After a wonderful Thanksgiving in Cincinnati and setting up my Christmas tree (my first since moving to NYC 5 years ago!), I’m really feeling that the holiday season is upon us. My family and I started discussing what we want from our time together over Christmas, and how we want to give gifts this year that will honor what each of us values.  In recent years, we have begun a process of paring down on giving stuff, and focused more on experience-based gifts and making our limited time together feel rich and rewarding.  December brings countless gifts, from the smell of crackling fires, to the delicious holiday treats, from the gift exchanges to the seasonal parties and wacky sweaters.  For many people, this time also brings the stress of finding just the right present for everyone, attempting to show up to every event for which they received an invitation, and the feeling of being spread too thin.  I invite you to give yourself the gift of simplifying and cutting down on the clutter this holiday season by giving consumable gifts that don’t take up space. I’ve included a few random tips for streamlining your time as well.


Give the gift of non-clutter.  Anyone can give a cursory gift that merely takes up space until it is either re-gifted or allocated to the summer garage sale pile. Why not give your loved ones gifts that won’t add to their clutter?  Below are some ideas for gifts that won’t collect dust, and also offer valuable togetherness.

  • Baked goods or copies of a few of your
    favorite recipes you think your loved
    one will enjoy.  Be sure to consider the
    recipients’ dietary restrictions and

  • Membership to a museum or a themed club, such as wine of the month or beer of the month club.  Also consider memberships to magazines, Netflix,  a gym or dance studio, or artist workshops.
  • Homemade coupons for experiences together.  Grandmothers may consider coupons for cooking lessons with a grandchild to teach them her famous chili; sisters can gift coupons for shopping or manicures together; aunts and uncles can make coupons to go to a bookstore or the library with their nieces and nephews to pick out books; and couples can make coupons for date night.  The key is to choose an experience that allows you to share a skill or talent of yours, or that provides your loved one with an opportunity you know they’ll enjoy.

  • Gift certificates to the recipient’s favorite store, restaurant, or experience (such as a massage or a night at the theater).  Online coupon sites like Groupon, Amazon Local, and Livingsocial have great deals.
  • Lessons.  Help Uncle John improve his golf game or Cousin Jane take those flying lessons she always says she’ll do someday by gifting lessons with a pro. Perhaps your niece wants to take a pottery class, or your boyfriend wants to learn how to make sushi.  Does your sister want to know more about wine or French cooking? Get her a gift certificate for a class or lesson!

  • Volunteer together.  Spend family time helping out at a local animal shelter, soup kitchen, or after-school program.  If you’re really feeling brave, consider finding a time you (adults) call all give blood together.
  • Donate in someone’s honor.  Give to an organization that is near and dear to your heart, or one that you know is meaningful to the recipient, and make the donation in their name.


Other tips for simplifying:

  • For those who celebrate Christmas, you have the luxury right now of having the entire holiday season ahead of you.  Take a few minutes right now to list what needs to be done and plan when you’ll complete those tasks.  Front-load as much as you can, because we all know how things start to pile up the week or two before the 25th.
  • Take care of small tasks now so they won’t pile up later.  For example, immediately log in return addresses on incoming christmas cards, or put all the envelopes in one (clearly marked) pile to attend to later.  Have one running list where you record what you have received and from whom, so that your thank-you cards will be easy and accurate, and also so that you can reciprocate by giving gifts to anyone who sent one to you.  Reply to holiday events as soon as possible and mark them in your calendar.
  • Send out your gifts as soon as you get them.  The post office will only get busier from this moment on.  Take an afternoon or one day this weekend and do all of your shopping for gifts you’ll be sending through the mail, drop them by the post office,  and then cross that off your list.
  • Write down all the parties and gatherings you will be attending this season, andmake one trip to get host gifts, such as bottles of wine.  Keep them all in one place so you simply need to grab one on your way out to the party.


What’s on your mind?

What organizational issues are you facing? I want to hear from you!   Email me your organizational challenges so I can address them in an upcoming newsletter.


Happy Organizing!