Gifts that won’t become clutter

Photo: asenat29, Creative Commons

We had WAY too much stuff, and Christmas gifts were a major contributing factor. Our culture’s gift-giving customs are not good stewardship.

I learned these interesting lessons while cleaning out our longtime Pennsylvania home to move to Maryland. Our closets, drawers, shelves and basement storage areas were full of stuff we had received as gifts but had never really used.

Given by family and friends who loved us dearly and really wanted to enrich our lives, many of the gifts were nonetheless things we really didn’t need. But because they were given in love, we were reluctant to part with them. So, despite our best intentions, by default they wound up “in storage” for years.

My closet contained shirts, sweaters and neckties that had scarcely (or never) been worn because I already had all the clothes I needed. My library contained books I had always intended to read but never got around to it.

There is a happy ending for our Pennsylvania stuff. We donated many boxes and bags of items to charities and thrift stores that will put them in the hands of people who will put them to good use.
The experience has caused me to conclude that our popular Christmas culture compels us to buy presents for our loved ones even if they already possess just about everything they need and want. That’s why it’s often so hard to do Christmas shopping. We give to express our love, but I fear that too many of our well-chosen gifts simply wind up in drawers, closets and basement shelves until, perhaps many years later, they are discarded.

Here are some ideas for gifts that won’t become clutter:

— Sure, buy that sweater or crockpot or power tool for your loved one, but give it instead to a charity that will make sure it goes to someone who needs it. You can take a photo of the item and put it in a card that explains where it went and why.
— Instead of a gift, make a charitable donation in honor of a loved one. For instance, every year my 95-year-old mom gets a Christmas gift of a $100 donation to the Salvation Army. My 92-year-old Dad gets a donation to the ELCA through its Good Gifts program (
— Give a “consumable” gift, such as a bottle of wine, box of fudge, loaf of bread, or a gift certificate to a restaurant. As a bonus, you might enjoy the present with your loved one, so you have added the gift of company and friendship!
— Give a gift of service. Make “gift certificates” redeemable for an act of love. Offer to clean grandma’s garage, rake Uncle Harry’s leaves, wash someone’s car or babysit for parents who need a night out.

With some thought and imagination, you can honor the loved ones in your life by giving them gifts that will truly enrich their lives and the lives of others, AND model excellent stewardship!

Copyright (c) 2020, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.

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