Giving Gifts That Don’t Add to the Clutter

question-icon26The winner of the bgreen gift card for a free t-shirt is Amy! Congratulations, Amy. Please email me by Friday, December 18 with your address and t-shirt size so I can forward your information to the company. I still haven’t heard from Freth with regards to the movies, so if he does not contact me by the time I post Wednesday morning with his address, I will be drawing a new winner for the movies. Better hurry and email me at

We’re getting down to the wire for the Christmas season. My holidays are a lot more stress free than they used to be, but if you’re like me, you’re still trying to get all of your cards addressed and sent, never mind still trying to figure out a few gifts.

I used to ask for a lot of stuff on my Christmas list. When my husband and I got married, I made a rule: No appliances, vacuum cleaners, dishes or pots and pans. I didn’t think things for the house should be included in a gift that was supposed to be treasured and fun. The rules have changed these days. Last year, I asked for a new crockpot. This year, a ½ baking sheet was on my list, as were other things I need – because I have everything I want – well, everything I want within our budget.

What do you get someone who has a house full of stuff and really doesn’t need anything? Or how about a child who has every toy imaginable?

When my mom got older, I became the master of buying things for her that didn’t add to the stuff. I thought I would post some of the things I got her that she could use, but didn’t add to the clutter. Maybe it will give you some ideas for that hard to buy for person on your list:

U.S. Postal service stamps (the first year, I gave them to her in one of those cute stamp holders), envelopes, gourmet chocolates she would never buy herself, coffee (she was huge coffee drinker), gift cards for the grocery store, drug store, bookstore, department store (she did need socks, underwear and other necessities), and her favorite restaurants that delivered (I always cooked for us, but this was helpful on nights I wasn’t home or when we were here at The Little House for a vacation). Scratch-off lottery tickets were always popular with my mom and she once even won $10,000!

When she had a dog, I also gave her dog food, toys and treats, but her dog had passed away before her last Christmas, so I “adopted” a dog for her through the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. No, don’t ever really adopt or give a live animal as a gift, but this was a sponsorship. The shelter calculates how much it will cost to care for a pet for 3, 6 or 12 months. You pay the fee and in return, your recipient gets a photo and story about the pet you’ve sponsored.

My mom loved this gift. She so missed having her dog and even when she was so sick in the hospital, she asked about “her dog” at the shelter and had me checking on her. Once, when I called the shelter to check on the dog, I told the shelter my mom was in the hospital and they even sent a get well card to the hospital from the dog!

This is really a feel-good gift and is also great for a child who maybe wants a pet and can’t have one, or is still too young to volunteer at the shelter. Many local shelters have programs such as this, but if yours don’t, you don’t have to be local to give to the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City!

All of these types of gifts can be put into a nice basket, or I had a special stocking I loaded up for Mom.

For children, books on animals or the environment, or magazine subscription from The National Wildlife Federation or toys and games on wildlife. Do you know a child, or someone who loves dolphins or penguins? I’ve also “adopted” wolves, dolphins and other wildlife from Defenders of Wildlife. You can also opt to receive a free tote and plush toy in the animal of your choice.

U.S. Savings bonds are also always a good gift and will help start building that all-important college fund.

The possibilities are endless for gifts that don’t add to the clutter of our lives. What other ideas have you come up with?

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28 Responses

  1. Joanne Mason says:

    Great ideas! Thanks for sharing them.

    I know of a couple that writes letters to each other as their Christmas gifts. They read them aloud on Christmas Eve – such a sweet tradition and so much better than “stuff.”

    This year, I’m struggling to find the right gift for a couple that has everything – so much, in fact, that they’re bringing tons of donations to our local Savers store. So instead of adding to the stuff, I think I might give them their favorite coffee – it won’t go to waste, they’ll enjoy it, and they won’t feel compelled to donate it later.

    • Kerri says:

      Good idea, Joanne. My mother loved her coffee and it was expensive for her on her budget. It always made an excellent and appreciated gift!

  2. Ivory says:

    I really enjoy all these gift ideas. Another one if you have more time than money would be to create handwritten gift cards such as “good for one day of cleaning” or “good for one day of babysitting” ,”yardwork” ,”detailing their vehicle” etc… of course this only works if you live near the person.

  3. MarthaandMe says:

    Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas. My in-laws like to get gifts that do not add to clutter. I’ve been making them a fruitcake (upon request with a secret family recipe) for several years and the appreciate that. I also like to give gift certificates and gift cards. Books also do not add to clutter if the recipient donates them to the library after reading – and ebooks for Kindles take up no space at all!

    • Kerri says:

      I’ll have to say that you’re the only person in the world I would want a fruitcake from. I know you could even make those good!

  4. joene says:

    I used to get my elderly father and step-mom a gift certificate to their local grocery store. They really appreciated the chance to give thier fixed income a break. When my grandmothers were alive, I copied some of my kids school and art work to use, along with recent photos, in an album for each grandmother. They loved them. I also made it a tradition to buy my gardening mentor grandmother a calendar filled with beautiful flower photos … she saved every one.

  5. Elderly parents are so hard to buy for, as they can be so picky–for reasons you’ve stated here. My in-laws were tough. They had everything they needed. They hated those meat and cheese baskets. One year, when I was still married, they actually DID need something. They wanted a side table in their living room. Their old one fell apart. So I bought them one and had my sister’s husband stain it. They loved that! A few years later, I bought them a weekend trip to the Grand Canyon. They loved that. They even asked me to go with them when their son and I were getting divorced. We had the best time. My ex father-in-law has since passed away, so I send my mother-in-law flowers in his remembrance; he died a week before Christmas.

  6. Frugal Kiwi says:

    This year my family are getting hand-made Castile soaps that have been wet
    felted to create a mini exfoliating covering around them and then needle
    felted for decoration.

    It’s too late to start making soap at this point, but is you want to do the
    felting, it is fairly quick and easy and will work just as well with store
    bought soaps. Instructions on my blog if you are curious!

  7. RowdyKittens says:

    We give people wine, cookies or other baked goods. For the kids – we give them money for their college fund. 🙂

  8. Vicki B says:

    I too, have elderly parents that I manage, and I usually get them gift certificates to a cafe for their meals. I generally do their cooking but on weekends they go out to give me a break from cooking. They usually get me a gift card for fuel for the car as I do the majority of errands and running, also a gift oil change for several changes.
    I also do gift cards for household needs, and personal items, makes it short, sweet and very simple.

    • Kerri says:

      Excellent idea on the gasoline and oil changes! Simple is key, thanks for weighing in, Vicki!

      • Bj says:

        I too have elderly parents, who this year downsized into a much smaller place at an assisted living place. All of us kids asked them to come live with one of us,…but they like their independence.
        I usually buy them gift cards to several of their favorite eating places (Bob Evans, Ruby Tuesday, etc) I also call mom’s hairdresser and prepay a couple months worth of hair appointments. All things I know they will use!
        Likewise, I am now getting gift cards from them. Used to be a sweater and a book every year…but when I was in college, living in a small motorhome, they realized space was limited…so went to the gift cards. Now as a teacher, Dad calls and asks for a list of possible places, both online and off to choose from. Gift cards are nice,but do check the rules…the ones that charge a monthly maintenance fee are not really a bargain if they don’t shop often!

  9. Kathleen Winn says:

    When I send a wish list to my daughters, I always request a poem, story, song, painting or drawing and put it at the top of the list. Doesn’t matter which they choose, but I love getting something that comes straight from the heart and doesn’t cost money. They are living in L.A., a very expensive city, and I don’t want them stressing out over getting expensive gifts for David and me. It would be fine with me if we did without store bought gifts all together, but I’ve been voted down on that every time I’ve suggested it. The word “Scrooge” has even been tossed about in reference to that idea. Still, at least the girls know that the most important gift they give me, is one that is born of their own creativity.

    • Kerri says:

      That’s an excellent idea, Kathy! If they feel they have to “buy” you something, have them sponsor one of those pets at the shelter. They should know you would appreciate that greatly! 🙂

      • Kathleen Winn says:

        I plan to add that to my list this year- thanks for the suggestion! It is also possible to sponsor a wild horse through the Wild Horse Sanctuary ( You can see your horse online and track its progress. We did this for our youngest daughter when she was about ten, and she felt very attached to “her” horse.

  10. Susan says:

    Like SABLE I bake and give that out as gifts to adults friends and family. We are not exchanging with our kids this year due to it being tight with money but will still give them their yearly calendar. They actually look forward to those.We are just buying for the two grand kids. I have been getting them the NWF magazines for them for several years now. They look forward to them every month. Also have bought gifts for Toys for Tots… I like the idea of not getting a gifts….most of the time it is not something I will use or even want. I have tried to tell family to just give to a good cause in our name.

  11. Housework gift cards to older friends or relatives;such cleaning their curtains, cupboards and other things that become more difficult to do as a person becomes older. It is great gift for a busy mothers balancing working out and caring for a family.

    • kerri says:

      Oh, I hadn’t thought of that, but very good suggestion, Mary. Other ones along the service lines include gift cards to the beauty shop and also massages.

  12. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    My elderly father is still managing to live at home but can’t get out of the house. He has most everything and doesn’t need any more clutter. For the past few years, I did extra holiday baking using Mom’s recipes. Some can be put in freezer for him to enjoy later. Just little reminders of Christmas’ past.

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