2018 Gift Giving Guide: Online giving

Many people live far away from family and friends and may not have the chance to get together over the holidays. Even if people do travel, they are likely limited in the baggage they can carry. This is why online giving might be the perfect gift option. Here are some online gift suggestions.

Amazon Prime

If you know someone who would like to order from Amazon but cannot justify the shipping charges, give the gift of Amazon Prime. Not only will they enjoy free two-day shipping on millions of items, they will have access to thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video, be able to stream millions of songs, and get free Kindle e-books. You have the choice of purchasing a 3-month or 12-month subscription.

Audible

Audio books are a great gift for commuters or anyone that would like a hands-free reading option. An Audible subscription allows the user 30 days of free membership. Afterwards, the user can choose three audiobooks each month two of which are Audible Originals. Books can be switched out at any time and if the membership expires, the user gets to keep the audiobooks forever.

Magazines

Print magazines can pile up quickly. Consider these Kindle options as gifts:

There magazines for everyone on your gift list whether they have an interest in quilting, car racing, home and garden, or business and finance.

Newspapers

Most national and international newspapers have their top stories free online but in-depth stories and editorials often requires a subscription. A subscription to the LA Times might be appreciated by someone from the west coast now living in the east. The Washington Post offers two options, a regular subscription which provides unlimited access to the newspaper, and a premium subscription which includes unlimited downloads of top-rated e-books authored by their journalists. Many regional and local newspapers offer online or digital subscriptions as well.

Online Services

Gift Cards

When you live far away from friends and family and do not see them frequently, it can be difficult to know their preferences. This is where gift cards can come in handy. Amazon offers a selection of gift cards for anything on Amazon or for specific items such as travel services to pet care to electronics.

If you have received online gifts, what were your favourites? Share your experiences to inspire our readers.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: The big gift

Some families draw names for the holidays and each person receives one “big” gift instead of many smaller gifts from different people. If this describes your family, consider some of these pricier organizing items.

Back in 2007, we suggested that the Fujitsu ScanSnap would be an ideal gift for someone who struggles with paper clutter. We still stand behind that statement. Technology has improved over the last 11 years. The ScanSnap iX500 model will work with both Mac and PC and connect via wi-fi to tablets and smartphones. You can create searchable multi-page PDFs and sort your files into appropriate folders based on relevant keywords. The duplex function allows both sides of the page to be scanned quickly. This might be the ultimate organizational gift for someone who needs to scan business cards, photos, documents, or hand-written notes.

In 2008, our ultimate gift idea was the Kindle. We still believe that for any book lover, it is an excellent gift. Couple your Kindle selection with a subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and your recipient will have access to thousands of books for free.

The Amazon Echo with added “smart” light bulb might an appreciated gift. I have one in my home and when my hands are full, it is really nice to shout, “Please turn on the basement lights!” Some people may not find any organizational benefit to having these devices and they could pose a security risk to your home. Consider including expert set-up services with the gift to ensure the security risks are minimized.

Maybe not as much fun as an electronic device, a stylish filing cabinet might be a great organizational gift for someone who needs a place to keep documents in order and secure. Add some multi-colour, hanging file folders to help the recipient get started.

We would be remiss in our duties if we did not at least mention a label maker. This Brady BBP37 Industrial Colour Sign and Label Printer is the ultimate in big gifts and at a whopping $3000, the ultimate in big price tags. However, if you need long-lasting, industrial grade labels to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, this is the label maker to get. But seriously, for everyday use, the Brother Compact Labeler with Carrying Case is a much better (and more reasonably priced) choice. Consider adding a package of labels in assorted colours too.

What has been the best organizing gift you have received? Share with our readers to provide some holiday inspiration.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Unitasker Wednesday: The impact of unitaskers

Almost every week we publish a post about a unitasker. Unitaskers generally serve only one function (uni-task) and whose function could easily be replaced by another item that you already have.

Some unitaskers are useful if they improve safety, or save time, effort, or money. Occasionally we have featured items that would have no benefit to most people but be very useful to someone with special needs (e.g., Staybowlizer, electric corkscrew). From time to time, we feature items that are beyond extravagant such as a $1500 silver coffee can.

We have also featured some gag gifts like the Turn & Churn (which is just an empty box) and the flying, screaming, sling-shot monkey. We tell our readers that we do not want them to buy these items, but to laugh at their ridiculousness.

This article by George Monbiot nicely explains the economic and environmental impact of unitasker and gag gifts. It is entitled The Gift of Death, but Death to Unitaskers would also be an appropriate title.

This holiday season, we may be tempted to purchase a unitasker or “gag gift” for someone that seems to have everything already. It might trigger a belly laugh when it is opened and perhaps a few minutes of enjoyment during the next few days. But in the long run, the item will just gather dust in the recipient’s home until it ends up in a thrift shop (maybe) and finally the landfill. Please dear readers, reconsider your gift of clutter. The best present is your presence.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Stocking stuffer edition

Are you looking for inexpensive gifts to stuff into stockings, give to family, friends, co-workers, or teachers? Here is a list of affordable items that can help people stay organized.

Neon luggage tags are durable, highly visible on your baggage, and make it easy to update your contact details. Add one inside the suitcase with your travel details and contact information in case the airline barcode tag gets ripped off the suitcase handle.

Measure conversion wall art vinyl decals stick to any smooth surface. Decorative and useful for anyone who loves cooking (or who, like me, grew up learning only the metric system). Apply them to walls, or outside or inside kitchen cupboard doors.

This set of 126 chalkboard labels come with chalk markers. They are great for bottles, jars, drawers, or bins.

Small clear containers and small woven baskets are ideal to organize drawers, desktops, or just about anywhere. There are at least 50 ways to use a basket.

Hooks in the shape of dog tails are a cute way to make sure your pets’ leashes and collars stay in one place. They are available in pink, blue, and green.

To help cyclists stay organized, this storage container in the shape of a water bottle holds tools or snacks and fits neatly in a water bottle holder eliminating the need to install a saddle bag.

Whether surfboarding or snowboarding, this waterproof pouch will keep your keys and wallet dry and secure.

This weekly/monthly agenda is undated so you can start planning any time of the year not just on January 1st.

Besides jewellery, this 32-pocket hanging organizer could also be used to keep all sorts of toys, trinkets, or coins in order.

Craft and office supplies, jewellery, nails, screws, and other hardware can be sorted and stored in these lidded boxes with built-in, adjustable dividers.

This expandable mini filing pouch can organize and store coupons, receipts, business cards, and even bandages.

These bold, colourful, pre-printed stickers are easy to add to any calendar. They help remind parents of appointments, school holidays, etc. — and no more writing the same thing over and over again!

The gift of organization is always appreciated but it doesn’t have to be expensive. We hope this list has given our readers some inspiration. Feel welcome to share your best and least expensive organizing gift ideas.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Experience gifts

The memories created by unique experiences are gifts treasured for the rest of your life.

If you are planning on giving an experience gift, don’t just put cash in an envelope and write, “Treat yourself to [experience gift] on me!” Do some research on your recipient’s preferences and the company you will be purchasing from. Take the time to purchase the gift card/certificate and enclose it in a nice card. Some companies will even prepare the card and mail it on your behalf especially if you do not live in the area.

Here are some things to think about when buying an experience gift.

  • Does the company have a good reputation for health, safety, business management? You don’t want to find out that the salon where you purchased the pedicure gift certificate will go out of business in the next few months.
  • Will the recipient incur extra expenses in order to use the gift certificate such as high-cost parking fees, hotel, or other travel costs?
  • Is there an expiry date on the coupon or voucher? Can the recipient exchange the voucher for another service offered?
  • If the recipient has limitations, will the company be able to adapt their services? For example, can the restaurant hosting a cooking course adapt to someone with nut allergies?

To help you choose which type of experience gift to invest in, we’ve separated them into different categories.

Self-care: Gift certificate for a facial, massage, pedicure or manicure. Consultation with personal stylist.

Outings: Wine tasting evening, dinner at a restaurant, concert tickets, museum or art gallery special showings.

Adventures: Stunt driving, whale watching, flying lessons, white-water rafting, birdwatching tour.

Education: Pottery classes, art lessons, music lessons, consultation with expert (e.g. landscaper, interior designer, antique appraiser, etc.)

Perfect Day Experiences operates only in Canada but their list of experience gifts is impressive! It will inspire your imagination so check out their website for some great ideas.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for children

Every year we get parents asking us how to stop the excessive gift giving of well-meaning family members. It is a challenge! Here are some tips.

If you have babies, create a baby gift registry if you haven’t already done so. Babies grow quickly and there is always an ongoing need for diapers, wipes, and larger sized sleepers. Refer relatives to your registry for gift ideas.

Older children like to have a gift to open but talk to family members about uncluttered gifts and suggest the following:

  • Gift passes to local attractions such as the zoo, science centre, or museum.
  • Tickets to a concert, musical theatre production, or other show.
  • Pay for art, music, or sports lessons.
  • Pay for driving lessons or contribute to a teen’s car insurance or car maintenance.

Another option is to have relatives with special expertise offer to share their skills with your children. Sewing, knitting, and cooking are all great hobbies as well as practical life skills, as are woodworking, metalsmithing, and jewellery making. Create coupons for “Sewing Lessons with Grandma” or “Learn to BBQ with Uncle David.”

Children do not need a lot of stuff when they are young but when they are older, they will need college tuition. Rather than spend money on piles of clutter creating presents, encourage family members to contribute to an education savings fund. Malcolm X said it best, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Your family members could purchase a small gift representing scientists, doctors, or astronauts to show children how an education leads to success.

If you have tried any of these solutions in the past, how has that worked for your family? Share with fellow Unclutterers in the comments.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Unclutter your refrigerator before Thanksgiving

If you host Thanksgiving at your home, then now is the time to start making room for all of the dishes that need to be stored in your refrigerator. Use up the items that are currently taking up space. My wife calls the process of clearing out the ingredients available in the refrigerator as “creative cooking.” It consists of not shopping for groceries for a week while concocting dishes from the ingredients that remain in the refrigerator and cupboards. Creative cooking also takes place at our house prior to long vacations.

While you clear out the space in your refrigerator it is freeing up valuable real estate for the turkey along with the side dishes that will reside in there while they wait to be prepared. This also allows for room in your refrigerator for the all important leftovers.

With just a little more than a week to go, clear out your fridge and give it a good cleaning. Let us know about some of your favorite “creative cooking” recipes in the comments. One of my favorites is a good old fashion stew using up meat and savory vegetables.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

2008 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts of clutter

Although this post was published 10 years ago, it still makes us laugh. Over the years we have all received gifts that left us scratching our heads in puzzlement. As today is our usual Unitasker Wednesday post, we thought we would update and re-publish this because we all need a little laugh at this time of the year. Remember, we don’t want you to buy these items. We simply want you to have fun reading about all the awful gifts of clutter you wouldn’t really want to give or receive this year.

 

Stumped on what to buy your favorite co-worker or loved one? Consider giving the gift of clutter!

Small Kitchen Appliances

Your mother-in-law hates coffee? No matter. Buy her an espresso maker anyway. Get the deluxe version equipped with steamer and grinder. It’ll take up lots of counter space and you can use it when you visit. Heck, buy her two!

Knick Knacks

If you really want to yank the chain of the minimalist in your life, buy knick knack gifts. These small shelf stuffers fit any budget. You can get a $10 Statue of Liberty figurine. Inexpensive gifts not your style? Consider Everyday Objects‘ bone china replicas of a paper cups for only $100 per set.

Arcade-Style Video Games

Who needs smart phone apps when you can go retro and deliver a full size, 275-pound, 1981 replica Ms. Pac-man arcade game to an eager child or adult? Cram it into the living room of a tiny studio apartment for easy entertainment. A fun and educational experience on the history of video games can be had by all.

Obscure Art

Who says you can’t impose your own artistic tastes onto others? Let’s face it, some people in your life need your artful guidance. At big box stores, garage sales, or art galleries, look for bizarre sculptures, abstract paintings, or anything that would leave the recipient asking: “What is it?”

A Pile of Boulders

For your suburbia-dwelling friends, don’t forget the garden. Call your local rock quarry and have a truck dump off a pile of rocks on your friend’s driveway. They’ll have hours of fun trying to pick up the boulders, one-by-one, and finding the perfect garden spot for each to occupy.

Hard-to-Use Electronic Equipment

For the technically challenged on your list, give the gift of complex electronics that will end up tucked away on a garage shelf. Universal remotes that require setup on a computer and web access are an option. Challenge the recipient to sit with the manual until he or she figures out how to program it.

Giant Vases

In his post Too many flower vases, Matt asked: “So what can I do with all of these vases?” There is no need to get rid of them when you can let them collect dust in a cabinet! Add to your friends and family members’ collections with a giant vase to obstruct the entrance through any front door.

Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to lovely clutter gifts. Large, small, expensive, cheap — clutter gifts span the world over and can easily provide a lifetime of dust, maintenance, and storage fees for your most treasured friends.

What is the most outrageous clutter gift you’ve ever received? Let us know about it in the comments.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Consumable gifts

Consumable gifts when done correctly, can be some of the most appreciated presents we receive. When poorly executed, it can actually lead to more clutter. Here are some tips to choosing the best consumable gifts for the people on your list.

Food is first on the list when people think of consumables. After all, everyone eats — we just don’t all eat the same things. Consider the following:

  • Some food allergies are severe. Your intended recipient may not be allergic but if any of their family members have allergies, the item may never be consumed.
  • Dietary Restrictions. Low salt, low sugar, low fat, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan… Some are medical restrictions, some are faith-based restrictions, others are by choice. Whatever the reason, respect the limitations in your gift-giving.

Always read the label and the list of ingredients before purchasing and when in doubt, ask!

You might want to opt for specialty foods that your recipients would not normally purchase themselves. I always get my husband imported lemon curd for the holidays. It is something his British granny used to make every year and try as I might, I have never mastered the recipe.

Students starting out on their own may appreciate a spice starter kit with free refills for five years. For the coffee lover, perhaps a three month coffee sampler subscription would be appreciated. The gourmet chef on your list might enjoy pure Spanish saffron. There are many gourmet international food options to choose from.

Although not nearly so glamourous as international gourmet food, other consumables that might be well received include:

Take the time to get to know your recipient’s preferences and use your imagination to create the perfect consumable (and clutter free) gift.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2018 Gift Giving Guide: Charitable gifts

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Over the next few days, 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.

In an article in the New York Times, Peter Post, great-grandson of etiquette expert Emily Post, states that donating to a charity in lieu of a tangible gift can be very meaningful — if it is done the right way. It is important to always think of the recipient instead of yourself when making the donation to a charity. What one person may consider a worthy cause might not resonate with someone else. A charitable donation gift should not be a way for the giver to advocate their ideals.

Two great websites that can help you choose a charity that will resonate with the recipient are Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. They both list organizations that funnel the majority of their donations into programs instead of administration.

Other local charities include:

  • Food banks
  • Hospital foundations
  • Library foundations
  • Homeless shelters
  • Art centres
  • Theatre groups
  • Historical society archives
  • Multi-cultural groups

Donations to charities as gifts may not suit family festivities, but your business could donate to a charity instead of sending clients the usual box of chocolates. Workplaces could skip the “Secret Santa” gift exchange and ask everyone to donate a bag of groceries to the local food bank instead.

If you do choose to donate to a charity, take the time to send or give the recipient a card. I like these blank greeting cards where I add my own holiday design and the logo of the charity as well as write a personalized note inside the card.

Have you donated to a charity in someone’s name? Would you do it again? Have the gifts been well received? Share your experiences in the comments.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

What to do with pajamas during the day?

I have never known what to do with my pajamas in the morning. They usually end up being folded and set on top of my dresser. The dresser location is functional, but it’s cluttered. Years of living with clothes strewn on my dresser left me wishing I had a place where my pajamas could live that wasn’t on top of a flat surface.

After a recent trip to the hardware store, I came home armed with a “S” hook to solve my problem. The hook fits over my closet’s clothing rod and provides an instant place for my pajamas during the day. I also have enough space in my closet that my pajamas don’t touch any of my clean clothes. My pajamas are out of sight, off a flat surface, and behind the closed door of my closet.

If I had children, I think that I would install more permanent hooks that screwed into the closet wall at a height convenient for them. This way, they would be able to hang up their own pajamas even if they couldn’t reach their clothing rod in their closet.

I know that some people will likely comment that pajamas should be stored either under your pillow or in your pillow case. I just can’t do this. I think about how I sweat on my pajamas during the night and am not comfortable with then storing them next to where I put my face when I sleep. The reality may be that it is more hygienic than I am imagining, but I can’t do it. It gives me the willies. For me, the “S” hook works perfectly.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Interesting way to hide powercords

Power cords are a necessary evil that ruin the aesthetic of almost any room in your home. Finding ways to hide them and get them into a manageable arrangement is always a struggle. One option is to use the “J” shaped cable organizer but they are only available in white or black which doesn’t always go with the décor. Nail-in cable clips are easy to install and can neatly hold cables against the wall but again, who wants to see that bright orange extension cord?

This rather unique and interesting way to hide your wire clutter I found over at the Boiler design site:

The Picket Fence adapts to older homes and cleanly manages the electrical necessities of the occupants. The baseboards have a certain thickness to them, typically much thicker than an electrical cord. By sticking these pickets onto the baseboard, a space is created between the wall and the picket points. This space serves as a track for routing all of the wires cleanly around the room. They can go wherever they like and double back as much as they need to, all concealed behind a picket fence. Because of the gaps between the individual pickets, a plug can jump out wherever it is needed.

Obviously this design isn’t for everyone, but I think it is creative and lends itself to different interpretations.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.