Anti-Clutter Gift Giving Ideas

Anti-Clutter Gift Giving Ideas

I love the holiday season! I love the music, the lights, decorations, seeing friends and family, and the festive mood that the season creates. Finding gifts, wrapping them, and even waiting in the long line at the post office to mail them brings me joy! I realize many people do not share my warm fuzzy feelings about the holidays – in part, because it is so focused on gift-giving. Many of us already feel we have too much stuff so the idea of being gifted a bunch of new things is stressful – not to mention that we really don’t want to spend money on things that will just clutter our loved ones’ homes or end up in a landfill. Here are a few ideas for gift-giving that focus more on experiences and making memories than having an object to put on a shelf.

Activity Boxes

When my son was young, he had a subscription to Radish. Each month he received a lovely box with a cooking utensil, recipes, and shopping lists for a specific meal. Cooking together was always fun (and I learned a few things!) There are several activity box subscriptions available. They are geared towards different ages and interests and usually have an educational component (disguised as something fun!) When you start looking for them you may find it hard to choose just one!


Food is one thing that you really don’t need to worry about becoming clutter! Even if it isn’t entirely consumed, there is little guilt in getting rid of a quarter of a fruit cake on January 10. If you do not enjoy cooking treats, you might consider a snack sampler. We have received Asian Snack Boxes a few times and have fun trying all the options. Some we loved… some not so much – but it became after dinner entertainment for us. You can find gifts of almost any type of food or drink. I enjoy the samplers because, again, you don’t feel guilty if you don’t like it all – it is the fun experience of trying new and different things.

One year my friend sent me four pints of ice cream from a local creamery. That was awesome! And my son and I had fun playing with the dry ice it was packaged with.

Event Tickets

Last year I surprised my son with tickets to the Vikings/Giants playoff game. The look on his face as he read the piece of paper stuck in his stocking was priceless! (Nosebleed seats, so they did not cost a fortune either!) If you are not sure what specific event your recipient would enjoy, you could do a gift card to a local theater, comedy club, or other venue. Or, if you will attend the event with them, let them pick out which performance and purchase tickets after the holidays.


A Minnesota Parks Pass is a great gift for anyone who loves the outdoors. Giving it with Guide to Minnesota State Parks or a book about park history would provide something for the recipient to unwrap. When my son was younger we had memberships to the Minnesota Zoo and the Minnesota Children’s Museum which we got so much use out of. For teenagers, a gift to a gym might be a better fit.

Subscriptions (Electronic or Printed)

For the book lover you love, a subscription to Kindle Unlimited provides free access to thousands of books, or, Audible will let them listen to books while they do other things. And while I don’t see too many of these anymore, some people still love to sit back and relax with an actual magazine! Like food, magazines can be recycled guilt-free after it is read.


Is there anything that your recipient really hates to do? How about gifting them a service to take care of it? Snow removal, lawn care, cleaning, dog walking – there are plenty of people and companies happy to take on these tasks. Or – give the gift of home organizing! A fabulous gift! That said – make sure the recipient wants organizing or cleaning because it might come across as a judgment.

Gift Cards

Gift cards to someone’s favorite store will be a sure hit since they can pick out what they want. If you want to stick with gifts of experience, perhaps a gift card to a restaurant, movie theater, arcade, golf center, or batting cage would give them a fun experience. For the young driver in your life – how about a gas card? A college student might appreciate a gift card to their campus bookstore. When our friend’s daughter left Minnesota for NYU, we gave her a subway pass. We knew she would be spending money on one and this was a way to share the excitement of her move to the big city!


There are so many types of experiences to gift! One year, when my entire extended family was together, we hired a photographer as a gift for my parents. We knew they would love having professional photos of everyone – and we don’t all get together too often! Other experiences that could be fun include a local food or chocolate tour, a paint and sip class, a cooking class, spa treatment, or an escape room challenge. (Groupon has a lot of things like this. Regardless of purchasing anything through Groupon, it provides a lot of great ideas.)

Usable Things

One year my sister sent me a set of lovely sponges shaped like birds. There was a little perch that suctioned to the window, where the bird sponge could watch the kitchen. I would not have purchased these for myself because it would have felt like an indulgence, but they were fun to have and use. Since sponges do not last forever, this was not a permanent item of décor, but I thoroughly enjoyed them while I had them! Purchasing items that people use every day but are a little bit nicer than the usual, provides a gift that will be used, and, when their lifetime is over, discarded. Other ideas might be fancy napkins, dish clothes, lovely pens, high-quality water bottles or travel mugs, or toys for their pets.

I would love to know what ideas you have! Please share them at

From the Expert