Gifts are expressions of love and gratitude for the people we care about the most, and that’s wonderful. But giving them doesn’t have to create disorder, which is not wonderful. Consider these clutter-free alternatives for giving things that, no matter how thoughtful and well-intentioned, the recipients may not need, use, or love, and which can only end up becoming a clutter in their homes and lives.

(If you love the “thrill of the hunt,” don’t celebrate Christmas, or fear irreparable damage to our national economy if you stop buying holiday gifts, consider applying the following ideas to other gift-giving occasions throughout the year.)

The gift of needs met

Do a comprehensive mind sweep of the people you normally give gifts to, no matter what time of year. Do any of them really need what you’re giving, or (if you’re honest with yourself) are your gifts more like excess than abundance?

Yes there are are people on your list who really need things, though, and you have the means to provide them, go ahead and grant wishes, or make dreams come true! Consider meeting your needs, even if they’re not very glamorous: perhaps your recipient would really appreciate gift cards for groceries, gas, hardware, medicine from a pharmacy, or a few unpaid bills. Giving vouchers for children’s college education also makes a big difference in the future.

The gift of helping others.

Consider making a donation to a charity in the name of your recipient. Not only will you be giving a thoughtful (and neat) gift, but you’ll also be supporting a cause that is meaningful to the recipient and worthy of your help.

the gift of time

How about forgoing tangible gifts and giving experiences instead? Offer your recipients tickets to a play, concert, art exhibit, movie, or sporting event that you know they’ll love. If you’d like to add the gift of your choice, select a gift certificate for a performing arts center or sports arena and let the recipient choose which future event they’d like to attend.

Or add value and make it a time gift too: take the recipient out to lunch, cook a special dinner, plan a picnic, plan a camping trip, plan a visit to the spa, go antiquing, spend a day at a park of amusements. park or a hot air balloon ride, and join us on the excursion. Take a trip to a zoo, museum, bowling alley, baseball game, or yes, even shopping if that’s what the recipient would really love.

Think of a more lasting experience you can do together or alone: ​​pay for dance classes, music lessons, foreign language lessons, yoga classes, cooking classes, or a museum membership. (Just make sure your gift isn’t misconstrued, though: A makeover or gym membership can send the wrong message unless the recipient has expressed an interest in such a thing.)

You can also give handmade coupons for time and effort spent washing cars, doing dreaded chores or yard work, preparing meals or having breakfast in bed, babysitting, giving massages, or letting the kids stay up later. . You’ll be giving the gift of fun, memories, time, and togetherness — lovely (and clutter-free) gifts indeed. And when you think back to all the time, money, and stress you spend shopping for gifts, wouldn’t you rather spend that time and money with person?

Even a good long phone call can be more appreciated than something that arrives in a box.

The gift of “Poof! It’s Gone!”

Giving out consumables doesn’t create long-term mess because eventually… “Poof! It’s gone!” You can think and take care to choose the right perfume or bath pearls, a fine box of chocolates or a jar of olives, vinegars or special spices, personalized stationery, beautiful candles, excellent wine or coffee, sumptuous baked goods, dinners you have cooked and frozen for busy weeknights, craft supplies, fun pens, fishing lures, or golf balls (which could be considered consumables, depending on how much the recipient tends to lose!), beautiful cut flowers in the dead of winter, or a beer. Club membership of the month.

The gift of choice

Giving out gift certificates may not guarantee your recipients won’t end up messy, but it’s a start. By giving them a choice of what to buy, the chances that they will buy something that is perfect, fits well, is the right color, and is something they will wear is dramatically improved. (But if they yet end the clutter… well, you tried.) I know opening a gift certificate isn’t as much fun as opening a box containing a sweater you really love, but it’s a lot more fun than opening a sweater you really love. hurry (and then having to line up to get back, too. That’s not much of a gift, is it?). Even iTunes downloads, prepaid calling cards, and Netflix certificates are options for clutter-free good times.

The gift of, yes, cash

Okay, so cold, cash is a little, well, cold… but ho ho ho no mess! It can be used to pay bills if that’s what the recipient might use the most, and can be cleverly wrapped for disguise or folded into fun origami shapes.

And one last gift idea…

Tell people that even though they meant well, they may not have made the right choice, and release them from keeping their gift: as long as it becomes foreign to their lives, and maybe that’s right away! — it’s okay to get rid of it, no questions asked. This will reduce the clutter Y guilt in their lives, and it was really the thought that counted.

Giving clutter-free gifts isn’t just a vision (sweet plum) if you think outside the box (gift-wrapped).

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