35 Clutter Free Gift Ideas for Christmas

35 Clutter Free Gift Ideas for Christmas

Just mention the word holidays and many people magically transform into a bundle of nerves and stress. There are so many gifts to buy, parties to attend, and cookie platters to bake. If you look the word up in the dictionary you’ll see it was originally referred to as a day exempt from work in honor of a special event.

If holidays were originally intended as days of rest why is that so many of us go completely unglued frantically trying to keep up with all of the shoulds, ough-to’s and have-to’s! Then there’s the post-holiday crash where you wake up from the frenzy, realize you spent gazoodles of cash buying gifts for everyone from your boss’s secretary to the entire little league group your son belongs to.

In return you’re wiped out and staring down gazzoodles of gifts you got in return. Your second light up santa clause sweatshirt of the season, a lace tea cozy for your tea cup when you can’t stand tea, or maybe yet another one of those perennial bath baskets that cost a ton of money but are full of junky personal care products you don’t want to use on your skin.

Lucky for you,  you can hop off the holiday treadmill and rewrite the script for how you celebrate. Let’s start with the idea of gifts. I’ve made up a list of 35 clutter free gift ideas you can share for Christmas. These gifts are all perfect for other holidays and special occasions as well.

Best of all, they won’t take up any permanent space in the recipients home. This makes them perfect gifts if you’ve adopted a minimalist outlook and don’t want to promote affluenza amongst those you know. They are also ideal gifts for the beloved clutterer in your life who simply has too much stuff already.

So with no further ado, here’s the minimalist packrat top 35 clutter free gift ideas for Christmas and other occasions.

1) Tickets to a Movie: It’s a one-shot deal and takes up no space! Hand out 2 tickets so you’re friends can catch a show on you. Or get dramatic and buy enough tickets so that your entire group of friends or family can go together. Spending time with those you care about is the best gift of all. The nice thing about group tickets is if you want you can knock out all of your gift buying for your entire group of friends with one purchase. Less shopping = more time to live!

2) Tickets to a Show: Ooh-la-la and how upscale! Give the gift of the performing arts. A ballet, a concert, a dance troup, classical music. This gift is pricey so you won’t want to pass these out to everyone you know, but it’s the perfect clutter-free gift for those really special people in your life.

3) Tickets to a Local Attraction: Look around your neck of the woods for some truly unique experiences. Around here we have several different botanical gardens, art museums, zoos, historical museums and within a few hours drive a ton of theme parks and other options in Orlando, Florida.

Regardless of where you live, there are probably a ton of local attractions that your recipient hasn’t gone to because of the cost. Just make sure to get the right ones for the person in your life. A tough-guy sports buff isn’t necessarily going to love a day on a glass bottom boat, but he might love a small sports hall of fame attraction within a few hours drive.

4) A Special Meal at a Restaurant: Ever heard of gift cards? Yeah. This invention of the 21st century is one I hope will stick around. Most chains and many small, local restaurants now offer gift cards so you can pick their favorite place! Gift cards are easy and just about everyone loves to have a nice meal out every now and then. I’m always thrilled when I get an Olive Garden gift card as a gift.

5) Sweet Treats: Sometimes you don’t want to spend a fortune. Snacks and sweets are a perfect inexpensive gift for giving to office co-workers, casual friends, teachers, service people and other folks who you like and want to share with, but can’t budget a big gift for each of them.

You can go the traditional route of baking up cookies and wrapping them in festive bags with ribbons, or if time is a crunch, there are lots of other ways to do it. If you get pre-made goodies and bag them up festively it won’t take much time and the cost will be about the same as baking your own.

6) The Gift of Relaxation: Nothing says I love you as much as a massage. Consider getting a certificate for a massage treatment for those over-worked people in your life. Even if they’ve never had one before, once they’ve experienced it they’ll be hooked.

Massage treatments range from $40 to $100. You can often buy certificates in bulk (three or more appointments) and get a significant break on the price. I’ve seen them as low as $25 a session for a bulk pack of 4 sessions.

7) Just as Lovely: Just as lovely as a gift of a massage is any sort of personal care service. This can include facials, pedicures, manicures, and hair cuts at the swanky salon. I’ve given all of these as gifts to my mom and sister over the years and they always love them. It’s not something they feel justified spending on themselves, but in the form of a gift there’s nothing better!

8) Gourmet Food: You know what I love? Capers. They’re bizarre little things. I don’t know if they’re a fruit or a vegetable, I just know I love them in Italian food and any kind of cold salad. I don’t always buy them though, because they tend to range from $4 for a teeny, tiny jar to $15 for a larger jar.

A gift of specialty foods that a person doesn’t treat themselves to all the time is a wonderful gift. Just don’t get one of those generic pre-made packs unless you know the recipient is a fan of the brand. Instead get personal and choose the items they love the most.

For me a gift bag with jars of capers, artichoke hearts, garlic stuffed olives, eggplant tapenade, pesto, a green & black chocolate bar, and some gourmet crackers would make me feel like a queen! Best yet, it all goes away after it’s been enjoyed.

You could also go to their favorite specialty bakery and pick out a variety of small treats, cheese and baked goods.

9) A Calendar: Definitely not the most inventive idea, but you know what? A calendar is used for one year and then it’s gone. They’re what I call a temporary possession. That makes them clutter free in the long run.

They’re also fairly inexpensive and easy to shop for. Plus, if you get known as the one who “always gives the calendar” you’ll get to give the same gift year after year. It makes for easier and less stressful shopping!

10) 12 Meals: This idea is really fun if you have a friend or group of friends you see regularly. Give them a homemade certificate with 12 coupons for dinner at your house. It’s like setting yourself up for hosting 12 dinner parties!

Don’t think people will consider you cheap either. Everyone knows that it can cost quite a bit to host dinner for friends once you’ve factored in appetizers, the main course and drinks. This is also extremely appreciated if you have kids that have just flown the coop, older relatives, or relatives living alone.

They will get to enjoy a specially prepared home cooked meal at your home once a month, every month of the year. It’s a true gift of giving. You share companionship, a lively dinner table, and nourishing, yummy food with those you love.

11) A Gift of the Practical: This one isn’t completely clutter free, but it’s one of the gift choices that makes the most sense. I personally love practical gifts. I’ve asked for (and received) a cordless drill, a circular saw, curtains, and sheets amongst many other practical gifts. I’ve given high-tech pruning sheers (Who knew they could be high-tech?), plants, clothing, even an electric bill once.

Sometimes, a practical gift is the perfect thing. Just make sure to ask ahead of time what they might need. If you want it to be a surprise start snooping around a few months early. You can ask leading questions, like, “Wow, this toaster looks like it needs to be replaced. Does it still work?” If a practical gift seems boring to you, consider the upgrade wow factor.

If for example they make a smoothie every morning and their old-fashioned blender barely chug-chugs through the process, get them a fancy, glamorous stainless steel blender with a turbo-charged motor. Nothing boring there! Sexy, sleek machinery on the kitchen countertop can make a person happy on Christmas morning.

12) Relaxing Music: After the stress of gearing up for the holidays nothing is more divine than putting on some soothing music and chilling out for a while. Give the gift of relaxing music. Mp3′s take up no space so they’re completely clutter free. You can also check out iTunes for a wide variety of downloadable music. Pick up a gift certificate and you’ve broadened their music selection and kept them clutter free as well.

13) Netflix Anyone?: For the movie lover in your life, don’t buy them dvd’s, get them a netflix account! Netflix is like a mega-library at your fingertips, letting you choose from Casablanca to bizarre cult classics to new release action films.

It’s got something for everyone, even musicals! The best part about Netflix besides the low price? Every movie goes back to it’s Netflix home rather than cluttering up your movie buff’s home. If you know someone who loves movies, this is a fantastic option.

14) Books for Book Lovers: Books aren’t clutter free! Think again. There are e-books in the form of pdf’s and a slew of e-book readers including the well-known Kindle from Amazon. Instead of a physical, space-hogging book, buy a pdf style e-book, or if they have a Kindle get them some Kindle compatible books. It’s the ultimate in clutter-free for book lovers (and we all know how much space a book collection can take).

15) Lessons: Lessons are such an incredible gift because they enrich the receiver. There are tons of lessons available; horse-back riding lessons, jewelry making lessons, pottery throwing lessons, fiction writing lessons, salsa dancing lessons, golf lessons, karate lessons, skimboarding lessons… The list is endless.

Give someone you love some lessons in something they’ve always wanted to try out. They may just find a new passion and they’ll always remember you for being so thoughtful. It’s so much better than a bright red sweater with a reindeer on it, I promise!

16) The Classic Flower Bouquet: Flowers bloom, they bring a smile to someone’s face, then they fade and get thrown away. They are a classic clutter free gift unless the receiver keeps every dried flower bouquet they’ve ever been given!

Flowers say that you care and that you’re thinking of them. They are proof of your feelings. They brighten a home and then disappear before they get covered in dust.

17) The Gift of Service: This can take so many forms. Make a coupon or a series of coupons for a service that you will provide. This can be helping them clean their house (awesome if you’re trying to encourage a less cluttered environment), raking up leaves, baby-sitting, mowing their lawn, mending their clothes, doing an at-home pedicure, etc.

Depending on how close you are it can be 30 coupons for kisses (You know where that will lead!), 10 foot rubs, 52 I will vacate the house on poker night tokens, 12 bathtub scrubbings, etc. Trust me, if someone said they would scrub my bathtub 12 times a year  I’d love it! They will too. Service ideas aren’t just for family you live with. Services can be very beneficial for older relatives, elderly neighbors, and couples with young children as well.

18) Really Special Personal Care Products: Forget those big store baskets. They’re junky and funky. You don’t know how many of those I’ve seen at yard sales over the years, completely unused and still in their package. Instead get (or make) some very special items like peppermint foot rub, rose petal bath salts, or lavender facials.

If they have a specialty item they use, you can purchase them several of those, such as clinique lipsticks in their favorite shade, gourmet soaps, or their favorite deluxe shampoo and conditioner. The most important thing is to get an item they actually like and use, otherwise it runs the risk of turning into clutter (like the aforementioned generic gift baskets).

19) A Hot Air Balloon Ride: Doesn’t sound practical, huh? What I mean by hot air balloon ride is get them something magical in the form of an experience, something they’ve always wanted to do, but never have. I use the idea of a hot air balloon ride because I’ve always wanted to go on one myself, but never have.

Other ideas from the basic to the fantastic are a trip to Chuck E. Cheese for kids, go cart racing, swimming with dolphins, a boat excursion, parasailing, snow-skiing, hiking, kayaking, a river float, bungee jumping, a night at the Ritz, a trip to Paris… you get the point.

20) Outdoor Plants: Unless the recipient has a cluttered yard, a gift of outdoor plants is wonderful because it doesn’t take up any space inside the home. My momma loves to garden and we’ve given her frangi-pangi trees as well as a row of bougainvillea bushes before. Years later those gifts are still around enriching her garden.

If they don’t have a yard of their own poinsettias are a classic Christmas plant that dies off several months later. Christmas cactus on the other hand can live for years, so unless they have outdoor space, it can turn into indoor clutter.

21) 12 Month Clubs: There are a ton of different gourmet specialty items that can be shipped to a person’s home once a month. Some common ones that are clutter free are fruit, candy, cheese, plants, and sweets. Harry and David is a store that ships out the most delectable pears I’ve ever eaten, as well as many other specialty food items.

22) The Gift of Memories: If you know someone who has a ton of photos but hasn’t put them together in a photo album give them the gift of creating a memories scrapbook for them. You’ll be taking something they already own and packaging it up in a beautiful, memorable way.

Another alternative to this is to make a custom calendar using your own photos (or their photos). Since calendars go away at the end of the year, it’s completely clutter free.

23) Online Video Games: Perfect for kids or the gamer in your life. They don’t take up any space because they’re stored on the computer. Similar options to this include software for the computer like a photo-editing kit for scrapbooking, recipe collections software, or (getting a little boring here, anti-virus software).

24) The Gift of Membership: This is wide open! If they belong to a club or group, pay their dues for the year. Other ideas are memberships to a health club (then they can toss all the exercise equipment at home), memberships to environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy or the Humane Society, memberships to their local museum, zoo, or botanical gardens.

A twist on this is to make a donation in their name. Make a donation to a good cause that they believe in and give them a card letting them know what you’ve done. You can also “adopt” a ton of different things for good causes. For example you can adopt a “bat” at Carlsbad Caverns state park in New Mexico.  There are also sea turtles, whales, etc. that can be adopted.

25) Candles: Candles go away quick and can be given on the night of a festive occasion so they’re used up immediately. Get a set of gourmet taper candles or some beeswax candles to make the night a little more special. Perfect as a quick host/hostess gift for all those little parties you have to attend.

26) The Gift of Recipes: If you’re an awesome cook, put together a compilation of your top-hit recipes. Then send it out in an email format or make a pdf file out of it. That way it won’t clutter up their house but they’ll still get all the benefits of your amazing and widely-hailed antipasto salad.

If you wanted to get really creative with this you could do different recipe books, one for quick and easy meals, one for desserts, one for dinner parties, one for holidays, one for picnics. Then just send out one at a time, you’ll have several Christmases covered without an ounce of clutter!

27) A Visit from the Professionals: Professional cleaners that is! Most people would be thrilled to get a spring cleaning certificate for a professional house cleaning. This is especially helpful if someone is in the process of decluttering and is encountering the dusty baseboards for the first time in a few years!

There is a difference between cleaners and organizers though. Most cleaning services won’t pick up clutter, they will make all the exposed areas gleam like diamonds though. Seeing their home after a professional cleaning can also motivate a person to keep it looking that way.

28) A Room Makeover: This can be a fun gift for anyone. Pops gets his workshop done up, little sis gets out of her purple unicorn phase and into her I’m almost grown-up look, grandma gets her sewing room redone, etc. This gift can be done very inexpensively or you can go all out. What you do is give them a certificate for you to come over and help them re-do the space.

You can kick in some tangible items as well if needed such as some cans of paint, a few new decorative items or functional storage pieces, etc. We did this for my honey’s mom last year. She loves doing laundry (strange, yes I know) but her laundry room was a pit. It had an old dryer in it that didn’t work (she likes to dry clothes on a clothes line anyways) and all kinds of junk from not being cleared out in 15 years.

We went in, hauled out the dryer, hauled out everything else that wasn’t tied down, moved the washer to a better location, scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed, tossed some old junk (with her making all final approvals) then dusted, swept, and rearranged everything on the shelving units. It was a transformation! And guess what, we found a dead rat (ewww) behind the not working clothes dryer.

Now she has an attractive and functional laundry room. It cost us nothing except for sweat-equity and improved her life tremendously. This year I think we’re going to give the gift of a garage makeover. Then next year it may be the old storage shed out back.

29) Classroom Supplies for Teachers: Classroom supplies for teachers. Trust me they don’t need another mug with an apple on it, they need tissue paper, posterboard, pencils, markers, stickers, erasers, scissors and glue. Funding cuts have been fierce and many teachers pay out of pocket for these items.

30) A Memory: A framed photo of you with a friend. They can always ditch the frame and save the photo if it takes up too much space. It’s a touching, heartfelt gift that doesn’t cost a lot of money or take up a lot of space. (Note, only appropriate if they’re not complete packrats or complete minimalists.)

31)  Fresh Baked Bread: Simplify life and make fresh baked bread for everyone. All those extra gifts you have to buy, make them a loaf of gourmet bread and call it done! You’ll have a day of baking and the rest of the holiday season to enjoy in serenity.

32) Cozy Socks: If you live in a cold area get cozy socks for everyone, the kind of cozy socks that people want to grab every time, overlooking the other less thick, less warm ones.

33) A hug and a card: This is the ultimate in simplicity. A hug and a card can be so much more real of an exchange than the fanciest of doo-dads in all the latest colors. Take it back to old times and simplify your entire experience.

Write a special message in the card, take a lot of time on it, personalizing it, sharing your emotions and thoughts, and that card will mean so much. If you just write your name or some general happy holidays message it won’t mean as much. Take the time to write a special note and be done with your shopping.

34) The Gift of Your Clutter: Heh, heh. Sounds funny right? Seriously. Throw a holiday clutter party. This is especially beneficial if you’re in the process of decluttering. Gather all of the items you’re getting rid of and invite your friends or extended family over to your home. Let everyone choose an item (or several) from your discards.

You might be tired of the ceramic vase you picked up at an art fair, but your Aunt Ida may love it. In the process you can let everyone know how much getting rid of unused items has helped your life. You may inspire someone else to release some of their old junk as well.

So technically it’s not a clutter free gift because you are giving, well, clutter, but by sharing your decluttering tale you may inspire someone else and that’s why I’ve included it here.

35) The Gift of Nothing: Last but not least, give the gift of nothing. Write out a letter telling everyone you know and love that you’ve decided to change the way you do the holidays and focus on love, friendship and companionship instead of gifts.

Let them know you expect nothing in return except their love, friendship and companionship! Let them know you are no longer going to be exchanging gifts, that instead you want to exchange friendship, good experiences, good times, and loving memories.

I’ve worked up to the gift of nothing with some of my family members. It took a few years but it has been a powerful and wonderful change. Approach this slowly if you have to.

Talk about how the meaning of holidays has shifted to buying stuff and how you want to embrace a new way of celebrating. You might be surprised how many others feel just as overwhelmed by buying gifts for 50 different people as well.

Rewrite your script, take back the holidays, and do it your way… peaceful, serene and full of the people you love without the crazy of shopping malls.