Archives for Gift Giving Guide
Giving organizing products as gifts can be tricky. If not done in a polite manner, you can end up hurting someone’s feelings. However, if a person on your list has expressed interest in receiving a gift with an organizing theme, it can be a welcomed present.
Even if no one on your list has expressed an interest in receiving an organizing product for a gift this year, you might find something to add to your wish list.
- The Getting Things Done Workflow Map Set with a coaching DVD by David Allen ($50). These posters are a great way to keep organized with work.
- Decorative file folders that entice their owner to use them. Numerous styles to choose from (prices vary), and great for visual processors who can associate what a file looks like with its contents.
- Shoe storage boxes that stack and allow the user to easily see what is inside.
- Dymo Label Maker for the person who prefers to label file tabs for easy reading and anything else that needs to be labeled.
- My book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, or another one out there that you believe would speak to your gift recipient.
- A key holder so house keys always have a place to live. No more hunting for keys!
- A year’s subscription to BackBlaze or another similar online computer backup service. If someone in your life isn’t backing up his or her computer regularly, a subscription to a service like this can give peace of mind.
- The Arc customizable notebook from Staples. I have one that is 6.75″ x 8.75″ and carry it with me everywhere. It’s my most reliable friend. I use it for notes, my daily calendar, receipt organizer, pen holder, and general information collector.
Any suggestions for other highly useful organizing products to be given as gifts or added to your wish list? Share your suggestions in the comments.
View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- A new toothbrush. Sure, it’s not very interesting, but a new toothbrush is definitely something people use every day.
- 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.
- 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.
Warning: The suggestions in this post might be so overwhelmingly practical you can’t imagine giving them to anyone on your list. Fair enough. However, if you really want to help someone save a little money over the course of the next decade, these gifts may make it to the top of your shopping list.
In July, my husband started visiting LED light bulbs at the hardware store. No purchase is ever made quickly with him. He does research, visits the product, does a little more research, visits the product, does a little more research. I admire his patience and informed decision-making process, but sometimes he needs me to tell him he’s grounded and can’t go and visit the item again unless he’s going to buy it. By August, I had to put an end to the weekly light bulb visitations.
One evening in September, after 20 minutes of staring at his computer screen, he grabbed his keys and told me he was heading out to buy new light bulbs.
He returned with one light bulb. One. He put it in the lamp next to his desk and was very glad to not have to wait for full light the way you have to with CFCs. And, the LED light isn’t yellow like CFC light (although the yellow bulb casing might lead you to believe otherwise) or flickery like a fluorescent, it’s the same as incandescent light. He smiled.
The next week he purchased three. The week after that, he picked up eight.
I’ll admit, I thought his behavior was weird. Rather, I thought his behavior was weird until I looked at our electric bills for September and October in comparison to all of our previous electric bills since we moved.
Changing some of the light bulbs in the house made a noticeable difference in our electric bill. We ended up changing all of the bulbs in our house — and although there was the upfront purchase price of the bulbs, we won’t have to change them for more than a decade (the box says 22.8 years if you run your lights 3 hours an evening, but we run ours 5 to 6 hours in the winter so my guess is 12 to 14 years) and our electric bill savings will completely cover the purchase price of all the bulbs (23 total) in less than three years. Compared to all other light bulbs, this is a huge improvement. Incandescents might be less expensive for the bulb, but because they regularly have to be replaced and ratchet up your electric bill, incandescents end up costing significantly more money over the years. (We saved the old bulbs we removed and will put them back when we take the LEDs with us when we move, since our current home is a rental.)
Because of their higher-than-incandescents price (the Philips Dimmable LED Bulbs are $22 a piece on Amazon), they make terrific gifts because people are hesitant to buy them for themselves (it can be hard to visualize the long-term benefits when looking at the sticker price). You can give someone one or more, and they will start saving money the minute the bulbs are installed. Plus, they’re something you know the person will use and benefit from every single day.
Along these super-practical lines, I also recommend the following items in addition to the Philips Dimmable LED Bulbs (image 1):
- A Motion Sensing Light Socket that turns on the light when you come into a space and turns it off when you leave the space. These are perfect for closets, pantries, and basements with low traffic and where the light is accidentally left on sometimes. In addition to working with LED lights, they also work with compact fluorescents and incandescents. No more wasting money and electricity by accidentally leaving on a light. ($19, image 2)
- Eneloop 1500 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries with a very slow discharge rate. In short, these rechargeable batteries don’t easily deplete when they’re not being used. Plus, they’re environmentally friendly, hold a decent charge for up to 3 years (incredible for rechargeables), and these particular ones are sparkly! ($24 for 8 batteries, image 3)
- A La Crosse Power Battery Charger, which works with NiCad and NiMH rechargeables. Why this particular model is nice is because it can charge, discharge, refresh, and test batteries. Being able to discharge and refresh extends the lives of your rechargeable batteries. It also has specific displays for each battery you’re charging. Again, this battery charger may be a bit more expensive than other rechargers, but since it extends the lives of your batteries, you end up saving money over the long-term. ($45, image 4)
What other high utility, daily use gifts like LED light bulbs and rechargeable batteries are you considering giving this year? Share your super-practical suggestions in the comments.
View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
The kitchen is the heart of many homes. It’s a gathering place for meal preparation, for spirited conversations, and, if you’re like me, the best place to find a decent cup of coffee. The kitchen brings people together, and also helps us gain the energy necessary to make it through the day.
The obvious high utility items in the kitchen are the oven, stove top, refrigerator, and sink. After these workhorses come pots and pans, plates, drinking vessels, and silverware. If someone in your life needs any of these items to be replaced, I recommend getting his opinion on the matter. People have such strong personal preferences on these items, not getting the gift recipient’s input can end up wasting time and money for both of you.
The next segment of high utility kitchen items includes knives. If someone on your list is using damaged knives, her safety is at risk every day. Replacing these knives can greatly improve the quality of her life.
In the November issue of (image 9) Cook’s Illustrated, the test kitchen staff reported on the best and worst knife sets available for purchase in the U.S. market. In the article, their “testing confirmed that you are much better off shopping for knives à la carte; that way, you get only what you need.” They reported these to be the “six essential knives that fit nicely inside our favorite universal knife block”:
- The Bodum Universal Knife Block
- A pair of Shun/Kershaw Kitchen Shears
- A Victorinox 6-inch Flex Boning Knife
- A Victorinox 12-inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife
- A Wusthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife
- A Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch Chef’s Knife
- And finally, a Wusthof Trident Classic 3-1/2-inch Paring Knife
The knives, sheath, and block (pictured below) are mostly inexpensive and the whole set can be combined for under $315.00. And, since it’s à la carte, you would only need to purchase the knives your gift recipient needs.
If all your gift recipient needs are his knives sharpened, this might be a good present, too. Where I live, the average price to have a blade professionally sharpened is $1 per inch of blade. To sharpen a 10-inch chef’s knife would cost $10 for that knife. National chain kitchen stores like Sur La Table often provide this service, but it is also a good idea to check Angie’s List to see if there is a respected professional knife sharpener in your area. The daring individual on your list might be up for the AccuSharp Knife Sharpener (not pictured below), which is available on Amazon for less than $9, to sharpen her own knives.
If knives aren’t an issue, but getting food on the table every night is stressful, consider (image 8 ) Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes cookbook. He does a wonderful job in this book discussing ways to set up meal plans for healthful and easy meals. Our family relies on many of these types of cookbooks to help us get food on the table without anxiety or arguments.
As part of our 2011 Gift Giving Guide, we also will have a special offer for The Six O’Clock Scramble meal planning and recipe service. In December we’ll provide all the details for how to get an Unclutterer discount when you purchase for someone on your list or as a gift for yourself.
If the person on your list already seems to have everything useful in the kitchen and isn’t stressed out about what to get on the table, a coupon from you to help him unclutter his cabinets or deep-clean his refrigerator might be a welcome (and free) gift. Obviously, such an offer isn’t perfect for everyone and must be given delicately, so as not to be taken as an insult. I know that immediately after becoming a mother, an offer like this would have been highly treasured.
Please add your suggestions for daily use kitchen gifts in the comments. The more ideas we can collect the more we can help someone looking for an uncluttered gift.
View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
Each year when putting together our Holiday Gift Giving Guide, we look for a theme to unify our selections. This year, we decided to focus on items that get a lot of bang for their buck. We want to suggest items that someone on your list might use daily or nearly every day. We’ve been referring to these as high utility gifts, and they’re amazing when you can find them.
Over the past five years, we’ve included many non-tangible gifts in our Gift Giving Guides — experiences, charitable giving, etc. — and we still think these are wonderful gifts to give. In fact, many of the gifts I plan to give this year don’t come in a box. Check out our 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 Guides for dozens upon dozens of these types of suggestions.
However, just because something does come in a box, it doesn’t mean the gift is clutter. A high utility gift appropriately matched to the right person can improve his or her quality of life. If your mother is using rusty, warped, and unsafe knives in the kitchen, getting her new knives that will keep her out of the emergency room can be a big improvement to her daily cooking routine.
Stay tuned this week and next as we explore high utility gift giving. We have some terrific suggestions headed your way. And, if you’re ready to go shopping right now (it is CyberMonday, after all), check out our guides from past years for uncluttered inspiration: 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.
Are the gifts you plan to give able to help the people on your list every day? Can the gift improve their quality of life? These are the questions we’re asking of each item in Unclutterer’s 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
In 2008, we suggested the Kindle as the most generous uncluttered gift of the holiday season. (Back then, a Kindle was $359.)
Last year, my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week was the ultimate item on the list. (Note: The paperback version of it is being released later this month, and is currently selling for less than $10 on Amazon.)
This year, we thought a great deal about it and had many debates over our selection. Ultimately, we decided to go with the Intellishred crosscut paper shredders from Fellowes. They are truly generous and helpful for unclutterers.
There are two versions of this shredder we are recommending:
For the home, we suggest the Intellishred PS-79Ci ($191)
And, for the office, we recommend the heavy-weight champion Intellishred C-120Ci ($664)
These shredders are quiet (well, as far as shredders go), rarely jam, accept multiple media types, and come with great warranties (two and three year, respectively). Best of all, they help you get rid of paper clutter, while also keeping your private information secure.
Be sure to check out all the items in our 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide for more uncluttered and practical ideas.
We’ve written in previous Gift Giving Guides about giving children experiences, consumables, and “coupons” for spending time together. We still think these are all terrific ideas — especially experiences that include museum or zoo passes, music or dance lessons, and vacations. But, there are also practical gifts for kids that they can unwrap, which help to keep their lives more organized.
- A Cocoon Grid-It Organizer paired with a stylish pencil case and some high-quality Palomino Blackwing pencils.
- Teenagers can learn a great deal from professional organizer Julie Morgenstern in Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers.
- An athletic child could use reusable water bottles, a first aid kit, an Ace Bandage, and a durable duffle bag.
- Lovers of the American Girl dolls might like a Doll Storage Trunk. Hot Wheels enthusiasts could appreciate a Car Storage Case. And, comic book readers might like Comic Storage Bags and a Comic Storage Box.
Check out all of the ideas in our 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
When my son joined our family, a friend gave us a gift card to our local grocery store. This was an amazing gift because it freed up some cash in our grocery budget that we could then use on much-needed baby supplies.
I was thinking about this grocery store gift card when creating our shopping list for the upcoming holiday season. A good number of people on our list will be receiving gift cards for things they usually buy, so they can free up some money in their personal accounts for other things they want. Random gift cards to places they don’t typically frequent could be a bad idea, but if you know the exact places your friends and family go, you can help them out this year.
Consider practical gift cards, to services and places such as:
- Grocery stores.
- Gas stations.
- Favorite restaurants.
- Movie theaters.
- Hair salons.
- Coffee shops.
This list is obviously not inclusive of every possibility, so please provide even more ideas in the comments.
On my side of our family, we don’t celebrate the holidays the way other people do. We usually end up buying presents for each other when needs arise, instead of waiting for the calendar to turn a specific date.
For example, when my mother’s computer bit the dust this summer, we celebrated Christmas in July by chipping in part of the purchase price for her to get a new laptop then. When the holiday catches up on the calendar, she’ll have an additional stocking stuffer gift to open, and will have been enjoying the big gift she really wanted for six extra months.
This doesn’t work extremely well with children, especially younger children who don’t yet have a full understanding of time. However, young children aren’t usually quiet about the things they want. Whether they’re writing letters to Santa Claus or screaming it at the top of their lungs, it’s not much of a secret. It’s easy to buy kids one or two things they want since you know exactly what those items are.
Figuring out what adults want, though, might be more complicated. So, I recommend doing what we do in our family and simply ask the person what they want or need. You may not choose to do this for everyone — surprises can be fun — but if you’re buying a large gift, it’s nice to get someone what they want or need.
On my husband’s side of the family, everyone keeps an Amazon Wish List. We’ve all installed the Universal Wish List Button, so we can include items on the Wish Lists from any online retailer, including individual sellers like those on Etsy. These lists are especially helpful when buying for the younger cousins who were into video games last year, but are all about football this year. There aren’t any questions about sizes or team preferences or if the gift will be appreciated. No one expects you to buy from their list, but it’s a great resource for ideas when you’re the gift giver.
As part of the Practical Presents theme of this year’s Gift Giving Guide, we believe buying people what they want or need meets every definition of practicality.
Today, Amazon will be selling some remaining inventory of their previous generation Kindle for only $89 as part of their Black Friday promotion. While these units may lack some features found on the most current model, they are still excellent e-readers, especially at the $89 price-point.
This promotion will begin at 12:00 pm EST (noon). To take advantage of the deal, you’ll need to visit the Black Friday sale page on the Amazon website. These are likely to be in short supply and will probably run out quickly, so you’ll want to be ready to take advantage of the promotion as soon as it becomes available.
Electronic book readers are a fantastic way to reduce the number of books in a home and e-books are almost always less expensive than printed books — you can unclutter your bookshelves and save some cash.
UPDATE: As of 1:00 pm EST, it looks like the promotion has completely sold out.
For high school graduation, my uncle bought me an emergency kit for my car. At the time, I thought it was the most boring gift ever. I tossed the kit in the trunk of my car, wrote my uncle a generic thank-you note, and quickly forgot about the kit.
When my car broke down the winter of my freshman year of college and I was stranded on the side of the road, I didn’t even remember the emergency kit was in my car. In an act of desperation (remember, only the very wealthy had car phones back then), I opened up the trunk, and was surprised to see an emergency kit ready to help me.
I lit a flare, put up a “Driver in Distress” orange sign, wrapped myself in the silver blanket, and crawled back into the car to wait for someone to drive down the quiet country road. While I waited, I snacked on the granola bar that was also in the pack, and did some word searches from a game book my uncle had put inside the kit. Two hours later, an elderly woman drove by and said she’d call a tow truck for me when she got home. Half an hour after that, the tow truck driver and I were on our way to the mechanic’s shop down the street from my dorm. The emergency kit from my uncle turned out to be an amazing gift, one that I didn’t appreciate until I desperately needed it.
A kit can be an extremely practical gift, one that could make a real difference in an emergency situation. Some of the items in these kits overlap, so I can’t imagine that you would give more than one of these kits to one person. However, a gift like this could be a lifesaver to someone you love:
- AAA’s Road Assistance Kit, a practical gift for anyone who has a car and doesn’t already have a kit like this.
- Total Resources’ Emergency Medical Kit is nice for the home, office, boat, RV, and on a camping trip. The convenient carrying case makes transporting it with you extremely simple.
- SurvivalKit’s Disaster Emergency Kit is perfect for someone who lives in an area prone to natural disasters.
- For someone moving into his or her first place, a Stanley Tool Kit is a good starter tool kit. The carrying case also makes these items easy to store in an organized way.
- A bike enthusiast in your life might enjoy a Bicycle repair kit in a nice travel bag. These kits can be strapped to the bike so they’re available when they’re needed.
These specific kits might not work for someone on your list, but you can build one tailored to your recipients’ specific needs. If you do, aim for practical and utilitarian items, and be sure to include a storage case so all of the kit items can be stored together.
Check out our complete listing of items in Unclutterer’s 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
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:
- Jack Black All Over Wash, a 3-in-1 cleanser for face, hair and body in a convenient pump.
- Jack Black Travel Set, grooming products all in 3 oz. bottles or smaller to easily make it through airport security.
- Merkur “Futur” Adjustable Safety Razor, so he can stop using those disposable razors.
- Merkur Double Edge Razor Blades, 30 blades to go with the razor.
- Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, six bars for less than $20.
- Earth Therapeutics Pumice Stone, so he can treat his feet.
- Seki Stainless Steel Fingernail and Toenail Clippers. If his feet are in bad shape, the Seki In-Grown Toenail Clipper could work, too.
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Lotion, it’s not greasy, doesn’t have a fragrance, and is the only lotion my husband will touch.
The Monday before Thanksgiving can only mean one thing here on Unclutterer: The launch of our 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide. This is the fourth year we’ve put together a Guide, so be sure to check out our 2009, 2008, and 2007 Guides for even more gift-giving ideas.
The theme of this year’s Guide is Practical Presents. Practical applies to both the buying and giving — make a practical budget that works for you and your family, and give gifts your recipients can regularly use. We’re aiming for functionality for this year’s Holiday Gift Guide.
To prepare for the gift-giving season, take an organized approach and start by making a list of everyone you would like to give gifts to this year. Next, pull up your personal and/or family budget and see how much money you can spend without going into debt. If you set aside money throughout the year for your holiday shopping, take note of the balance in this account. Then, figure out how much money you can spend on each person on your list. Remember, not all of the gifts you give will need to be purchased — crafts, gifts already purchased, coupons for experiences, etc. — so some of the people on your list might have zero dollar amounts next to their names. Once you have figured out how much you can spend on each person on your list, you’ll be able to start planning what gifts you want to give.
Stay tuned this week and next for the full 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide and our practical present recommendations. We hope you enjoy our Guide as much as we do. Again, don’t forget to check out the 2009, 2008, and 2007 Guides for our previous recommendations.
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. A simple wrapping storage solution can easily handle all of our paper and supplies.
Before using silver paper, I’d been trying to use brown butcher paper for all my wrapping. However, I felt the brown paper was too casual for some occasions, like weddings and anniversaries. I ended up buying small batches of wrapping paper whenever a more formal gift-giving experience arose. The same was true for using fabric bags, and fabric puts a storage burden on the person receiving the gift. I also like the idea of reusable gift bags, but these only work on gifts that coordinate in size to the bags, so you have to store multiple sizes of bags for all different types of situations. Plus, reusable gift bags can be significantly more expensive than wrapping paper and after a couple uses start to show signs of wear. Silver wrapping paper doesn’t have any of these disadvantages — it’s inexpensive, always appropriate, fits all different sizes of gifts, can be recycled, and it doesn’t put a storage burden on the gift recipient or the gift giver.
Silver wrapping paper is in stores in abundance this time of year, and is when I typically stock up my wrapping supplies for the next 12 months. (For some reason, silver paper is much more difficult to find at other times of the year.) Before children, my husband and I could usually survive on two tubes of silver wrapping paper a year. Now that we have a son, we’ve decided to pump that number up to four.
The best deal we’ve found this year is at Ikea. Their SNÖVITA gift wrap (available only in stores) is just $1.99 a roll for 2 ¼ yards:
If you can’t find silver wrapping in your area, a white or a gold wrapping paper might also be a signature wrapping that could work in all situations the way silver does. Whatever style you decide to use, consider a method that will help to keep your wrapping paper clutter to a minimum in your home.
To keep wrapping paper from overwhelming our closet, I tend to buy a single roll of matte silver paper to use on all our gifts. Silver is nice because it works well for holidays, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and thinking-of-you presents. Plain brown butcher paper can work great, too, as an all-purpose gift wrap.
If you go the minimalist route with your wrapping paper, you might want to spruce up your gift with ribbons or bows. I like to keep things simple, so I typically just reuse nice ribbons that were attached to gifts other folks gave to me. A steam iron quickly gets out the wrinkles, and no one else is the wiser (well, at least they weren’t before I wrote about it).
Simply using construction paper and a razor blade, this plain brown package is transformed into a beautiful gift. Easy, multifunctional materials, and whimsical — a great idea without all the clutter. Learn how to make a similar pop-up personalized bow with Martha’s step-by-step illustrated instructions.