Clutter Free Gift Giving

How do we stop homes from overflowing with “stuff” is a question that I get. The answer is simple….stop buying “stuff”! And the bonus answer is to stop having other people buy you stuff. Focus instead on other types of gifts. Gifts that we unwrap are fun in the moment, but then we need to find somewhere to store it. Or we need to dust it. Or we need to wash it. Or we need to insure it. All things that outlast the sentiment of the gift giver.


Some people struggle with telling Aunt Martha that they really don’t need anything. But some people really like to GIVE something. When my grandmother was in the nursing home she always gave us something when she left. We never would know what it would be. One time my sisters got underwear from a garage sale. One time my dad and I left and we looked at each other….he got an apple and I got a sour cream packet. My grandmother, bless her heart, did not want to waste anything. She was trying to do the right thing and we didn’t have the heart to tell her no.

But what are some ways that you can encourage giving of a different type and not discourage the intention and sentiment of the giver.

1. Find something that the gift giver is good at. Maybe your aunt bakes really great banana bread. Suggest that she bake you some banana bread that you could store in your freezer so that it could be the gift that everyone enjoys for months to come. Or maybe your uncle is great with cars and can tune a car in his sleep. Maybe your uncle could do some car maintenance for you. Have a casual conversation with them and say that instead of gifts this year, how about we do something different. Compliment them at what they are good at and tell them how much you would treasure something like that.

2. Find an activity to do together. This year my husband and I are going to concerts together. I bought us tickets for our Christmas gift to each other and he bought me concert tickets for my birthday this year. We will make a date of it and have a great time. I also bought play tickets for our family to go as a group during Thanksgiving break and every year we go to the Blenders. These are activities that our family enjoys doing. Maybe your family enjoys sporting events or going to the ballet.

3. Find a class to learn a new skill together. Look to your Community Ed for classes that are offered in your community. You may be surprised at what you can find. One year my husband bought us private dancing lessons for Valentines Day. I remember that gift…I don’t remember what he got me the year before. That is a memory that we share together as I struggled to not lead while we danced!

4. Give a gift card attached with an activity. I am thinking a coffee gift card with a standing monthly coffee date with your best friend. Or a gift card to a movie theater with a note saying you have a movie date once a month your son. Or a spa gift card to your sister with a note saying that you are watching her kids so that she can go and get a massage.

5. Donate your time of a skill that you are good at. Offer to take down and organize your mom’s holiday decorations if you are great at organizing. My best friend loves to paint. She could offer to paint rooms for her friends and family. My husband is great at all things that take patience. I would love for him to scan in all of my pictures and find a secure way to store them.

6. Find out an item on their bucket list and help make it happen. I have written for years about clutter free giving and to give the gift of experiences, like a ride in a hot air balloon. Little did I know that 2013 that bucket list item would become a reality for me. {the picture is from my ride during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta} Maybe you could put money towards a fund for the gift. Or maybe you know someone who lives where they want to travel and you can arrange free lodging.

What all of these gift ideas are to remind you of, is it is about the personal relationships with people. Not that you got a great deal online on Cyber Monday or you fought the crowds on Black Friday. But rather you know a person in your life well enough that you don’t need to give them “stuff” but rather something that makes a memory. Here is to a clutter free holiday season!


To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at


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