December is a time of amazing generosity: we open our homes to guests, share with those less fortunate, and, of course, exchange gifts with friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. Giving is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season, and I find sharing truly meaningful gifts to be an incomparable experience.
Of course, the aftermath of this giving bonanza is often a new batch of things that might end up as clutter in our homes or the homes of the people we've exchanged presents with. But that doesn't have to be the case; there are plenty of ways to give generously and meaningfully without over-stuffing. These five gift ideas let you show you care without loading your loved ones up with things.
1. Gift certificates--Though often derided as a bland, last-minute choice, gift certificates can actually be a great way of giving someone exactly what it is they want, even if you don't know for sure what that might be. Of course, even gift certificates require some planning and thought; you'll at least want to have a sense of where your gift recipient would be likely to shop or what her interests might be. If you're truly stumped, consider something general that's still likely to have broad appeal, such as a gift certificate for an online store like
Amazon or a pre-paid credit card, which can be used almost anywhere.
2. Your time and talent--Chances are there's something you do really well, perhaps better than anyone else you know, whether that's making small home repairs, baking cakes, writing, sewing, or researching vacation values. This year, consider granting your giftees some of your time and talent--two hours of odd jobs around the house, for example, or a written record of an elderly relative's family remembrances. A gift of yourself is, by definition, something no one else can give, and your time and skills are likely to be more valuable than many other presents you could give.
3. Experiences--Think about what your gift recipients enjoy doing and consider giving them the gift of an experience. Whether it's a pair of tickets to an upcoming play for a theater lover, a series of cooking classes for a budding home chef, or a night on the town--complete with babysitting--for new parents, thoughtful experiences are things your giftees will be almost certain to use and appreciate.
4. Donations--Rather than pulling out your hair trying to decide what to get for the person who has everything, why not give the gift of exponential generosity? Donating to a favorite charity in someone else's name has multiple benefits: it lets you support a cause your recipient appreciates, allows you to avoid wasting money on token things that might never be used, and expands the scope of your gift so more than one person benefits. Almost every charity will happily send a card or note announcing your gift; you can also make your own explaining why you chose the cause you did.
5. Consumables--Finally, it's worth remembering that not everything that's actually a thing will wind up as clutter. Something your recipient can use--and use up--can be a great gift. Food and drinks like truly excellent chocolates or a nice bottle of wine, flower arrangements (or live plants for those with green thumbs), nice toiletries, and handcrafted candles are all thoughtful gifts that are unlikely to wind up in the back of a closet. The keys are to take the time to consider what your recipient might enjoy and then give accordingly--no chocolates for the cousin who's allergic to them, for example--and to go for quality over quantity.
As you shop for holiday gifts--or create your own wish list--consider including the five types of presents above. You'll be able to share in the generosity of the season without worrying about the clutter aftermath come January.