Five Clutter-Free Gift Ideas

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels

When I was a kid, Santa would not come unless I cleaned out my room first. We hauled out bags of trash and donated toys to make room for new stuff. And then, as I got older, I stopped wanting new stuff but still really wanted to clean out my apartment. I love the cleanliness and the lightness that comes from clearing away the clutter. But the holidays…the rooms are an explosion of stuff and clutter.

Don’t throw a clutter bomb at someone! Here are some alternative gift ideas that are awesome but won’t get someone kicked out of the cult of less:

• Monthly flower delivery. Fresh flowers are one of my favorite indulgences. The air in the house smells prettier (without toxic chemicals), and a good bouquet just lights up a room. Spare someone the agonies of trying to justify the cost or occasion and just send a fresh bouquet once a month. Check out Organic Bouquet for options.

• E-Z Pass. This is the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving. My dad got it for me one year, and I think happy thoughts of him every time I get to a tollbooth and zoom past all the suckers still paying in cash.

• Car cleaning. This can be as simple as taking the car down to the local place and vacuuming it yourself (saving someone time and the discovery of gross stuff), or you can splurge on a professional cleaning. Either way, it’s like having a brand-new car for a fraction of the cost.

• Gift cards and experiences. These get a bad rap for being unimaginative, but I heartily disagree. You’re not just giving cash, which would probably be spent toward paying bills (though that may be a great gift), but when you give people gift cards, you give them permission to treat themselves. Don’t want to encourage their acquiring more stuff? Give a restaurant gift card, a voucher for yoga classes, or movie/theater tickets.

• Magazine subscriptions. Especially to titles like Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and the like…. Just kidding! Not really. But seriously, magazines are wonderful little distractions each week or month. It’s the gift of knowledge, a chance to daydream, or even just a half hour spent sitting quietly on the couch. Ahhh….

What are some of the best gifts you’ve ever gotten?


Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is Seducing Mr. KnightlyLearn more at


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7 Responses to Five Clutter-Free Gift Ideas

  1. Barbara November 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    One of our local massage therapists offers a discount on gift certificates for massage or reflexology sessions purchased during December. I think my sons have caught onto my desire for this kind of gift! Now if only they could afford to buy me enough to last the whole year!

  2. biobabbler November 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Just finished reading your post, ’cause I got to “car cleaning” and, knowing my husband was leaving in said car in 30 minutes, I left the computer, hauled out the little vacuum, vacuumed out the front floors & chairs, and wiped down the dash and footplates. There’s more to be done, but WOW does it already look SO much better. =) AND burns calories. So, thanks for the idea!

  3. Amanda November 28, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    When my parents started “returning” (ie regifting right back to us) or not redeeming gifts my sister and I were getting them, we decided to make donations in their names. We sent a check to Le Leche League in my mother’s honor for Mother’s Day and a donation to the Eagle Institute in my father’s honor for Father’s day this year. They were tickled and didn’t feel guilty about us spending money on them. Instead we were all supporting worthy causes.

  4. Joyce November 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Instead of ‘wrapped gifts’ this Christmas, I am tucking money into my grandkids College Advantage plans, donating to our favorite charity St. Rita’s School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, and making a few homemade gifts.

  5. Donna in Delaware November 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    A big THANK YOU, A BIG HUG and A BIG KISS from people who never say it or do it!

  6. Dana B November 30, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Next blog post: how to discretely send this information to gift givers. 🙂

  7. Colleen December 19, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    When my sister’s kids were young and I was a broke twentysomething, I gave her coupons for a monthly Saturday night babysitting. She and her husband loved the night out. I loved spending time w/ my niece and nephew.

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