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Make Christmas Clutter-Free With Experience Gifts

Guest post by JessieLeigh at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

It’s too easy to find ourselves buried in clutter if we surround ourselves with too many things. For our family, with children who have December and January birthdays, the Christmas season can become overwhelming and, ultimately, lose meaning and even fun. Believe it or not, it’s not fun to be surrounded by piles and piles of stuff.

But I love to give gifts. I love to surprise and delight my children. I can’t help it.

Still, while I’m not above buying one or two very special toys for them, I remain determined to keep Christmas clutter-free. I do this through three types of gifts: consumable, charitable, and experience.

Today, I’d like to share some fun “experience gift” ideas:

1. Travel

This could be as big as those dramatic “We’re going to Disney!” commercials or as small as “We’re going to check out a museum!” (in a neighboring town). It’s fun to go new places — near or far.

2. The Arts

Give the gift of creating or discovering. Whether it be painting a plate, taking a music class or seeing a ballet, exploring the arts and creativity can be a wonderful experience to treasure and reflect on throughout the year.

3. Get Moving

Last year, my son received karate lessons as a gift. It has been fantastic! Classes are great. So are trips to an indoor gym/discovery center. Going on a family hike, boat ride or fishing trip are other great ways to get active together and make it something special!

4. Some Pampering

When my mom asked for a “big” gift idea for my five-year-old daughter, I suggested she would enjoy having her hair or nails done and getting prettied up. What girl wouldn’t enjoy that?

Well, some might not, but pampering can take on many forms… some people feel pampered by not having to cook, others by having someone do the vacuuming for them. This type of gift is a great opportunity to show just how well you know the recipient. And that’s pretty special.

5. Fun With Friends

Give your husband tickets to a ball game. Give your girlfriend a gift certificate to a pastry shop. Give your children tickets to a matinee of a kids’ movie — one for him and one for a friend. The options are limitless. Spending fun, quality time with people whose company we genuinely enjoy is a beautiful gift to give or receive.

Having a meaningful, special Christmas complete with gifts doesn’t have to mean digging out of a giant “stuff” pile come January.

How do you like to keep Christmas special and clutter-free?

JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

photos by Ernst Vikne

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  • Carrie says:

    Last year we only bought our kids one present each, and then traveled. They loved it! This year I was able to buy a few more but we also took a Christmas trip to Hershey Park in Hershey PA. I am sure that the memories of the trip will FAR outlast the toys!

  • Krissy says:

    This is such a good idea. My daughter has been begging to see ‘Tangled’ and I never thought about giving the tickets as a gift! Movies are NOT cheap these days!

  • Ashlee says:

    For my son’s birthday we bought him a zoo pass and upgraded to add two guests to the pass. So now when his grandparents are visiting or any friend wants to come they can get in for free.

  • Elizabeth says:

    My favorite gift, from my mom to me, each year is a joint family pass to our city’s science center and zoo. No clutter, and there is always an activity to go to, no matter the weather or the balance in the checkbook. And there are reciprocal discounted or free admissions to other science museums and zoos around the country.

  • Eileen says:

    This is a great idea. My in-laws left it to us what they should buy for gifts for the kids. We found out an area museum was running a special on year long family memberships. There are reciprocal museums that we like that will also take the membership, so we can get into several museums (including the favorite kids museum) all year for free! Check around because many places are offering deals this time of year on membership.

  • Karen S. says:

    Love it!

    Last year my parents got our family a season pass to the zoo (we live 1/4 mile away!). This year my mother-in-law is giving my daughter tickets to the Nutcracker for Christmas! We’ve also, when asked, given suggestions to give our kids gift certificates to indoor play places, a bounce house, The Childrens Museum, the Aviary, or a pottery painting place.

  • Jennifer says:

    I just gave my husband a ticket to the Bills/Browns game on Sunday (he is going with friends from work) for his 40th birthday. he loved the idea and might get to go. Unfortunately when we bought the tickets 4 months ago we didn’t know about the blizzard that will be hitting on Sunday.

  • AmyLauren says:

    I love clutter free gifts! My fiance got me a spa gift certificate for my birthday and it was great :). I really enjoyed the pampering and it made me in such a good mood that week. So much better than giving me something that would probably go to Goodwill a year later!

  • Wani says:

    A friend of mine shared what their family is doing this year. Each child is getting three gifts: one spiritual ( a bible), one wearable (clothing), and one fun ( a toy that they really want). I thought that was a neat way to add some meaning to the gifts and keep the gift giving from getting out of control.
    I’m working on finding gift alternatives for our family. We get so much from our families that I’d love to take an annual family trip or something instead of doing gifts. Its still in the works. Thanks for sharing all the great ideas!

  • Deb says:

    This is the third year in a row that we have bought the kids (17, 15 and 14) plane tickets to go snowboarding with their grandparents at Breckenridge. Condo week is always the first week in January and my dh cannot always take off, so we send the kids out to spend the week with family. We love Southwest Airlines’ prices and we love having FUN grandparents!

  • Sue says:

    Definitely a good read!

    When I was 12, my aunt took my sister, my cousins, and me to see a Disney on Ice show. The show was great, and I got hang out with my cousins and have some special time with my “cool” aunt! It’s now 18 years later, and I still have the memory of that wonderful evening. I don’t remember many other material gifts I’ve received over the years.

  • Jess says:

    I love to cook, so last year my husband purchased me two different speciality cooking classes – one for just me, and one for us to attend as a couple. We had so much fun going to the class and spending time together, I learned so much, and still use the receipes and techniques I learned! It was one of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received!

  • Corrine says:

    My in-laws are getting our boys ski lessons to a local ski hill. They were really bummed when I told them we could not afford it, but will be so excited that Grandpa and Grandma could!

  • Kristin says:

    Last year my parents gave my kids an annual membership to the local children’s museum. It has been a WONDERFUL gift and we’ve used it more than I even thought we would. This year they are renewing it and I’m sure they’ll continue to renew until the kids grow out of it. And I was honestly surprised at how affordable the membership was.

  • bridget says:

    This year with my husband’s family we did away with gifts for the family and rented a cabin in the mountains. i think everyone loved it and will remember it for a long time to come.

  • My inlaws get us a membership to the science museum, a membership to the zoo and one or two small things for the kids to open. My parents like to buy stuff so I make a list of what we NEED. For example, my son age 5 months is starting solids and I asked for a set of BPA-free sippy cups, forks and spoons, bowls and divided plates for him. For my 4yo daughter, I asked for a book, hair accessories and pajamas. They are getting us organic beef raised by my uncle. I got to state my preferences for thickness of cuts and size of packages.

    I got each of my kiddos a set of children’s luggage, and a few toys for the baby and some educational / toys for my daughter. In her stocking she’ll get those little things she always asks for, like gum, a lollipop and those sorts of things.

  • Del says:

    My husband and I have done a lot of “experience” gifts with each other. We enjoy the chance to do something together and to enjoy a special outing. One particular thing we’ve enjoyed is attending musicals. When it’s a date and a gift it doesn’t seem like such a splurge.

    Another time his family went together to get his sister’s hair done for a formal which was around her birthday. She loved it!

  • Sarah says:

    My in-laws get my husband a membership to Sam’s Club every year for his birthday as part of his gift! I love that because we really enjoy going there and don’t have to pay for the membership. We do a lot of books, puzzles and art supplies as gifts. This year the kiddos are receiving one special toy that they asked for and the rest are very practical gifts. My oldest is 7 and we explained to her that this year Christmas was going to be simpler and that the money we didn’t spend on us, we could use to help others. She was really excited!

  • Andie says:

    Several years ago my husband decided we should try a “Christmas Trip.” We do fairly good stockings for the kids then the day after Christmas, we go somewhere. Some are big trips, DC, NYC, Philly, Chicago, others are small. Last year we went to Bristol Motor Speedway for the “Speedway in Lights” This year, our oldest son graduated from Naval Basic Training in Great Lakes, IL, so we went there and in to Chicago for a day. We are also planning on going to Helen, GA when our oldest comes home for leave for Christmas.

    Taking our annual Christmas Trip has definitely changed our Christmases!

  • Aimee says:

    We LOVE experience gifts in our house! That’s the only reason we’ve been able to go to an NFL game, the PBR World Finals(complete with 2 nights in a suite at a hotel!) and several concerts. My mom usually gives me a gift card to the salon every Christmas so that I can get my hair done “for real”(I always do my own trims and color). Our son is only 6 months old, but we are hoping to raise him to appreciate these types of gifts as much as we do, I wasn’t raised this way, but by the time I was in jr. high, I realized that most of the “stuff” I got would be outdated, gone, or just worn out fairly quickly, but that the memories and pictures from these experiences last forever.

  • Christy says:

    Each year my kids get tons of gifts from family (hard to tell them not to, so I handle it this way), we allow the kids to keep a few and then pack up the rest in my closet and they get dispursed throughout the year for good behavior or just for a special surprise.

  • Melissa N says:

    My daughter (4) wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up, so I looked at our zoo to see if they offered programs for her age. They have a one hour class every week for ages 3-5, and it’s $20 for members (we are). That is pretty darn expensive for a one hour class, but it could also be the perfect $20 gift from relatives. My MIL and my brother have already bought her a class, and they are going to take her themselves, so it’s turned out to be a really great present!

  • Rachel says:

    One experience gift I am giving to my husband this year is a certificate stating that I will go to bed at a certain hour each night. I’m normally a night-owl but know he would like it if I changed this one behavior.

  • This year we are doing a family experience gift. Our girls are 12 and almost 15, they are each getting 5 gifts that include winter clothes. A new coat, new pair of jeans and 3 new shirts each. Hubby and I are not buying anything for eachother. We have saved up some money and got a great deal on a 6 night vacation in Tennessee. We are leaving Christmas afternoon and will come home on New Years Eve. We are going to visit the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area then we are going to hang out at the resort by the fireplace and enjoy family time. 🙂

    We can’t wait!

  • Cheryl says:

    My Mother-in-Law used to always give us 2 GREAT clutter free gifts every year for Christmas. 1) AAA roadside assistance renewal 2) season passes to our local 6 flags. I thought those were the best gifts ever!

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