Gift Guide for a Clutterless Christmas

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The symbolic importance of gifts has been expounded upon by everyone from anthropologist Marcel Mauss, who wrote an entire book on the reciprocal nature of gift-giving, to my grandmother, who has not forgotten a gift given or received in her entire life. Gift-giving is indeed an important way we forge and maintain bonds.

Enter the holiday season, the refined sugar to our consumerist culture’s diabetes. Feeling, perhaps, crowded out of your home by stuff? Wish you could engage in gift-giving without having to give away your dog for lack of space? I feel your pain. Here are 10 gift ideas for a clutterless holiday season.

  1. Gift certificate for movie tickets. Movies are the great democratizer. Who doesn’t like to go to the movies? But with a ticket costing a minimum of $10, at least in New York, date night can get pricey, even if you eat popcorn and Sno-Caps for dinner.
  2. Gift certificate for a local restaurant. If you know where someone likes to eat – or even better, where they are dying to eat but wouldn’t spend the money – give the restaurant a call to find out about options.
  3. Heifer International animal share. Buy an animal (or a share) for a family in the developing world on behalf of someone on your list.
  4. Harry & David’s Fruit Basket. Don’t laugh; those pears are delicious. And who couldn’t use a little more fruit in their life during a holiday season overrun by milk-chocolate Santas?
  5. Gift card for iTunes or Google Play. For all its faults, Apple’s iPod ushered in the era of the clutter-free music collection, followed swiftly by movies, games and apps.
  6. Subscription to a digital/tablet version of a magazine. Most magazines have impressive tablet versions these days; no recycling necessary.
  7. Gift certificate for a spa treatment. You can’t go wrong with Bliss (21 locations in the U.S. and abroad) or, for men with facial hair, try the Barber Spa at the Art of Shaving (56 locations nationwide). When in doubt, turn to a friend or Yelp for local recommendations.
  8. Wine or beer of the month club. For the wine or beer connoisseur in your life, a six-month subscription to a club is a great gift. Try wine.com or the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club.
  9. Race entry. For the sporty (or formerly sporty and trying to get back into it) friend or family member, pick an event you can do together like a local 10K, a Tough Mudder obstacle course race (tag line: “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet” – what could go wrong?), a charity bike event like the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure or The Color Run (tag line: “The Happiest 5K on the Planet”).
  10. Free babysitting. In our overworked, overplayed and oversubscribed society, the parents among us are maxed out. All we need is a day to spend doing nothing but berating ourselves for being so inexplicably unhappy in our myopic, responsibility-free twenties. Why not give your loved one the gift of time? Agree to take the kids and pets for the day or weekend. Wrap an elaborate card with rules, restrictions and an expiration date. And remember: with gift giving, as Mauss so eloquently explained over half a century ago, what goes around comes around.

Debra Cole is a Brooklyn-based writer and mom. She blogs about parenting at www.urbanmoocow.com

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