8 Fun Gifts That Don't Add to Clutter (+ Giveaway!)

Coming back to America at the beginning of holiday season has reminded me how much Americans love to give gifts. We are a generous and celebratory culture, which I love! Unfortunately, holiday season often contributes to something else I don't love so much - clutter.

I've had a few conversations with our family about what to expect during the yearly Christmas gift exchange. And one thing I've heard myself saying repeatedly is - please give us experiences, not just stuff.

My husband and I value living simply and freely - and part of that is not having more material possessions than we need. We value memories over materialism and people over possessions. And that means finding creative ways to avoid the consumerism that permeates the culture that demands "More stuff!" and instead enriches our lives with memories and skills.

So for Christmas, I've come up with a list of gifts that are not the traditional ones you'd find wrapped up under the tree. But they are gifts that the receiver will continue enjoying all year long, and ones you might be able to enjoy with your loved one, too.

If you're local, there's also links to places in Kansas City that offer exactly what I'm talking about. (Mom, if you're reading, here are some big hints!)

And read all the way to the end for a fun giveaway to help you tackle your gift list!

A funny sign from a zoo in Thailand

A funny sign from a zoo in Thailand

1. A year-long family membership to your local zoo

Visiting the zoo with your family can be so expensive for a one-time experience! But an annual membership means you'll get to visit it more frequently, without trying to cram every single site into one day. Because really, how many animals can a two-year-old look at it - especially when walking all over the park? And a membership gives you all sorts of extra perks too, like member-only events and discounts at zoo restaurants and shops. A one-year family membership to the Kansas City Zoo starts out at only $100.

2. A culinary experience

Andrew learning to cook Cambodian food in 2011

Andrew learning to cook Cambodian food in 2011

Maybe it's classes on Italian cuisine, wine tasting, or cupcake baking - but giving a culinary experience is something you can benefit from, especially if you live in the same household! I have always loved cooking and drinking wine and eating cupcakes (wow, sounds like quite the life I have!), but knowing how to do all those things with skill and expertise is something I cannot claim. 

The Culinary Center of Kansas City offers classes ranging from one-time events to a nine-week series covering cooking fundamentals for the serious home chef. You can learn wine tasting basics and when to pay $10 or $100 for a bottle at a Cellar Rat class and find out what "cupping" means in the coffee industry at local roasters Parisi Artisan Coffee.

3. A money-saving annual membership

My husband's family are die-hard Costco fans. And although I don't want to shop there on a regular basis (the crowds, the mass quantities, consumeristic everything conspires to throw me into a panic attack), I do love some of their foods. We have definitely taken advantage of their membership cards to purchase large household items and big bags of dried cranberries.

Amazon Prime is another fantastic gift, especially for someone who is a complete book nerd, TV show fanatic, natural food lover living in a small town...basically, for anyone who loves shopping. A membership comes with enormous benefits like free access to e-books, movies, and music, as well as 2-day shipping and special deals.

ePantry is a new online subscription service that offers natural cleaning and body care items shipped to your house regularly at low prices. They carry brands like Seventh Generation, Method and Mrs. Meyers. I recently got an amazing goodie basket from them with soaps and candles to freshen up the house when we finally move in! You can gift a month's worth of goodies at a discount price, without having to commit to continuing the subscription (you can cancel at any time).

Andrew and I creating art during our trip to Krabi, Thailand last year

Andrew and I creating art during our trip to Krabi, Thailand last year

4. An art class with the grandparents

My mother-in-law is an artist at heart, and one idea I think would be a great gift is to send her and Declan to an art class together. They can have quality time doing something she loves and building great memories together. (and maybe I'll have some mommy time to myself? Definitely a win-win-win situation!) Kansas City's local art museum, the Nelson-Atkins, offers classes for adult-child pairs that would be so much fun!

5. A year-long gym membership

You might be cautious who you give this to. But if your friend loves the local gym (like our favorite, theGYMkc *hint hint*), why not pick up the tab for her for six months or a year? It's something she'll use anyway, and you bet she'll appreciate it!

Beautiful Kauffman Stadium in KC

Beautiful Kauffman Stadium in KC

6. Season tickets to the baseball field

This is probably out of a lot of people's price range. But maybe you could buy tickets to the first game of the season. Or (like I did for Andrew one year on his birthday) buy tickets for seats right behind first plate. My tickets were $75 each, and my husband still talks about that game!

7. A Plan to Eat membership

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

I started using Plan to Eat while in Cambodia, and for new moms, it is a lifesaver. If you're into meal planning, you have to try it out. Plan to Eat helps you organize your recipes online, create meal plans using a drag-and-drop function, then generates shopping lists that even categorizes itself by store. 

It has saved me so much time from pulling out actual cookbooks, flipping pages, and making messy lists that I can hardly decipher by the time I get to the store. It's a great gift for either the die-hard planner nerd (moi) or someone who just wants to get their lives a bit more organized.

And until December 1, their annual memberships are 50% off - you can get a fantastic meal planning service for an entire year for less than $20!

8. The Influence Network

If you are shopping for a blogger/creative/small-business-owner lady who loves Jesus, you should definitely look into getting her a membership to the Influence Network. She will find endless inspiration and connections that will help her pursue her calling and make her online life mean something. I know you've heard me talk about it before and don't need too much more encouragement!

So those are 8 ideas to help you find a gift for someone you love that enriches their life instead of adding to the clutter! What ideas do you have to share? What are some memorable Christmas presents that built memories instead of materialism?

And don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter box below for your chance to win a free gift card!

And…because I love you, I have teamed up with some blogging friends  to help one of you out with some cash to spend on Christmas gifts this year! Gretchen from Life Lived Beautifully is also giving away one of her new Romans studies! Here’s how to enter:

Note: Affiliate links used. See full disclosure here.