21 Useful Gifts That Won’t Add Clutter, Courtesy of the Afrominimalist

The very best gifts are ones with intention and care.

December  2, 2021

Simply Living is a new column by Christine Platt, aka the Afrominimalist. Each month, Christine shares her refreshing approach to living with less, with clever tips for decluttering, making eco-friendly swaps, and creating a more mindful living space that's all you.

Having spent the past five years on a journey to live with less, I've become more mindful of what I gift to my family and friends. I always like to challenge myself to be creative, innovative, sustainable, and thoughtful, and it's no different during the holidays.

One of my favorite ways to tick all the boxes when it comes to gifting is to ask loved ones how they want to be celebrated instead of buying something that I think they'll enjoy. Even if you’re big on the element of surprise, consider asking for a curated list of gifts or experiences that you can use as a guide. Not only will they be curious and anxious about what you chose, but they'll be touched by the thoughtfulness and intention behind it.

From presents that disappear for those with little space to finding ways to pay-it-forward with what you already have, there are endless ways to celebrate thoughtfully, sustainably, and responsibly. Here are 21 gift ideas that highlight my favorite ways to gift with intention and care.

Disappearing Gifts

You know what’s great about disappearing gifts? Rarely do they take up space and, if they do, not for long! Consider your loved one's interests, like nourishing bar soap and small-batch teas from BIPOC-owned businesses for the self-care enthusiast or a DIY candle kit for the crafter in your life.

Photo by Bevel

1. Bevel Exfoliating Bar Soap, $11.31+

Although the Black-owned company Bevel is best-known for men’s grooming products, its Exfoliating Bar Soap is a game-changing gift for all skin types. This disappearing gentle cleanser exfoliates with pumice and jojoba seed powder while softening skin with cocoa and shea butters.

Photo by The Wooden Wick Co.

2. The Wooden Wick Co. Warm Wishes Candle Kit, $45.95

Candles are a tried-and-true disappearing gift, especially ones with clean burning soy, ethically sourced ingredients, and natural fragrances. If they have a ton of candles already, don’t be afraid to consider creative alternatives. A DIY class or kit will not only educate them on the art of candle making, but it will also deepen their appreciation for the process. The Wooden Wick Co. has lots of DIY candle kits, plus video tutorials if they get stuck.

Photo by Atlas Coffee Club

3. Atlas Coffee Club Subscription, $9+

I'm giving some writer-friends a monthly coffee subscription box this year—and grabbing one for myself, too. Atlas allows you to select frequency as well as the amount of coffee received per shipment—it even has a quiz to help you determine your roast preference! Right now, during its extended Cyber Week deal, your first 12- or 6-ounce bag is free (regularly $14 and $9 respectively) while a double 12-ounce bag is just $13 (regularly $28). I’ve certainly paid close to those prices for a single latte in my past life!

Photo by Adjourn Teahouse

4. Adjourn Teahouse Home Sweet, $18

A few years ago, I tried all-natural, hand-blended, full leaf teas from small-batch teamaker, LaTonia Cokely of Adjourn Teahouse. Since then, Cokely and I have become dear friends and I’ve watched her dream grow from her kitchen to a full-fledged business. Anyone would be lucky to get a batch of Adjourn’s tea. Bonus: each blend comes in sustainable packaging!

Photo by baked by Melissa

5. baked by Melissa Cupcakes, $32+

I can’t take credit for this gift idea—my literary agent sent me two dozen of these tasty mini treats to help me reach the finish line as I was writing The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less.

Organizational Gifts

The pandemic has required us to shift our homes into more functional living spaces, so I take every opportunity to help loved ones organize their belongings with long-lasting, sustainable, or biodegradable pieces. Have a casual vent session to discover the areas that are in need of assistance with organizing and structure. They’ll be so surprised (and grateful) to receive gifts that will help them get things under control.

Photo by Sweet Digs

6. Consultation with a Professional

For that special someone who is ready to tackle their clutter but doesn’t know where to start, consider gifting a consultation with a decluttering or organizational specialist, like Pia Thompson of Sweet Digs. She’s a KonMari consultant and so, so amazing. Having a professional create a strategy for success will be a gift that lasts for years to come!

Photo by Ty Mecham

7. Uashmama Modular Snap & Separate Laundry Bags, $89-$178

These are great for laundry, storage, recycling, delegating toy clean up, and more. And I’m not alone in my love for these multifunctional bins—even Oprah loves them!

Photo by The Container Store

8. Charcoal Charger Accessory Pouch, $8.99

These charger accessory pouches are great gifts for anyone who has ever found themselves searching for cables or earbuds—which is all of us. And at around $9 each, you can even grab a matching set.

Photo by Ty Mecham

9. like-it Just Fit Storage Containers, $42-$98

These stackable and versatile containers come in four sizes (slim, wide, shallow, and deep) and have lids, label guides, and grips on the sides to hide organize all of the things.

Photo by Ty Mecham

10. The Organic Company All-Purpose Organic Bag (Set of 3), $25

These multifunctional bags have been a gamechanger for me. I have a set in my car for trips to the market (goodbye, disposable plastic produce bags!) and a set in the house to use for storage or traveling. With three sizes, they’ll find multiple uses for these drawstring cotton bags.

Practical & Sustainable Gifts

While they might not be the most fun or splashy, practical gifts with a sustainable bent are always appreciated—especially for those who have expressed concerns about wastefulness. I always welcome the challenge to find or even regift sustainable items that I know my loved ones will enjoy.

Photo by Nguyen Coffee Supply

11. Nguyen Coffee Supply 12 Oz. Phin Filter, $18

A beloved Vietnamese coffee brewing tool, this stainless steel phin filter will help them say goodbye to paper filters while still savoring a freshly brewed cup. Bonus: it can also be used to brew loose-leaf tea!

Photo by Amazon

12. CoffeeSock Reusable Filters, $13.97+

If they can’t give up their fave pour over, CoffeeSock’s organic fabric filters, which are made in Austin, Texas, are reusable for at least a year. It has several sizes and shapes to fit many pour over carafes, like Chemex and Hario.

Photo by The Sill

13. Snake Plant, $55

A snake plant is so easy to care for regardless of their green thumb status. They can survive in the darkest corners and without water for weeks—though we obviously don’t suggest that!

Photo by So Good General Store

14. So Good General Store Cleaning Concentrates Starter Kit, $98+

Founder Kameko Grant put her disdain for waste and social injustices to action when she established So Good General Store, one of my favorite places to shop for sustainable and zero-waste home goods. The Cleaning Concentrates Starter Kit is the perfect practical gift for anyone seeking to develop more responsible living practices.

Photo by Rocky Luten

15. USB Lighter Company Rechargeable Lighter, $32-$118

There are who-knows-how-many disposable lighters in landfills and the ocean, but there’ll be less with this rechargeable and endlessly reusable upgrade that provides up to 300 uses per charge. Bonus: it’s completely butane-free and has a handy safety function so young kids can’t hurt themselves.

Gifts for Kids

This can be tricky to navigate so set ground rules and expectations. Ask their parents or caregivers what gifts the kiddos hope to receive, and be intentional with gifts that they might love in the moment as well as things that’ll benefit them in the future.

Photo by Rocky Luten

16. Milton & Goose Wooden Play Food Toy Sets, $48-$58

Engraved and painted by artisans using nontoxic finishes, you’ll find yourself enjoying this wooden toy play set just as much as the lucky recipient. The neutral wooden tones are especially great for kids who think they've gotten too old for bright, colorful toys.

Photo by James Ransom

17. Books

Consider a gift card to your favorite local bookstore or ask the staff to help curate a few books around a certain theme. I love book bundles for babies or early readers because there are just so many books. Having a bundle curated by a specialist ensures a less overwhelming process.

Financial gifts

Photo by Bobbi Lin

I’ve become intentional about using holidays and birthdays as opportunities to give my loved ones' children a jumpstart on understanding and building wealth. From small acts like gifting a preteen their first wallet (with a little monetary surprise inside) to larger commitments like establishing or contributing to a 529 college savings plan, there are plenty of ways to spend your money on a gift that will last for more than a moment. When in doubt, consider speaking with a banking specialist or trusted financial advisor who can educate you on the best financial products and offerings.

17. Load up the University Card

The last thing the young adult in your life needs is more stuff that will take up space in their dorm room or apartment. Now that my daughter is a college freshman at Penn State, gift giving this year will be focused more on need than simple pleasures—like a few extra bucks on her LionCard. Most universities have a similar card system that students can use to pay for meals or books at the campus store. Get any details you'd need from a family member and surprise the future grad with a gift they’ll be immensely grateful for at checkout.

18. Gift Cards

Rarely will the recipient have any complaints a gift card. A Visa gift card is great because it allows the recipient to purchase anything from household goods to snacks, but consider some of their favorite stores as well, such as GameStop—especially if they're in need of a little fun after final exams!

Charitable Gifts

Photo by Heifer International

As I shared in The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less, one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was the donation of a cow to an African village in my honor through Heifer International. My colleague surprised me with one of the most memorable gifts, and ever since, charitable gifts have become one of my favorite ways to show my love, appreciation, and admiration.

19. Local & Mission-Driven Organizations

In addition to donating to your favorite organizations, consider checking out any holiday wish lists they might have. Family shelters might have a big need for diapers and feminine hygiene products while food pantries might need more perishable items like milk or eggs.

20. Get Creative

Some of the best charitable gift ideas are the ones you create. I was in awe after reading about a group of girlfriends who came up with a beautiful way to honor a domestic violence shelter in their community. After the friends learned that many of the women arrive with few to no personal belongings, they filled new, gently used, or rarely used handbags from their closet with items they hoped would bring a smile to the survivors’ faces like scarves, perfume, and toiletries. To say that these gifts were needed, used, and loved would be an understatement.

21. Buy Nothing Gifts

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Buy Nothing groups. Consider reaching out to your local group to share wish lists or have a holiday gift swap. Chances are pretty high that someone already has the thing you’re looking to gift!

What are your favorite ways to gift intentionally this year? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • M
Christine Platt

Written by: Christine Platt

Author of The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less


AntoniaJames December 2, 2021
Yes, Heifer International is great! For years, I "gave" flocks of chickens, ducks, etc. to my mother-in-law, who had everything anyone could ever need or want (and then some). She loved those gifts! She had never heard of Heifer nor of its mission, but was thrilled to contribute to a project to help others become more financially self-sufficient. I've given Heifer gifts to many friends and other family members as well, over the years. It's one of my favorite charitable donations decisions every December! ;o)
M December 2, 2021
The key is always to listen. If you listen to your giftee (or pay attention to their social media) throughout the year, you will know what makes them happy, what they're without, and what frustrates them. Nothing worse than getting a gift that ignores what the giver knows about you. (Like struggling with a lack of space and getting a special-occasion item.)

For kids, a good path forward is to add on to what they're getting. (If it's a tablet-cords, protective cases, etc, a doll-clothing and accessories...)
AntoniaJames December 2, 2021
That's good advice, M! Watching, too, is a good idea. The last time my younger son was at our older son's place (when I was there), I noticed my younger son admiring some cleverly designed air-tight coffee canisters I'd given to his brother for his birthday. (These - if you're interested. My older son calls them a "game-changer."). Guess what's on its way as a Christmas present for the younger son? I know for certain he'll be thrilled.
M December 3, 2021
Perfect gift giving! I've never known a person and not got an idea of something they'd like or appreciate as a gift. Just takes a little awareness, and maybe a little conversation.