2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Helpful (and fun) products

Giving gifts can be lots of fun for both the recipient and the giver. And, although you can elect to give presents that are service related, there’s nothing like watching someone enthusiastically tear open a package you picked out just for them. If you have a tough time finding the right gift (one that will be liked and appreciated), I find that it helps to pick presents that match the recipient’s personality.

And, when possible, why not select something that’s helpful and fun? Not every present has to bring a smile to their face, but if it helps them get stuff done and makes them chuckle, they’re likely to use it often. Of course, you can buy yourself a whimsical and useful present, too. For a bit of inspiration, check out these interesting gifts that put the fun in functional.

For gadget lovers

  1. Coffee Cup Inverter with USB Charging Port. Who doesn’t charge their gadgets while they’re driving? This coffee cup fits in your car’s cup holder (though you have to remember this it’s not really a coffee cup) and it also comes with two power outlets.
  2. USB Hubman. The USB Hubman (or the USB Hubdog or the 4-legged Octopus) is fun way to add an extra port to connect your devices. It’s small (great stocking stuffer) and lightweight, so it can be the perfect gift for those on the go.
  3. Makey Makey Invention Kit. This is an inventors kit that almost anyone can use. It requires no tools and can be connected to everyday items to give commands to your computer (via a USB cable).

For cooking and entertaining

  1. Joseph Joseph Elevate 6-Piece Heat-Resistant Utensil Set. This six-piece set is colorful and weighted so that the business end is raised (and doesn’t touch the counter). Store them in a utensil drawer or purchase the Carousel Set.
  2. Joseph Joseph Rinse and chop Chopping Board and Colander. Another cool and colorful item from Joseph Joseph that the chefs in your life are bound to love because it serves two purposes: it’s a chopping board and a colander in one (folding hinges do the trick). And, because it can lay flat, it’s can be stored easily when not in use.

For the office

  1. Falling bookend. Bookends may sound boring, but this model by Artori will add a touch of drama to any bookshelf (check out the Portal 2 bookends, too).
  2. Gnome-Be-Gone Office Fisherman. This office gnome captures paper clips with his magnetic fishing rod and keeps a (neat) stash of business cards, too.
  3. There is one more that product I just couldn’t resist telling you about. Though the price is well beyond what I think is reasonable, it gets lots of cool points for doing it’s job in a unique way. Take a look at the QLOCKTWO. It’s a wall clock that has no hands and no numbers. Just words that tell you what time it is (“It’s a quarter past eight”). The QLOCKTWO comes in a variety of colors and supports twelve languages (the QLOCKTWO TOUCH has a snooze button).

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Ultimate uncluttered gift

Since we began putting together our annual gift-giving guides in 2007, we have always included an ultimate gift in our series. The idea of the ultimate gift is focused on uncluttering and/or organizing and it is sometimes at the high end of the price spectrum for our gift guides. It’s a gift you might give to a loved one, but it also might be an item you add to your wish list.

In 2007, we recommended the Fujitsu ScanSnap (PC and Mac). In 2008, we chose the Kindle. In 2009, it was my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week (now also in audio format). In 2010, we went with the Intellishred paper shredder (now called the Powershred). And, in 2011, we went off script a little and recommended hiring a professional organizer with a list of recommendations.

After much thought and deliberation, we have decided to return to the world of the physical and suggest a tangible item. Like last year, though, it’s a bit unorthodox. It’s not necessarily something you can unwrap, but I’m sure if you are creative you could find a way to put something wrapable under the tree (like a screw or small piece of it).

The 2012 Ultimate Gift is a closet makeover.

Over the past few months, we’ve become fans of Rubbermaid’s Configurations system for its price (much lower than Elfa’s) and quality. The arrangement options and sizes are numerous, and we believe a well organized closet is a thing of beauty. In addition to bedroom closets and office closets, don’t forget your pantry, coat closet, and supply closets in your garage and/or basement. When uncluttered and organized, these areas can increase functionality significantly, such as with my old “Mary Poppins” closet in our previous house:

Also, the system has attachments like pull-out baskets, chests of drawers, tie and belt valets, angled shoe shelves, sliding pant racks, as well as preassembled kits for your pantry and clothing closets.

This is a gift you would want to consult with the recipient before giving, but I think in many cases it would be very well received. As I mentioned before, it is a non-traditional gift, but non-traditional doesn’t mean bad. A beautiful, new, organized closet would be a truly wonderful way to start the new year.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for children

Kids excel at many things, including the acquisition of stuff. From books to LEGO bricks, and dolls to video games, it all piles up and leads to the inevitable question: Where should they put this? There’s a larger question at work here, too: do they need all this stuff? Listed below are a few gift ideas to help children answer both questions. And don’t worry, they’ll enjoy opening these gifts, too.

  1. A notebook. My nine-year-old is a real “Forgetful Flower” (she takes after her father). So I’ve gotten her to adopt a habit of mine: writing things down in a notebook. Filednotes Brand sells this super-cute “Summer Camp” 3-pack of brightly-colored notebooks that comes with a three matching pencils and an oversized rubber band that make a great stocking stuffer. My daughter uses hers to write down classroom assignments.
  2. Labels from Mabel’s Labels. These super-cute labels clearly display your child’s name, come in many sizes, colors and themes (dinosaur, nature, etc.) and stick to just about anything. We’ve placed them on clothes sent to camp, inside baseball hats and other sports equipment, lunch boxes and more. They also make dog-tag style bag tags (older kids won’t be embarrassed to use them) perfect for hockey equipment, laundry, etc. We’ve even put the clothing labels through several washings and they’ve remained intact.
  3. The IRIS LEGO 6-Case Workstation and Storage Unit is awesome. Shallow, color-coded drawers make it easy to find the pieces you want. The top of the unit itself is a LEGO surface, so it doubles as a play area. LEGO bricks seem to reproduce on their own that his unit keeps their population under control.
  4. Wall-mounted sports storage racks. I love these great-looking racks for storing/displaying snowboards, wakeboards, surfboards, skateboards and skis. Teenagers will like them because their gear looks cool presented like this. You’ll like them because it gets that stuff up off the floor.
  5. Nintendo DS game organizer. These game cartridges are so tiny and they love to disappear. This organizer holds 12 cartridges and offers easy access. There are similar storage devices for all handheld gaming systems. Include a new game with the organizer, and it will make most any kid happy.
  6. Lap desks. In dark and bright models, a lap desk can be incredibly useful gift for a kid who likes to do homework on the couch or in a comfy chair. My kids covered theirs with strips of Duck Tape in crazy patterns for a custom look.

Younger children who aren’t yet into skateboarding, gaming systems, or homework might enjoy books that have underlying themes on uncluttering and organizing:

  1. Room Enough for Daisy by Debbie Waldman. Little Daisy has so many toys, she wishes for a larger bedroom to accommodate them all. Eventually, her mom convinces her to donate some items to a rummage sale. Cindy Revell’s illustrations are really cute.
  2. Too Many Toys by David Shannon. David’s books are fantastic, starting with the hilariously relatable “No, David!” Too Many Toys has a similar theme to Room Enough for Daisy, in that David is required to thin his massive collection of toys. It’s a fun story that my kids think is funny and I find quite charming.
  3. Mr. Messy, part of the Mr./Mrs. series by Roger Hargreaves, is an untidy fellow until he meets Mr. Neat and Mr. Tidy.
  4. More by I. C. Springman is about a hoarding magpie whose friends teach him the value of “enough.” Again, the illustrations are great and the minimal text great for new readers.

I’ve got one last tip to share. My wife and I have two kids. To make things easy on Christmas morning, we wrap gifts strategically. Presents to Child A from mom and dad are wrapped in Paper A. Those to Kid B are in Paper B. Finally, gifts from Santa are magically in a third paper. This way, we avoid the “Who is this from?” question as well as “Is this mine?” It works very well for us.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences

One of the most obvious and uncluttered gifts you can give is an experience gift. Unlike a tangible gift that takes up space and might go unused, an experience gift won’t clutter up someone’s home or office. Best of all, experiences usually make the gift recipient happier than a tangible gift and their satisfaction of the gift may even improve over time (see “Stuff won’t make you happy, experiences will“).

Experience gifts are things your gift recipient can do alone, but I think it’s nice when the gift is given with the expectation that you will enjoy the gift together. Time is precious, and spending it with someone you care about is almost always well received. Granted, with an ongoing experience gift (like an annual museum membership), you may not participate in the experience together every time — but going together at least once can be a nice addition to the gift.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some ideas for experience gifts —

  • Memberships or annual passes: Zoos, arboretums, museums, theme parks, water parks and swimming pools, and national/state park admissions passes.
  • Tickets: Plays, movies, operas, the symphony, rock concerts, air shows, festivals, and sporting events.
  • Education: Sky diving lesson, cooking class, wine tasting, ski lesson, race car driving opportunity, and music or foreign language lessons.
  • Adventures: Foot the bill for a road trip, airline tickets, hot air balloon ride, afternoon of deep sea sport fishing, and participation fees for races you can run together.
  • Social Coupons: Coupons you make for redeemable experiences like slumber parties with your grandkids and/or nieces and nephews, once-a-month date night or happy hour (12 coupons in all) with significant other or friend, walks along the beach or local trails, trips to favorite ice cream shop, afternoon of kayaking together, or whatever you enjoy doing with your loved ones.

If you like the idea of someone opening a gift, you can put the tickets or coupons or even a clue about the experience gift in a box for your recipient to open. Having a small box to open also suggests to your gift recipient that you thought more about the gift you’re giving than just as an after thought as you were signing the card.

For more experience ideas, check out books like 101 Things To Do Before You Die by Richard Horne and 1,000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. Books such as these offer many great ideas for things to do and places to visit.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Services for the home

Maintaining a home is a long-term endeavor that’s not without some high costs. Purchasing a service that helps your loved one cover those costs and keep their home functioning smoothly and/or looking great is a gift that will usually be met with high doses of gratitude. I’ve shared five home maintenance services that when purchased individually (one time only) or in bulk (across several months), can mean a great deal to the person or family receiving them. For many of the services listed below, visit HomeAdvisor.com or Angie’s List to find a local provider.

  • Professional organizing. A professional organizer (or group of organizers) can help restore order, and help establish maintenance systems. This is a present that can last long after the organizer has finished working on the project. You can find a professional organizer by visiting the National Association of Professional Organizers’ website.
  • Cleaning. When you think of cleaning, your first thought might be a maid service or carpet cleaning (both are amazing gifts). However, there are other areas of cleaning that some of us would just rather pass on to a professional, such as cleaning (or replacing) the gutters or power washing the siding on your home and washing exterior windows.
  • Laundry. Having the laundry done is a service I know I would love to have year round. Because it’s a process that needs to be done on a regular basis, having a laundry service that picks up dirty clothing and returns them clean and nicely folded would save quite a bit of time. If there are young children in the home who use cloth diapers, diaper cleaning companies can provide a similar service.
  • Handyman/handywoman services. A person who can come in and fix all the things that need repairing (or finish those long standing projects) can be a welcome present. A handyman/handywoman can also do exterior and interior painting as well as touch up painting in high-traffic areas (entryways, hallways, walls along staircases, children’s play areas).
  • Lawn and garden. A lawn and garden service can help design/create an herb, vegetable, flowering, or container garden (great for small spaces) that suits the homeowners’ needs/wants. They can also offer monthly or annual maintenance plans to ensure that the lawn (no matter how big or small) is healthy year round. Some larger companies also offer design-build services, like building a retaining wall or installing a new driveway.

If you want your gift recipient to unwrap something in addition to the service certificate, you could include a book like The Home Owner’s Journal by Colleen Jenkins or a nice tea your friend or family member can enjoy while not doing work around the house.

Whether you’re giving a gift to the unclutterers in your life or simply want to give something other than a tangible item, there are several options for presents that can be more than just a nice surprise — they can also help the recipient get stuff done. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of your budget as you think about the service you think will be most helpful to your friends and family members.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Budgeting and planning

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 21, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.

Do the holidays creep up on you and give an unwelcome jolt? Unless you like unpleasant surprises (like forgetting someone on your list), treat the holidays like any other project — one deserving of a well laid out plan with a timelines and a reasonable budget. That way, you’ll know what to expect and have a guide to ensure that you don’t overspend or overlook important people or events. That means that you can …

Start planning early

The benefit of planning early will be less stress and more time to enjoy the gift giving season. Though your first thought may be about the list of people you intend to give gifts to, there are other things to consider as well, like how much money you will spend, whether or not you will be hosting a party or attending one (or more) holiday events, along with the type of gifts you’ll give.

As you start thinking about all the things you need (or want) to do, get them out of your head and record them on a spreadsheet, in your paper journal, or in an online notebook. Put your plans in buckets or categories (who you’ll buy gifts for, gifts to purchase/make, specialty stores to visit, sales to take advantage of) and also consider what worked last year to see what you’d like to repeat and things you prefer to do differently. Include gifting traditions that you want to keep and and new ones that you’d like to try out. Will you need help so that your plans can go off without a hitch? Will you share the expense of certain gifts?

With so much to think about and do, it can get overwhelming, so the next step would be to:

Set your monetary budget

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend will likely drive the types of activities you engage in, as well as how much you spend on presents. The website LearnVest.com suggests that you use the 50/20/30 rule to determine how much of your take home pay will be put toward three categories of expenses:

  • 50 percent for essential expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries)
  • 20 percent for financial priorities (debt payments, savings contributions)
  • 30 percent for lifestyle choices (hobbies, pets, cable/internet)

Though this rule pertains to your general budget, it can also help you determine how much you will put toward holiday spending, which seems to fall in the “lifestyle choices” category. Since that is an area you tend to have more control over, you can make some adjustments (reduce the number of times you eat out per month, cut back on expenses related to hobbies) so that you can put money toward your holiday fund.

As you crunch the numbers, think about whether you’ll have a per person budget ($50 for significant others, $25 for friends or children’s teachers, $15 dollars for neighbors, $10 for co-workers) or a flat amount for everyone. Will you forgo gifts for some people and send them cards instead? How will you handle charitable giving? You’ll also need to think about the number of holiday parties you’ll attend as you may be expected to give each host a gift.

Budget your time

Not only is budgeting your money important, but so is budgeting your time. Whether you purchase gifts or make them, you’ll need to figure out how much time you can realistically devote to shopping, crafting, or baking (and wrapping, too). Will you schedule time after work, on weekends, or both? Will you purchase generic presents (like gift cards) or select items that match the recipients wants/needs/personality? Will you send holiday cards to some people in lieu of a gift? Are the stores with special sales in close proximity to your home or office? Whatever you decide to do, plan how you’ll use your time so you don’t end up feeling stressed by rushing around at the last minute.

One way to save some time is to stop guessing which things to buy. Ask your friends and family members what they want. You can do that easily by using websites like Amazon, WishListr.com, or SeeWhatTheyWant.com to find out exactly what your loved ones are hoping to receive. With each of these sites, you’ll be able to see what has already been bought and reduce the risk of duplicate purchases. Alternatively, you can use the Gift Planning Checklist from Lifehacker.com to keep track of the gifts you’ve already bought. As you think about how you’ll budget your time, look for opportunities to divide and conquer — share your holiday chores with others who can help you with the shopping or crafting duties.

Now that Christmas is six weeks away, this is a great time to pull your thoughts together to create a budget and plan so that you can have a stress free and festive holiday season. Over the next nine days, we’ll supply you with numerous uncluttered gift ideas to inspire your planning list to help reduce even more of your stress — so stay tuned.

The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

How to receive gifts when you’re uncluttering

Who doesn’t love receiving gifts? If you’re like me, you tear them open enthusiastically to see the fantastic things that await you. Gifts can be tangible reminders that someone was thinking of us or wanted to help us celebrate a special occasion. In fact, the person giving the gift likely gains a good dose of positive feelings by the act of giving. It’s hard to think of a downside to getting a present.

…except perhaps when your space is limited. And, when you’re uncluttering. If you’re focused on reducing your stash of stuff and having “a place for everything and everything in it’s place,” you might find yourself reluctant to bring something new into your home. On the other hand, refusing (even if you do so graciously) can result in the gift-giver (and you) having hurt feelings. To better navigate these delicate situations and to avoid mistunderstandings, first…

Talk about your uncluttering plans

…with everyone. When you decide to make a change in your life, like eating healthier, you probably tend to tell those closest to you. That way, they’re not surprised when you decide to eat in or order healthier fare from the menu. A nice side effect of telling the people in your life about your plans is that they can help motivate you and try to help you reach your goal.

Why not do the same when you’re uncluttering? Let your friends, family members, and colleagues know you’re being very purposeful (or even ruthless) about the types and number of things that you will keep. They genuinely care about you and want to see you succeed. So, rather than stop them from giving you a gift, tell them you’re minimizing the tangible things you purchase and receive, and instead …

Suggest experience gifts

Have you been meaning to go to the new play that opened a few months ago? Or, perhaps you really want to see your favorite musical group the next time they come to town? Or, maybe you’d like to get in one last road trip with friends before the summer comes to a final close? If there’s a special event or new experience that you’d like to try (like driving your dream car or riding in a hot air balloon), don’t keep it a secret. These types of gifts still let the important people in your life celebrate special moments with you, and you won’t have to carve out storage space for something new.

Ask for a gift for others in need

Knowing that you’re helping someone without getting anything in return can often be very rewarding. In lieu of receiving a physical gift, ask friends and family members to donate to a charity you love. You could also spend some time together volunteering to help others in need (local meal center/food bank, animal shelter). This would be an opportunity to do something good for someone else and spend time with each other.

Accept gifts you receive

It’s not likely that you’ll never again receive a physical gift. When those occasions arise, graciously accept the gift, send a thank you note, and then take some time to decide how useful the item is to you. You may need to create a “deciding space” in your home to store gifts so you can figure out if you will keep them (perhaps in a well frequented closet so that you don’t forget about them). At first, you might not think that you’d find the gifts helpful, but they could end up being just what you needed. If, after a second look, the gift really doesn’t suit you or your current lifestyle, donate the gift to a charitable organization or regift it to someone you believe would really use it (letting that person know they’re welcome to pass it along if they don’t need it).

If you do receive gifts as you’re purging and uncluttering, remember that gift-giving is an emotional experience. The person giving is probably excited about giving you a present and has the best of intentions. He/she is not trying to thwart your plans to simplify, and just might not know that you’re doing things a little differently. Start by having conversation with those in your inner circle about your uncluttering plans. Over time, they will likely adjust to a new way of sharing special moments and experiences with you.

Uncluttered gifts for Father’s Day

Ties, wallets, and socks might be utilitarian things that just about every father needs, but why not try something a little different this year? Instead of getting a physical gift that may lay around and not be used (or wanted), think about getting something a bit more interesting and, of course, uncluttered.

  • Things to eat.  A couple of years ago, my husband got his dad an exotic meat basket. This gift was actually well thought out because my husband knew his father had an adventurous palate. My father-in-law’s reaction: he loved it! Perhaps a different dining experience might be more appealing to your dad, like eating in the dark at restaurants like Opaque and Dans le Noir, or maybe dinner at his favorite eatery. You could take things up a notch and hire a chef to make his favorite meal.
  • Things to do. If your dad likes being outdoors, take him fishing or on a walking tour. If he likes watching movies, get him tickets to a drive-in theater. Or, you could send him on a quick road trip by renting him that car he’s always wanted to drive. Whatever you decide to get, pick something that will suit his personality because he’ll really enjoy it.
  • Thoughtful things. These gifts help your loved one with a regular chore, but in a bigger way. You might consider giving your dad three months of hair cuts or lawn maintenance. Have his car detailed or replace all the tires. Or, hire a maid service to take care of the laundry once a week for a month.
  • Wanted things.  What does your father want? Has he mentioned anything that would make his heart sing, like tickets to see his favorite sports team?  Does he have a tablet or set of Dremel tools on his “must have” list?  If I were buying a gift for my dad, I’d get a set of of John Wayne movies on DVD (he LOVES John Wayne). And, we’d watch them together.
If you’re still mulling over what to get for your dad this coming Sunday, forgo the usual dad gifts and consider something more meaningful (and uncluttered). You’ll be creating memories that will be cherished and have lots of great stories to share each year.

Uncluttered gift ideas for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this weekend (May 13) and although flowers and plants are usually an appreciated and safe gift, you may be thinking outside the (flower) box this year. If you’re still looking for ideas, consider giving an uncluttered gift:

  • Consumables. If you know she loves them, get her fancy chocolates, coffee beans, teas, or another treat.
  • Services. Take her car to be detailed, have the oil changed, and fill up the tank. Get her a gift certificate to a renowned spa for a pedicure or massage. Treat her to dinner at her favorite restaurant.
  • Adventures. In my opinion, spending time with someone is an amazing gift. Take a weekend vacation to a relaxing getaway. Make a date to go on a hike through a local state park. Surprise her with tickets to the opera or to hear a band she likes or to a sporting event she enjoys.
  • Wants. Listen for hints about gifts she would use. Does she want a new Chef’s knife? Has she told you five times she’s in the market for new sunglasses? Has she been talking nonstop about wanting a Kindle? Does she have a board on Pinterest called “Please Buy This for Me”? (If so, you should check there.)

What uncluttered gifts are you thinking about getting for the moms in your life this coming Mother’s Day? I bought my mom an adventure gift (we’re going to take a much needed vacation together later this year), my mother-in-law’s gift is still a secret (sorry, no spoilers here!) and I’m pretty certain my husband and son are getting me a physical gift I really want (new earphones, to wear while I run and work, as my beloved pair bit the dust last week).

Also, check out all of our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more uncluttered suggestions.

Image of the Golden Gate Bonsai from Calyx Flowers.

2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: The Six O’Clock Scramble deal for Unclutterer readers

In our kitchen-themed post of our 2011 Gift Giving Guide, I alluded to the fact that we would be offering a special deal for The Six O’Clock Scramble in mid-December. The time has arrived, and I am eager to share the details with you.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Six O’Clock Scramble, it is a service started eight years ago by the magnificent Aviva Goldfarb. Each week, for a very small fee, she emails subscribers a menu plan, corresponding recipes, and a shopping list. The meals are nutritious, seasonal, budget-friendly, and quick and easy to make. You can also customize meal plans to work with your specific food preferences, intolerances, and allergies. It’s also nice because you don’t waste money at the grocery store on food you’re not going to eat before it expires. Aviva is a master at home cooking, and her service helps subscribers become experts, too.

A subscription to The Six O’Clock Scramble helps reduce stress about what to serve every night for dinner and is a perfect gift for anyone on your list who has any anxiety about getting good meals on the table night after night. (It’s also a great gift to ask for yourself if you’re the one wanting to get out of a mealtime rut.) Best of all, to sign up for a subscription, you don’t have to go to a mall or fight any crowds. It makes a wonderful last-minute gift, too, since her website doesn’t close at 9:00 p.m. There are 3 month, 6 month, and 2-year subscriptions available.

Since the theme of this year’s Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide is high utility gift giving, a subscription to The Six O’Clock Scramble seemed like a perfect fit — there aren’t many gifts that can be used every single day by the recipient and reduce so much stress. Now, on with the good stuff …

The discount details: When checking out, use the code UNC11 to get 20 percent off of all subscriptions, gifts, and otherwise. The code will go inactive on December 27, 2011. A huge “thank you,” also, to Aviva for working with us to offer a holiday deal for our Unclutterer readers.

Again, and this should go without saying, Aviva did not pay us to choose her service as a selection for our 2011 Guide. We are big fans and I’ve even been a happy subscriber to the service (and love it). We are also not currently affiliates of The Six O’Clock Scramble. However, we are considering becoming affiliates because we think it’s such an awesome program. As I’m writing this, though, we have not received a single penny as payment nor have we been promised a big wad of cash at some point in the future. (Okay, now I think we’ve met our legal disclosure obligation.)

If you or someone on your recipient list would benefit from such a useful gift as The Six O’Clock Scramble, consider taking advantage of the 20 percent discount and ordering a subscription.

View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Ultimate generosity

Every year we have written the Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide, we have picked a gift that we believed to be the most generous gift you could give (or ask to receive) to an unclutterer. In 2007, we recommended the Fujitsu ScanSnap (PC and Mac). In 2008, we chose the Kindle. In 2009, it was my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. Last year, we went with the Intellishred paper shredder (now called the Powershred). And, this year, we have decided to mix things up a little by thinking outside the box.

Instead of tangible gifts, which have been the focus of our Guide in 2011, we are recommending a service as the ultimate gift of generosity. We suggest getting your favorite unclutterer a few hours of consultation, uncluttering, and organizing with a professional organizer.

This is one of those gifts where you have to be careful about how you give it. You have to put out feelers, see if the person is open to the idea of working with a professional organizer. You need to know the person’s personality and gauge whether a gift like this would be welcomed or deemed offensive. Then, you have to make sure the gift is given in a way that expresses you don’t believe the person to be a slob, rather that you know it is something the person wants and will really enjoy. If done correctly, this will be a wonderful gift for someone who is interested in becoming an unclutterer or even just improving one rough area in an otherwise well-organized space.

The best way to give one session or more with a professional organizer is to provide a coupon to the recipient with either a designated dollar amount or number of sessions you wish to supply. Also, it can be nice to include a list of three professional organizers who live near the gift recipient as well as their contact information. Professional organizers specialize in particular areas, so be sure to suggest an organizer that matches with your recipient’s needs.

The best and easiest way to find a professional organizer who lives near the gift recipient is to go to the National Association of Professional Organizers’ website (http://napo.net). There is a “find a professional organizer” tool that allows you to search for organizers by zip code. I recommend choosing a radius of “within 50 miles” to get a nice selection of organizers to research.

Once you’ve narrowed the field to three organizers to recommend, it is best for the gift recipient to make the final decision about who will be the chosen professional organizer. Feeling comfortable with a professional organizer is very important to the success of the sessions. If your gift recipient doesn’t trust the organizer in his or her home or office, or respect the organizer’s skills, your money will be wasted.

To get you started with your search, here is a list of some of my favorite organizers across the U.S.:

And, it should go without saying, but none of the organizers I just listed paid me or rewarded me in any way for including their names on this list. They’re simply people I’ve grown to know over the years through NAPO activities and whose work I am acquainted with in some form.

View the complete 2011 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Organizing products

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Shoe storage boxes that stack and allow the user to easily see what is inside.
  4. Dymo Label Maker for the person who prefers to label file tabs for easy reading and anything else that needs to be labeled.
  5. My book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, or another one out there that you believe would speak to your gift recipient.
  6. A key holder so house keys always have a place to live. No more hunting for keys!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.