December 17, 2023

Your Best Holiday Season Yet: Part 2

This morning I saw a funny post on Instagram, posted by @roolee.

The Stages of Christmas Shopping:

  1. plenty of time
  2. oh no

Isn’t that the truth? I had a good giggle and wondered how many people out there are feeling like they are in stage 2 right now. Gift giving is often one of the biggest stresses of the holiday season. It’s crazy because we are all trying to give people something they will like, enjoy and use. While this isn’t always true, the mental load of pre-Christmas shopping often falls on the mom. On top of that, dealing with gifts that turn to clutter after Christmas is also an issue that often (not always) falls on the mom. And as a mother myself, I find I have enough stress on my plate during the year but the truth is that the Christmas season takes it up a notch. I think most people can relate.

When I work with clients throughout the year, it’s amazing how many items they feel compelled to keep simply because it was a gift. Even if they don’t want it, it feels like a complete betrayal to give away something that came from a loved one. It gets me thinking. Who wants to be in that position? I personally don’t want to give someone something they don’t really want and I certainly don’t want someone else spending their time and money to buy me something I don’t really want. What a circle of complete silliness. Can we agree this is the time to change it up?

And it’s not JUST about the actual gifts. There is a physical mess of waste that comes with Christmas shopping. The boxes sent in the mail, the shopping bags, the packaging and tissue to discard. And let’s not forget about the wrapping. It’s just SO MUCH STUFF that isn’t even really the gift but still needs to be managed. One of my biggest pet peeves of holiday shopping is managing the paper and shipping products that come along with it. I see overflowing recycle bins and trash containers everywhere. Ugggg. We need to stop looking for the meaning of Christmas in a package or at the store.

So what do we do? How do we take down the stress level on this holiday that has become focused so much on consumerism? It can be really challenging to have conversations with family members who might be attached to this larger-than-life idea of a Christmas tree overflowing with gifts. But who is coming out ahead when we spend our resources buying things we don’t need or want? Why not have a conversation with the people we love about toning down the gift exchanges just a smidge, if not a lot? You can still show your love to people with thoughtful gifts that are more experience-based and less likely to end up in the back of a closet, never to be seen again.

I’ve put together a long list of gifts that won’t become clutter and better yet, you still have tons of time to buy any of it! You’re not behind in the least bit! I love the idea of giving experience gift certificates but what about also sharing in the experience with the recipient? Don’t be afraid to tag along so you can make memories with them, as well. As promised, here are some clutter-free gift ideas that might work for you!

*I am not getting any kick-backs from any of these links or companies I reference. I am not endorsing them. I don’t claim to have tried all these things but I personally think gifts that are consumable or experiences make the best gifts. There are some items on this list that can add “stuff” to the gift recipient’s home – like subscription boxes of books or beauty products. Just offering some ideas.*


Memberships are always welcome! My brother and sister-in-law live in a part of the country with hot springs. For many years, my in-laws gave them the gift of a membership to the local Hot Springs Center. How cool is it to gift something that can be enjoyed over and over again throughout the year? Think locally about what membership options you might have in your area or in the gift recipient’s area so it can be well used and enjoyed.

  • Museum or Zoo membership
  • Membership to a club or group
  • Membership to a Dog Park
  • Gym, Sport Club, Pool or Water Park membership
  • Year of Amazon Prime Membership
  • Costco, Sams or BJs membership
  • Thrive Market Membership (I have friends who love this shopping option!)
  • Have any travel loving friends? FareDrop by our favorite YouTube bloggers Kara & Nate is one place for airplane tickets deals or you could give an annual membership to Wanderful (this is the women’s travel group I went with to Antarctica).
  • Shave or Haircut membership to a local barber. We used to have one by us called Kennedy’s Barber Club.


Monthly subscriptions are a fun way to extend the holiday season into the New Year. One year, I gave my husband a “root beer of the month” subscription and it was super fun to get a package of interesting root beers on a monthly basis. At this point, there is almost a subscription out there that would be perfect for everyone so think about what your recipient is into and let that be your guide.

I love these next few ideas but worry more about the implications for clutter. Trial sized beauty products that just end up as clutter. Craft boxes for kids that don’t get done and get thrown in the back of a closet. Gadgets that someone doesn’t need and might not want. I’m sharing these and interesting gift options but wanted to share my clutter concern.

  • Beauty Subscription service like Tribe Beauty Box or Ipsy. I am intrigued by the Petite Vour Beauty Box, as they claim to be clean, vegan, and cruelty-free products.
  • Kiwi Crate Subscription. This company has a variety of offerings for all ages!
  • Crunch Labs Kits from Mark Rober. We LOVE this guy! If you haven’t watched his hilarious squirrel videos on YouTube, you’re missing out. Watch the first video and you will want to watch the second and third. So good.
  • The Breo Box is a fun subscription kit for people who like tech and gadgets.

Gifts of Learning

I am a HUGE fan of lifelong learning. I often buy online classes so I can learn something new. Technology means we can learn from someone on the other side of the world in real time. It’s incredible. These are some of my favorite gifts to give and receive. Whether it’s a local class or an online course, there is something out there for everyone and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Pottery Class
  • Cooking Class. Lots of restaurants have specialty classes, like pasta making or dumpling making.
  • Flower Arranging Class
  • Gardening Class (check botanical gardens or local shops)
  • Wine Tasting Class
  • Painting Party or Class
  • Chocolate making class
  • Golf Lesson or driving range gift certificate
  • Lesson in a sport of interest (tennis, swim, squash, basketball, etc)
  • Dance Lessons
  • Sewing Lessons
  • Horseback Riding Lessons
  • Online course for a topic they like. Masterclass or Skillshare are two great options!
  • Subscription to Ali Edwards’ One Little Word 2024 Journaling & Scrapbooking Class
  • Annual Membership to Becky Higgins’ “Record It With Becky” Instagram Page (All about memory keeping of all sorts, I’ve been enjoying this since she started it!)
  • My friend and colleague, Casey, has some fantastic photo organizing classes. Check her out at Miss Freddy.
  • Gift Certificate to a local bookstore
  • Bonsai Bar Gift Certificate (this is a local thing I think would be super fun)


How fun is it to receive tickets to something that will happen in the future? The anticipation is maybe better than the gift. We have gifted tickets to shows, concerts and even to see the Rockettes in years past. It’s truly a win-win.

  • Tickets to a specific comedy show, or just a gift card to Ticketmaster
  • Symphony/Orchestra or Theater tickets
  • Date night out–Give a gift certificate to a yummy restaurant with tickets to the movies (optional to add the gift of babysitting, too!)
  • Mini-golf gift certificate
  • Rock Climbing, Zip-lining, Sky-Diving, Go-karting
  • Music Concert Tickets
  • Plane Tickets, Travel or Vacations 
  • Sporting Event tickets
  • Bowling Gift Certificates


Donate to a charity in their name. The grandparents have done this many times for our kids by asking them to pick a specific donation category for Heifer International. One year they donated to Kiva and our girls got to pick where the micro-loan landed.  Of course, there are a million places that can use your donations so find something meaningful to the person you’re shopping for and be generous. Here are a couple we have enjoyed.

  • Kiva
  • Heifer International. Their gift catalog is a fun way to pick something, like a flock of chicks or a goat.

Gift of Time

This is a great one to give people! Maybe you have a special skill you could give to your friend or know of a service that they could use. Now is a great time to share that gift!  Here are some ideas:

  • Offer to watch someone’s children for a night (free babysitting!)
  • Give someone the gift of dinner one night. Could be homemade or delivered take-out.
  • Meal Kit Service to save time! There are tons out there like Hello Fresh. If you are looking for zero prep, Factor is another option. Purple Carrot is a vegan option.
  • Give the gift of organization. Find a local organizer! Email me if you think your loved one would enjoy some organizing with yours truly.
  • Car Wash gift certificate. We have mobile ones that will even come to your house, like Birdie’s Auto Spa.
  • Gift certificate for a home cleaning service
  • Offer to dog or cat sit or give a gift certificate to a local dog walking or pet care service

Consumable Gifts

If you want to have a physical item, giving the gift of something to be used up is definitely one of my favorite ways to go. You can buy something at the store or DIY it. Here are some ideas:

  • Homemade cookies or holiday treat
  • Fruit Basket. Harry & David sell amazing ones but there are lots of options out there!
  • Wine or Beer, I just found Beer Drop as I was looking and WOW, this is right up my alley.
  • Cocktail Making Subscription, this looks promising from Shaker & Spoon.
  • Box of Nice Chocolates
  • Shower Steamers or Bubble Bath (add a bottle of wine and you have a home spa night in the making)
  • Apple Gift Card for purchasing music, apps and more
  • Ice Cream One Time Gift Pack. I love Salt & Straw, Amy’s Ice Cream or Graeter’s!
  • Spa Gift Certificate for a massage, manicure and/or pedicure
  • Digital Files to print – lots of ideas for printables on Etsy. You could get a customized meal planning chart for someone to print or something else you think your recipient would like. They have lots of digital art options, too. Endless possibilities.
  • Family Photo Session Gift Certificate. Because photos are never a bad idea.

Some last thoughts as we are on the home stretch of the holiday season.

Shop What You Already Have

Don’t forget to shop that gift stash you already have. Many people I work with have a bin of gifts they bought to have on hand and then forget to use them. It’s happened to me, too! What about the wine you bought in bulk to give to people? Shop what you already have!

Learning for Next Year

Going forward, take little notes as you hang out with people during the year. If they mention something they love, jot it down in your phone or planner so you can be more prepared for a birthday or the next holiday season. Or if you want to streamline, come up with your own clutter-free signature gift each year and give that to everyone to simplify the gift giving process. There are lots of ways to have an easier holiday season. And don’t forget to have some ideas of clutter-free gifts you can put on your holiday list when someone asks. If you’re feeling like you’re in the “OH NO” stage of Christmas gift shopping, give yourself the gift of avoiding the crowds by using my list above to give people something that won’t clutter up their lives and you can order right from. your home. You can still support your local businesses without leaving your house by seeing what they offer or asking them if they would be interested in offering a subscription program. You never know!

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy (and clutter-free) holiday season!



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