • House cleaning (many maid services offer gift certificates)
  • Yard care (same goes for yard maintenance companies)
  • Grocery or meal delivery
  • Babysitting
  • Gadget repair or technical help
  • Vehicle maintenance

5. Consumables

Food and drinks have always been popular gifts for good reason: many of us that just don’t need anything, but who doesn’t enjoy a delectable treat?

  • Coffee or tea: Fair-trade coffee, specialty organic teas
  • Wine: champagne, a fun brand you’ve never tried, a rare bottle for the connoisseur
  • Jams, jellies or chutneys: perhaps something from your summer preserving
  • Other kitchen treats: flavored honey, homemade vanilla extract, soup in a jar (or cookies in a jar), infused olive oil
  • Beauty care: DIY lotion or lip balm making kits
  • Herbal products: homemade tea combinations, herbal salves, potpourri, essential oils

p.s. Low-waste gift wrap ideas!

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Katie

    I love all these ideas! Great suggestions, Stephanie!

  2. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Fantastic post!! I’m torn between #4 and #5. I’d LOVE a babysitting voucher (it’s on my list), but a homemade edible gift is hard to say no to!

    This year my husband and i are thinking of taking our boys on a short train trip in lieu of big gifts. They would love it, and we could have a special meal in the dining car and make it really memorable.

    I’m giving edible gifts this year – mincemeat, jam, cookies, peppermint marshmallows and vanilla extract.

  3. Allison

    i love love love these ideas and have utilized them (or at least tried to) in my gift giving this year! it’s something to remember all year long!

  4. Alicia

    I love all of these! I wish someone would give me almost anything on your list. 🙂

  5. Denise

    Great post. I’ve often asked for grandparents to give experiences over objects, but sometimes it is hard to get them on board, I think they live to see the excitement on the little ones faces when they rip open a gift and discover a toy.

  6. Tsh @ Simple Mom

    Stephanie, I love this post! What great, simple ideas. Perfect for someone to link to for that grandparent who loves to give, give, give. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Erika

    LOVE these ideas … we had a few on our giving list this year!
    Thanks for the great suggestions!

  8. Living the Balanced Life

    This is a great list of ideas. We are in the process of reducing the items and clutter in our home. Our kids are almost grown, 18-29, plus 7 grandkids. Only the youngest 2 kids are still at home! Rather than just give “stuff” we have worked hard and came up with some very diffierent ideas as well. One main one, as grandparents, we did not want to give more toys to my daughter’s kids who don’t need anything else. She is in her own decluttering process, so we are giving an annual pass to a local natural attraction/park 15 minutes from their home. It is a gift they can use all year long, and they can create some awesome memories!
    One of my last posts details some of the other things we are doing for our kids this year, if you’d like to read more.

  9. Nola

    Great ideas! Now if only other people would read this LOL

    I find it hardest to get certain aunts/uncles/grandparents to get on board. They want to give yet another cheap plastic toy…and its always hard for the kids when it breaks easily or doesn’t work properly. I am thinking of markers for instance that were new but didn’t have much ink in them when they were never used etc…what a waste and hard on the kids too when the new thing doesn’t even work right. What a frustration!

  10. Jana

    I am going to send this link to lots of family & friends! Fantastic ideas! My kids definitely don’t “need” any more stuff! I have always tried to give them things we can all do together or things they love to do like lessons for dance or art. LOVE THIS!

  11. Jenny in CG

    One year my dad gave my boys a great gift. He got a second hand science activity/experiment book. Then he went through it and assembled a kit of all the materials they would need (except the things that were very common to have on hand) to do all the experiments. It was so wonderful for my guys to be able to explore with science without me having to facilitate and run around finding the supplies. It helped build independence as well as fed their thirst for knowledge.

    • Kelly

      What a great gift and very thoughtful!

  12. ~M

    Great ideas! Happily, my mom agreed to my lessons+practical clutter-free gift for my late November birthday: Bradley childbirth classes. No, I’m not kidding – and so looking forward to them. 🙂 For my husband’s birthday, she gave us tickets to a musical of our choosing. Yay for clutter-free gifts that my husband and I can share together, especially since we will be moving in 2011.

  13. emily hope

    great suggestions, Stephanie! thanks for the reminders and new ideas 🙂

  14. couponboa

    Nice post. Considering a ‘clutter free’ gift is also environmentally friendly habit. Think of all the packaging materials that we have to dump each year after Christmas. I must write a post on a must do house cleaning project soon after Christmas.

  15. Faith K.P.

    I’m a moments/memories/experience kind of person – Season passes for the family (to the hands-on science museum, zoo, movies,) plane tickets to visit friends/family, a shared trip/vacation, etc. I’m all about PRESENCE as opposed to PRESENTS. I would just assume spend time with the people I love than get “stuff”.

  16. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    What a wonderful collection of ideas! I’m including this post in my weekend links. Thanks for writing such a great post!

  17. Becky

    Wonderful post! When a girlfriend asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, without hesitation I asked for her homemade biscotti! I dream about it all year!

    My sister is giving our new baby old baby books from her kids.

    I am saving this list to use throughout the year, thank you!!

  18. Harmony

    Great ideas! Thanks!

  19. Qin Tang

    I love your ideas.
    One clutter-free gift I like is personal writing. I ask my kids to write me poems whenever they want to give me a gift.

  20. JulieK

    What GREAT ideas! I especially love the lessons one – that is perfect. One time I was given a 10 week session of pottery lessons for my birthday – it was amazing! 🙂

  21. Heather

    We did this last year for our parents. Getting older, they no longer need “stuff”. Our answer? Omaha Steaks! (Which has much more than just steak, by the way.) Everyone loves it and it became a repeat gift for them again this year! Helps keep the freezer full for them until summer.

  22. Jamie

    My favorite is donations to an organization like World Vision… buying chickens, a year of school, a bicycle to help a young girl make it to school, stuff like that for those who need the gifts much, much more than I do.

  23. Maura

    I really like what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.

  24. Ashilleong

    All good suggestions…except possibly the beauty products. I’m pretty particular about my skincare and my mum tends to buy lots of cheap, artificially scented products. I usually end up with a cupboard full of them as I’m not comfortable regifting them and feel bad about wasting them by throwing them away.

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