Christmas shopping season is in full swing, but you might want to pump the brakes before you hit the mall.

That funny or cute gift you are thinking about getting? It might just end up collecting dust and causing unwanted clutter in their home. Want to get them something they’ll really appreciate? Have a “gift-free” Christmas without presents instead.

Creating a “no gifts” rule means you will avoid giving Christmas presents that will just take up space in someone’s home (or self-storage unit). An admirable wish, but lacking the holiday spirit. But what about giving intangible holiday gifts? Our survey found it will likely be appreciated more than an actual physical gift under the Christmas tree.

More often than not, the person you are shopping for would rather receive an experience-based gift than a physical one. A national survey conducted by revealed that 81 percent of Americans would prefer the gift of an experience such as event tickets, yoga classes or a streaming subscription than they would material goods.

The same survey found that:

  • 1 in 4 gifts are never used by the recipient
  • 1 in 5 people never use half of the gifts they received.

That is a lot of wasted wrapping paper, not to mention time and money! Save money by giving a clutter-free gift that your loved one will actually enjoy and use.

However, deciding what type of clutter-free gifts to give to your loved ones can be just about as challenging as picking out physical goods. Below you will find some great last minute clutter-free gift ideas you can give this year.

Clutter-free Christmas Gift Ideas

Clutter free gifts can be experiential, digital, or consumable. The bottom line is not to give anything that takes up space long-term in someone’s home or stashed away in their self-storage unit never to be seen again. Here are some ideal clutter-free Christmas gift ideas to get you started:

  • Music or art lessons via Zoom
  • Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Shudder or an Audible subscription
  • Movie tickets
  • Sporting event tickets
  • Donation to a local charity
  • Amusement park season passes
  • Top Golf
  • Gift cards for a salon or massage
  • Family photo session
  • Gourmet food
  • Beer, wine of liquor

If you are worried about Christmas morning not feeling the same without piles of presents under the tree, you can still have fun with wrapping big boxes containing tiny gift cards. That way your family members will never guess what’s coming! Plus, snacks, drinks, and gift cards make great stocking stuffers.

Still need help picking the perfect gift this holiday season? Keep reading for more gift ideas.

1. Entertainment

TV remote control in the foreground, Video on demand screen in the blurry background

Professional organizer Julie Bestry says you can’t go wrong with the gift of entertainment.

“A coupon book of movie tickets, season’s tickets for the theater or even a weekend trip to see a Broadway or Las Vegas show will yield fond memories long after the big event,” Bestry says.

Consider sporting events or amusement park passes as well. Whether you buy tickets for an individual event or for a package or season, the size of the gift can be appropriate for your budget, says Bestry.

Of course, those options may be severely limiting as the world continues to deal with COVID-19. Make sure any passes you buy for others this year do not expire anytime soon as the recipient might not feel comfortable going out in public anytime soon.

If your friend or family member is more of a homebody, consider paying for their Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription for a year. Got a gamer in your life? A 12-month membership to Playstation Plus will provide them with a year of free downloadable games. For the music fan look into getting an iTunes gift card or a Spotify membership.

2. Pampering

A day at the salon or sauna can be a great clutter-free Christmas gift, especially for those in your life who always seem stressed out.

“I treated my closest friend a day with me at a local spa. How often do you take a day and make yourself your primary focus?” says professional organizer Kim Oser.

Oser said treating a loved one to a shared experience is the perfect gift. And one that doesn’t take up precious physical space.

“Giving someone 100 percent of your attention is a huge gift regardless of the dollars spent,” Oser said.

Bestry also offers some ideas for pampering experiences: gift cards for haircuts, styling, facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, reflexology and even acupuncture are all possibilities.

Another option?

“Many cities have blow-dry salons, like The Dry Bar, a kind of salon that just does washes and blow-outs (no cuts, no color) for when someone gets asked on a date or schedules a business dinner on a bad hair day,” Bestry said.

3. Home Upgrade

Here is a gift idea that your loved one will experience for years to come.

“My husband secretly switched out our electrical sockets with special ones he ordered online (through SmartHome), and installed himself when I wasn’t looking. These outlets can be programmed to come on and off via an app on my phone,” said professional organizer Seana Turner.

Turner said now she can turn on and off the electric candles in her windows without getting up. Giving the gift of smart home technology is an innovative and thoughtful gesture.

“This addressed a felt need, included a functional gift, and included an act of service,” Turner said.

Similarly, you could help a receipt with any DIY project they’ve been putting off or lend a hand with manual labor such as landscaping or painting. Or maybe help them clear out and organize their closet.

4. Adventure and Sports

Have some thrill seekers on your list? Bestry says to consider passes for hot-air balloon rides, swimming lessons,  a water park, rock climbing or zip lines. Other options include a week of fantasy baseball camp, pre-paid rounds of golf or batting cage time. Remember, these options may be limited given the ongoing coronavirus situation. Keep that in mind when choosing an activity.

“For the more casual adventurer, bowling, miniature golf or paintball can work equally well,” says Bestry.

When in doubt, renewing your loved ones gym membership for a year would be an amazing gift to give.

The SpareFoot marketing team recently had excursions at Top Golf, which adds a competitive twist to the classic driving range experience and to K1 Speed, which offers a thrilling racing experience in electric go-karts. Gift certificates to either of these locations will offer a fun-filled day to the recipient. Check online for locations.

5. A Mental Challenge

If the kind of adventure the person on your list is looking for is a bit more cerebral, consider buying them passes to a local escape room experience.

The concept is taking off nationwide and there is likely one near you. Participants are locked in a room and must find hidden clues and solve puzzles to “escape” before time runs out.

“Most pricing seems to be about $28-$40 per person. Type ‘escape room [your city]’
to find the options near you,” Bestry says.

Check out Escape the Room NYC and Escape Mission Chattanooga for examples. This is the perfect gift for the kind of person who likes to try everything and meet new people.

6. Classes

Bestry also advocates classes and workshops as some of the best gifts you could possibly give. In the COVID-era, many experts are offering their classes online making it possible to take classes with the very best instructors wherever you live.

“Knowledge is power, and skills, once learned, can last a lifetime,” Bestry says.

Consider cooking, self-defense, or music lessons. Pre-pay for a series of classes in
ballroom dance, quilting, horseback riding, or scrapbooking–whatever delights the people on your list who thirst for knowledge, Bestry says.

If you aren’t sure what your recipient would be interested in the most, consider a subscription to MasterClass. Subscribers can access scores of courses taught by world-renowned and celebrity instructors such as how to record country music with Reba McEntire or how to write YA books with R.L. Stine.

7. Consumable Goods

woman eating chocolate

If you still aren’t sure, you really can’t go wrong consumable gifts like beer, wine, gourmet food, soap and other goods. Buy a gift basket or build your own. Just be sure to consider your loved one’s allergies and personal tastes.

Other consumable gifts include make up, candles, supplements and more. If you can find unique items that they normally wouldn’t buy, that is definitely a great option.

If possible, keep your holiday shopping local and purchase from neighborhood shops, makers and food purveyors, it will make your selections even more special. Many mom and pop retailers have expanded their online shopping options in 2020, so you can still support them without having to go out with a mask on.

Alexander Harris


  1. Love “experienced-based” gifts vs. the physical ones that add to clutter and piles of things we really don’t need or use. The other types of gifts I like are disposable ones such as food-related ones.

  2. I totally love experienced gifts! We like to give out movie tickets for my mother-in-law because it’s something she can do without to much effort. Keep in mind what the person can physically do. They may not be able to every experience gift. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

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