2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: High-utility gifts for stockings

Trinkets and baubles that end up cluttering up your home (and eventually your trash can) are common items placed in holiday stockings. This doesn’t have to be the case, though, as there are numerous small, high-utility items that make great presents for stockings.

Consumables, especially food you know the recipient will devour in a matter of minutes, are always good ideas. I think I’ve mentioned before that every year Santa put a can of black olives in my stocking and a can of mustard-covered sardines in my brother’s. Santa had a way of knowing exactly our favorite foods. Oh, how I love olives.

As far as non-edible products are concerned, there are still many gifts that won’t end up as clutter in someone’s home after the holiday season has passed. My favorite stocking stuffer this year is the Fenix E21 tactical flashlight (with 92 reviews on Amazon, 77 of them are 5-star, 12 are 4-star, and there isn’t a single 1-star review — I’d give it a 5-star review with no hesitation). I recently discovered that flashlight technology has come a long way in the past few years, and you can now get long lasting (up to 11 hours on the low setting), very bright LED light (150 lumens at its highest setting) in a compact casing for less than $35.

This specific model is also waterproof, so if you accidentally drop it down a drain, by the time you fish it out it will likely still be working.

Other ideas for high-utility stocking gifts:

  1. Screwpop Keychain Tool, which is a miniature Philips-head screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, and bottle opener tool that can fit on your keychain. It’s great for parents who have children with battery powered toys. (All toys these days have battery access panels that require a screwdriver to open.)
  2. A roll of quarters is perfect for anyone regularly going to the laundromat or who drives in the city and has to pump quarters into parking meters.
  3. A new toothbrush. Sure, it’s not very interesting, but a new toothbrush is definitely something people use every day.
  4. Reusable produce bags for the person on your list who regularly uses reusable shopping bags. They’re large enough to hold a bunch of kale or whatever fruits and vegetables appear on the shopping list.
  5. Cable Organizers for electronics in the office, small appliances in the kitchen, and ear bud cables. There are numerous brands available, but I think these little AppleCore ones are cute — and the 7 pack has three different sizes.

What high-utility items are you considering for stocking stuffers this year? Share your suggestions in the comments.

View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

37 Comments for “2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: High-utility gifts for stockings”

  1. posted by Jenna on

    Sweet Lord above, I just hope my husband doesn’t see this…I received a vacuum cleaner last year. Seriously, if I receive a torch, a toothbrush and some cable tidies this year, there will be more than chestnuts roasting on an open fire! For your next post can I suggest the following title: louboutins, the High-utility gift for stockings and suspenders ;0)

  2. posted by Mackenzie on

    Similar to #1, the Utilikey! http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/tools/6d98/?srp=1
    I got one of these for Christmas a few years ago from my coworkers, and it was promptly used for all the battery slots on all the toys my nephew got.

  3. posted by S. D. Salyer on

    Sears has a line of very similar Craftsman single-LED flashlights that are reasonably priced. I got one last year as a gift, and I’m returning the favor this year. The mid-range one (about $35) has a purported 220 lumens with 12hr run time on 3 AA batteries.

  4. posted by Leslie on

    When I got married, our groomsman received monogrammed Leatherman tool. They loved it. The bridesmaids were actually jealous.

  5. posted by Lindsay on

    I have those reusable produce bags and they’re great. I’ve had them 1.5 years and they’re still in great condition. Wash occasionally since they get food junk on them. I just keep them in my other reusable bags and they’re there when I need them at the grocery store.

  6. posted by Debra on

    Mackinzie – I want one of those!

  7. posted by Amanda on

    I actually just got a set of reusable produce bags, and I love them. My only problem is remembering to put them back in the car after I buy groceries…

    My mother started doing the high-utility stocking stuffers when I was in high school. She gives my sister and I disposable razors (the nice ones that I don’t splurge on myself) and shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and travel-size toiletries. She still gives us candy too, though!

  8. posted by Liz on

    I’ll go to the camping section of the local store and buy items which can be used picnicing, camping,in a car bag or an emergency “bug-out” bag. Last year, I bought a bunch of items, wrapped them up and sent them to my sister. When her daughters & SILs visited, they all played Dirty Santa so they were able to pick out what they can use. The gifts included dry bags, fire starters, multi-tools, whistles, compass, camp lights. An emergency crank-style radio/light/siren is also good.

    An equivalent amount of $ was spent at the local drugstore to get small items (travel size lotions, puzzle books, teas & coffees, etc) which were donated to the senior meals program in their names.

  9. posted by Diane on

    When the kids were younger, I would not allow them to use my transparent tape without permission. So, it was a big deal to each get his or her own roll of tape! This year, my kids are each getting a mechanical pencil. Two of my kids are getting their own measuring tapes. They love those! They are educational and fun. My extended family does stockings instead of wrapping gifts. Ideas from what I have done and seen: heavy duty clamps, note pads, “fresh” highlighter markers (for students), Sharpies, lotions, bath gel, and special spices.

  10. posted by Sharon on

    The women in our family always gave one another makeup (such as nice eyeshadows, lipsticks, etc. from our brands of choice). It’s consumable, so it isn’t clutter.

  11. posted by Karen on

    How do you avoid paying for the weight of your reusable produce bag every time you buy something?

  12. posted by Linda on

    We put a scratch-off lottery ticket in each teen & adult stocking. The largest win was $7 – but everyone enjoys the brief drama and hope. Even my “would never gamble” mom gets excited.

  13. posted by TootsNYC on

    I’m compiling a list of useful gadgets. No, really–USEFUL ones. Like, a leather hole punch for adding a hole to a belt. I think a lot of people wouldn’t buy that for themselves, and it would fit nicely w/ the shoe-shine kit.

    The best bet, though, is not to give presents that are generic. Think about the person you’re giving to, and if you don’t know enough about them, LEARN something about them. Ask questions, do some research, stalk their Facebook account and ask their friends.

    Generic presents are one of the worst developments of American life.

  14. posted by nmrosycheeks on

    @Karen–The bags are extraordinarily lightweight. Plus, it’s worth the couple of cents’ of weight to use your own bags.

  15. posted by NutellaNutterson on

    We’re giving this pocket screwdriver: http://www.leevalley.com/US/gifts/page.aspx?p=32215&cat=4,104,55968&ap=5

    And my favorite stocking stuffers growing up: a chocolate orange, and a new nail clippers!

  16. posted by Jamie on

    In order to give useful stocking stuffer presents, you need to really know the recipient. For young people starting out kitchen utensils (measuring spoons, small knives,a vegetable peeler, etc…) or small tools (screwdrivers, pliers) are great stocking stuffers. A young couple might also appreciate a new Christmas ornament or two every year to fill their tree.

  17. posted by Ellen on

    My teenager is getting a flash drive that is painted in a fun design. This is something she will be able to use, and hopefully the design will help her keep up with it.

  18. posted by Mary C. on

    I have one of those fancy new flashlights, and I love it!

  19. posted by henave on

    I just bought the produce bags for myself for Christmas- can’t wait to use them! They really are very lightweight. I think a nice toothbrush is an excellent idea, or even replacement parts if you know what kind of powered toothbrush someone uses.

  20. posted by Amanda on

    @Karen: I’ve never heard of having to pay for the weight of a reusable bag. Two of the grocery stores I frequent pay you 5 cents per reusable bag you bring with you!

  21. posted by lucy1965 on

    I think I understand what Karen’s talking about: a checker at my local grocer’s told me that the digital scales at the check-out automatically tare out the weight of the plastic disposable bags.

    While my reusable bags only weigh an eighth of an ounce, it’s still more than the plastic and they could, in theory, be fined for overcharging if anyone was sufficiently motivated to kick up a fuss. So at my store, at least, they have to take everything out of the bag, weigh it, and then put it back in. This is fine if the store’s not busy, and I do get bag credit for using them, but during rush hour? Nuh-uh.

  22. posted by C on

    Lip balm always shows up in our stockings. I love the transparent tape idea–my daughter got her first pair of scissors for Easter a couple years ago. She loves them.

  23. posted by Heartlover1717 on

    Reuseit.com is another great resource for the produce bags and many other reusable items: http://www.reuseit.com/search?q=Reusable+Produce+Bags

    As far as the bag weight issue, at my grocery store, you can weigh produce before you bag it and print out a sticker with a barcode to be scanned at the register or with a hand-held scanner used to bag as you shop.

  24. posted by organizingwithe on

    Gift certificates to the locally owned ice cream shop. Smiles now, and smiles later when they are used. And it supports the local economy. Doesn’t get better then that.

  25. posted by Jodi on

    We don’t do stockings, but as kids fruit often showed up…apples, bananas, oranges. I imagine trail mix or chex mix would be yummy.

    One year “grandma” didn’t have time to do stockings (which didn’t bother me since we don’t do them anyway) but she was near tears the night before. So my kids and I snuck upstairs at 2am (they were toddlers) and filled a stocking for her. She got fruit, legos, a set of spoons (from the kitchen drawer), a box of crayons (what every grandma wants!) and random other stuff my kids found around the house.

  26. posted by Pat on

    In spirit of the holidays, and not trying to have new clutter, I am proposing we do not buy anything that is made in China or any other foreign country. Gift cards to local businesses-restaurants, nail and hair salons, oil changes, dog groomers, car detailers. How about giving a nite out once a month to a couple by watching their kids, or taking a child to the movies or park? Baking cookies once a month, car washing, lawn mowing? You want to buy something? Go to a local arts and crafts show and buy pottery or homemade soaps, or wool spun scarves. Plenty of places to buy local and keep our community business running. If you must buy something, buy American!

  27. posted by Diane on

    AA Batteries~ the kids each have their own stash! I have 2 boys, so some things both get & some are different, depending on interests & needs. This year I have small ball pumps & needles, spray sun screen, guitar strings, LED nightlights, ear buds. One is getting a scratch cover stick for his car. I’ve done small led flashlights, flash drives, various sharpies & highlighters, small screwdrivers & leatherman tools. We always do candy too~!

  28. posted by KJ on

    Could you please add a link to the gift-giving guide in the categories list for future reference (this year and all others)? I have been out of town and not able to follow until today, and it’s difficult to find all the gift/holiday posts you have already made, if any. I always find good ideas from Unclutterer each year! (for myself as well as for others)

  29. posted by Jean on

    With regards to Jenna’s entry, husbands take note: be sure a tool is coveted before giving it to your wife as a gift! My best friend drooled over a set of sawhorses she recieved one year, but she’s an avid handywoman. One of the best stocking stuffers my better half ever gave me was purchased at the auto supply store! It’s a telescoping magnetic pickup meant for mechanics–but I love to sew and it is great for picking up stray pins off the floor. Stockings are a long standing tradition in our family, and while I try to put many of the practical things mentioned here in them–post it notes, small kitchen utensils, pens, highlighters, flashlights, pocket tissues, emery boards , chap sticks, etc., there is also usually something whimsical. My adult son still gets baseball cards, there are frequently Christmas themed bubbles or Silly Putty–there’s stilla child in all of us at Christmas!

  30. posted by lucy1965 on

    As Jean said, some of us like tools: my husband gave me a shop vac for Valentine’s Day, and I was thrilled to have it. But as with everything, YMMV.

    High-utility gifts we’ve given have included collapsible chopsticks and titanium sporks, ACME Workhorse and Envirosax reusable shopping bags, ceramic nail files, solid shampoo bars, Fisher Space Pens, and yes, LED flashlights. (And good local chocolate. *grin*)

  31. posted by Brian Signorelli on

    Speaking on “uncluttering” the gift giving process, two brief points I wanted to share for anyone doing business gift giving to employees, clients, customers, etc…

    1. If you’re giving gifts, try to avoid “chachkis” if at all possible. Just makes the gift giving experience about you and not the recipient. The recipient will know it’s from you already from the greeting message you send.

    2. Think through the process and set a clear budget that is taken in the larger context of your marketing budget.

  32. posted by MizLoo on

    My stocking stuffer this year is this little pocket notebook with a pen. It’s a light but hard-sided case, so it doesn’t get scrunched in my pocket & comes in bright colors, so i can easily see it if I set it down instead of putting it back in my pocket. I’ve had mine 6 months & bought myself 3 more for when it dies/gets lost & nobody is selling them any more. Then i bought them for all my gotta give a gift folks – hairdresser, postman, teacher, etc & for friends at a distance – easy to mail.

    http://www.shopatron.com/products/category/712.0.1.1.47376.0.0.0.0

  33. posted by WilliamB on

    Amanda – after I unpack groceries I put the bags on the doorknob. There’s no way I can go to the car without seeing the bags needs to go, too.

    The on-steriods version is to run the door chain through the bag handles then chain the door closed. One can’t get outside without dealing with the bags.

  34. posted by Mackenzie on

    Posted by Sharon
    “The women in our family always gave one another makeup (such as nice eyeshadows, lipsticks, etc. from our brands of choice). It’s consumable, so it isn’t clutter.”

    Except to people who don’t wear makeup. I really ought to throw away that 5 year old eyeliner. It’s only still around in case I go to Rocky Horror again.

  35. posted by Julie Andrea on

    Shopping list for Christmas gifts:

    cash – a nice crisp new bill is always the right colour and size for the apt. building maintenance man
    booze – (I know what she drinks) for friend
    gift cert for a haircut at friend’s fav salon
    gift cert for her fav coffee shop where she goes every day
    socks (we always need new socks)
    Temptations and cat nip toy for the cat
    smoked beef bones from the butcher for the dog

    That’s it … I might get mum a seat warmer for the car, as she is old and arthritic and it’s darn cold here in Ontario, Canada … and for myself, new flannel sheets. I may add some boxes of chocolates (regular and diabetic) for extras, if I have time, energy and money. I will NOT go into debt for Christmas, I will NOT skip paying my bills, pinkie swear.

    Julie Andrea aka SundaysChild
    P.S. stay strong, it’s just one day .. and before you know it, it’s all over.

  36. posted by Courtney G. on

    I read all of these, and, well, my Aunts and Uncles are notorious for sending little “tchotchke” Christmas gifts, so in the interest of protecting myself, my husband and I go to the discount stores right after Christmas and buy the same kinds of things for them – and send them- every Christmas.

    But here are a few other ideas:
    1) Refrigerator Magnets (I have a set I take to work when I go offshore and a set I leave here, but I keep losing the darn things)
    2) Amazon Kindle Gift Cards – for readers like me (I love to read, and I’m in the process of giving away books as I load what I can on my Kindle)
    3)Fold and Sort cases for travelers (The ones I like have a folding board in them and I can fold my close neatly when I travel… makes life so much easier)

    My tip for staying organized when traveling for work (admittedly I have a lot of electronics I have to travel with) I have a ditty bag (bright turquoise so I can find it easily) that I put all my cables and connectors in. I have the labeled freezer baggies that I label with a sharpie of what cable goes in what baggie (I know when I’m missing a cable when I have a bag left over).

  37. posted by Nancy on

    I’m getting that flashlight for the neighbors on my street. After 7 days without power from Hurricane Irene, and then 10 days without power from the freak October nor’easter, I have come to know the importance of a good flashlight.

    I would also recommend motion-activated closet lights from Mr. Beams. We put them in all of our closets (we have an old house) and during the blackouts, my husband easily took them out and we used them in various rooms. When you walked in, it would turn on. They are very bright – much better than the touch lights. http://www.mrbeams.com/products/anywhere-ceiling-light

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