2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts the Unclutterers are giving

In our eighth installment of Unclutterer’s 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide we’re discussing gifts the Unclutterer team members are giving this holiday season.

Brian: Now that our extended family is growing, we’ve agreed to limit the family gift exchanges to kids and grandparents only. We would go crazy if we had to find gifts for each sibling, spouse of sibling, nieces, nephews, and grandparents. We uncluttered out shopping list this year.

Matt: I’m baking and cooking many of the gifts I’m giving this year because I don’t feel like contributing any extra clutter to people’s lives. If you can eat it, it won’t be around long. Also, since we live in an RV full time, it’s difficult to find places to store gifts until we give them.

PJ: I’m giving movie passes this year to many people in my family. We’re a family that loves to go to the movies. One lucky person on my gift list is also getting a Roku digital video player. It minimizes the need to buy DVDs and works with Neflix and Amazon on Demand. It’s for someone who doesn’t want or have cable.

Erin: I called everyone and asked what they needed, which means that they’re all getting practical gifts this year. My shopping list is full of things like long underwear, rechargeable batteries, and motor oil. It’s not very exciting, but useful is very welcome in this economy.

Gary: I’m giving and asking for small things this year; stuff that doesn’t take up a lot of space.

What uncluttered gifts are you giving this year? Let us know about your shopping lists in the comments.

43 Comments for “2009 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts the Unclutterers are giving”

  1. posted by Bellen on

    EE Savings Bonds to the 3 grandkids – that’s it.

  2. posted by Magchunk on

    We’re on a pretty tight budget this year so we’ve scaled way back. Family gifts only. For the parents and adult siblings, embroidered dishtowels (done by me, in designs that they’ll be into according to hobbies/interests) and a mix cd that my man is putting together from tracks he ripped from my dad’s extensive jazz vinyl collection. For the younger siblings it’s a magazine subscription and some cute tops for the teen who is into fashion and probably books for the 8 year old who has every. toy. invented. When we go to family gatherings I’m hoping to supplement the light gifts with some easy but yummy dessert to-go.

    And my honey and I are adopting a kitty as our gift to each other. Stockings will be filled with mostly practical items and a few little things under $10.

  3. posted by Sue Bone on

    My husband wants a log basket for our new fire so I plan to buy him a lorry load of logs too.

    His office are planning not to send each other Xmas cards again this year and instead will donate money to purchase a goat for a third world community.

  4. posted by Laura on

    For the grandparents and great-grandma, photo stamps of the little one. Pretty cliched to give photos, but stamps are useful and were a HUGE hit last year. Last year we also did playing cards with the baby’s photo on the back for Great-Grandma, who plays bridge and poker several times weekly, and they were a big hit as well. Apparently all the other grandmas she plays with were jealous. :D

    Beyond that, we’re still working on ideas.

  5. posted by Susan in FL on

    Our children, children’s spouses and grandchildren will each get a check for $100.00 and a card. That is all. They all live in distant states and it was difficult to select appropriate gifts and the shipping costs often were more than the cost of the gift. So I have been doing this for years. The amount of the check is adjusted for inflation every few years.

  6. posted by Loren on

    My mother, sister and I go shopping together around the holidays and usually pick things up for each other at local thrift store then take them home and wrap them.
    Or order things off each others wish-lists from sites like ‘etsy.com’, it isn’t exactly ‘uncluttered’ but I know that they will like and use what I purchased them because they picked it out (like the throw blanket for my mom’s new couch and my sister’s new mixing bowls).

  7. posted by Mikey's mom on

    I’m making office lunchtime utensil kits: knife/fork/spoon + chopsticks in a little fabric roll-up holder. Fabric on sale, utensils from a thrift store, chopsticks from eBay. I was thinking about a corkscrew also but that’s probably not work-appropriate.

  8. posted by chacha1 on

    LOL a corkscrew SHOULD be work-appropriate!

    Let’s see. Dad is getting a book, a world-tour journal by a WWII radio correspondent. Mom is getting a photo book from Blurb. Sister and her partner are getting a no-frost birdbath for their backyard habitat, a book, and a finch feeder. DH is getting a stocking full of consumable treats and tickets to a fun January event. Best friends are getting dinner-party invitations.

    We don’t have kids, don’t send cards, and don’t travel at Christmas. So that’s pretty much it!

  9. posted by Kari on

    My husband and I stopped exchanging gifts years ago–we spend the $$ on a couple of parties (one for his grad. students and one for our neighbors)–we enjoy spending the time and money on having fun with people. For the family, we only give a few gifts and this year they are all pass-alongs–some of my family’s childhood books (which I happen to have custody of) go to my young nieces and nephews; some family heirlooms are going to family members who will honor them, etc. My mom has just moved into her new senior apartment, so we are sending her a gift card to help her with any decorating/organizing costs.

  10. posted by L. on

    @Bellen: Couldn’t you give long-term CDs instead? NOTHING returns worse than EE savings bonds.

  11. posted by Ritu Khare on

    Gift cards, coupons and vouchers always make nice clutter-free gifts.

  12. posted by Queen Lucia on

    Aside from my kids and husband, my parents are really the only people I feel I obligated to buy presents for – I am an only child plus they do lots of babysitting! Even so, the gifts are usually modest. This year they’re getting a joint gift: the companion book to Ken Burns’s National Parks series (on sale at Powell’s!)and a homecooked meal. My daughters each get 1 wrapped gift and stockings full of useful/use-up things. On my mom’s side of the family, we’re each donating $10 to split between Heifer International and the local food bank and drew names for a $10 gift, mostly food, book related. My niece gets re-gifted toys and clothes my daughter has outgrown – this is inexpensive and green, plus she loves them (I wouldn’t do it if she didn’t!). We’re also buying gifts for needy families at my daughter’s school. Every year I make progress stemming the tide of stuff that comes through the door and making Christmas a more meaningfully giving time.

  13. posted by Mama Koala on

    I love the idea of giving classes–cake decorating, wood working, pottery etc.

    I’m also making some photo books this year–a less clutter-y way to “store” photos.

  14. posted by chris on

    With both of my siblings and myself in long-term, cohabiting relationships of one kind or another, giftgiving has expanded to partners/spouses.

    I usually get practical gifts for my brother’s girlfriend and sister’s husband: gloves, sweaters, etc. My brother is easy because he loves videogames and boy-toys, and for my sister it’s almost competitively “the less practical the better”: we always try to buy guilty-pleasures-she-wouldn’t-get-herself for each other, so upscale (Bobbi Brown, Dior, Lancome) makeup, or vintage clutch purses, or trashy novels by trashier celebs, etc.

    My boyfriend and I excel at getting perfectly-practical splurges for one another: i.e. last year I got him some very expensive graphic design software he’d lusted after, while he got me gorgeous pricey sneaker-soled knee-high winter boots that strangers stop me on the street to compliment!

    My parents almost always gets us Whole Foods gift cards, which are totally momlike&practical (she wants us to eat well) and also makes us silly-happy (because there’s fancy cheeses)!

    (Grocery store, Target and CVS gift cards are the most practical–and appreciated–gifts ever!)

  15. posted by Trish on

    I am making a few reusable grocery bags. I love not having the clutter of the plastic bags, but some of the store bought ones are so ugly! So, I bought some cute fabric on sale and a pattern off of etsy. I am going to fill with fun gourmet items, candles, etc. I know I would appreciate something so practical, but also handmade. I just hope others feel the same way!

  16. posted by prairiegal on

    This year my husband and I are going on a trip, so we have decided to cut back on the gifts. I am going to make up restaurant certificates for him. I’m picking several restaurants that we have been trying to get to, print of their logo from their websites, and promise to take him there. We’d probably get their eventually, but this way I have promised to take him and it’s my treat. I’m not buying gift certificates because I don’t need to pay in advance, it saves me the multiple trips, and I’m not even sure these places sell them.

    @ Trish – I’m doing the same for household gives. I’m making reusable grocery bags and filling them with decadent consumables.

  17. posted by Java Monster on

    I guess I’m doing a version of a “newsletter”: I put together a 5×7 photo album of the year’s pictures on Snapfish and just ordered them (50% off sale on the base price of the albums: saved me $50). These books are about $21 each; I ordered 8 of them.

    I also put together a quick album of my mother’s trip to China on Shutterfly, and had that sent to her.

  18. posted by crunchycon on

    Gift cards and consumables seem to be the order of the day in our family. Over the last few years, I’ve been copying and framing family pictures for my mom, as she lost a lot of pictures in a house fire. My mother tried giving us experiences maybe a decade ago – it’s a great, uncluttered idea, but we couldn’t break away to enjoy them (I know, work-life balance), so, for those of you who are giving those, make sure that the gift will be taken advantage of!

  19. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Our family doesn’t really need much of anything so it’s all about gift cards, renewing current magazine subscriptions and home entertainment (DVDs, books, games) which in the end will save everyone cash as they can have fun without leaving the house.

  20. posted by Darci on

    NetFlix gift memberships and Fruit of the month subscriptions.

  21. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I’m giving gift cards for a higher end grocery store. In this economy people often can’t afford the luxury food items that were once part of their menu. With a gift card they can buy what they want when they want!

  22. posted by Mikey's mom on

    @Darci LOL! You just reminded me of the holiday when my ex got “Fruit of the Month” from his sister, and he spent the next several weeks trying to work out if it was an insult or not! Gosh that was fun to watch….good times.

  23. posted by Tradd on

    I’m single, not dating anyone and don’t have any kids. I only buy for my goddaughter, her sister, and parents, along with a very close woman friend.

    Goddaughter and her sister (both under 5) are getting a book each, as well as a DVD to share. Parents are getting a bag of Starbucks coffee, as well as a $15 Starbucks gift card for their coffee dates out.

    Friend is getting a small book she will really enjoy, as well as a bar of handmade soap.

    Shopping has been done for several weeks and is mostly wrapped.

  24. posted by Stefanie on

    @L. – actually, my partner has some EE savings bonds and they are currently making a higher percentage of interest (4%) than any CD or savings account I can find right now!

  25. posted by Sarah on

    I’ve been scouring the internet and have found lots of wonderful homemade beauty product recipes so my mother is getting face scrubs and bath salts all lovingly mixed by me and begrudgingly tested by my dear bf. For everyone else I am trying to limit the clutter gifts by giving experiences – massage gift certificates for my brothers, a barista course for my coffee snob father, and food gifts for friends (I do love to bake!)

  26. posted by Sky on

    My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. We’re trying to have less stuff so just being together is enough for us. The only gifts we give are to our 4 grandchildren. Our sons and daughter-in-laws as well as our special friends and neighbors will get home baked cookies in an inexpensive container from the dollar store.

    We hope to keep in under $350.00.

  27. posted by Vicki K on

    My MIL has loved the fruit-of-the-month fruits and flower arrangements we have gotten for her in past years. She gets a fun delivery every month and a non-cluttering treat!

    For one branch of the family, I got each person a book unique to their tastes. I loved doing this, it will be a simple wrap and easily transported. I still have yet to think of a thoughtful, efficient and non-stress producing idea for other branches of the family!

  28. posted by Wendy on

    Last year I made photo bookmarks for everyone of my niece and nephew…their kids or grandkids. I printed them in color, cut them, and had them laminated at Kinkos, which was very inexpensive. I added a fancy string tassel to make them festive.

    Throughout the year I try to make a list of things I would like to get (or perhaps need to replace), but don’t want to spend the money, and keep it on the computer. Then I request everyone else’s wish list, and include my own below the request. That way, I get stuff I will actually use. Before I started everyone on wish lists, my mom was buying all of us a lot of junk! This year she’s actually paying for my Spanish class next semester, no clutter at all!

    In recent years, friends and I have agreed not to buy presents for each other, but to try to go out together for a nice dinner and give the gift of time to one another.

  29. posted by Molly on

    @Magchunk – Adopting a kitty is a WONDERFUL gift for you and your honey! What a great idea!

    Several years ago my honey took me to adopt a kitty when I wasn’t feeling well. I love that kitty. She’s currently asleep on his lap. :-)

  30. posted by Gail Gray on

    I am giving all the ladies in my life a book…with permission to pass it on to someone else. For the grandparents, photobooks of the kids. And for my parents, the Kindle so they don’t clutter their shelves with books.

  31. posted by Leah on

    I’m making homemade lotion this year. I got a bunch of baby food jars from my local freecycle group and ordered the supplies from amazon.

    I wanted to make it for myself because I’m allergic to lots of commercial scents and chemicals in regular lotion. So I decided to make a big batch and include a couple of different essential oil scents so everyone can have a choice: lavender or lemon.

    I budgeted about $60 for all the lotion stuff, and I bought my dad a cool piece of pottery from ebay for $20. He’s not a scented lotion guy.

  32. posted by Liz on

    For many family members this year, I am giving them digitized versions of old family movies. I think I’m replacing about 20 video tapes at my parents’ house with 2 DVDs or a flash drive. Plus, these things will be much better preserved and easier to share with family near and far.

  33. posted by Rebecca on

    I decluttered my shopping experience. I embraced Cyber-Monday this year and I’m steering clear of the malls, except for my Angel Tree gifts for church and work. Oh, and I’m giving two copies of “UYLI1W”, because it’s THAT GOOD.

  34. posted by Ann Birnschein on

    I discovered Restaurant.com gift certificates this year and was able to purchase $25 certificates for only $3. It’s a money saver and a great experience-type gift for my family. I’m wrapping them along with a bottle of spirits. My husband and I decided to forgo individual gifts and buy ourselves one useful item we’ve been wanting. This year that item is a GPS for the car which we got at a great deal on Amazon.com’s Black Friday special. We’re also giving our parents things they need like a TracFone and TV Antenna Booster. The nephews are getting books and a piece of clothing…no need for more toy clutter. Best of all, my sister-in-law and I decided we both wanted heated blankets so we’re essentially trading the same thing and looking forward to staying toasty warm in the Midwest this winter!

  35. Avatar of

    posted by ashleyotis on

    I asked for visa gift cards or gift cards to restaurants that my boyfriend and I love. I plan on using the visa gift cards to buy groceries or household things.. It gives me at least a week of stress-free groceries. Now, I just need someone to pay my rent… :]
    My boyfriend and I bought ourselves a new TV that we got an AMAZING deal on and that’s pretty much it for presents between eachother :]

  36. posted by riddly on

    My sister persuaded us all that only small kids get presents- the cash that would be spent goes to a charity- our family managed water for a whole village through oxfam last year, and we got cool fridge magnets…..we have what we need, if one of us needed anything, the rest would rally round, (and we are all still storing ‘crap presents ‘ for sentimental reasons. Merry whatever you believe in -R

  37. posted by begoodbabe on

    A few years ago I got tired with our family’s ‘Chinese’ gift exchange because the gifts had to be so generic that nobody wanted them. We didn’t NEED anything, so I suggested that we pool the $20 per person that we were spending on the gifts and buy something from the World Vision catalogue for a third world family instead. Much to my surprise and delight they got behind the idea immediately (I really thought that it would take a year or two to convince them!). The kids in the family are also included now that they are all over 10 years of age. To commemorate each Christmas gift I buy little painted wooden figures from the craft store, my husband drills a hole into the top, we put in an ornament hook and write the year on the back. Each child and each couple receives an ornament to remind them of what our family bought for another family that year. When the kids leave home they will all have their own collection of ornaments to take with them. It feels great to do something practical to bless someone else when we have been blessed with so much!

  38. posted by henave on

    Other than giftcards for the teachers and bus drivers, I am only giving gifts that my family/friends have told me they wanted. It is a lot of work to pin everyone down (I actually go to everyone and ask them what they want and ask for a link to a place to buy it if it is unusual) and takes away some of the excitement of a surprise, but it works out much better in the end.

    If you are a plan-ahead kind of person, you can ask people to give you a few choices so they won’t know exactly what you are getting! I ask my husband for his list in October and he doesn’t remember half of it by the holidays, so it is like a surprise for him.

  39. posted by timeblogger on

    A great gift for someone who loves planning on paper would be the new PersonalPix Monthly Photo Tabs. Available at http://www.daytimer.com/personalpix, they allow you to upload your own photos and create gorgeous, customized monthly tabs for the time-management expert on your list. If they already use a daily planner – this will likely be seen as a welcome addition – rather than useless clutter.

  40. posted by Ellen on

    For people who don’t want “stuff” and don’t really *need* anything, there are plenty of charity gifts that you can give, such as:

    The FEED Bag: It’s a reusable bag you can use for groceries (or whatever you would like) and the profits go to feed hungry children in the world.

    Land In Australia: You can buy someone you love 10 square feet of land in Queensland, Australia to be preserved. They get a certificate too!

    Plenty more ideas (with links) in an article we posted today, actually :)

  41. posted by Polly on

    I am giving pineapples from Hawaii. They are a rare treat that folks definitely won’t buy for themselves and they are not going to clutter up anyone’s home after the holidays.

  42. posted by wendy on

    I have an elderly friend who is losing her eyesight. She adores pomegranates but has a hard time getting into them. I have bought two huge juicy ones. On Christmas Eve I will pull them apart for her and deliver in a nice re-usable bowl with a bow on top.

  43. posted by Allison on

    Personalized items (monogrammed etc…) and a few useful gadgets (wireless of course)!

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