Clutter-free Gift Giving

Clutter-free gift giving is a thoughtful alternative to traditional gift giving.

While we all love to see the colorful array of brightly wrapped gifts assembled under the tree, many of us also dread the energy and effort involved in finding a home for all the new stuff that materializes at holiday time. 

Benefits of Clutter-free Gift Giving

Clutter-free gift giving provides a number of welcome benefits such as the following:

  • It's clutter-free! First and foremost, there’s no clutter associated with clutter-free gift giving, or very little, anyway. The clutter associated with such gifts, when there is any, is often temporary in nature as they are typically meant to be consumed in some fashion.
  • It's personalized:  To give a clutter-free gift requires thought and insight on the part of the gift-giver, which makes the gift all the more meaningful to the recipient.
  • It's often unique: Clutter-free gifts tend to be original.  Sweaters, neckties, books and baubles are fun to receive on occasion, but there is something really special about receiving an unexpected, unimagined, out of the ordinary surprise.
  • It's often memorable:  The kind of gifts that come without clutter often involve experiences, and it's through those experiences that lasting memories are made. 

Give Experiences

Experiences make for truly clutter-free gifts. Chances are there is an experience of some kind on the wish list of every single person on your gift giving list. That makes this an extremely versatile option. The one challenge is determining which experiences would be most enjoyed by which recipients. Listen during the year for phrases like "I've always wanted to..."

Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Give tickets - to a concert, play, performance, sporting event, museum, theme park, festival, or cultural event. 
  • Plan a trip - a single day outing or an extended vacation. For our 25th wedding anniversary my husband gave me a cruise to Mexico! That was a memorable gift.
  • Provide pampering - in the form of a mani-pedi, a visit to a local spa or an appointment with a masseuse. 
  • Think exotic - such as hot air balloon rides, skydiving, bungee jumping, hang gliding, parasailing, whale watching, snorkeling or swimming with dolphins. 

Tickets to the Ballet

One Christmas when our girls were 12 and 14 we splurged on tickets to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet performance of The Nutcracker. I'm pretty sure neither of them remembers any other gift they received that year, but they will always remember attending the ballet. 

Give Knowledge

Knowledge is perhaps the most clutter-free gift giving option available. At the most there may be a ticket to keep track of, but chances are it will be electronic. The internet makes it easy to give the gift of learning. Try one of these options:

  • Online Classes - You can find an online course for just about any subject a person might be interested in from gardening to computer programming. 
  • Workshops or Conventions - There are workshops, conventions, and conferences to support just about any hobby or interest. Some examples include paying for an aspiring writer to attend a writer's workshop or sending a photography enthusiast to a convention. 
  • Download Learning - The Great Courses offers college level lectures on an ever expanding variety of topics. Courses range from 12 to 84 lectures depending on the topic. Available formats include DVD, CD or (here's the clutter-free part)  video or audio download (depending on the course). They continually offer an ever-rotating selection of courses at a 70% discount. In addition to offering excellent quality this company provides some of the best customer service I've ever experienced.

Master Class

Master Class offers online learning from the experts. Learn cooking from Gordon Ramsay, writing from Judy Blume, filmmaking from Martin Scorsese, Tennis from Serena Williams, acting from Samuel L. Jackson, conservation from Jane Goodall, or jazz from Herbie Hancock (to name a few).  The selection of courses is constantly increasing. We purchased a course for our son last Christmas, and he loved it!

Give Lessons

When it comes to clutter-free gift giving the distinction between knowledge and lessons may seem vague, but in my mind there is one. Knowledge gifts typically involve learning at a computer or in a classroom setting of some sort while lessons involve doing and typically require the learner to travel. Another distinction is the method of payment. Knowledge gifts can typically be paid for in one lump sum while lessons often involve monthly installments. 

Here are some examples of lessons you might offer as gifts:

  • Music lessons (voice, piano, violin, guitar, harp...)
  • Dance lessons (jazz, tap, ballet, ballroom)
  • Art lessons (drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, ceramics)
  • Language lessons
  • Cooking lessons
  • Sporting lessons (gymnastics, swimming, archery, horseback riding, tai kwon do, kayaking). Sporting outfitters such as Cabela's and REI offer a variety of classes for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Give Memberships or Subscriptions

Memberships make excellent clutter-free gifts. They are a gift that keeps on giving as the recipient is able to enjoy the benefits year round. Some examples of memberships you might give as gifts include:

  • Membership to a gym or spa
  • Membership to a wholesale retailer such as Costco or Sam's Club
  • Music subscription through Pandora or Spotify
  • membership for a family history buff
  • Membership to a local zoo, aquarium, or museum
  • Audible subscription*
  • Amazon Prime membership*
  • A National Parks pass
  • Membership to a ______ of the month club that delivers a new item every month (books, flowers, wine, coffee, chocolates, etc.). See Amazing Clubs for an extensive list of options.

* affiliate link

Give Gift Cards

Not everybody loves the idea of a gift card. Some people feel like they are an impersonal or lazy gift giving option. Personally, I love them. They are convenient and easy for the giver, and they allow the recipient to get exactly what they want. They are also extremely versatile. You can find a gift card for just about anything. 

My college age kids love it when I send them a gift card for their favorite restaurant chain. They also like getting cards for groceries, gas, or some sort of treat they can't normally afford on their budget. My teenage nephews love being able to pick out whatever they want with an gift card*.

Most grocery stores and department stores carry an extensive selection of gift cards. In addition, you can purchase gift cards for a wide variety of retailers at a discount from Here are some suggestions of the kinds of gift cards to look for:

  • Restaurants
  • Clothing stores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Craft stores (my daughter's favorite!)
  • Online retailers
  • Department stores like Walmart or Target
  • Gift cards for groceries or gas
  • VISA gift cards (which can be spent just about anywhere)
  • Gift cards for services (manicure, massage, etc.)
  • iTunes 


For a great deal on movie tickets, try MoviePass. For just $10 a month the card holder can see as many movies as he or she likes in the theater. If you know a movie buff, this could be the perfect gift.

Give Consumables

Consumables are items that get used up. As a result, they're a great option for clutter-free gift giving. Consumables can be homemade or store bought. They include food and drink but also such things as bath salts, lotions, candles, art supplies, and more.

You can come up with some really creative consumable gifts based on the particular interests and likes of the people on your list. For instance, I have a brother-in-law who loves to barbecue. One year I made him several grilling spice blends and put them in pretty glass jars. He loved it!

Food items are a great option for giving gifts to groups of people (coworkers, neighbors, clients, etc.). They can be made in bulk for relatively little cost. Another plus is that they're fun to make, and they have a personal touch that recipients appreciate.

Give Service

Services are another great option for clutter-free gift giving. They literally take up no space. Services can be paid for or provided by you. If you have a skill that other people value, consider offering it as a gift to individuals on your to buy for list. Examples of services you might offer to friends and family include:

  • Lawn/yard care
  • House cleaning
  • Pet grooming, pet sitting, dog walking
  • Child care
  • Organization!

Give Time

Time is the ultimate form of clutter-free gift giving. The best investment you can make in any relationship is time. A gift of time is a gift of yourself. Time gifts are among the simplest gifts to give. Just go somewhere together (a museum, restaurant, park, etc.); or do something you love together (take a hike, go for a bike ride, play a board game, watch a movie). 

This year for my wedding anniversary I gave my husband 12 months of dates. Each month I selected a fun activity to do together. Some activities involved expense, others were no cost. If an activity cost money, I purchased gift cards in advance where possible. It was simple to do, and it lasts all year long. 

Happy Gift Giving

Gift giving should be a positive experience for both the giver and the receiver. Clutter-free gift giving can be both thoughtful and rewarding. It's fun to find the perfect gift for the people in your life, and it's fun to receive gifts that create memories without contributing to clutter. 

Enjoy your gift giving!

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