2008 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts of clutter

It’s the holiday season, and we all need a little smile. Similar to our Unitasker Wednesday posts, we don’t want you to buy these items. We simply want you to have fun reading about all the awful gifts of clutter you wouldn’t really want to give this year.

Stumped on what to buy your favorite co-worker or loved one? Consider giving the gift of clutter!

Small Kitchen Appliances

Your mother-in-law hates coffee? No matter. Buy her an espresso maker anyway. Get the deluxe version equipped with steamer and grinder. It’ll take up lots of counter space and you can use it when you visit. Heck, buy her two!

Knick Knacks

If you really want to yank the chain of the minimalist in your life, buy knick knack gifts. These small shelf stuffers fit any budget. You can get a $1 replica of the Statue of Liberty. Inexpensive gifts not your style? Consider the pricey gem-studded Hello Kitty figurine for $163,000.00. (image from boredbored.com)

Arcade-Style Video Games

Who needs Rock Band when you can go retro and deliver a full size, 300-pound Ms. Pac-man to an eager child or adult? Cram it into the living room of a tiny studio appartment for easy entertainment. A fun and educational experience on the history of video games can be had by all.

Obscure Art

Who says you can’t impose your own artistic tastes onto others? Let’s face it, some people in your life need your artful guidance. At big box stores, garage sales, or art galleries, look for bizarre sculptures, abstract paintings, or anything that would leave the recipient asking: “What is it?”

A Pile of Boulders

For your suburbia-dwelling friends, don’t forget the garden. Call your local rock quarry and have a truck dump off a pile of rocks on your friend’s driveway. They’ll have hours of fun trying to pick up the boulders, one-by-one, and finding the perfect garden spot for each to occupy.

Hard-to-Use Electronic Equipment

For the technically challenged on your list, give the gift of complex electronics that will end up tucked away on a garage shelf. Universal remotes that require setup on a computer and web access are an option. Challenge the recipient to sit with the manual until he or she figures out how to program it.

Giant Vases

In his post Too many flower vases, Matt asked: “So what can I do with all of these vases?” There is no need to get rid of them when you can let them collect dust in a cabinet! Add to your friends and family members’ collections with a giant vase to obstruct the entrance through any front door.

Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to lovely clutter gifts. Large, small, expensive, cheap — clutter gifts span the world over and can easily provide a lifetime of dust, maintenance, and storage fees for your most treasured friends.

What is the most outrageous clutter gift you’ve ever received? Let us know about it in the comments.

65 Comments for “2008 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts of clutter”

  1. posted by MGA on

    Clutter, clutter, and more clutter. When I do a scan of gifts over time– I think of the dinner out certificates, mall gift cards and more and I know that those certificates are here somewhere but I can never quit locate it when I need it. One restaurant has now gone out of business! Yikes. I think the best gift is a ‘date’ with an old friend, family member or whatever to see a show, enjoy a meal, visit an exhibit, whatever– just enjoying each other’s company. I always feel guilty about sending those cutsey clutter gifts off to the recycle world– like maybe my DNA will be tracked back by a sad but earnest gift giver… could that really happen?

  2. posted by ConfusedNazgul on

    My father-in-law generally only gives money as gifts, which is very nice, but for the last few years he’s insisted on stuffing stockings with junk he found at the dollar store. He thinks it’s funny and makes us (myself, my husband, and his sister – all of us in the 21 – 26 age range) open everything in a big ceremony before dinner. It’s always junk like those cheap, inedible chocolate Santas (made from probably 0.5% chocolate), flashing Rudolph noses, and plastic “travel games” with instructions written in Engrish. Last year’s haul was two plastic bags full! I’m hoping he won’t be able to do it this year because he has to travel across the country to do Christmas at our house this year… I’ll be unpleasantly surprised if he packs his luggage with all that junk.

  3. posted by Mara on

    Last Christmas my mom gave me a sweater with Celtic knotwork on it (lovely, but a style I haven’t liked since I was 16), a teapot shaped like a pincushion with a Beatrix Potter mouse on it, and a chipped wall vase shaped like leeks.

    I did ask her to get me a set of viola strings — which she did. The stuff above was all from her thrift store; it went to my neighborhood thrift store in short order. I’m trying to get her not to give me any more clutter, but haven’t been very successful.

    We (three daughters) got Mom a rice cooker last Christmas, and a bread machine this year. She loves them. But then, she’s gluten-intolerant and is also the world’s worst cook, so anything that improves her quality of life / food is a good thing. I love my own rice cooker, but that’s because it allows me to work on other stuff while it’s cooking the rice.

  4. posted by Hippolyta on

    A common theme here seems to be that so many gifts can be either wonderful or awful depending on the recipient. Some people think receiving money or even gift cards is disappointing. For others those are absolutely ideal. Personally I’m with the other gardeners in that I would seriously love to receive a load of boulders! :-) But yeah, that gift is certainly not for everyone.
    Another gift I love, either for giving or receiving, is a donation to a charity that both the giver and the receiver would like to support. But again, it’s not for everyone: some people would be disappointed not to get something that is for them personally, or they would feel preached-at. I would only give this gift to someone I know shares my views about clutter and improving the world. The idea to make the recipient happy, after all.

  5. posted by You shouldn’t have! - Simpler Living - timesunion.com - Albany NY on

    [...] Unclutterer has a humorous roundup of gifts that say “I had to get you something.” All of them are gifts of clutter. On the list: [...]

  6. posted by Alex on

    Bath and Body Works “stuff.” How much scented lotion and soap can you possibly use? I take it to work and give it away.

    Cookbooks. At 50, I pretty much cook what I cook, or use online recipes. I think I’m giving them to the library book sale…

    Also, there are about 150 DVDs on the shelf. So why do we seem to always rent movies? What am I doing with all these.

    Stacks of CDs without cases. Cases without CDs.

  7. posted by Natalie in Western Australia on

    Its my 40th year and instead of gifts, I am asking for each person who is valuable to me to please do a scrapbook page with a photo of themselves and some words for me which I will put in a big album on the night of my party. That means more to me than some gift I will look at occassionally, eat or eventually use.

  8. posted by Melissa on

    I’m going fairly anonymous on this, as my mother may someday learn to use Google.

    Growing up, my single working mother bought me lots and lots of cheap presents for Christmas, thinking that the number of presents opened was the important part and helped make up for us being poor the rest of the year. Every year since I’ve lived on my own, I’ve asked for and failed to receive fewer, more selective gifts that I will actually use and enjoy. (It’s particularly irritating because she complains about how she has no money [which is true] but then continues to buy me stuff I don’t want or need, despite her awareness of the fact that I am more able to buy such items for myself than she is.) For years, I’ve kept these “best daughter” and angel-related plaques/suncatchers/jewelry boxes/ceramic plates around, because she’d visit and wonder why they weren’t being displayed (as if I had room to dedicate entire walls to these pieces). However, when she was helping me unclutter my craft area (ironically, she’s very good at keeping her own space free of crap), she lectured how I had too much stuff!!

    I immediately lost any guilt about wanting to get rid of the junk she’d given me over the years. This Christmas, after she left, I simply sorted through the stuff and immediately placed all the new items that I knew I would not use or did not like enough to keep into a box to donate. It was quite liberating, and I hope she DOES start asking where these things have gone before next Christmas, so that I can (nicely) let her know that I was serious when I told her I didn’t want many things for the holidays. Since asking didn’t work, maybe seeing that I don’t keep most of the things she spends her hard-earned money on will convince her.

  9. posted by Malcolm on

    Not so much outrageous – but mysterious – we have old friends who ALWAYS give us bowls or platters. Always oddly shaped, with very pointy corners or wavy sides. All colours. Every shape you can think of. Dozens of them by now. They mean well …. but why does it always have to be a bowl ….

  10. posted by Loren on

    I know this is from last year but I can’t help but add to this hilarious list.

    My sister every holiday swears up and down ‘I hate presents, don’t buy me anything, I hate buying presents’. But for every holiday she insists on buying ME cheap plastic crap and kitchen equipment I don’t need. Despite obvious hints that I make about sustainable, renewable, presents she could buy me (including statements like ‘Look how gorgeous these fair trade scarves are. OH and they are only 20$! I would LOVE to have one of THESE!’ and flat out saying ‘I updated my Etsy.com account last week, maybe you can order something off my favorites list for my Birthday! And filling my favorites with reasonably priced artwork, hand made goods, and vintage things.)
    I still receive things like this DIY plastic Triceratops lamp… http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/lights/ae04/
    I usually retaliate with something fair trade or organic because she LIKES fair trade and organic. But if this Christmas doesn’t go any better I may have to actually follow through with “Oh, well I didn’t get you any presents because you ‘hate’ them”.

  11. posted by ohwolfman on

    I ask for the same thing every year: Candles, Uniball pens and coffee. Nothing fancy – nothing expensive. Just basic candles, and storebrand coffee. They’re all gifts that are consumed and I enjoy immensely.

    What I get instead: A yodeling pickle, A plastic garden gnome that looks like he’s taking a crap, a set of glasses that say “I’m Bob’s Wife”, coffee cups with udders, snowglobes…

    I’m told that giving “just pens or coffee looks cheap” and “you can buy those for yourself. I wanted to give you something special.”

    This year, I’ve asked for NO gifts. Let’s see who listens. So far, I’ve netted some homemade cookies, which is my favorite gift ever.

  12. posted by Battra92 on

    @Emily: I would love an original Ms. Pacman machine as well. There’s also that 20th aniversary which was bundled with Galaga.

    A college friend of mine is refinishing an old arcade cabinet to become a MAME machine or something, which would be the perfect solution, I think.

  13. posted by Jenny on

    My worst Christmas gift ever was fake hair, lots of fake hair. My mom bought me lots of those ponytail hair add ins to make your hair look thicker, and scrunchies with fake hair attached. She thought they would be great for me because I don’t style my hair and these would be easier. Well, if I don’t style the hair I have (which I like to think looks perfectly fine just washed and brushed), I’m not going to figure out how to style these into my hair. My other gift that year was a fish stuffed animal that makes kissy sounds when you press its lips. I was 22-23 at the time.

  14. posted by heather on

    I don’t get why people always say they hate giving gift cards – yet who likes that sick feeling of getting (or giving) a gift that you can tell by the recipients face fell way short of the mark. We all have so much stuff already – why do we insist on killing ourselves going out into mall-hell to get more. We should all just make movie – coffee – dinner – drinks dates with each other. And for out of town family and friends – send a letter, photos, or phone cards so you can call one another.

    Enjoyed reading this roundup! But it makes me a little sad to hear of all the not-so-well-off people struggling to have a gift to give someone. Home baking would be lovely (most of the time!)
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  15. posted by God help us, every one... on

    My heart aches for the grandparents who scrimp and save to give something personal and tangible to grandchildren who prefer Visa gift cards, or cash, and who will go online to make snarky, eye-rolling comments about the gifts their grandparents eagerly wrapped up.

    Susan’s suggestion is wonderful. I hope these grandparents donate to charity in their grandchildrens’ names instead of feeding the money-grab Christmas has become.

Comments are closed.