2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Utilitarian unitaskers as gifts

Here at Unclutterer, we make weekly jokes about unitaskers — items with only one purpose and very little utility tied to that purpose. However, there are useful unitaskers, single-purpose items with high utility, that can make great gifts for the right people. The following are ideas to take into consideration.

Fire extinguishers were previously featured on Unclutterer as a very useful unitasker. A multi-purpose fire extinguisher should be located in the kitchen to deal with cooking fires but other areas of the home should have a fire extinguisher, too. An extinguisher for fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline should be stored in the garage. Cars, boats, recreational vehicles, and seasonal homes should also have fire extinguishers. This is a great gift for anyone who doesn’t already have fire extinguishers, has expired fire extinguishers, or anyone needing an extra fire extinguisher for home, car, or garage.

Like the fire extinguisher, a fire ladder is a useful unitasker for those who live in multi-level housing. There are different types of fire escape ladders, and this short video can help you choose the right one for the people on your gift list. This is a great gift for anyone who lives in a house with bedrooms on upper levels or living in an apartment above ground floor.

Two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. Many of us have removed the batteries from smoke detectors because of false alarms due to burnt toast or that annoying “beep-beep” at 3am that indicates the detector’s batteries are dead. The Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector solves these problems. It sends you a friendly, polite alert so that you can take action to prevent a false alarm. It also sends a message to your smart phone if the batteries are low so you can replace the dying ones. This is a great gift for anyone who who doesn’t already have, or have enough, smoke detectors or those who pull the batteries out of the smoke detector on a regular basis.

Have you ever left for vacation and realized that you forgot to turn the heat down in your home? The Nest Learning Thermostat will automatically turn your heat down when you’re away and it can be controlled from anywhere by your smartphone. You can turn your heat up as soon as your plane lands and come home to a cozy, warm house. This would be an ideal gift for home owners who are frequent travellers, busy families, or anyone looking to save money on his or her home heating bill.

There are several different types of weather stations available but the netatmo weather station connects to your home and allows you to monitor indoor and outdoor conditions with your smartphone from anywhere there is an internet connection. Netatmo monitors your indoor air quality, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels and lets you know if you should increase your ventilation. This is a great gift for anyone who lives in a remote area, far from standard weather stations, or those who want more information that an average thermometer can provide and want that information on their smartphone.

A USB charger is technically a unitasker because it only does one thing — charges USB devices. The Elago Tripshell USB World Travel Adaptor is a multi-tasker. It allows you to charge two USB devices and functions as an outlet extender so you can charge your laptop at the same time. And (this is the best part) it works in over 150 countries. If you know someone who travels, this would be a great gift. Your friend can use this device at home and carry it with her on her travels. She will no longer have to carry travel adaptors for every gadget she needs to charge.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Our ultimate pick for an extravagant organized gift

Since 2007, we have been recommending an extravagant organized gift as part of our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. The first year, our ultimate pick was the Fujitsu ScanSnap. In 2008, we recommended the Kindle. The following year, we suggested my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. In 2010, it was the Fellowes Intellishred Shredder (now called the Powershred). For 2011, our ultimate generosity idea was for hiring a professional organizer. Then, in 2012, it was a closet makeover with Rubbermaid’s Configurations system.

All of these suggestions continue to make terrific gift ideas. In fact, we heavily debated if we should have the Fujitsu ScanSnap be our selection again for 2013. However, we decided we should pick something we hadn’t done before.

For 2013, we have selected a subscription to Unclutterer’s Quarterly shipments as our ultimate extravagance.

It is difficult to put into words the excitement that we feel each time we put together one of these mailings. We know that with each package we are having fun and helping people to be more organized in their homes.

Quarterly is a subscription service that sends out curated packages four times a year, as its name implies. The Unclutterer staff selects the items that go into all of the Unclutterer mailings. We include straightforward directions on how to use/install/manipulate the items. Our assumption is that for every item we send, you will actually be able to subtract one or more things from your homes and offices. Or, the items will help you discover a significantly improved level of organization in your life.

Our previous mailings, which you can now give as gifts after the fact, contained solutions for organizing a mess of cables and getting your filing cabinet in order.

What we love about these shipments are that if you already have the specific area of your home organized, the items make great gifts to give others to help them on their organizing journey. And, the items we pick for our Quarterly mailings are very positively reviewed, tested, and tried and true solutions to disorganization problems.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Tech for organization

Do you have a tech-friendly organization devotee on your holiday shopping list? Then you are in luck because this is among the easiest, most fun groups to shop for. A tech geek — for lack of a better term — is always willing to try out a new gadget, system, or tool, just in case it’s an improvement over what she/he is already using. As a tech geek, I’m speaking from experience.

The following are several gift ideas that are likely to make the tech geek in your life happy:

  1. The Doxie Flip Scanner. The newest addition to the Doxie family of scanners (released just a couple of weeks ago), is a delightful little device. This portable (about 6.5 x 10 x 1 inches and 1 lb 7.3 oz.), battery-powered, flatbed scanner is perfect for scanning photos, books, sketches, manuals and so much more. It easily fits into almost any bag and saves scans to an SD card for easy transfer. Here’s a cool tip: If you have a wireless-capable Eye-Fi card, skip the middle man and scan directly to your computer over Wi-Fi.
  2. New Trent Travelpak. The Travelpak is a portable recharging device that can supply extra juice to anything that accepts a charge via USB. That means iPhones, iPods, iPads, tablets, cameras and smartphones of all kinds. It stores enough power to keep most smartphones going for a days under normal use. And, it’s barely bigger than a phone, so it fits into a bag or pocket easily. Useful and portable? That’s a winning combo to me.
  3. BookBook Travel Journal. This one is for the iPad-wielding traveler. The BookBook Travel Journal from Twelve South is a tidy, organized, and absolutely fantastic-looking carrying case for an iPad and myriad of accessories. You can store the tablet plus a charger (like the awesome PlugBug), set of headphones, keyboard case, stylus, notebook, and pen. Twelve South makes fantastic products (check out similar carriers for the iPhone, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air) and the Travel Journal is no exception. Tidy, attractive, and best of all, useful.
  4. CoverBot Dual USB High Output Car Charger. Here’s another wonderfully unobtrusive device that will keep all your favorite tech geek’s devices charged. The CoverBot Duo is a car charger with two USB-ready ports. Each is fully powered, so you can get two devices up and running at the same pace. As with the New Trent Travelpak, the CoverBot Duo works with any device that will accept a charge via USB.
  5. Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light. Now this is just cool. The Wake-Up Light wakes you up by growing gradually brighter over a 30-minute period. This process, according to Phillips, stimulates your body to wake up naturally, as opposed to the jarring audio alert of most alarm clocks. Phillips sent us one to review and we’re glad they did. Additionally, once fully illuminated, it easily lights up a bedroom. Replace that lamp and save some space on your nightstand, too.
  6. BLaNKcraft Cable Manager. With two iPhones and an iPod in the house, I spend way too much time plugging, unplugging, replacing, or searching for cables. It’s worse when we’re traveling, as one pocket of my bag ends up holding a rat’s nest of white cable. The BLaNKcraft Cable Manager can rescue your tech geek from cable chaos. This handmade, leather strap is so simple and so clever that I just love it. Bind your cables with the snap, tuck it into a bag, pocket, or drawer and you’re good to go. As an alternative, the Cord Taco is another great choice.
  7. Tile. This clever little fob attaches to your valuables (up to 10) and lets you track their location with an iOS app. Lose the keys? Misplace a wallet? Don’t know where the kids’ backpacks have gone? You’re a tap away from solving the mystery.
  8. Automatic. This is among my top gadgets of the year. The Automatic is a little device that plugs into your car’s data port (check if your car is supported here) and shares a host of useful information. For example, if you car’s “Check Engine” light comes on, the Automatic will tell you what’s wrong via the companion smartphone app (iOS and Android). If it detects an accident has occurred, it notifies local authorities. It remembers where you parked and even helps you drive in a more economical manner. It even supports multiple drivers.
  9. The Quirky Plug Hub. Finally, here’s another great way to rid yourself of a rat’s nest of cables. Put a power strip inside and use the three holes in the top to thread six plugs through neatly. You don’t have to look at the ugly plug unit once it’s tucked inside. Take things a step further and add some labels to those plugs so you’ll know what’s going where.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 26, 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.

Giving an experience gift ensures there’s nothing for the recipient to unclutter, and it’s a great kind of gift to give to someone who really doesn’t need or want any more stuff. I have a friend who said one of the best gifts she ever got was an annual membership to a local museum.

Last year, Erin provided suggestions for many types of experience gifts — and here are some more ideas. My examples will be U.S.-based, but similar items can probably be found in many other parts of the world.

City tours

Here are a few of the tours available in San Francisco; your area may well have equally interesting options.

  • Food-related tours: Gourmet Walks, San Francisco Food Tours, Foodie Adventures
  • Neighborhood-related tours: All About Chinatown, Chinatown Alleyway Tours
  • Architecture-related tours: San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour, Victorian Home Walk
  • Novelty vehicle tours: Fire Engine Tours — I know a little boy who would have loved this!
  • Golf

    If you’ve got a golfer on your gift list, you might choose a gift card good at over 4,000 golf courses nationwide.

    Adventures

    Here’s just one possibility: a zip line experience. You can find these in many places; two examples are Zipline New York and Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

    Spa experiences: massages, facials, pedicures, etc.

    Treat someone to some pampering and relaxation! Almost any business offering these services will have a gift certificate available, and sometimes you can buy them online.

    Here are just a few examples: Massage LA (which serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon); Queen Jane Day Spa (which serves New York City); and Nirvana Holistic Spa (which serves Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon).

    Consultations with specialists

    If you know the recipient would appreciate such a consultation, it could be a great gift. Give someone a consultation with an image consultant, a garden coach, etc.

    Combination gifts: books plus experiences

    This can work well for those who don’t want to give a purely intangible gift. Here are a few examples to get you thinking.

  • Give a gift certificate for a Segway tour, along with the book Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition.
  • Give the book Pug Hill, where the protagonist is an art restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — along with a membership to that museum.
  • Give a child (or an adult) a membership to your local zoo, along with a related book. There are many choices, from the board book Touch and Feel Zoo to the intriguing-sounding The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients.
  • Give the gift of a stock car ride along, and bundle it with the book The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed
  • Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

    Uncluttered Valentine’s Day gift ideas

    We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day in two days. Haven’t bought your loved ones anything yet? Don’t panic. OK, maybe a little panic. You’ve got 48 hours! The following are some nice gift ideas that will express your feelings and keep you out of the dog house, all without creating a pile of clutter that must be dealt with at some point:

    1. Create an unexpected playlist. Many Gen-X’ers out there remember the labor-intensive, excruciating process of creating a mix tape for a loved one. The careful selection of exactly the right songs, placed in precisely the proper order to create a crescendo of meaning and feeling. Only the right mix of sentiment, fun, humor, and truth would do. And it all had to fit perfectly on a 60-minute cassette. The harder you worked, the more your recipient meant to you.

      Today, the process is less labor intensive (raise your hand if you remember holding a tape recorder up to the radio to capture a song), but just as meaningful. If your loved one has an Mp3 player like an iPod, sneak into his or her iTunes account and create a playlist of songs that speak to your relationship. Give it a fun name and sync the results to her device. Her commute to work, etc. just got that much more pleasant.

    2. Get the car detailed. My wife did this for me last year and I was elated. I keep my car tidy but I can’t get it anywhere near as nice-looking as a well-equipped professional can. Some detailers will even travel to you for on-site cleaning. While the kids did eventually track sand and Goldfish crackers into the car again, it was a nice few weeks before they did and extremely appreciated.
    3. Gather favorite photos. I admit that I still like looking at paper photos more than their digital counterparts. Holding a picture in my hand is nicer than sitting in front of a screen or even holding a tablet or a smartphone. That might be a function of my age, but I suspect some of you feel that, too. It’s also nice to browse a well-ordered album, and there are several companies that produce great-looking photo books. Shutterfly does a great job, as does Apple, if you use its iPhoto software. I’ve ordered several photo books from Apple and they look great.
    4. Get a landscaping consultation. I love “fiddling in the yard” as I call it but I’ll admit that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Last summer, I spent about an hour talking with some folks at a local nursery and learned so much. Most landscaping companies offer free consultations, so consider that if your better half enjoys gardening or landscaping. Also, check with local colleges, universities, or adult education organizations for classes in landscaping or really anything that will encourage an interest or hobby.
    5. Re-live a first date. In 1986, I took my very first date to see Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I’m not eager to see that movie again, but I suspect it’d bring back some pleasant memories if I did. It’d be great fun to take your significant other back to the restaurant, theatre, hot dog stand (etc.) that marked the beginning of your relationship.
    6. Digitize home movies. This one will take some planning, but it’ll be worth it. Many people have boxes of 8mm movies sitting around or old VHS tapes. The simplest method of digitizing them is to set up the projector (many rental stores will have one if you don’t) and a digital camera. Roll the film, record with your digital camera and then import it into your computer.

      When recording, keep these tips in mind. Make sure the room is as dark as possible. Position your digital camera on a tripod and keep it as close to the reel-to-reel projector as possible, so that the angle is nearly identical. Zoom into the projected image as closely as possible. Finally, manually set the camera’s focus, as the auto focus could have trouble in this scenario.

    Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

    Last-minute holiday preparation ideas

    There are just five more days until Christmas. If you celebrate the holiday, are you finished with all your planning? Do you still have last-minute things you need to take care of? A few gifts on your list that you haven’t purchased yet? If so, you’re not alone. Many people tend to wait until the Saturday before Christmas to finish up their holiday shopping. Whether you get a thrill from getting it all done on Christmas Eve or you’ve just been a bit busy, here are some last-minute tips to help you get ready for the big day.

    Shopping for gifts

    Last-minute presents can actually be quite meaningful to the recipient even though they weren’t purchased ahead of time. Experience gifts are great because you can get creative (print your own pet sitting certificate, have someone sing a holiday song for your loved one ) and you don’t necessarily have to wrap them which will save you a bit of time. Other ideas include:

    • Baked goods
    • Digital book or digital magazine subscription
    • Erin’s audiobook Unclutter Your Life in One Week or any audiobook your recipient might enjoy
    • Gift card to a favorite restaurant or place to visit

    If you choose to buy a physical gift, you can avoid the stores and shop online. Many online retailers offer a variety of shipping options, but be sure to confirm that they can indeed deliver your order by December 24. And, as usual, stick to your list so you don’t overbuy and clutter your home with unnecessary gifts.

    Decorating your home or office

    Holiday decor will bring a festive mood to any room. But, when you’re short on time, it probably won’t be possible to decorate your entire home or office, so select a few areas that you can easily add a few decorative items. A handful of candy canes in a glass bowl can be a simple (and yummy) way to bring a little holiday cheer to a space. Your efforts don’t have to be incredibly involved.

    Preparing for holiday parties

    If you plan on entertaining and hosting your own holiday party, consider asking your guests to bring their favorite dish or beverage. That will save some time on grocery shopping and reduce the time you spend cooking and cleaning up afterward. When you are in the kitchen, it will probably be helpful for you to cook something you’ve had success with making in the past so you don’t try to figure out how to make something new. And, if you’re going to have overnight guests, be sure you have clean towels, bed linens, and toiletries on hand — but now is not the time to redecorate the guest room.

    Check out our 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide for more ideas, and remember, no matter what you have left to get done, you also need to have fun and enjoy your time with friends and family.

    2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wrap up

    As the last post in our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide, we wanted to do a round up of all of our posts in this year’s guide. Our hope is that the 2012 Guide has inspired you to give uncluttered presents this season and throughout the coming year:

    If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out our previous guides:

    And, from all of us at Unclutterer, we hope you have a sane and clutter-free holiday season!

    2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Software

    It’s amazing how much organizing/productivity software there is. It’s even more incredible that software has become a valid gift option. When I was a kid, getting software for Christmas meant you got a game. Today, there’s an app for just about anything you want to do. Below is a list of can’t-miss apps to keep your family and loved ones organized and productive in the new year, or to add to your wish list:

    1. An Evernote Premium account. Evernote is my external brain. I use it for “cold storage” of reference material. That is, information that doesn’t require action but will be useful in the future. Evernote is great because it automatically syncs your information across almost any device with an Internet connection. It has very powerful search function, tagging, and more that makes it easy to find what you’re searching for in your stuff. The $45 premium account enables larger uploads, offline notebooks, improved upload speeds and collaboration with other users.
    2. Dropbox Pro account. Dropbox is so useful I almost think it should be installed on computers by default. The online storage solution is a fantastic way to backup important documents and share them with others. With Dropbox, you can access your stuff from nearly any Internet-connected computer. The pro account starts at $9.99 per month for 100 GB of online storage. I use it every single day.
    3. This Life pro account. I wrote about This Life earlier this year and I’m still enjoying it. This Life lets you organize and share your photos and videos easily and with a beautiful interface. Uploading photos is easy, as is creating “Stories.” This Life Stories collections of photos that you’d like to group together, like those of a certain person, trip, location, time period or whatever you desire. It’s browser-based so, like the other applications I’ve suggested to far, it doesn’t’ matter if you own a Mac or a Windows machine. There’s also a great app for the iPhone and iPad. The Family Plan lets you upload and share 50,000 photos or 25 hours of HD video (1080p) for $14.99 per month.
    4. Backup software. This is the gift that keeps on saving, not giving. As a Mac user I recommend Dolly Drive. Named for Dolly the cloned sheep (get it?), Dolly Drive uses Apple’s own Time Machine software to save your backup remotely, or “in the cloud.” I’ve been using it for years now and it’s always worked. Local backups are important – like a hard drive in your house or office – but remote backups are even more so. Dolly Drive puts your backup on their own server. That way, a laptop can back up anytime, even when it’s not in your home. Dolly Drive starts at just $3 per month. Windows users should consider Carbonite for similar, remote, automatic backups that start at $59/year. And, Erin swears by Backblaze. Irrespective of the program you choose, backup your computer and make sure your loved one’s computers are backed up, too.
    5. OmniFocus from The Omni Group. Forgive me while I recommend a Mac-only app here. OmniFocus is the big daddy of project management apps on the Mac. It’s so flexible and powerful that I can only touch the surface of its capabilities in this post. It was built with David Allen’s Getting Things Done system in mind, but you needn’t follow that method to use OmniFocus. Easily create projects and their associated tasks. Break them down by category, context or location. Keyboard support is extensive, so you can flip from one function to another easily. My favorite features let you focus on one project at a time, hiding everything else on the screen, while review mode let’s you see what’s outstanding at a glance. OmniFocus is $79.99.
    6. BreakTime and Focus Booster. I work best when I schedule in break times. BreakTime is the app I use for this purpose. It’s a Mac app that sits in your menu bar and counts down timed work sessions and break sessions. I work for 25 minutes and then take a break for five. Then, I repeat the process. It keeps me moving and allows for some time to “goof off,” walk around, etc. If you’re not a Mac user, consider Focus Booster. BreakTime costs $4.99 and Focus Booster is free.

    I’ve got one bonus item that isn’t software, but it is a piece of technology:

    I’m recommending the Emergent Task Planner notebook. I use one of these every day. It allows you to list the most important tasks you wish to accomplish, estimate how long they’ll take, recored how long they actually take and recored notes/incoming stuff or ideas that pop up while you work. There’s even a small, travel sized edition. I really do use this every day.

    The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

    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.