Am I the only person who thinks holiday gift giving has gotten out of control? It’s bad enough when stores force employees to work on Thanksgiving Day, but when customers risk their lives in pursuit of this year’s “hottest gifts” and get trampled to death even before entering the store, you’ve got to ask yourself, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Think about it, if you don’t shop, you won’t be adding more clutter to your already cluttered home.

Let this be the year we forego the lure of Black Friday sales choosing instead to spend time with friends and family. Let this be the year of more experiences and less “stuff.” Let this be the year of paying off credit card debt rather than adding to it. Let this be the year of less clutter and NO RETURNS!

The fine art of re-gifting:

As a professional organizer, I have no issue with re-gifting, especially if the gift doesn’t fit your lifestyle, décor and/or needs, but when re-gifting, take heed not to re-gift the giver. To avoid making this mistake, mark the gift in question with a Post-it Note clearly identifying who gave it to you and when. Another re-gifting hint is to try matching the item you don’t like with someone who will actually take joy in the gift.

Don’t reuse gift boxes/bags from name-brand stores for your gifts and most importantly, and if at all possible, it’s okay to let the person know the gift is a re-gift so you won’t be embarrassed should he/she attempt to return the item.

From the heart:

There’s nothing better than getting a present, but maybe it’s time we rethink the meaning of “giving” and do something extraordinary? Sometimes the handmade, homemade or re-gifted gifts mean the most. Remember, it really is “the thought that counts.”

A few years ago, a friend came for dinner bearing a huge bowl of Meyer lemons and grapefruits; the card read: “Edible, perishable, what will it be? Lemons & grapefruits fresh off the tree! I hope these gifts will please thee.” The. Best. Gift. Ever.

Think about it, do any of us really need one more trinket to clutter our lives? My favorite gifts – to give and/or receive – are perishable. There’s nothing better than fresh fruit off the tree, an extra special bottle of wine or a spectacular bottle of olive oil.

The White Elephant:

I love a party! In fact, as I write today’s column (in early September mind you), I’m looking at the calendar trying to figure out what day to host my annual “White Elephant” holiday gift party.

Unlike a traditional gift exchange where guests purchase new items to give away, a White Elephant Party (aka: Yankee Swap) is the perfect venue for getting rid of those dreaded “what-were-they-thinking” gifts, which everyone seems to get stuck with.

Besides bringing a truly atrocious “gift” to the party, each of my guests arrives with a home cooked appetizer or dessert, a bottle of wine and a $20 gift card to be donated to a different local charity every year.

To plan a swap, simply enter “White Elephant” in your Browser’s search engine and let the fun begin.

Experiences, not stuff:

We desperately need to minimize our personal attachment to material “things” and in doing so, teach others to do the same. Think outside the box and share an experience with your children, friends, parents and siblings, spouse and/or significant other they will never forget.

Be it a round-trip ticket to fly home to see friends and family or a day with your kids sailing, horseback riding or camping, there is nothing better than sharing experiences, which will enrich our lives by giving us memories that will ultimately become a part of who we are.

The giving tree:

The holidays should be a time of giving. Most residential communities, as well as local businesses set-up “giving trees” where people can drop-off brand new and unwrapped gifts for those less fortunate. Some giving-trees include hangtags listing specific “wishes.”

One year, a client called on Christmas Eve to tell me how she and her four children had decorated the giving-tree at the local Starbucks with a dozen restaurant gift cards. This simple, yet meaningful, act of kindness is what memories are made of and will serve to strengthen the lives of her children and her children’s’ children for many generations to come.