The Best Clutter-Free Gift Guide

While snow, mistletoe and all things holly and jolly may put a smile on other people's faces, it triggers a twinge of anxiety in me.  I really don’t like clutter.  Obviously.  And with all of the great family time that the winter holidays bring comes the influx of new items into our house. 

We have a bit of a double whammy in our home.  We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.  Can you say present overload?!  That’s why it is especially important to have a plan going in.

I think that the key to staying organized during this time is to try to slow down the inpouring of new items and then develop a strategy to deal with all of the crap, oops, I mean presents, that you accumulate over the holidays.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all scrooge-like about Christmas, I love buying gifts for my family and friends, I love seeing their faces when I’ve managed to get them exactly what they wanted, and I even like receiving gifts sometimes (as long as it is exactly what I wanted without me having to tell you what to buy!).  But I also like to have alternatives to traditional gifts.  Here are some of my favorite ways to spread cheer without clutter:

The Gift of Time

Offer to take this person out for lunch or a movie.  Maybe a double manicure or pedicure is more up your alley.. Set a time and date to actually do this and then follow through. I can almost hear your objections through the computer right now: “I want them to have something to open!”  Wrap up a few emery boards, or a box of popcorn with a note explaining the gift.  You really have the opportunity to get creative here (this, of course, assumes that you want to spend time with the person in question, if you don’t then maybe you shouldn’t be exchanging gifts in the first place!) 

I like applying this strategy to kids as well.  Make a cute gift certificate promising a meal out at their favorite restaurant with Mom and/or Dad,  a grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc. (I have some free printables you can customize here.  Other ‘gift of time’ ideas are: family movie night (they pick the movie and snacks), an indoor picnic with their favorite food, a few hours at the mall with you where they can pick a present (set a budget!) and grab ice cream, go spend $30 at a local arcade, get artsy and paint a ceramic together, spend a morning at their favorite zoo or museum.  They key to this is really to zero in on what they love to do and let them have that super important one-on-one time with you.


Giving someone an experience may be a good option if you don’t live in the same city, or you want them to be able to do something on their own schedule (and not necessarily with you!).  Essentially you will be buying them a gift certificate but the intention is more for them to go do something rather than buy something.  Every city has it’s own fun local things to do, but here are some ideas; day pass to an amusement park, a local museum or zoo, cooking class (in-home or at a restaurant), indoor trampoline places, massage, spa day, fancy car rental for a day, water park, ziplining, the list goes on and on.  Try to think of what they would love to do and let them experience it. You can check out some more ideas here and here (no affiliation).


I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like to eat?  I love getting food as a gift.  I eat it, it’s gone, no clutter!  I know what you’re thinking, that the holidays are already filled with so much good food that no one could possibly need more.  And I totally get that, but, 1. It doesn’t have to be junk food and 2. You don’t necessarily have to give it at that moment.

Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, you can do a one-time gift, or choose for the recipient to get them for a few months.  They offer everything from meat, to meals to coffee and tea to wine and hard liquor.  There are so many choices.  Here are a few places that list different boxes (and they ship to Canada, eh):

A Year of Boxes
Canadian Subscription Box Addict

Buzzfeed also compiled a list

If you want a more DIY approach (and more budget friendly) than you can put together your own box of deliciousness.  A “make-your-own-sundae” kit is always fun: bowl cones, sprinkles, caramel sauce, you get the picture.  As long as you don’t include the ice cream you'll be good to go.

Have a favorite cookie recipe? You can put all the dry ingredients in a cute mason jar with instructions.  Do a homemade hot cocoa mix in a holiday-themed tin.  As always, my go to for all things DIY is Pinterest, so head over there if you need some more inspiration.

Shared Gifts

This is one category I would reserve for kids or couples, because not everyone likes (or wants) to share.  But it is a great way to give a real, tangible gift without adding too much clutter.  For children you could buy a new puzzle, board game or art kit.  Look for something that they can both participate in and would be encouraged to do together.

Depending on the adults you’re buying for you could go a similar route, though I would opt for a slightly harder puzzle or game (maybe not Candyland for instance).  You could also get something for their home that is personalized: notepads, a new wine rack, luxurious new towels, a plant they can care for together.  Try to think of their common interests and build on that.

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

Happy Organizing!

Do you have an organizing question that you want a Professional Organizer to help you with? Email Allison at We may feature your question in an upcoming post!

As a Professional Organizer and owner of Everything In Place, Allison Weigensberg has a passion for a minimalistic approach to organization and decluttering. She loves to share the tips and tricks she has implemented in her own life, with her clients and Suburban readers.