Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wrap up

Today marks the end of Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide and we thought a final list of all our posts might be a helpful way to end the series:

In the comments to this post, feel welcome to share your favorite uncluttered gifts that you’ve received or given over the years — or even something you’re planning to give this year. We are always on the lookout for ideas of what to give that won’t clutter up a recipient’s home.

Finally, feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2012

2010

2009

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Technology gifts

It used to be that I’d ask if you have a techie on your holiday shopping list before beginning a gift-giving post like this, but the truth is, almost everyone is a techie these days with devices, gadgets, and gizmos as part of our everyday lives. Now, you can buy an uncluttered tech gift for nearly everyone.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the the ScanSnap iX100 and it did the impossible: it made me fall in love with a scanner, of all things. This small, portable, fast, and wireless scanner fits on my desk or in a bag. In my continued and extensive testing I have found that its battery holds a charge for a long time and it lets you export your scanned image to a huge array of sources, from your desktop to a shared folder to Evernote and so much more. Gone are the days of cranky flatbed scanners the size of a 1970 Ford Galaxy 500.

The Magnetic Organization System or “MOS,” is one of those why-didn’t-they-think-of-that products. If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for effective ways to combat cable clutter. Sure, you can take the DIY route, but I encourage you to consider the MOS. The attractive, metallic pad sits on your desk and holds unused cables in place with magnets. It comes in black, silver, and white, so you can find one to accommodate your other hardware. My favorite part: if you have cables that won’t be held in place by a magnet, just use one of the included, magnetic cable ties and you’re all set.

Finally, if you want to use it to store something other than computer cables, have at it (see the image above right).

The Kanex GoBuddy+ is unobtrusive and a brilliant multi-tasking cable organizer that I love. First it has two cables attached — either a USB and a Lightning cable, or a USB and a micro USB. Both tuck out of the way when not and use, and unfold to connect your smartphone or tablet to a computer or USB-based AC adapter for charging. Best of all, it’s got a built-in bottle opener. Yes, please! It comes in black or white.

Here’s one that’s for you and/or the kids. The dreamGEAR Nintendo Wii Induction Power Base Quad adds a rechargeable battery to the Nintendo’s Wiimotes. When the gaming ends, simply plop the controller back into the base and it begins charging. You can either plug it into a wall or make use of that mystery USB port on the back of your TV (what is that for, anyway?) to save a slot on the wall socket. I have one of these at home and love it. The kids never ask for batteries for the Wiimotes anymore.

Last year I recommended the BookBook Travel Journal, and thought I would never fine something I like just as much. Well, I have. The Better Together Note Pouch is a zippered carrier that can accommodate a tablet or a laptop plus a myriad of pens, notebooks, labels, and a host of other things. It comes in several colors.

The Anker® 40W 5-Port High Speed Desktop USB Charger doesn’t have the sexiest name in the world, but it’s great for multi-device families. Once connected to a wall socket, this puppy can charge up to three USB-based devices. Not only that, it eliminates the clutter of “Where’s my cable?” and “Where’s my charger?” I recommend paring it with these great cable labels so everyone knows exactly whose is whose.

Last but not least, a handy little stocking stuffer for the techie on your gift list. The DCI 4-Port USB Power Strip fits into a bag (it measures just 1.1 by 4.4 by 0.75-inches), accepts up to four USB devices, and even has colored covers for each port so you needn’t worry about debris getting inside them when not in use. I’d give this to the tech-friendly traveler, as a full-sized charging station is too unwieldy to pack easily.

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Productivity gifts

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could give someone an extra hour in the day to get things done? Unfortunately, it is not possible to do precisely that, but the following list contains gift ideas that can help people manage their time better and be a little bit more productive.

A good night’s sleep allows for a more productive day. For those who live in noisy environments, Alpine SleepSoft Earplugs can block out noise and allow deep restful sleep. For shift workers or those who sleep late, blackout curtains can make all the difference in the world. Installing them in children’s bedrooms may encourage them to sleep later, too, giving parents an extra hour in the morning or evening to get some work done.

For those who have trouble getting started in the morning, the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock (pictured below) gradually increases the light level so you wake up naturally and feel energized and productive throughout the day.

There are three great books that I recommend to boost organization and productivity.

  • Erin Doland’s book Unclutter your life in one week is a straightforward place to start to get your home in order. An orderly home reduces stress and less stress helps you focus on those things that really matter.
  • 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business by Julie Bestry is a great book, not only for small business owners but also for anyone who wants to improve their level of organizing and productivity at work or in the home office. It is full of tips and tricks that will save time and money.
  • Effectively managing many tasks with different priorities and deadlines is essential, so I recommend the book On Top of Everything by Laurence Seton. The book describes an easy way to learn a task management system called “Projecteze®.” I mentioned this book last year and I’m happy to recommend it again because the system is just so simple to use.

Highly productive people usually carry a notebook. Notebooks allow them to keep their lists and all of their brilliant ideas in one place. And, with the hectic pace of life, notebooks are often more reliable than one’s memory. Fellow Unclutterer Dave says one of his favourite notebooks is the Hobonichi Techno. I quite like the Staples™ ARC customizable notebook system because of the ability to add different types of pages (calendar, contacts, etc.) according to your requirements. The Michael Roger “Decomposition” Book is a great basic notebook made from 100 per cent post consumer waste.

For the person who seems to have everything except enough time to work on his or her projects, perhaps the best gift would be to offer an uninterrupted block of time. Offer to assist homeowners in completing an outstanding DIY project or mind young children for a few hours while parents complete a project.

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2012

2011

2010

  • Being organized before a doctor’s visit
    Doctors can be intimidating, even those with amazing bedside manners. It can be easy to be anxious and/or timid around them — especially when they’re wearing those impersonal white lab coats. A little organizing can help reduce these anxieties.
  • Review: Five Books
    What are the five books you should read to learn as much as possible about a specific subject? Five Books has the answer.
  • 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Pampered grooming gifts for him
    There aren’t many gifts more practical than grooming items. All of these items are utilitarian and functional, but are luxurious enough that they’re likely not something a man in your life will routinely buy for himself. You can pamper him, and know the gift won’t clutter up his space.

2009

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: The ultimate uncluttered gift

Each year in our Gift Giving Guide, we choose one gift that we find to be on the extravagant side and present it as our ultimate gift. We’ve featured things like scanners and hiring a professional organizer and my book and even a closet organizing system.

This year, we are returning to a gift we featured in 2008. However, since that time, it has been so greatly transformed that we feel compelled to return to it in its newest iteration. Introducing the 2014 ultimate gift selection, the Kindle.

I’m partial to the Kindle Paperwhite because I’m a voracious reader and the eink of the Paperwhite display is fantastic on my eyes. If you are younger and/or have perfect vision, the Kindle Fire might be more your speed with the LCD HD screen. (We have both the Paperwhite and the Fire, and our son uses the Fire to access educational materials through FreeTime. FreeTime is a convenient service for developing readers who go through books faster than you can drive to the library.)

The Kindle Voyage has recently hit the market, but unless button controls are extremely important to you, I’m not sure there is much benefit over the Paperwhite to justify the additional expense. (It’s $100 more.)

At this point, eReaders are such popular devices that you likely don’t need me to wax poetic about their benefits. However, since this is an uncluttering and organizing site, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least a few benefits of the device. Such as how easy it is to search and retrieve information from digital books (including comments you make to the text), especially in comparison to their physical counterparts. Additionally, how digital books require virtually no physical space to be stored in your home. Also, the efficiency with which you can acquire texts and the (usually) lower price of digital books. Over the longterm, a Kindle can save you time, energy, money, frustration, and space in your home. I’m also quite fond of traveling with it since it takes up so little space in my luggage.

If you’re looking to give or request an extremely organized and uncluttered gift this holiday season, the Amazon Kindle might be the perfect present.

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Oh, before I forget! If you love reading about simple living and habits that encourage a life free of entanglements, let me recommend to you the latest book project from Leo Babauta — Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change. Funding his book is another great gift idea this holiday season.

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Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts

Experience gifts, when well-chosen, can provide a lot of delight with zero clutter. But because some people like to provide a tangible item to their gift recipients, I’m going to suggest some books you could pair with these experience gifts, too.

The specific experience gifts that follow are all located in selected cities in the U.S., but you may well find similar offerings wherever you live. Some of these ideas are on the expensive side, and best suited if a group of people can go together to purchase the gift.

Focus on the arts

For children or adults, give a class in one of many art forms. Depending on the person’s age and interests, this could involve glassblowing, stained glass, mosaics, cartooning, origami, etc. Some art museums offer fun-sounding classes, such as My Very First Art Class for preschoolers (and a whole lot more for older children) at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Alternatively, you could provide a gift certificate for drop-in studio time. Or get a membership in an art museum with hands-on programs, such as the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco.

In this category, it’s easy to find some wonderful books to pair with the classes or studio time, if you so desire. For children, I’m fond of the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series: Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Andy Warhol and more. But the options are endless. A couple books that caught my eye are One Watercolor A Day and The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas.

Focus on animals

For animal lovers of all sorts, experience gifts abound. You could get a gift certificate for a whale-watching trip, and pair it with anything from Moby-Dick to the children’s book If You Want to See a Whale.

Some zoos offer the chance to shadow a zookeeper or a veterinarian for a day. Books to go along with this could include Wild About Reading for young children and The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients for older gift recipients.

After-hours events such as an aquarium sleepover can be fun, too. This experience would pair nicely with the children’s book About Fish.

Focus on plants

A membership in a botanic garden or a Japanese garden could be a welcome gift. You might also consider various local tours with a plant or garden focus. Horticultural classes are another possibility. If you wanted to include a book, consider The Curious Garden (for children) and From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden (for adults).

Focus on the skies

Give a gift certificate for a helicopter ride, a hot air balloon ride, or a biplane ride. I’ve given a couple of these gifts myself, and they were huge hits. A book that appeals to me because of the wonderful illustrations is Hot Air Balloons: History, Evolution and Great Adventures.

Focus on chocolate

Rather than just giving some wonderful chocolates, you could give the chocolate-lover on your list a chocolate walking tour. Or you could give a chocolate class, which teaches you about chocolate or allows you to make your own small batch. If you want to include a book, options are plentiful — one choice could be The Great Book of Chocolate.

Considerations regarding experience gifts

Some experience gifts (from massages to tours) come with the expectation of a tip. And, in some places, parking might be limited and expensive. If you don’t want the gift recipient to have to pay to use your gift, consider pre-paying any of these added expenses (if possible) or including a bit of cash to cover the expense.

Also, as with any gift, consider the recipients. Do they have any food allergies? Any physical limitations? A fear of heights? If you’re considering a gift certificate that’s only good for a specific day, are you sure the recipient can attend the event? You can probably find a good experience gift for most people, as long as you choose wisely.

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

  • 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Utilitarian unitaskers as gifts
    Here at Unclutterer, we make weekly jokes about unitaskers — items with only one purpose and very little utility tied to that purpose. However, there are useful unitaskers, single-purpose items with high utility, that can make great gifts for the right people. The following are ideas to take into consideration.

2012

2010

2009

  • Unitasker Wednesday: USB-Powered Hamster Wheel
  • The list of unitaskers available for your computer’s USB ports just got a little bit longer thanks to the extremely necessary USB-powered Hamster Wheel.
  • A simple Thanksgiving solution
    Until yesterday, I had no idea that chalk wrote easily on matte-finish oilcloth. The concept is so basic, yet its implications have my head spinning. I’m no longer trying to think of ways to decorate my Thanksgiving table, entertain the kids during mealtime, or am worried about a centerpiece — I have my solution.

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for kids

Each year Erin is kind enough to let me write the gift guide for kids. I have such a good time, and often have to whittle my ideas down to the best selections. That’s what I’ve done again this year. In the following post you’ll find great suggestions for little and big kids.

Younger tykes

The POWER A Skylanders SWAP Force Tackle Box. Skylanders is a game for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo 3DS that encourages kids to buy a vast collection of figurines, which become playable characters. Even a small collection can be unwieldily, and if you think stepping on a LEGO brick is bad, try putting your bare foot down on Drobot. This storage box holds up to 20 figures, is stackable, has a lit that latches shut and is transparent. Plus, Jr. can use it to carry his minions to a friend’s house. (It also works with Disney Infinity characters, if your kid is into that one.)

The LEGO Swoop Bag. I mentioned this last year, and I’ve brought it back for 2014 because LEGOS just won’t go away. Between the LEGO Movie, Star Wars tie-ins that are bolstered by a new TV series, those ever-present bricks will be popular again this season. The Swoop Bag holds a huge collection of LEGOs and spreads out during play time, and easily scoops and stores the lot when play is finished. A few other fun ways to keep LEGOS organized:

  1. The LEGO Storage Head offers a fun way to keep LEGOS organized, and gifts should be fun, right? I’d recommend this for smaller collections.
  2. The LEGO ZipBin 1000 Brick Storage Box and Playmat. I love it because it stores 1,000 bricks, comes with a playmat, and features a brick remover! This all-important tool will keep you from using your teeth to separate stubborn bricks. That thing is like gold, so keep it safe.
  3. The Brick Rack Wall Display for LEGO minifigs. As kids get older, they may want to display their favorite LEGOS. This interesting system mounts to the wall and lets kids slide minifigs in and out. The best part is they aren’t in there permanently, so if they want to take a few down to play with them, they can.

Melissa and Doug Trunki Terrance Rolling Kids Luggage. This beautiful little suit case is perfect for the younger child who travels — or doesn’t! For travelers, it’s carry-on sized and features wheels plus handles and a shoulder strap. At home, it’s a cute and sturdy (holds up to 75 lbs) storage container that you won’t mind looking at. It’s available in several colors and patterns, so you can find one that works for you.

The Hot Wheels Basic Car 50-Pack. Perhaps it’s my nostalgia talking, but Hot Wheels are awesome. This set contains 50 vehicles, each individually wrapped, with no duplicates. Plus, it all ships in a cute cardboard storage box. It’s a great way to create an instant Hot Wheels collection or add on to an existing one AND keep them stored nicely when not in use.

Older kids/teens

Gear Pockets. These wall-hanging units feature mesh pockets and straps for storing all sorts of items: sports equipment, hunting supplies, helmets, boots and more. Put one in the garage or your teenager’s room and they’ll have at-a-glance access to their most important gear.

Multi-Device Charging Station. This great-looking bamboo charging station can accommodate three phones/music players of various makes, an iPad, and a laptop computer. There are hidden hook-ups for everything, keeping them charged in a tidy, nice-looking package.

Finally, this one’s a little abstract, but I’d recommend an Evernote Premium subscription for any college students on your list. I’ve sung Evernote’s praises several times on Unclutterer. It really is my external brain. College is a time to run around like a chicken minus its academic head, and Evernote will help students keep everything they need together and accessible.

If you’re like me, you find time spent shopping for kids almost as much fun as watching them open their gifts. I hope there were a few items here that are prefect for the young ones on your list. Have a great holiday season, everybody!

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Organizing gifts for the kitchen and bathroom

If someone on your gift list this year would appreciate a little organizing help, there are numerous ways to provide gifts to help in his or her pursuits. Seeing as organizing gifts are too many to count, we decided this year to narrow down suggestions to only the kitchen and bathroom. If these two rooms aren’t of concern to your recipient, they still may be able to provide inspiration for gifts applicable to other rooms.

The kitchen is probably the busiest room in the home. Some kitchens have limited counter space and some have limited cupboard space. The following are a few tools that may be of interest to chefs to help them keep the kitchen organized.

  • Free up kitchen counter space with a folding dish rack. The linked model allows dishes to dry quickly and funnels water directly to the sink. It comes apart for easy cleaning and it has a slim profile that makes it easy to store in a cupboard when not in use.
  • Kitchen scales are an essential tool for anyone who enjoys baking but most models take up lots of counter or cupboard space. The Joseph Joseph TriScale Compact Folding Digital Scale is an ideal space saver to that folds up and fits in a drawer. It has an easy to read display and measures in both Imperial and metric. I received one of these last year for Christmas and I love it!

  • I also love my Nest utensil set. It has the five tools that I use most often, all in a compact, self-supporting design. It takes up very little space on the small counter next to my stove and it adds a dash of colour to the kitchen.
  • Any chef with a small kitchen would enjoy receiving a colourful collapsible measuring cup and spoon set or a collapsible silicone colander that can also double as a food steamer. The 4-in-1 box grater by Joseph Joseph folds flat and fits easily in a drawer or cupboard. It comes with a protective cover for safety. It’s dishwasher safe, too.

The bathroom is a close second for the busiest-room-in-the-house designation. Many bathrooms have very little storage or counter space. The following are a few tools that can help keep the bathroom in order.

  • A stainless steel power lock suction basket is designed to keep your soap and shampoo organized in your shower, but it could also be used next to your kitchen sink to keep your dishwashing tools in order.
  • For bathrooms with very little drawer space, a rolling cart is useful for storing items. Plastic is recommended as it does not rust and it can be easily cleaned.
  • Keep cosmetics organized with an expandable organizer for the vanity. Alternatively, a drawer organizer could be used to corral cosmetics.
  • Keep hairstyling tools organized in this handy caddy. It can hang on a towel bar or on a cupboard door or it can be placed in a drawer. Styling tools can be stored on the counter with a hairstyle tool organizer. It also has a place to store hairspray, gel, and hair accessories.
  • For students who transport their toiletries from their dorm room to the bathroom, a new shower tote may be a useful gift.

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

2012

2011

2010

  • Wrap it up in silver
    One of the things I discovered during my uncluttering process is that silver wrapping paper works for every gift-giving occasion — weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, housewarming, etc. — and when you only have a few tubes of wrapping paper to store, it takes up very little space in a closet.

2009

Introducing the 2014 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Starting Monday and going through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we will be running our annual Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Each post will focus on uncluttered, useful, and/or organized gifts that you might want to consider giving to others this season.

The holidays are a time when we can easily feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, as well as by stuff. With our Guide, we hope to inspire you to think outside the traditional gift-giving process or to be more aware of how you proceed within its regular bounds.

The next seven weeks, however, aren’t only about gifts. You’ll likely be invited to parties and have special work or school obligations. You may be the host of this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. And you may find yourself packing up a suitcase or two or three and heading across the country to see far-flung friends and family.

So, how do you keep yourself from going mad?

  • Make a plan now. Create a to-do-list of everything that needs to be accomplished. Then, set specific deadlines for shopping and preparations or whatever it is you have to do in the next seven weeks. Mark these on your calendar with blocks of time to work on meeting your deadlines. If playing host for a holiday meal, consult a guide that lists day-by-day and hour-by-hour suggestions for getting food on the table.
  • Take a break. You don’t have to constantly be on the go until the New Year. When scheduling all the things you need to do on your calendar, be sure to include time for reflection and rejuvenation. You’re likely to go bonkers, otherwise. Also try not to be afraid of saying “no” if you feel that your schedule is becoming too much to reasonably handle.
  • Keep it simple. Whether it’s with your decorations, your gift giving, or any other task that could complicate this time, try your best to keep things simple. You don’t have to put out every snow man you own. You don’t have to serve every dish your grandmother did at Thanksgiving. You don’t have to give New Year’s guests four choices of champagne. Have a signature cocktail and make a pitcher of it instead of standing behind a bar all night making custom orders. Santa Claus can bring the kids a single, larger gift instead of 40 little ones. Don’t be overly complicated about things unless you have to.

Stay focused on enjoying time with family and friends and you should be fine this holiday season.

If you’re eager to get started planning your gift giving this season, feel welcome to check out our past Guides for ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.