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Gift-Giving Guidance from The Clutter Fairy

Now that the holiday season has arrived again, I am in my usual gift-giving dilemma. As The Clutter Fairy, I feel a responsibility not to add to people’s clutter when I give gifts. I can’t very well preach lightening up and letting go of stuff in your home or office, only to turn around and add one more item to your collection! So as a gift to you, I’m offering some non-clutter-promoting gift ideas as alternatives for you this year.

I know there are times when giving material things is called for. My little five-year-old niece and nine-year-old nephew are too young to understand a gift certificate, and that means sometimes I still have to buy stuff. Even so, I can mitigate the clutter impact by asking my sister for specific gift recommendations. She tells me what to buy—name, item, store—and I buy exactly that item. That means the gift is parent-approved and kid-desired. My gift will get used or played with, not immediately relegated to the back of the closet.

For the grown-ups in my life, the same principle can be applied. When I want to give a thing, I make sure it’s something the recipient wants by asking for a specific list of desired gifts. My family publishes gift lists and sends them out to everyone to shop from. That means each person gets something he really wants and not another bad guess on my part.

Even though I use gift lists to steer my gift buying, as often as possible I try to give time instead. I give gift certificates for services—like a trip to my mom’s favorite nail salon, or a spa treatment for my little sister. Once we gave my brother-in-law a chance to drive a race car at a real racetrack. Movie passes are one of my family’s favorite stocking stuffers. We often use them during the week between Christmas and New Year to share movies while we’re all together. Sure, we could each buy our own tickets to the movies, but somehow it’s more fun and nourishes that “holiday feeling” to use passes that we gave each other as gifts.

Another gift solution that circumvents the clutter question is consumable items like food and wine. Gift boxes and baskets are great as hostess gifts for your holiday visits, or to send to friends and family who are hosting guests. There are many companies now that send all kinds of perishable items in gifting arrangements. You can order steaks, chocolates, fruit, desserts, or appetizers—just about anything can be shipped to arrive fresh and appealing, packaged in a lovely gift wrapping. Food items won’t appeal to a child as a gift, but busy adults cooking for 12 all week will appreciate a gourmet dessert box or a spread of fancy cheese, sausage, and crackers to put out for noshing guests.

Each of us has something we’d love to have, but we pass it up because spending the money seems inappropriate for any of a million reasons. My dad’s favorite temptation is cigars! Every Christmas, I spend a lot of money on one fabulous box, because I know he won’t spend money on expensive cigars. He loves his annual treat!

Adults can appreciate the gift of an experience instead of a material thing. Find out what special experience appeals to someone on your shopping list. If it’s an expensive gift, consider pooling your resources with friends or family members. What about a vacation, a hotel stay for the weekend, or a workshop to learn more about a favorite hobby? I guarantee that if you ask, everyone in your life has an experience she wants to have for which she won’t spend the money herself. Give that gift and she’ll remember it for a lifetime.

Happy Holidays!

Gayle Goddard
The Clutter Fairy

This article was featured in our December 2007 e-mail newsletter. To subscribe to our newsletter, please use the “Subscribe” form, above right.

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