Do you spend weeks hunting in shops or spend hours on your computer looking for the perfect holiday gifts? Gift giving can be an exhausting and emotionally draining experience as we struggle to find just the right gifts for our family and friends.

If you enjoy holiday shopping and wrapping, then by all means, carry on. Gift giving can be a labor of love. The time and energy you spend can come back to you in terms of personal satisfaction and knowing that your carefully selected gifts were appreciated by the recipient.

Some people love the entire process, and, in this season of joy, gift giving fills them with happiness. Others do not have such pleasant associations with gift giving. For these people, the entire process, while well-intentioned, becomes a hassle.

 
 

First, you have to figure out what to buy each person on your list. Then you have to find it, often searching for the right size or color.

The gifts pile up, waiting for you to wrap them, which involves a search for wrapping paper, ribbons and bows. Rather than a labor of love, shopping and wrapping become a chore.

In the past, I spent way too many hours on Christmas Eve, frantically trying to get all of my gifts wrapped. That is time I could have been spending with my family, watching holiday movies and drinking hot chocolate – or decorating cookies with my daughters.

To add to our struggles, many of the people on our list really don’t need or want any more things. Christmas trinkets quickly become clutter, and many of us are trying to downsize or reduce the clutter in our lives.

What Is a Would-Be Santa Supposed to Do?

Herein comes a better idea. Consider gifts that are easy to purchase and that won’t add clutter. In the past few years, the favorite gifts I have received have not been things, but experiences.

For example, my husband, who does not love attending musical theater productions as much as I do, gave me two tickets to a traveling Broadway show. One was for me and one was for my best friend. I loved surprising her with the gift of a ticket. We went out for dinner and the show and had a lovely time together.

Last year, my daughter and her fiancé arrived a couple of days before Christmas and begged me to open our gift immediately. I was about to put some chicken in the oven for dinner, and tried to delay it, but she was insistent.

When I opened the box, I found four tickets to a college basketball game. Then I realized that the game was starting in less than two hours! My daughter announced that an Uber driver would be arriving shortly.

I threw the chicken in the refrigerator, we all changed into school colors, and thirty minutes later we were sitting in the stadium. I loved both the surprise and thoughtfulness of the gift. Spending a fun evening together was priceless.

I have been moving away from buying things that will add to our collection of ‘stuff’ and purchasing consumable things and experiences. I’ve found them easier to purchase, easier to wrap and more fun to experience. Here are holiday gift ideas that won’t add clutter:

Tickets to a Theater, Musical, Art Exhibit or Lecture

Tickets to a show can be expensive, and sometimes we are hesitant to splurge. Tickets work well whether you gift the tickets to your friends or attend with them. I also feel good about supporting the arts community.

Tickets to a Sporting Event

My husband would rather attend a sporting event than most other things. The price can range from inexpensive, such as tickets to a minor league baseball game, to extravagant, such as box seats to a major playoff game. This one is often good for children as local teams often have family nights at very reasonable prices.

Gifts for Hands-On Experiences

Do you know someone who would love a cooking class? Golf lessons? How about a day at the children’s museum?

Perhaps, as a grandparent you can gift a grandchild a summer camp experience, or treat their parents to an online photography course. Local community recreation groups have catalogs full of class ideas and events for all ages.

Gifts of Food and Drink

We all need to eat, and consumable treats are convenient for both those who give them and those who receive them. There are classic gifts such as fruit baskets, nuts or cheese and sausage trays. There are more exotic choices such as herbs and spices from around the world.

You can give gift certificates to favorite restaurants or gift friends an evening out with you at a new restaurant. If you have the time and talent, homemade treats are always special.

One of my friends always shows up with homemade caramel corn or a pretty box filled with beautifully decorated cookies. Her treats are welcomed.

Gifts of Travel

My husband and I have decided to forgo gifts in the future in exchange for travel experiences. This might be as simple as a day trip to a local winery or as elaborate as the trip to Ireland I gave my husband for his 60th birthday.

My sister-in-law is paying for her adult children to attend my daughter’s wedding in Mexico as their holiday gift. However, travel gifts don’t have to be expensive. My grandparents once took us camping. I will never forget catching my first fish or learning to row a boat.

The Gift of Your Company

I love to be invited to a friend’s home for a party or dinner. It doesn’t happen as often as I wish it would, though. People are busy and entertaining takes time and energy. I always appreciate the effort, and the gift of someone’s hospitality is always special to me. I try to reciprocate.

I also know many people who would rather have your time than gifts. My mother-in-law repeatedly asks for visits or phone calls instead of gifts. She is a wise woman. Our gift of time is truly a gift.

What about you? Do you enjoy receiving traditional gifts or would you opt for an experience? What are your favorite gifts to give and to get? I would love to see your ideas below!

Michele Meier VosbergMichele Meier Vosberg, Ph.D. is a writer and freelance educator. She left her career of over thirty years in order to create the life of her dreams. She is passionate about helping others understand their unique personality and gifts and design their best lives. Michele is married, has two grown daughters and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Connect with Michele at liferedesign101.com

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