More Creative & Clutter-Free Holiday Gift Ideas

posted by Andrea | 11/7/2013

creative and clutterfree gift ideas

Last November, I ran a week-long series about Creative AND Clutter-Free Gift Ideas to hopefully encourage more people to think about creative clutter-free gifts they could substitute for more traditional holiday gifts. The series was a huge hit and I loved reading about the various clutter-free gifts YOU shared in the comments of each post.

So this year, instead of  totally “re-inventing the wheel” I figured I’d share the links back to my posts from last year, as well as some of my current thoughts, and a few new clutter-free gift ideas I’ve either given or received over the past year.

Of course, feel free to share YOUR ideas in the comments below!

creative and clutter-free gift ideas

Here are some of my favorite clutter-free gift ideas — I’m sure you’ll be able to find a few that will work for some of the names on your list.


Food has the potential to be one of the easiest, cheapest, and often most appreciated clutter-free gift ideas out there (coming from someone who loves to eat).

I love that food gifts can be as simple or as elaborate and gourmet as you want them to be — and no, you don’t need to spend hours in your kitchen to give food gifts. You could even give gift cards (which I’ll discuss below) as a form of a “food gift” — like gift cards to a favorite restaurant with homemade cookies for dessert.

The best part is, after a few weeks (or days), the food is gone, which means there is no extra “stuff” to clutter up the recipient’s home!

Read all my clutter-free food gifts ideas here

hot chocolate mix


Gift cards are probably Dave’s favorite clutter-free gift (except for maybe his mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls). He rarely ever spends money, so gift cards give him the excuse to indulge just a little bit every now and then.

Our favorite gift cards are for local restaurants (Culver’s, Arby’s, Olive Garden, etc.) because we can pair them with coupons to stretch the gift cards even further. I also appreciate really practical gift cards for gas and groceries.

And in case you’re thinking that gift cards are a really impersonal gift, I THINK I can prove you wrong if you read some of the creative ideas I shared in last year’s post (see link below)…

Read my 9 different creative ways to give a gift card here!



Experience gifts can be a little more time-consuming and expensive to plan (although they don’t necessarily need to be), but they are a fantastic clutter-free gift that your recipient will probably remember for a very long time.

Nora is still a little young to appreciate experience gifts — but I’m positive that in the next few years, Dave and I will enjoy “spoiling” her SO much more with fun experiences than with lots of toys, clothes, etc. etc.

And for the recored, experience gifts definitely are NOT limited to children — Dave’s parents took the entire family to a cottage this summer as their “belated Christmas gift” from last Christmas, and I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed that more than opening a few gifts on Christmas day.

Read about a bunch my favorite experience gifts ideas here


I don’t know about you, but I would personally never be disappointed by a gift of cold, hard cash!

Even if you don’t personally want or need anything, you could simply turn around and bless someone else with it… or donate  the money to a charitable organization of your choice (we’ll talk more about this below).

I realize that cash might seem a little impersonal or like a last-minute cop-out, but there are some seriously creative ways you can give cash!

Last year, my sisters and our husbands went in on an all-cash gift for my parents where we gave them a whole bunch of gag-gift type items with cash hidden somewhere inside each gift. I hid the cash under sticker labels, inside pages of books, rolled up in a huge roll of garbage bags, behind the picture in a picture frame, and even inside a jar of peanuts (which I supper-glued shut to make it look unopened).

We all had a bunch of laughs watching them struggle to to find the many $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills inside their silly gifts, and they had the opportunity to go out and buy something they really wanted (they are super hard to shop for!)

Read 10 more super creative ways to give the gift of cash here!

origami money

photo source


Do you have someone on your holiday shopping list that literally has EVERYTHING, has lots of food allergies, can’t get out and about very easily, lives too far away to do an act of service for, or could possibly be offended by getting cash 0r a gift card?

Try giving a donation in their name to one of their favorite charities.

There are SO many people and organizations that desperately need our donations, so it really is a win-win for everyone involved. Plus, it’s a really great “feel good” gift to give when you know the recipient needs and wants absolutely nothing.

Read a few of my favorite clutter-free gifts that “give back” here!

photo source


As much as I personally love all the types of clutter-free gifts listed above, I would have to say that my all-time favorite clutter-free gift is Acts of Service. This also happens to be my #1 “love language” so it’s really not a huge surprise that I love these types of gifts so much.

One of my favorite things about acts of service gifts is that they are often free (or at least very frugal) and can be done on an extremely regular basis. In fact, Dave gives me a glorious acts of service gift almost daily — washing dishes! And of course, Nora pulls her own weight by helping with all the leaves 🙂

There are so many wonderful ways you can bless those on your Christmas list this year without spending  tons of money and without burdening the recipients with excess clutter.

 Read a whole bunch of my favorite acts of service gifts here!

I’m really excited for Nora to get a little older so she’ll be able to appreciate some of these clutter-free gift ideas… and I find it SO interesting that to date, her most favorite “toys” are the 2 photo albums I made for her earlier this year.

I’m already planning / hoping to make another photo book for her after the New Year because we literally look at her ABC book and her “Nora Book” (as she calls it) multiple times every day. They take up less than an inch of space on our self, but they are her favorites.

I LOVE that she loves my clutter-free gifts! 

So as the holiday season approaches, and as you start thinking of gifts for the special people on your list, please consider giving a few of these creative AND (most importantly) clutter-free gifts.

I can confidently say that I have given many clutter-free gifts over the years and have received lots of positive feedback and appreciation from the recipient.

What are some of your favorite clutter-free gifts?


Filed under: LifeFamilyHolidaysFrugal Living

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  1. Cornelia Coachman


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  2. Lizanne


    Love all the great ideas posted here, especially the casserole dish! As we’ve gotten older, my sister and I definitely prefer to give ‘experience’ gifts, since our parents and other relatives really don’t need any more stuff. Our Grandpa is 92, and not very mobile, so we’ll give him gift certificates to the barber shop, or a house-cleaning service (this is great because he also enjoys their company), or my sister has taken him out to lunch. This year, I think I will get my parents a gift certificate for a professional organizer, since it’s something my Mom has wanted to do for years, but Dad is not so sure about! 😉


  3. red2red



    I enjoy reading your site…Thanks for your ideas on many topics!

    I did the following last year for our adult nieces and nephews. I made gift baskets. I found red round plastic baskets at Dollar Tree, wrapped them with clear wrap and tied them with ribbon and included a poem. Each included toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, razor, shaving cream, body wash, nail clipper, tweezers, nail files, etc. They were happy with their goodies and I had fun couponing for the items.


  4. joy


    i tried a clutter-free gift idea last year…. It was a huge hit and it has been specifically requested again: i bought a small casserole dish for an unmarried, hard-working sibling. i made a “little extra” of a casserole i was already making for our family and filled the smaller dish, too. the gift included 12 refills. It was really appreciated and well-used.


    Andrea Reply:

    I would take that clutter-free gift anytime — a gift that keeps on giving whenever it’s convenient for the recipient! Such a fabulous idea — thanks for sharing Joy!


  5. Janice


    Andrea, your clutter-free gift ideas are SUPER! My husband and I really appreciate receiving restaurant gift cards from our children because we don’t eat out much now that retirement has hit. And people do put thought and effort into buying those cards. I know when our son used to live in our area some years ago, I went to a lot of effort going through messy traffic to his favorite restaurant to purchase a gift card for him and his wife. Then, I drove through more traffic to buy movie theater gift cards which were accompanied by “We will babysit for free” homemade gift tickets from us. Finally, some of the best teacher gifts I received in my 35 years of teaching were food items. Homemade food gifts can always be used during our Christmas breaks when we have family and friends at the house. Oh yes, and regarding lists, I would rather know what my sister-in-law and nieces consider a wonderful gift than buy them something that may not be a good idea at all. Long live practicality and common sense!


  6. Brenda


    I have decided not to get a gift for everyone just because it is Christmas. I don’t spend the $$ and give basically thoughtless & useless gifts to everyone and their brother. The teachers, bus drivers, trash collectors, cousins I only see on Christmas don’t get anything unless I have a specific present in mind for a specific reason. For example, One year my son was a handfull in class and his teacher was awesome dealing with him. For her present, I wrapped up a box of Calgon & Tylenol with a card to use both as necessary to recoup for January. She said it was her favorite gift. Plus, it was totally useable for her and only cost me $5. She realized my gratitude more with this gift specific to her/our situation than she would have with another mug or Starbucks gift card.


  7. Luba


    Andrea, thank you very much for the great reminder that most people have too much stuff, and it’s a great idea to give clutter-free gifts. This year, my brother wanted some Kindle books because they will not take up room (he said he has none to spare)! For my mom, I am making a coupon box so that it will help her reduce clutter and help organize her coupons. 🙂

    So often, we think we have to get a present for every person we know–almost. This year, my husband and I have decided to give gifts to both sets of our parents and to our siblings. For our pastors, the deacons take up a love offering, and we are very happy to participate in it. 🙂

    Sometimes we also think our gifts need to be elaborate, but the simple ones would be appreciated just as much or more if they were given with love. I have some aunts who can’t afford it but overdo it for every single birthday and Christmas for me, even though I am no longer even a teenager! I really wish they did not feel as though they had to do *anything* for us because they have done so much in the past–helping pay school bills, sending money when it was tight, making food for our wedding, and the list goes on.

    I love your idea of gift cards for groceries and gas. They will definitely get used and will be appreciated. My dad’s boss used to give him gift cards for a local grocery store, and my mom absolutely loved them!


    Lea Stormhammer Reply:

    Another idea for your Pastors, Luba, is to write them a heartfelt thank you note for ways they have blessed you and your family over the past year. Often Pastors only receive the negative comments and little “thank you” can be the best gift they get all year! While the love offering is certainly appreciated, the “thank you” can top it by a long shot!

    Just an idea,


  8. Julie


    I always like these posts, thank you!

    While i can appreciate that there are those who put a tremendous amount of thought into their gifts, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the receiver will think that it’s “the perfect gift.”

    Case in point, my sister gifted my mother a cookie scoop last year along with several other baking-related items. Words cannot describe how much my mother LOVES this scoop! But the funny thing is that we’ve given her zillions of gifts that we were SURE were the PERFECT gift that she either hasn’t liked or just plain refuses to use. Who in the world could’ve predicted how she would feel about the cookie scoop? Are we just the worst gift-buyers ever?

    And as far as myself, i honestly can’t remember too many gifts that i’ve gotten that really stand out… except for one. Last year, for my birthday, my husband cleaned the outside & inside of my car REALLY well. Oh my gosh! BEST. GIFT. EVER. And you know why he did it? I asked him to. Exciting? Nope, but it put a big smile on my face every time i drove my car for at least a month.


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for this Julie! I agree that it’s pretty much impossible to buy adults (especially our parents) something they really need and want. They are to the point where if they want something, they buy it — so clutter-free gifts are definitely the way to go with our parents (at least that’s my experience).

    The cookie scoop story is a great one — and I love that your hubby cleaned your car as your gift. I would also LOVE that gift — way more than something store-bought that I either don’t need, or could just go out and get myself if I really wanted it badly enough!


  9. Lisa E.


    One other point I would like to make. As far as gift cards go, it may seem like all you are doing is exchanging $20 .. what’s the point, right?

    Well, as a former stay-at-home mom on a fixed income … we didn’t spend any extra money on restaurants that often. Also, I used to always go out for the deals on black Friday. When my daughter turned 6, she wanted to start coming with me. Over the years, that has become “our” special day. I would always buy her a couple of small things that day and we’d go out for brunch afterwards. As she has gotten older, her tastes have become more expensive and I can’t always buy her what she wants. Her birthday is in September though and she has learned to save her gift cards for Black Friday. She gets to shop using her gift cards and I then use a gift card that someone gave to me for our annual brunch date.

    Those gift cards on that day are a HUGE blessing to myself and my daughter.


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I totally agree Lisa! We often done spend money on “extra” stuff like restaurants or specialty stores — so when we get a gift card, it really IS a treat. Not only do we get to buy/choose exactly WHAT we want and WHEN we want it, we can also splurge a bit without feeling guilty!

    Thanks for making this point!


  10. Jen


    I have one more clutter-free suggestion: my husband’s parents recently retired to Florida from snowy western NY so this year we are gifting them with a lovely holiday wreath from LL Bean. It’s something they would never buy for themselves but will enjoy over the holiday season and when the holidays are over, it can be composted or thrown away and won’t take up precious space in their small retirement home!

    If anyone’s interested, LL Bean is running a $10 off any purchase sale with free shipping (no minimum) so it can be clutter free AND frugal! A winning combination!


    Andrea Reply:

    Love that Jen! That would be a great gift — for anyone with a door or a wall 🙂

    And thanks for the heads-up on the sale! I might have to check that out.


  11. MrsD


    I do see Vicki’s point! I really do enjoy finding the “perfect” gift for someone too!

    I think my problem with gifts these days are really to do with over-indulgences. Every time I turn around, the shops are promoting the next holiday/occasion that I’ve got to buy a card or gift for. This is America. We (nearly) all have LOADS of STUFF. Too much stuff. Stuff that can get in the way of really living if we are always running around buying buying buying. Christmas, in my family, drives me crazy. Everyone has credit card debit, student loans, etc…..but they all buy 5-10 nice gifts for every person and spend thousands of dollars they don’t have. While it’s sweet and all….come on and get yourself out of debit (which they complain about by the way). I love buying gifts! But I put my family first, and buy modestly. My nephews and nieces don’t need 30 new toys each at every birthday and Christmas. My aunt spends TONS of money on gifts at Christmas and Birthdays, Easter, Halloween…etc. She is ready to retire and has NO retirement. It just frustrates me.

    So, it’s a mixture of spending out of your means and too much stuff that bugs me. I don’t want my kids to grow up expecting hoards of gifts at every occasion. I wish my family focused more on enjoying each others company than being so gift-oriented.

    Sorry for the rant……


    Andrea Reply:

    I totally agree with this too — we all have SO much stuff (even me and I preach simplicity!) We truly don’t NEED anything… so when we get something we don’t even want or like, it just feels like clutter that we are potentially guilting into hanging onto for at least some time. I certainly don’t want to be the person who burdens someone else with guilty gift clutter they don’t need, want, or have room for.

    And I certainly don’t want someone else to spend lots of time and money shopping for what they think might be the “perfect” gift for me — and then have it be something I definitely don’t want or something I already have.

    No need to apologize for the rant — I completely understand!


  12. Lisa E.


    Vicki, I think you are being a bit too harsh about this post. Yes, when someone puts a lot of thought and heart into a gift, it IS a beautiful thing and SHOULD be treasured. But, being honest, how often have YOU received a gift from someone just because it was required. I don’t know about you, but I have received gifts from bargain basements (that I KNOW the person never shops there except for MY gift). I’ve also gotten gifts from an Aunt who gave me her out of style sweaters that my mom said she wore in high school! When she gave them to me, she had been out of high school for a good 15 years or so. Are you supposed to keep these gifts forever just because the person “thought” enough of you to give you an offhand gift?

    By the same token, I was also given a little tiny wooden tree by a friend of mine in our church choir that she had actually made herself. She seemed a bit embarrassed about it when she gave it to me and just said, “You don’t have to keep it or anything but I like to make these and wanted you to have one. I know it’s silly, so like I said, you can do with it whatever you want.” Any other person might look at that and say .. why in the world would you want to keep that? What she didn’t know was that year when I was helping out in the Nursery, we watched “The Legend of the Three Trees.” I fell in love with this little movie and her giving me that tree was the perfect gift at the perfect time. I still have that little tree and I keep it up year round on our kitchen windowsill. I treasure it as much today as I do the day I received it.

    As an organizer myself. I have a lot of clients who feel they HAVE to hold onto those gifts that people gave them because they would feel bad if they ever found out. Yet, they just don’t have the room for all of it. To help answer this question for my clients, I went and did a survey of friends, family and even some clients a couple of years back. I asked them do they remember what they gave to so and so the year before. Most of the time, they could not remember. If the gift isn’t that important to the giver, why does it have to be a burden and a forever guilt trip to the receiver?


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lisa, I couldn’t have said it any better myself — but so glad you saved me the time writing it all out 🙂


    Debby Reply:

    I agree Lisa. For a very long time I would receive gifts from our family that I know they literally were days away from Christmas eve and thought OMG I need a gift for her and it showed. We stopped gifts for this very reason for many years. Now we do a cookie bake at my house and we give very small but more meaningful gifts.I love it. I agree with that great feeling of getting a gift for someone that you think is absolutely perfect or being on the receiving end is the best feeling there is. But let’s be honest, there is way too much pressure about the right gift and how much to spend anymore. My grandma used to get an orange and a piece of stick candy and she thought that was the greatest thing ever. I felt like the point of the post is simplicity. I love it.


  13. Jennifer


    For certain people, a gift+experience option I like to give is simply to tell them that I’d like to buy them something particular (item of clothing, a handbag, cologne) but instead of risking choosing a colour or variety they won’t like, the gift is that we go shopping together for it. I often do this with my mom and sister. It involves an actual gift, obviously, but includes the shopping trip as well (made fun by having lunch or something together), and they get the enjoyment of picking something out without having to pay for it themselves.

    For my younger sister’s graduation, e.g., I took her to the department store makeup counter and she got a little makeover and colour advice, and then I let her choose a few items that I would buy for her. It was a fun time together and a chance for her to get some nicer makeup than she could have afforded herself. I’ve done the same thing with my husband (fiancé at the time) and cologne – he and I had a fun time together sampling all the scents, and he chose what he liked and I then paid for it.

    This means that the gift is one which the other person is guaranteed to like (having chosen it), still involves some creative and personalised thought on my part (deciding what type of gift), and also incorporates the fun experience of going shopping together – if you enjoy that!


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, Dave’s family used to do gifts this way ALL the time when he was growing up. They would literally wrap pieces of paper with a picture of the item or a print out from a catalog or online, and then go shopping together for a full day and buy everything (with the after-Christmas discounts). They made a whole day of it, everyone got what they wanted, and they still got to open gifts!

    Definitely a neat idea!


    Jennifer Reply:

    We also wrapped the pictures of the item! We’d print a picture from online or find one to cut out and include with a little note saying ‘I’m going to buy you one of these’!


  14. Vicki


    I would like to see gift giving go back to the days where people appreciated a gift and not think of it as clutter. A gift is something someone has chose to give you. Most givers give a lot of time and thought hoping to maybe surprise the recipient and bring a little joy. I am thrilled beyond measure when someone thinks enough of me to give me a gift. No way does the thought “clutter” enter my mind. And if we are going to resort to just money and gift cards then what is the point? I give you $20 you give me $20. Just everybody keep their 20’s instead of passing them around. I raised my children to expect nothing and if someone gave them a gift to feel very special that they thought of them. I also don’t believe in lists. The people I give to are different each year. Don’t give me a list of what you want for Christmas, go buy it yourself. I love when I see something and realize it would be perfect for a friend or relative.
    When the season of celebration and giving is here, try to enjoy instead of dreading what you will do with all the clutter you have to deal with.