Like many people, I maintain the life-long tradition of giving and receiving Xmas and birthday gifts with my immediate family. When we all lived in the same house, the physical size of a gift wasn't an issue. But now that we're all adults living in different parts of the country, well, you can't exactly wrap a mountain bike and check it in as airplane luggage. For that matter, you can't receive a gift like that and expect to fit it in the overhead compartment on your return flight home. So for practical reasons, we've been forced to go with presents that you can either order on-line, or pack in a suitcase.
Even if you're not traveling though, it's worth considering gifts like this that basically won't ever become clutter, particularly if the receiver already has too much stuff as it is. Not surprisingly, Don Aslett gives a list of examples in his book For Packrats Only. Granted you can give cash as a gift if all else fails, but personally I try not to give money as a gift. That's because 1) I like to try to give gifts that are more personal, 2) don't want to give the impression that I can never think of anything else to get for a person, and 3) don't always want the person to know exactly how much I spent on him or her.
In browsing through some of my older blog entries here, I found my suggestions on how to (and how not to) address somebody else's clutter problem. One suggestion I gave was "Give stuff that won't add to their piles. [...] Heck, I should write a separate blog post of examples." So, two years later, here it is.
- Edible Arrangements. Flowers are always an option too, but as George Carlin pointed out, they're the only things we buy and bring home only to watch them die, and yet we're somehow OK with this. Also, if you're getting a gift for a man, Edible Arrangements seem to pose much less of a threat to some people's masculinity. Besides, you can't eat flowers. Actually, I suppose you technically could eat flowers, but I'm willing to bet they won't taste as well nor feel as good in one's stomach.
- Anything else that's edible. The idea here of course is that you're giving a person something that'ss not going to take up space in their house forever.
- AAA Membership. I actually got this idea from Don Aslett. For anybody who drives and lives in the US, this is well worth having in my opinion. It's not only insurance to get a free tow if you break down, but a surprising amount of places give discounts to AAA members. I've used this myself at hotels and the like, and it pays for itself.
- Scratch tickets. They're easy to find, and you can decide how much you want to buy. At best, the person wins money. At worst, the person doesn't win but probably has no problem throwing the losing tickets away.
- Restaurant gift certificates. If your gift receiver likes a particular restaurant, then obviously you should try to go for that. I've also noticed that around the holiday season, restaurants usually have deals on them (e.g., buy a $30 gift certificate for only $25). One particular site I would highly recommend for this is Restaurant.com, which lets you search for restaurants by ZIP code, buy gift certificates, and print them at home. Most of the restaurants there are obscure local ones trying to get customers, so you won't find too many big names there. You can however end up getting things like "$25 off any order of $50 or more" for just a few bucks, if you take advantage of the occasional discounts.
- Event tickets (concerts, sports, movies, etc.). I suppose there's the chance that they might buy some tacky merchandise at these events, but again, this is a gift you can fit in an envelope.
I know I probably should have written this list a month a two ago, before Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yuletide, etc. all came to pass. Then again, gift-giving events such as birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, Mothers' Day, and Fathers' Day all come up too.