Gift ideas for simplifying gift giving

Tis’ the season….to accumulate clutter and foist it upon others. Seriously, when Christmas comes around, we can easily give in to the pressure GIFT GIVING brings, not to mention the trap of overspending. I’ve got you! Take a few minutes to read the meaningful gift ideas I USE to spend less and SIMPLIFY holiday gifting.

You know how it is: we feel increasingly stressed the closer we get to Dec. 24th…so we start adding items to our cart as fast as we can. Our sliding Amazon finger gets hotter and hotter, or we brave the traffic driving from store to store. Debt piles up. If the deadline or exhaustion is upon us, we resort to swapping gift cards – which is effectively just trading money with loved ones. How un-sparkly is that?

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I wanted to share with you some ways that I have personally navigated the gifting CRUSH and I hope some of these ideas work for you.

Gift Idea #1: Give Handmade

Handmade gifts

OK, before you throw a hot glue gun at me, YES, I am suggesting CRAFTING for gifts, BUT let me explain…

If you don’t like to handmake things, toss out this idea.

But if you think you just don’t HAVE TIME to craft; you might want to think again.

Many of us have groups of friends, church group, or co-workers that all exchange gifts.

Instead of picking a secret Santa or trying to figure out what everyone in the group would like, you can STREAMLINE your gifting if you do what we do at Restoring Order…

For years, our employees would each try to get something small for one another for Christmas. The problem was: we kept growing in number! So, even a $10 gift for lots of people became a serious budget item, draining considerable holiday cash from each family’s budget. I felt that was too much to ask of my employees, and that it could leave some people out.

Then we tried the Secret Santa and upped the price to $25. The only issue with this is that many people didn’t get something they really wanted or needed which resulted in more clutter. And as a team of professional organizers – who wants that??

We decided to change up the gifting game.

We settled on a winning solution: we would each hand make ONE THING for everyone. For instance, if you made a jar of body butter; you would just make one for every other teammate. If your item was rum cake; you’d make one for everyone. So, each teammate this year will come to our annual Christmas gift exchange with 9 gifts and will leave with 9 gifts.

What’s brilliant about making homemade items is that everyone can decide what is in their budget and skill set to make.

  • It’s affordable. If it’s a tight year, you can just make cookies.
  • If you love to sew or knit or work with wood or metal; it’s a way to share your TRUE GIFTS with others. 
  • It gives you the opportunity to get OUT of the daily grind, plan ahead, and put some thought and time into something you’d like to share with your friends

Here are some creative handmade gift ideas:

  • A plant start from your garden
  • A handmade soap
  • A hand-lettered framed quote
  • A homemade essential oil blend
  • A wreath or potpourri cone made of sheet music
  • An ornament
  • A monogramed item

We all love surprising each other with creative, fun, and tasty treasures and it’s an absolute delight to leave the party with arms full of goodies from our Restoring Order family. We have found this handmade gifts exchange a lovely way to fill our souls instead of our homes.

If you happen to have crafty friends, you could also make your annual gift to one another a get-together where you make items together and everyone goes away with something.

The idea is to streamline your gifting by making multiples of something you enjoy and others would find useful!

Gift Idea #2: Give Learning

My eldest son is very interested in architecture. Last year for his birthday, his aunts took him to the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Silverton, Oregon for a tour. This fall, we went on an Architectural Heritage Walking Tour as well. These experiences have bolstered his interest in the field and were so much more interesting than textbook learning.

Gifting an experience in someone’s area of interest is a thoughtful gesture and adds meaning and depth to someone’s life without adding clutter!

This gifting strategy also allows YOU to join them in the experience if so desired! Instead of buying one tour; get two! The gift multiplies when it becomes a community activity where everyone learns!

Here are some examples of opportunities to learn:

  • Museums
  • Historical tours
    • Old town walk-and-talks
    • Pedicab or Segway tours
  • Geological exploration
  • Education vacations

You could even lead an educational adventure yourself with a little research and time investment. That way you are not draining the bank. Pick something that you are familiar with that someone else may enjoy.

Last year, I asked my Irish neighbors to give me a photo tour of their homeland, which they did and it was fabulous for me and my kids to see their “stomping ground” but also to hear the wonderful stories that came forth during the photo tour.

The point is: giving a learning opportunity adds VALUE to someone’s life instead of adding STUFF.

Of course, traditional learning opportunities also abound; and you can give a training that is instructive and memorable, instead of junk that will be forgotten. Examples include:

  • Audio books
  • Online classes
  • Books on a favorite subject

Earlier this year, as a hospitality gift, we gave away one of our favorite archaeology books to my brother and his family because it had blessed us so much. We read it at dinnertime each night and really got a lot out of it and wanted them to enjoy it, too. Instead of just buying them a copy, we gave them ours. Of course, if we miss ours, we can always replace it, but we were done with it, so why not share the bounty?

I think in this consumer culture people forget that sharing something of YOURS is often more meaningful to the recipient than brand-new items.

This year, I am giving some of my favorite men a book that I have loved about fathers and sons. The book “Play the Man” was given to me by a friend, and I’m paying forward the love.

For my nephew’s 16th birthday, I am giving him a “Book Club” where we are going to read through a book together and meet on video chat each week to discuss. This allows me to invest in his life and us to share what we’re learning together. Now, that’s a TRUE GIFT!

Gift Idea #3: Give Makeovers

Who couldn’t use a friend’s input on something in our life?

Some of my most deeply rewarding experiences were those where I gathered with others to SERVE someone.

Give the gift of service!

Serving is when you get outside yourself and your agenda and your timelines and you just SHOW UP and HELP. Serving is becoming a lost art in our toxically busy world.

Specifically, you can serve a friend or family member by helping them upgrade an area of their life.

Giving your time and energy to help someone makeover something in their life is incredibly fulfilling. When someone wants a makeover of any kind, they’re dealing with some kind of dissatisfaction. There’s something in their life they want to improve. And this gives YOU the opportunity to be the objective, helpful HERO!

Here are some makeover ideas to offer to a loved one:

  • A room in the home: from the kitchen to a teen room, there’s almost always a room that could be dialed up with organization
  • A storage area: basements and garages are household dumping grounds and need frequent clear-outs
  • An office overhaul or tune-up: by helping a friend tackle their office, you’ll give the gift of greater productivity and less stress
  • A wardrobe upgrade: your extra pair of eyes and insight can help, from a complete clothing upgrade, to simply outfit selection, recommended donations, and making lists of items to acquire
  • A makeup clean up: washing brushes, organizing and replacing old makeup improves health as well as daily function
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As you can see, you can be creative with your service gifts. If you are tight on funds, just create a project that doesn’t cost anything but your time and creativity!

Now, sometimes these service projects can require a little funds. Before you craft a MAKEOVER GIFT for someone, be sure to consider the cost and who will cover it if necessary.

For my birthday last year, I asked my aunt for an “earring upgrade.” So, we are going shopping together to update my aging collection. This also gives us time together – which was my aim.

Gift Idea #4: Give History

I will never forget a past assistant of mine and her marvelous, sensitive, WONDERFUL gift of family photos to me. She secretly got into my digital photos from a family photo shoot and chose favorites to have printed on canvas and had them made for me. I burst out bawling when I opened those wonderful canvases.

With two businesses, two kids, and homeschooling, recording our memories often gets sidelined. So this gift was a gift that FILLED MY SOUL and relieved my mom-guilt all at once!

This year, we celebrated our 20 year anniversary at Restoring Order, and one of my dear employees made a photo album for me from the last 20 years of employees, tradeshows, workshops, TV shows, book clubs, celebrations, and landmark events. Again, I broke down crying with deep satisfaction and happiness that these memories were gathered…and the fact that I DIDN’T HAVE TO DO IT was huge. I could not take my eyes off the photo book and I treasure it.

I share these stories to remind us that in-gathering and documenting history is a tremendous gift to give. It’s a life-giving gift to those who want to look back and celebrate, but who are pressing ahead to the next thing.

If you spent a minute thinking, I bet you could identify someone in your life who would be crazy blessed by your effort to frame a photo for them, or put together a photo book.

PSA: To all of my friends and acquaintances: this is the fastest way to my heart! Ha-ha!

Of course, this is another SERVICE GIFT that requires time and energy, but it is gratifying to both the giver and the recipient.

Here are some ideas to GIVE HISTORY:

  • Constructing and recording family history
  • Photo documenting a special trip or school year
  • Audio recording a parent or grandparent telling a story
  • Passing down letters or recipes from an ancestor

The only thing I really regret about my pregnancies is that I didn’t get maternity photos. (I’ve even considered digging up some old photos and having them edited!) So, I have made it my aim that none of my friends who get pregnant should have to look back with regrets. I did a personal photo shoot for one of my dear friends to ensure she had the memories.

I hope you can see that giving history is one of the most thoughtful and fulfilling gifts you can give.

Along the order of thoughtfulness is my last gift-simplification tip: give life by giving kind words!

Gift Idea #4: Give Words

For my son’s 13th birthday, I asked every one of his invitees to prepare a letter – or at least a paragraph – for him. I asked that they affirm him or share what they love about him. Everyone obliged and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as they gave their present to him and read their words over him. The plastic toys faded as the life-giving words took center stage.

Even at the young age of 13, he said that the blessings of his family and friends were his favorite part of his birthday.

Did you know there are people all around you practically dying for someone to SEE them and ACKNOWLEDGE them?

Use the holidays to give the FREE gift of your life-changing words: tell someone how you feel about them in a card or letter or in some creative way.

Here are some ways to share the gift of words:

  • In a letter, tell someone how you feel about them
  • Tell the recipient about your life; write an autobiographical story to be remembered
  • Give handwritten recipe cards of your family favorites
  • Write 12, 24, or 52 things you like about someone, and release each item to them monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly

As you can see, giving words brings encouragement, understanding, and context to someone’s life. Words can bless and uplift. Words have within them the power of life and death – give life! Your words will be treasured for a lifetime!

I hope you’ve been inspired to think outside the Amazon button this year and outside the STUFF. Intentional gift giving can save your money and boost your relationships by the thoughtful application of your time and energy.

Here’s to keeping first-things-first this Christmas season. And THANK YOU for the GIFT of your friendship; all year long!

Love, Vicki


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value='Puerto Rico' >Puerto Rico</option><option value='Qatar' >Qatar</option><option value='Romania' >Romania</option><option value='Russian Federation' >Russian Federation</option><option value='Rwanda' >Rwanda</option><option value='Réunion' >Réunion</option><option value='Saint Barthélemy' >Saint Barthélemy</option><option value='Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha' >Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha</option><option value='Saint Kitts and Nevis' >Saint Kitts and Nevis</option><option value='Saint Lucia' >Saint Lucia</option><option value='Saint Martin' >Saint Martin</option><option value='Saint Pierre and Miquelon' >Saint Pierre and Miquelon</option><option value='Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' >Saint Vincent and the Grenadines</option><option value='Samoa' >Samoa</option><option value='San Marino' >San Marino</option><option value='Sao Tome and Principe' >Sao Tome and Principe</option><option value='Saudi Arabia' >Saudi Arabia</option><option value='Senegal' >Senegal</option><option value='Serbia' >Serbia</option><option value='Seychelles' >Seychelles</option><option value='Sierra Leone' >Sierra Leone</option><option value='Singapore' >Singapore</option><option value='Sint Maarten' >Sint Maarten</option><option value='Slovakia' >Slovakia</option><option value='Slovenia' >Slovenia</option><option value='Solomon Islands' >Solomon Islands</option><option value='Somalia' >Somalia</option><option value='South Africa' >South Africa</option><option value='South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands' >South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands</option><option value='South Sudan' >South Sudan</option><option value='Spain' >Spain</option><option value='Sri Lanka' >Sri Lanka</option><option value='Sudan' >Sudan</option><option value='Suriname' >Suriname</option><option value='Svalbard and Jan Mayen' >Svalbard and Jan Mayen</option><option value='Sweden' >Sweden</option><option value='Switzerland' >Switzerland</option><option value='Syria Arab Republic' >Syria Arab Republic</option><option value='Taiwan' >Taiwan</option><option value='Tajikistan' >Tajikistan</option><option value='Tanzania, the United Republic of' >Tanzania, the United Republic of</option><option value='Thailand' >Thailand</option><option value='Timor-Leste' >Timor-Leste</option><option value='Togo' >Togo</option><option value='Tokelau' >Tokelau</option><option value='Tonga' >Tonga</option><option value='Trinidad and Tobago' >Trinidad and Tobago</option><option value='Tunisia' >Tunisia</option><option value='Turkmenistan' >Turkmenistan</option><option value='Turks and Caicos Islands' >Turks and Caicos Islands</option><option value='Tuvalu' >Tuvalu</option><option value='Türkiye' >Türkiye</option><option value='US Minor Outlying Islands' >US Minor Outlying Islands</option><option value='Uganda' >Uganda</option><option value='Ukraine' >Ukraine</option><option value='United Arab Emirates' >United Arab Emirates</option><option value='United Kingdom' >United 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