Day 343 An uncluttered Chirstmas

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. My widowed mother lives some distance from me, so I’m giving her gift certificates for car washing and/or detailing. You listed that under things we can do for people, but someone else will have to do it for her. For my grown sons who are financially struggling, I’m giving them a basket of food goodies along with the following gift cards: $50 Walmart card since that’s where they buy the bulk of their groceries, toiletries, oil for their cars, etc.; $25 Shell gas card since they use tons of gas being pizza delivery drivers; $10 Schlotzsky’s card for a meal or two; $10 movie theater card in their town since they love going to the movies; and $5 coffee shop card so they can get a hot beverage after they go snowboarding. In the past, I would just give them $100 cash which they would tend to quickly spend on junk they didn’t need. With the gift card bouquet, they can extend the life of their gift and end up with a variety of consummables that won’t clutter their houses unless they go crazy buying crap that isn’t food at Walmart!

    • Hi Lisa,
      what a great gift idea. Not only helping them out while their finances aren’t great but directing their windfall in to certain areas so they get the most out of it.

  2. Dozens of great ideas, Colleen. This is a wonderful reference to have on hand.

    I would add these: a charity donation to the recipient’s favourite charity (rather than my favourite), a calendar at Christmas or for a Sept-Dec birthday (because it’s used for a year and then recycled), soap/shampoo etc only if you know it is the recipient’s brand, a box of all-occasion cards or notecards and a pack of stamps for a shut-in who likes to keep in touch with friends, or a magazine or newspaper subscription because these can be passed on or recycled after reading.

    Maybe my definition of non-cluttering is a wee bit more elastic than some?? Common sense must prevail in all cases!

    Oh, and I say amen to the thankfulness for leftovers 🙂

    • Hi Jo,
      I did go in and change the charity donation to – their/your. I was really trying to avoid anything that could be kept for long after the event though. I like some of the gift ideas you suggested but I have found that people can tend to hoard certain things and/or get a build up of things if everyone gravitates to a similar gift when they know that the person has a particular bent towards something. I know how much of a build up of stationary supplies I have and how hard it can be for some to part with magazines once they enter the household. Newspapers aren’t so bad because they do tend to be once read then thrown away but unless the person isn’t internet savvy newspapers are a bit environmentally unfriendly. I do like the calendar idea, there aren’t many people out there that wouldn’t find this useful and it gets used for a whole year before it requires recycling so not bad. I am not a lover of gifting toiletries of any kind although when you know a person is set in their ways this kind of gift can be very useful. After twelve months I am still trying to work my way through perfumes and moisturisers that people have given me.
      I think my idea of non-cluttering is a little less elastic than some but that is OK there is always a happy middle ground and like you say common sense will prevail. The key is to know well the person you are buying for. 🙂

      • Colleen, I know what you mean about toiletries. I received some body scrub and moisturizer with a fragrance I didn’t care for at all. It was a well-known brand name and came in a cosmetic bag so I re-gifted the items and the recipient just loved it. So nothing went to waste, I did not accumulate unnecessary clutter, and someone got a nice gift.

        • Hi Di,
          there is absolutely nothing wrong with re-gifting. I have only ever done it twice in my life but I am sure I should have done it more often considering how many unwanted gifts I have decluttered in the last twelve months.

  3. Leftovers: my best friend last night 🙂

    Great list of non clutter gifts! I’ve utilized most of them at some point. My favorites to receive of course are coffee house gift cards and chocolate. Maybe I should send a note out to my students… 🙂

    • Hi Willow,
      I think you should send that note out or better still you could have a Christmas T-shirt printed that says – Wish me a merry Christmas with coffee house gift cards and chocolates please– you can just start wearing it to school from about November 15. 😆

  4. Wonderful and thoughtful list. Last year my daughter gave me a hand made voucher for a massage – her giving me a massage; how sweet is that! She is nine and it was the best present ever 🙂 I love the idea in these difficult times of just paying a bill for someone; the relief from that can be immense. Thanks for a great resource 🙂

    • Thanks Mrs Green,
      that massage sounds really good. My 6 year old niece gave me a massage a couple of months ago and she even had names for all the different moves. She had been learning it at school. It seemed like a odd thing to be learning in infants school but I was quite happy to be on the receiving end.

  5. One year my daughter turned a note book into a book full of voucher that I could trade for all sorts of treats like a manicure or a back rub (all to be given by her) it was lovely but I never actually traded any of them in I liked it too much to pull apart LOL

    • Hi Cathryn,
      what a lovely mother you are, I’d have made my kids pay up – Just kidding. :lol:Well sort of kidding. 👿

      • My Mom never takes me up on any services I offer her either. While I, on the other hand, rarely say no to offers of help.

  6. My little grandson has his 1st birthday 2 weeks before Christmas and I know Riley will be thoroughly spoilt and overrun with toys and clothes that he probably wont even get to use or wear so I was trying to think of a practical and useful idea for Christmas… I have decided to give him water confidence / swimming lessons for next year. His Mum will have to get in the water with Riley, which will give them special time together and it will help to keep him safe in the future. and no clutter or mess. And even if someone else has the same idea we can just extend the length of time he has the lessons… Perfect!

    • Hi Bronwyn,
      Clever thinking a gift the is multifaceted and benefits more than one person. That really is perfect!

      • What a great gift! I was also thinking that a class is a terrific gift (as long as you know they will enjoy it). For adults, it probably helps if it’s a one or two session class and they can pick when they schedule it. Groupon is great for that these days, or livingsocial. It does require knowing your recipient pretty well, though.

  7. What a great list of non-cluttering and practical gifts! I hope you put it under your “Guides” tab so we can refer to it throughout the year. I needed some inspiration for nursing home residents and your list provided some good ideas. For my husband’s family’s Yankee swap this year I bought a good first aid kit and a set of locally-made dehydrated soup and bread mixes. These gifts are both practical and consumable. For my mom who doesn’t travel, I am making her a photo album of our summer trip so she can feel like she’s been there also (this might seem like clutter to some, but my mom does not have nor use a computer). And for my financially-struggling son, I like Lisa’s ideas of using gift cards for some of his practical needs. Thanks for all the ideas!

    • Hi Di,
      I am glad to have been of help and I will get my technical person (husband) to take care of making a PDF and including in the “Guides” link.

  8. A friend who is a organizing professional received a gift of magazine and catalog decluttering from this service is another well-known service.

    For my girlfriends, I make an entree for their freezer. Of course they can all cook, but who doesn’t love pulling out a container of yummy food someone else made for you? Naturally I don’t experiment with this meal but stick with a tried and true recipe.

  9. I should add, for my own family, I’m going to try a microloan through Everyone I’ve known who does this, loves it.

    • Hi there. I’m going to try Kiva this year as well! As a gift for those family members who have every material possession they’ll ever need. The last couple of years I did Heifer International. I think these are thought-provoking gifts that people appreciate. And I also think they breathe a sigh of relief that they aren’t receiving yet another physical object that they have to store . . . when others around the world have so little.

      • We usually do Heifer too. You should have seen the puzzled look on the face of my new SIL who had very recently immigrated from China when she got a certificate for a hive of bees. She was afraid it was for her!

        I’m thinking about sponsoring a child through World Vision or Save a Child. Has anyone done that?

      • Hi Eve,
        nice ideas and a good approach to thoughtful gift giving.

    • Hi Cindy,
      yet another wonderful way to give back.

  10. For my son’s teacher this year each family is putting in $5 (so we will have $100) and are getting him a personal visit with a tiger at the Zoo. He’ll LOVE that!

  11. My SIL always gives us a grocery voucher and we always give her something via OXFAM last year it was a goat the year before a desk and chair!

    • Hi Cathryn,
      we have donated to in the past they do a similar thing with donation animals and water pumps etc like Heifer International but they (Care Australia) seem to do a lot more with your money. So any Aussies out there looking for a good cause check them out.

      We have an OXFAM store in our local shopping centre and I have been using them in recent years because they are convenient.

  12. While “giving” someone a donation to your or their favourite charity or a goat, pig or school supplies with a child sponsorship organisation sounds like a good idea, think first about whether it’s the type of gift the recepient will actually like.

    I personally get offended when someone gives me one of these “gifts” as I feel that it’s a very impersonal gift that says I’m too lazy / busy / cheap to get you something I think you’ll like so I’m getting everyone a donation that takes no time, effort or thought. While I totally agree that the donation or goat money goes to a worthy cause, if I want to give to charity I will, but if you give to charity don’t call it a gift to me when really it’s a gift to you.

    Unpopular maybe, but this is how I feel.

    My Dad, on the other hand, likes nothing better than a donation to one of his favourite charities as a gift.

    So please, before you just assume everyone over the age of 10 will think a goat, chicken or donation card is a gift, think first and if you don’t know just ask them.

    • Hi GJ,
      first of all I would like to welcome you to 365lessthings and thank you for adding your voice to our group of friends. Everyone has a different view and that is what is great about the comments that are left here. We end up with a good rounded view of each subject. So feel free to say what you think.
      I am inclined to agree that not everyone would appreciate the gift of a donation and may even find it offensive. It is up to the giver to make this judgement and be mindful about the attitude of the recipient. I, like your father, am more than happy to receive this kind of gift especially if people insist on giving something. I am more than happy simply to receive love and good wishes.