5 Clutter-Free Gifts to Give This Christmas

Giving gifts can be pure joy.

For those of us who are attempting to live more simply and sustainably, however, giving and getting more stuff often isn”t.

We”ve already discussed ways to cut down on the waste associated with all the gift trimmings, but what about with the actual gifts themselves? How about giving some clutter-free gifts this holiday season?

5 Clutter-Free Gifts to Give

1. Digital

Think beyond the typical iTunes gift card. “Digital” gifts can include a whole range of entertaining and interesting gifts for the technically-savvy recipients on your list. There are excellent options out there for husbands, siblings, friends, even your kids (but if you”re shopping for your Grammy, you might want to keep going down the list…)

  • Audio books: Fiction, non-fiction, dramatizations of kids novels. These days there is a huge variety of audio books available.
  • eBooks: For the Kindle-user, these are a no brainer, but many people are beginning to use eBooks on their laptops, iPads, etc. You can even purchase newspaper or magazine subscriptions to be auto-delivered wirelessly!
  • Music albums: There”s no need to purchase the physical copy with the plastic case that it destined for either a box in the spare closet, or the trash can. Choose a specific album to send to a loved one and simply print out the gift receipt to give in an envelope or in a stocking.

My favorite resources for digital gifts are Amazon (their Kindle store for eBooks, as well as their Audible Audiobooks department,and MP3 downloads) and of course the iTunes store (music, of course, but they also carry eBooks and audio books).

Photo by doneable and ewen

2. Experiences

What places do your kids love to go that are usually beyond the every day budget? What band would your hubby be thrilled to see in person? Does your mom enjoy the symphony?

A ticket (or two) to a special event or activity can be a meaningful and memory-making gift. A few ideas to get your started:

  • Shows: concerts, symphony, opera, theatre (plays or musicals)
  • Sports events: basketball, hockey or football game, ice skating performance
  • Physical activity: recreation center passes (swimming, aerobics, racketball), set of yoga passes
  • Activities: museum, science center, zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, movie tickets

3. Lessons

It can be expensive to put your kids into all of the lessons that you”d love to give them. Why not ask the grandparents to help with the cost?

Maybe you have a sister who wants to study photography, or a dad that would like to take a computer course. Lessons are a fun and valuable gift to give and to receive!

  • Music: singing, piano, guitar or other fine arts like drama or dance
  • Art: painting, sculpting, photography
  • Cooking: either in a local recreation center or even an online course, like
  • Language: know someone who has travel plans or simply enjoys learning language?
  • Sports: soccer or gymnastics are perfect for young kids

Photo by oudeschool

4. Practical

Nope, no socks or underwear (gee, thanks Mom).

Just last week I received an email telling me that a sweet friend had purchased my husband and I a Groupon voucher to a restaurant on a nearby beach. Along with the free meal, she offered babysitting for our kiddos. A free date night where I don”t have to arrange for a sitter? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some practical gift-giving possibilities:

  • House cleaning (many maid services offer gift certificates)
  • Yard care (same goes for yard maintenance companies)
  • Grocery or meal delivery (lots of natural foods options these days, like Spud!)
  • Babysitting
  • Computer repairs or technical help
  • Vehicle maintenance

Photo by llsimon53

5. Consumables

Food and beverages have always been popular gifts, for good reason. There are many of us that just don”t need anything, but who doesn”t enjoy a delectable treat to savor during the holiday season or beyond?

  • Coffee or tea: fair trade coffee, specialty organic teas (loose or maybe in pyramid silk bags)
  • Wine: champagne, fruit wines (mmm…), a funky brand you”ve never seen before, a rare bottle for the connoisseur
  • Jams, jellies or chutneys: perhaps something from your summer preserving
  • Other kitchen treats: flavored honey, homemade vanilla, soup in a jar (or cookies in a jar), infused olive oil
  • Beauty care: lotions or lip balms
  • Herbal products: homemade tea combinations, herbal salves, potpourri, essential oils

Wrap items up in a sea grass basket, or a reusable cloth bag. Add some ribbon or rafia to a glass mason jar. With a sweet card, you”ve got a gift that no one can resist.

What are your favorite clutter-free gifts to give? To receive?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Langford has a passion for encouraging homemakers who want to make healthy changes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke, and (her newest!) through successful meal planning. Together she runs a music school teaching piano lessons in Surrey with her handsome husband, is mama to 4 little ones, and she is the editor and author of Keeper of the Home.


  1. I love all these ideas! Great suggestions, Stephanie!

  2. Fantastic post!! I’m torn between #4 and #5. I’d LOVE a babysitting voucher (it’s on my list), but a homemade edible gift is hard to say no to!

    This year my husband and i are thinking of taking our boys on a short train trip in lieu of big gifts. They would love it, and we could have a special meal in the dining car and make it really memorable.

    I’m giving edible gifts this year – mincemeat, jam, cookies, peppermint marshmallows and vanilla extract.
    Aimee @ Simple Bites´s latest post: Beautiful Cookies for the Artistically Inept Brown Sugar Molded Cookies

  3. i love love love these ideas and have utilized them (or at least tried to) in my gift giving this year! it’s something to remember all year long!
    Allison´s latest post: DIY- Puppy Peanut Butter Rounds- A Great Gift for Our Furry Friends

  4. I love all of these! I wish someone would give me almost anything on your list. :)
    Alicia´s latest post: 25 Ways to green up your holidays

  5. Great post. I’ve often asked for grandparents to give experiences over objects, but sometimes it is hard to get them on board, I think they live to see the excitement on the little ones faces when they rip open a gift and discover a toy.

  6. Stephanie, I love this post! What great, simple ideas. Perfect for someone to link to for that grandparent who loves to give, give, give. Thanks for sharing.
    Tsh @ Simple Mom´s latest post: Last-Minute Simple Christmas Gift Ideas

  7. LOVE these ideas … we had a few on our giving list this year!
    Thanks for the great suggestions!
    Erika´s latest post: 1-000 Gifts- His still- small voice

  8. This is a great list of ideas. We are in the process of reducing the items and clutter in our home. Our kids are almost grown, 18-29, plus 7 grandkids. Only the youngest 2 kids are still at home! Rather than just give “stuff” we have worked hard and came up with some very diffierent ideas as well. One main one, as grandparents, we did not want to give more toys to my daughter’s kids who don’t need anything else. She is in her own decluttering process, so we are giving an annual pass to a local natural attraction/park 15 minutes from their home. It is a gift they can use all year long, and they can create some awesome memories!
    One of my last posts details some of the other things we are doing for our kids this year, if you’d like to read more.
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: You can’t change everything

  9. Great ideas! Now if only other people would read this LOL

    I find it hardest to get certain aunts/uncles/grandparents to get on board. They want to give yet another cheap plastic toy…and its always hard for the kids when it breaks easily or doesn’t work properly. I am thinking of markers for instance that were new but didn’t have much ink in them when they were never used etc…what a waste and hard on the kids too when the new thing doesn’t even work right. What a frustration!

  10. I am going to send this link to lots of family & friends! Fantastic ideas! My kids definitely don’t “need” any more stuff! I have always tried to give them things we can all do together or things they love to do like lessons for dance or art. LOVE THIS!

  11. Jenny in CG says:

    One year my dad gave my boys a great gift. He got a second hand science activity/experiment book. Then he went through it and assembled a kit of all the materials they would need (except the things that were very common to have on hand) to do all the experiments. It was so wonderful for my guys to be able to explore with science without me having to facilitate and run around finding the supplies. It helped build independence as well as fed their thirst for knowledge.

  12. Great ideas! Happily, my mom agreed to my lessons+practical clutter-free gift for my late November birthday: Bradley childbirth classes. No, I’m not kidding – and so looking forward to them. :) For my husband’s birthday, she gave us tickets to a musical of our choosing. Yay for clutter-free gifts that my husband and I can share together, especially since we will be moving in 2011.

  13. great suggestions, Stephanie! thanks for the reminders and new ideas :)
    emily hope´s latest post: purpose romans 8 lustre print 16X20

  14. Nice post. Considering a ‘clutter free’ gift is also environmentally friendly habit. Think of all the packaging materials that we have to dump each year after Christmas. I must write a post on a must do house cleaning project soon after Christmas.
    couponboa´s latest post: Finance Free Christmas Jewelry Gift Guide 2010 – The Final List Unleashed

  15. Faith K.P. says:

    I’m a moments/memories/experience kind of person – Season passes for the family (to the hands-on science museum, zoo, movies,) plane tickets to visit friends/family, a shared trip/vacation, etc. I’m all about PRESENCE as opposed to PRESENTS. I would just assume spend time with the people I love than get “stuff”.

  16. What a wonderful collection of ideas! I’m including this post in my weekend links. Thanks for writing such a great post!
    Angie @ Many Little Blessings´s latest post: 7 Quick Takes- December 17- 2010 Vol 64

  17. Wonderful post! When a girlfriend asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, without hesitation I asked for her homemade biscotti! I dream about it all year!

    My sister is giving our new baby old baby books from her kids.

    I am saving this list to use throughout the year, thank you!!

  18. Great ideas! Thanks!
    Harmony´s latest post: Top Ten Gifts They Dont Want For Christmas

  19. I love your ideas.
    One clutter-free gift I like is personal writing. I ask my kids to write me poems whenever they want to give me a gift.
    Qin Tang´s latest post: Dealing with negative emotions

  20. What GREAT ideas! I especially love the lessons one – that is perfect. One time I was given a 10 week session of pottery lessons for my birthday – it was amazing! :)
    JulieK´s latest post: I just cant keep quiet

  21. We did this last year for our parents. Getting older, they no longer need “stuff”. Our answer? Omaha Steaks! (Which has much more than just steak, by the way.) Everyone loves it and it became a repeat gift for them again this year! Helps keep the freezer full for them until summer.

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  23. My favorite is donations to an organization like World Vision… buying chickens, a year of school, a bicycle to help a young girl make it to school, stuff like that for those who need the gifts much, much more than I do.

  24. I really like what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.
    Maura´s latest post: bed bath and beyond printable coupons

  25. Ashilleong says:

    All good suggestions…except possibly the beauty products. I’m pretty particular about my skincare and my mum tends to buy lots of cheap, artificially scented products. I usually end up with a cupboard full of them as I’m not comfortable regifting them and feel bad about wasting them by throwing them away.

  26. Awsome blog! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am bookmarking your feeds also


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