How to Give Gifts that Don’t Become Clutter

In the world that many of us live in – that is of extreme prosperity, where toys are cheap and plenty and we enjoy running water and lights in our homes – the holidays can be the nemesis of keeping a clutter-free home. Don’t fall into the trap of MORE IS MORE, because it isn’t always the case! So, my friend, here are some tried and true tips to helping stave off the clutter during the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Pre-Holiday Purge

Before the holidays, make a point to get the whole family in on decluttering toys (for help decluttering, check out this post). You can mend broken toys (new batteries, clean them up, fix them), give away things that are no longer age-appropriate, or chuck the junky or broken toys. Keep it positive and fun and harness the excitement of Christmas by telling your kids, “We need to make room for your new gifts!” or, “We need to show Santa that we can take care of your old toys so he can trust us with new ones.” You choose!

Choose Wisely

I have to admit that over the course of nearly 9 years of motherhood, I have become a toy expert. We have seen which toys hold childrens’ attention and which ones just don’t. Sure, some kids connect with certain toys and others don’t, but there are certain principles to keep in mind when choosing toys.

  • Is it developmentally appropriate? Beyond safety concerns, a developmentally appropriate toy will push the child to be creative or challenged in some way developmentally. For example, if they’re learning to walk, a push toy works great. If they are just learning to control pencil movements and improve handwriting, you may choose a toy that helps them develop their fine motor skills. If it’s either too hard or too easy, it’s not fun.
  • Is it open-ended? Open ended toys go beyond pushing a button for a single response (though, those can be fun at times too). Open ended toys are ones that leave room for creativity or imagination. They are the toys that literally will last the test of time and include things like play-doh, legos, or even imaginary props like baby dolls or dinosaurs!
  • Am I buying this for me or my child? Last year, we impulsively bought a electric race car set that came with our couch purchase for $10. It was fun. For one day. But, ultimately, we bought it more for us so that we could get that grand reaction from our kids – and then it just ended up in the garbage when it broke and didn’t hold their attention (not open-ended). Stay in tune with things that will actually serve your children beyond one day of pleasure.

For a list of my very favorite gift ideas for children, see this list of 40+ ideas for kids. All approved by my four kiddos!

Other Options

If you have been really serious about decluttering and don’t want to add to the chaos in your home (and if you already have enough toys), there are still other awesome things you can do.

  • Consider a big gift that will help them get their wiggles out and that won’t require any clean up (like a mini tramp or a trampoline for your yard!).
  • Gift them lessons for something they want to do (e.g. horseback riding, scubadiving, or painting).
  • Give consumables. Consumables are things that can be used up and that won’t forever take up storage space in your home. This could be a fun food that they normally get to eat, or craft supplies or projects that can be used up, or chalk or bubbles.
  • Replace outdated or broken items or clothing that they have loved. I love this one because I usually have a spot for the things that my kids love and when I replace it, I simply throw out the old and bring in the new without any impact on our home.
  • Add to a set that they already have. For example, if you have a kid who is way into legos, you may decide to get some new lego figurines. Or, if your child loves Magnatiles (that’s us!), they consider giving accessories to enhance their play. Adding to a set often doesn’t take up any more storage space (assuming it can fit in the same basket), and it can give them more ways to play with the toys that they have.

Intentional Mindset

As a parent, I understand that yearning that we have to give our kids the world. We want to make Christmas magical and memorable. I also know that I have never regretted going “small” with my kids on Christmas. If anything, I have felt sick when I have bought toys that my kids liked for a day and then never touched again. (What a waste!!!)

As we’ve really focused on their needs and development, our kids get things that keep them deep in play and help them learn and grow. They have been excited over the simplest things and we have had fun celebrating with fun family traditions together. We all know it, but that’s the heart of it all – remembering the birth of our Savior doesn’t require us to go into debt or overfill our home with stuff that won’t serve us.

If you want to do more shopping than you need for your family, turn your heart outward and see if your family can be someone’s secret Santa. There have been years we have benefited from the generosity of others, and it has been so fun to give back to others in our own little way. You can even get the kids in on it and have them each help pick out thoughtful (and developmentally appropriate toys) for a secret someone. That joy and delight will last in their memories far longer than any flashy robotic gift.

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