How to Give Your Kids Holiday Gifts Without Adding More Clutter to Your Home

Toys, toys, and more toys. Remember when people had to go to a special place called a “toy store” to buy them?


Now, toys are everywhere — at grocery stores, gas stations, hair salons, and clothing stores…and they’re all strategically placed at our kids’ eye level. People no longer wait for special occasions like birthdays or holidays to give presents, either. My kids gets toys as party favors, rewards for good behavior at school, and from family “just because.”


Most parents I talk to feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in their homes. They get into arguments and power struggles with their kids about cleaning up their messy rooms. They wonder why their kids are bored when they have so many things to keep them occupied. The reason?


Too Much Stuff.



Too Much Stuff leads to too many choices, sensory overload, and overwhelm. Where there is Too Much Stuff, nothing is truly valued. Attention spans are shorter, anxiety and boredom are greater, and there’s a need to fill every void with – you guessed it – more stuff.


By reducing physical and mental clutter, kids are better able to focus their attention on the things they value most. The initial boredom they might express can eventually inspire creativity and resourcefulness.


With the holidays in full swing, how can you limit the amount of clutter that enters your home? Here are a few ideas:


Experiences, not things.

Ten years from now, my kids are probably more likely to remember that special trip we took to Atlanta to visit their Aunt Stephanie than the latest and greatest FurReal Friend. Experiences often make awesome gifts. Here are my favorites:

1) Family trips. The holidays are a perfect time to go somewhere together as a family. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy vacation…you could go camping, visit relatives, or even take a day trip. Just the act of going somewhere different as a family can be exciting, bring people closer together, and create lasting memories.

2) Tickets to live shows and events. There are lots of live performances to choose from right now…The Nutcracker, the Circus, puppet shows, Disney LIVE …just Google “live shows for kids near…” and your zip code or city, to find out what shows are coming your way. You could also go to a sporting event for your child’s favorite team or check out the Harlem Globetrotters. Tickets to shows can be as low as $15 and kids under 3 can sometimes sit on your lap at no charge. The excitement leading up to the event can even be as exciting as the show itself!

3) Extra-curricular Activities. When I turned 13, my Dad gave me six horseback riding lessons as a gift. It was completely unexpected and turned out to be a great bonding time for us each week. In 2013, Dalia begged for ballet lessons, and they made the perfect Chanukah gift for her that year.


Other ideas

1) One big gift instead of many little gifts. Think big-ticket items like bikes, outdoor playsets, or electronics.

2) Redecorate. Older kids and teenagers may want to redecorate their rooms and choose the colors, bedding, and decor. You can even add some furniture or accessories to help organize their existing clutter!

3) Coupons.  Make coupons for experiences or privileges such as “Good for one trip to the ice cream store” or “Good for one week of no chores.” The possibilities here are endless.


Getting extended family on the same page.

Forward this post to your family and let them know why you want to limit the amount of clutter brought into the house this holiday season. Give them some ideas of gifts that would be appreciated. But be prepared: some relatives will respect your requests and some won’t. Ultimately, you can’t control what they do, so make your wishes known and then let it go. Less drama, remember?


Show your gratitude for whichever way they choose to express their love, even if it’s different from yours, and let your children enjoy their gifts. Later, you can teach your kids about giving to those in need by donating toys, books, and clothes.


Is clutter an issue in your house?  How do you keep it under control?  Do you have other tips for clutter-free gifts to share?  Please leave a comment below and let us know!


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See you next week!

Showing 12 comments
  • Elizabeth Pfeiffer

    This was huge at my house when my kids were little. Half the items were brand new but they didn’t play with them because there were too many other things.

    We used to hide some of them for a couple of months and them switch out the toys… the kids thought they were new and got some play out of them.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • Pam Howard

      Elizabeth — my 7-year-old recently snooped around in my closet and found a bunch of her old stuffed animals. She hadn’t even remembered that they existed, but was very excited to be reunited with them. Thanks for commenting!

  • Theressa

    Oh I love “experiences over things”! I’ve been bleating on to the Mr of the house about this very thing. Experiences create memories + life skills that broaden the minds + essentially the lives of our kids. I’m with you on this! Thank you x

    • Pam Howard

      My pleasure, Theressa. Forward to the Mr:)

  • April

    GREAT Ideas here! Thank you so much for sharing!!! 🙂

    • Pam Howard

      You’re welcome, April. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

  • Ami

    I love the ideas! We are going to Disney to celebrate my Twins Birthday instead of a party and all of the presents.

    The idea that Beth posted above is great we are going to do that this year, everyone gets a bag!

    • Pam Howard

      Ami – I hear Oprah’s voice saying, “YOU get a bag! And YOU get a bag!” Have a fun trip to Disney…what an amazing gift!

  • Beth

    Our tradition, started when our kids were little, and continued even though the oldest is in college is this: on the first night of Chanukah we give each child a shopping bag. They need to put at least 8 items (one for each night of Chanukah) that they no longer use/wear/read, preferably more, into the bag–ideally they fill the bag. The first night we light the Menorah and those bags of outgrown toys and clothes go to Neighbor-to-Neighbor, a local help center. They give on that night, but don’t get. The kids get presents on the other nights, but it’s not all “things.” One night is book night, which may be an amazon certificate for something to read on their kindles, itunes night so they can get some music, outing night, which is a coupon for time with Mom/Dad. We try to de-clutter throughout the year, but the holidays are a great time to do some more and in a way that helps our kids appreciate all that they have when others are less fortunate and to do a little something to help other folks.

    • Pam Howard

      I LOVE THIS! What a wonderful and meaningful tradition to pass down to your kids. Thank you so much for sharing!

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