26 Gift Ideas For A 'No Stuff' Holiday

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
This Is The Perfect Year For A ‘No-Stuff’ Holiday
Shutterstock / Getty / Scary Mommy

Every time I turn on the news, I hear the same warning: SHOP NOW FOR THE HOLIDAYS. And yes, everyone seems to be screaming this. With global supply chain issues wreaking havoc on just about everything, the advice has been simple: Start shopping NOW. If you don’t, well, you’re screwed. You won’t have gifts to give, your loved ones will be pissed, and you’re holidays will be ruined.

Well, here’s a different take. Why not skip shopping altogether and do a no-stuff holiday? If ever there was a year for a stuff-free holiday, this is it, my friends.

No, I’m not suggesting we turn into the Grinch and get all Scroogey. I actually love the holidays and love giving the people I love gifts I think they will love. What I am suggesting, however, is that we skip the toys and the clothes, the boxes and bags, the junk and stuff that is often under the tree on Christmas morning. And instead, we have a minimalist holiday and give experiences.

Our family used to do a Big Christmas. Like I said, I love giving gifts. I also love getting them too, if I’m being honest. What I don’t love is a whole lot of stuff. I’m a minimalist(ish) at heart and the stress got to be too much. The clutter and excess stuff gave me serious anxiety, and made me feel ragey, ungrateful, and the opposite of joyful. So, over the past several years, we’ve pared back, gone smaller, and been giving a lot more gifts of experiences and embracing the no-stuff holiday.

Let me tell you, a no-stuff holiday has been such a relief. Instead of freaking out last-minute holiday shopping, I’m able to enjoy the holiday season watching “Love Actually” and baking cookies. Instead of spending hours unloading the trunk of my car after a visit to Grandma’s, we just chill out and relax. Instead of feeling annoyed that the expensive gadget my kids just had to have lost its luster after 10 minutes and is thrown in the corner, we soak in the excitement of future outings we’ll have. It’s fantastic.

Research backs this up too. Studies show that experiences, rather than stuff, enhance gratitude. According to researchers at Cornell University, “we feel more gratitude for what we’ve done than for what we have – and that kind of gratitude results in more generous behavior toward others.”

The Cornell researchers found that, even though folks feel happy about physical objects, they actually feel more grateful for experiences. Not only will giving experiences make you feel less ragey and more grateful, but it’s also a gift for the environment. There’ll be less plastic, less wrapping paper (which isn’t recyclable, BTW), less waste in general.

Covid has certainly made experience gifts a bit more challenging, since it some of my go-to experience gifts are more complicated if not out-of-the-question for safety reasons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an experience-instead-of-stuff holiday. In fact, this is the perfect year to go all-in on a no-stuff holiday.

Major retailers, like Amazon and Target, have been warning of huge delays for weeks. We see mind-boggling images of shipping containers clogging ports, and read reports that there are nearly half a million shipping containers waiting to dock and unload at a Los Angeles port alone. According to CNN, Moody’s Analytics warns that supply chain problems are going to “get worse before they get better.”

This news has lots of folks stressed TF out about the upcoming holiday season. Shop now, is the advice of retailers who want your money. But that isn’t the only answer. You can go gift-free with plenty of “experiences” under the tree and in the stockings. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your no-stuff holiday journey:

  1. Membership to a music streaming service, like Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes.
  2. Gift certificate to a local bookstore. Bonus points for a women-owned or Black-owned bookstores, like Semicolon and Room of One’s Own.
  3. Learning and activity kits like Kiwi Crate innovation kits, Mysteries in Time, and Little Passports, cooking kits like Global Grub and Raddish Kids, or a monthly journaling subscription from Silk + Sonder.
  4. A book-of-the-month subscription.
  5. Cookie decorating kits.
  6. Lessons to try a new activity, like photography or cooking. (Violin lessons are on my wish list).
  7. Membership to Master Class so they can hone their latest passion. (They have tons of classes on everything from photography and skateboarding to cooking and fashion design.)
  8. Xbox gift card. (If your kids are like mine, their “passion” is video gaming.)
  9. Magazine subscription.
  10. Gift cards to local restaurants.
  11. Donation to a favorite charity.
  12. A pick-a-spot adventure. Find a local map, close your eyes, and pick a spot to explore on an upcoming weekend.
  13. A season pass to a state or national park system.
  14. Membership to TV streaming services, like Hulu or AppleTV.
  15. An escape room adventure.
  16. Tickets to a sports event.
  17. Gift certificate to a fast food restaurant that they love.
  18. An at-home movie night with popcorn and movie snacks.
  19. Plan a family vacation.
  20. A course or app, like Duolingo, to learn another language.
  21. Gift certificate to Airbnb for a stay or experience. (Yes, Airbnb also offers experiences, like horseback riding.)
  22. Concert tickets.
  23. Gift certificate to go mini-golfing.
  24. Zoo membership.
  25. Passes to a local waterpark.
  26. Tickets to Disney on Ice.

Despite everything the news media and retailers (who just want your money) are telling us, you don’t need to panic. You don’t need to max out your credit card paying for rush shipping so all that “stuff” arrives in time for the holidays. Just do a “no-stuff” holiday. You’ll love it, and your family will love it too. Trust us.

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