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Black Friday is upon us, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Some retailers will start their Black Friday shopping (the unofficial American holiday) on Thursday, which is, in fact, a very real holiday which most people like to celebrate at home, with their top pants button undone. If you’re the least bit worried that you’ll be gorging on too many gifts along with your feasting, then take a look at this list of gifts that aren’t clutter.
It’s true, clutter is in the eye of the beholder. So I asked my friends to weigh in. The gang was pretty much unanimous that you can’t go wrong with insurables or cashmere. But if those aren’t in your budget, see if you can find something for everyone from this list of gifts that aren’t clutter, along with some cute packaging ideas. I’ve even made it easy for you to click and buy from this post or from the updated gift guides including:
Photo books are the new, but so much easier, scrapbook, and they are custom made for gift giving. There are tons of great ones out there, like Shutterfly and Snapfish. There are deals galore this time of year, so get a jump start on your holiday gifts with a heaping side of frugal.
Photo calendars are another custom and useful gift. Barbara Bradley Hoyer says, “I’ve been making a photo calendar every year for the past few years and giving it to the grandparents, my sister, and husband. It’s useful, full of memories, and no one feels bad throwing it away at the end of the year.”
A family photography session is another great photo gift. Sure, you can book an appointment at Target or Walmart photo studios, but for not much more you can get a great natural-light, outdoor session with a talented photographer. In my area, you can look up Stephanie Lee Photography, Stephanie Glover Photography, or Carrie Hill Photography.
Converting old slides, VCR tapes, and 8MM film into digital copies is like breathing new life into family history. How fun would it be to watch films from 30, 40, or even 50 years ago? A New Jersey-based company will transfer your memories effortlessly, for a flat rate, and all their work is done here in the US. Contact Fotobridge to get your stuff digitized before Christmas. Then you can watch your movies instead of It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Day.
Framed photo gifts are a favorite for Grandmas. Forever Moments does one better by creating beautiful, layered scrapbook-styled pages that look fabulous framed. Capture one special moment in time and treat it with one of their beautiful layouts, hand-crafted in the USA. Layouts for pet parents are also available.
If these all sound like a good idea, but who has the time, then a simple but high-quality photo storage box that stores up to 2,400 photos pairs nicely with a gift certificate for an APPO organizer (Association of Professional Photo Organizers). HeartWork Organizing is a photo organizer, a necessity in this age of endless digital and cheap paper photos.
Tech Gifts That Aren’t Clutter
A Digital Camerais a great gift, especially for anyone without a smartphone. Both the point-and-shoot and the pricier SLR models are so impressive, they make amateur photographers out of all of us. For those who already have a great digital camera, the Eye-Fi Wireless Flash Memory Card promises frustration free image downloading to your PC. Because it operates wirelessly, there’s no need to go looking for the cord to download your photos. Slick. Tech support can be a great gift, especially if your loved one needs Apple Care on any of their new iGadgets. Package this with a bottle of Tylenol or a toy magic wand, your choice, for a complete, wrap-able package.
A Kindle was the killer present last year for my mom. I wasn’t sure that she’d actually use it, but she apparently can’t be separated from it. They start at just $69, and there is plenty of free content you can use with them. With the cost on these little tablets coming down, it might be the year to add one to a stocking in your house.
It’s not Clutter if you Can Eat It
We love our “S’mores” Maker. This cute little kit can be used on the dining room table. We use ours for every birthday. Chocolate came up high on the list of gifts from everyone. A bag of Lindt chocolate truffles is a great gift for sitters, teachers, and others you’d like to make smile. Sara Carroll specifically mentions Eclat Chocolate ginger caramels. I’ve had their chocolates, and they are really something special. Sarah Swartout mentions Philadelphia-made John & Kira’s at the top of her list. My own secret weapon is the holiday chocolate section at Aldi. Yes, Aldi, that funky little store that saves my family thousands on groceries, where I found these cute peppermint bark tins for under $5 each.Cherchies soups and spreads are perfect for gift giving. Their soups are great for slow cookers, and we all know how slow cooker soups are great time savers for winter days.
Wine is always a great hostess gift. I’m not much of a wine drinker myself, but I recently found this sweet wine in the PA state stores by Carl Reh. For under $10, this is a nice wine. If you prefer whites, I love a happy Riesling.
Julie Brinkman likes going out to eat. Who doesn’t? You get to spend time with each other and create memories without adding objects to your life. There are lots of restaurants giving extra gift cards along with the one you purchase. Outback is one that we especially like, giving you a $20 bonus card for every $100 of gift cards you buy. They get bonus points for being kid-friendly.
Other Consumables that aren’t clutter
Nancy Ross Vecchione loves Yves Delorme soap or powder. She says if you aren’t using the soaps right away they are a nice way to scent a linen closet. I’ve never used them, but aren’t they so pretty?Socks. Yes, socks. My favorite are SmartWool, especially thick and great padding in today’s boot fashions. Warm toes are happy toes. You can shop local by buying these great socks in many boutiques, including OutThere Outfitters in Wayne. Satin Hands is a spa treatment for hands from Mary Kay cosmetics. I’ve used this for about, oh, twenty years. It is great! Get it from Grace Butler with no shipping charge or from your favorite Mary Kay rep.
Candles are also a consumable. Life is too short not to burn your candles. Get some great ones, like this great outdoor lantern, from Lynn Bardowski through PartyLite.
If you know a new mom or a wanna-be mom who needs help maintaining balance and wellness, Womb to Wellness offers holistic health coaching from Xandra O’Neill.
Spa services are a perennial favorite. Whether it’s a foot massage or a full body massage, spa services are mini-vacation you give to someone you love and cherish. I live in the land of pizzerias, frozen yogurt and spa, and I love all three. Some of my favorites are Cole Wellness Spa and Body Restoration in Center City Philadelphia.
A personal journal that doesn’t seem like a chore to complete? I love the Know Me Journals, because they ask a small number of questions, but allow you to capture your life in a nutshell and share it with others. One more thing you said you wanted to do, but made manageable.
For the person who has everything, maybe what they really need is organization. Buy a gift certificate in any denomination from HeartWork Organizing, and we’ll get them on a path to greater peace. If they are more of a DIY-er, then maybe the Freedom Filer maintenance-free paper management system is just the thing.
My personal meteorologist, (shouldn’t everyone have one?) Stephanie Chesebro and I have something in common. We don’t love umbrellas. A few years back I asked my husband for the one umbrella in the world that is worth having, and he came through with this Brookstone umbrella in yer basic black.
Keep ’em Busy
Heather McCurdy and I think alike, with family memberships to the zoo. It’s a great gift for grandparents to give, but I know they hate to do it because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to open. Easily solved by buying a plush of your favorite zoo animal and wrapping it up for your child. We love Elmwood Park Zoo.
Then there are the awesome subscription services for little ones. Heather recommends Kiwi Crates— they are art crates (little packages of art supplies) for kids ages 3-7, and are delivered monthly. She gave it to someone who, “lives in an apartment, loves arts and crafts, and the parents hate plastic toys– so I think they will love it.”
Similar, Little Passports is a subscription program that encourages global citizenship as your youngster travels with Sam and Sofia across the country or around the world. I think our girls are ready for this gift. (Hint, Hint, Mom.) How cute is this little suitcase that comes the first month?
Memberships to places like the Please Touch Museum are great according to mom, Xandra O’Neill, who specifically looks for fun, clutter-free gifts. Gifts for classes that your kid might enjoy, things like rock climbing and horseback riding, might also be good options.
Sesame Place is another favorite. If you can’t spring for an entire year’s membership, maybe tickets to their A Very Furry Christmas event is doable. We absolutely love the parade and the Best Darned Kettlecorn is not to be missed. The event is on through December 31, and would be perfect wrapped with a Sesame Street DVD for the younger set.
Kitchen Stuff You Won’t Get In Trouble for Giving
Stephanie G. works hard to match the gift to the person, really making it personal. “For example, I bought nice cookie sheets for my sister because she mentioned that she loved mine and that hers were old and warped.”
Sherry Aikens loves her Pineapple Slicer. She says, “I know you are not to suppose to give household items but this makes life so easy.” This would be so fun to wrap up with a pineapple and maybe some fancy liquor. Or tickets to Hawaii. In my dreams.
If you haven’t heard, this year’s hot kitchen gadget s the Ninja MC701 Multi Cooker 3 in 1 Cooking System. It’s closely related to a slow cooker, and some of my buddies are crazy over it. I haven’t tested it myself, but anyone looking to save time in the kitchen is sure to appreciate it.
The Gift of Reading Is Definitely Not Clutter
Books are not only great children’s gifts, but they are arguably the easiest things to organize and put away. And did you know that the number one early predictor of a child’s success in school and later in life is the number of books in the household library? You can save 20% off your entireBarefoot Booksorder (including sale and clearance items) with coupon codeTWENTY12, expires 12/31/2012. Nichole Ann can also help you with any questions you may have about the inventory or suggestions for age appropriate books.
One very special kind of book has become a hit in our house, the recordable-type books available at Hallmark and a few other places. Grandparents, take note. This is something your grandchild will love, whether they are a reader or not.
Gift Cards that help you forget your clutter
Gift cards can be so convenient. Maggie Mitchell, a former teacher, offers this advice when buying gift cards for someone you don’t know well. Choose the basics, like a gas card, a Wawa gift card, mall gift card, or tickets to a local attraction.
Did we mention spas already? It’s worth repeating. Estelle Sobel Erasmus says that her number one favorite gift to get is a gift certificate for a massage/facial. Me too, in case anyone wants to know.
Sarah Swarthout Wagner points out that buying gift cards to local coffee houses, bakeries, musicians, salons, and other local artists and businesses is another way of buying Made in the USA.
Home Decor (Special non-clutter mention):
Home decor is usually not the best if you are looking for clutter-free, with one exception. A few years ago I received a two-pack of Footed Hurricane candle holders similar to this one, and I have to say that they are completely versatile in every room in my home, and in many styles of decor.
Heifer International is still one of my favorite holiday gifts because it offers so many great packaged pairings. For instance, you can gift bees, but then wrap up a great set of specialty honeys and jams (sold separately). You can gift sheep (or just a share of sheep) and then wrap up a warm wool scarf, sweater, or set of mittens. You can even gift an entire Ark of animals, either alone or pooling resources with office pals or your family. How cool is that?
I was going to add more here, but Lisa Lightner has already done it for me on this great article on Giving Tuesday where you can get a great gift and some good karma, too. Giving Tuesday is the answer to Black Friday.
Reusable produce bags from the Container Store can be a great next step for those of us trying to go greener.
Speaking of bags, use these clever wraps from VZ Wraps to beautifully wrap your gifts and cut down on what you’ll have to carry to the curb the day after Christmas, if you know what I mean. These beauties are made in Havertown, PA, so you’re shopping local, too.
If you are looking to upgrade your bag, consider downsizing with this wallet purse that turns out to be a favorite of many, many professional organizers. If you need something a tad larger, then go for the Butler Bag,with built-in compartments, designed and developed by a PA native.
The Paper Clinch Stapleless Stapler is a fun alternative to staples. Did you know that lack of staples in an otherwise perfectly good stapler is something that many people struggle with when they are trying to get organized?
And if you just need a place to put it all, check out these adorable and totally functional personalized buckets from a Horsham company, BabyBeHip. They will even fill the bucket with monogrammed gifts for you, creating a total package and shipping it for your convenience.
Need more? Here are my go-to sources for made in the USA goods. Made in USA Challenge and USA LoveList
One last word of advice: it’s probably not clutter if they ask for it. There have been years that I could really, really use something that I ask for, like high quality socks, and my relatives didn’t want to play along. My friend Pam Margolis, always the voice of reason, reminds us that she’s always happy to receive “stuff I ask for.”
If you have another idea for gifts that aren’t clutter, please comment below.