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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Paper Doll's (Mostly) Clutter-Free Holiday Gift List

It shouldn't be surprising that as a professional organizer, I usually encourage people to give gifts of experiences.  In my holiday-themed ebook, Simplify the Season & Save Your Sanity, I nudge readers to acquire gifts that don't need to be dry-cleaned, dusted, stored or maintained.  There are oodles of gift categories, things that keep on giving and are appreciated and remembered long after the excess wrapping paper has been recycled.  For example:

Education—What could do a better job of showing you've actually been listening to your loved one all along than pre-paying for lessons in whatever he or she has always wanted to learn, know or do? Studying cooking, music and self-defense are intellectual as well as physical pursuits that allow your recipient to share the knowledge and experience with others.  If you haven't been paying attention, create a gift certificate (in your price range) that promises to pay for real-world or online classes in whatever they pick:  a foreign language, ballroom dance, quilting, horseback riding, driver's education, scrapbooking or whatever else delights. 

Entertainment—The options are boundless, from individual tickets to sporting events, concerts or comedy clubs to a full season at the symphony, or a lecture or theater series.  Check out local community theaters, universities, and even high school schedules for offbeat music and entertainment offerings.  This way, their memories will live on long after the holidays.

Practicality—Not everyone wants something shiny and new; sometimes, a gift can make everyday life easier and less expensive.  Drivers might love gift certificates for oil changes, car washes or detailing, or annual auto club memberships.  For college students or others on a fixed income, multiple months of internet, cable/satellite, movie services (like Netflix) or cellular service are practical, but also mean they can spend their money spontaneously on something fun.

Pampering—Bust their stress with gift certificates for haircuts and styling, spa facials, or a massage.  Got guys on your list?  Many day spas have special packages for athletes and sportsmen, and you just know those are gifts they'd be unlikely to purchase for themselves.  Have a pal struggling to quit smoking or lose weight? How about pre-paid sessions with a hypnotherapist or acupuncturist? For a more lavish gift, consider 3-month gym memberships, time with a fitness trainer or a night at a cozy bed & breakfast?

Tasty Treats—No clutter here (except on our bodies, in which case, reread the previous section on hiring a fitness trainer).  There are any number of food-of-the month clubs, and some amazing fruit, vegetable, meat, and dessert delivery.  Some of Paper Doll's favorites include Harry & David, Cushman's, Vermont Shortbread Company and oh-my-gosh Zingerman's.  Yum!

Sports Adventure—The thrill-lovers on your list might get giddy over gifts of hot-air ballooning or hang gliding.  Wouldn't your huge NASCAR fan love a ride-along at the Richard Petty Driving Experience?  There are price points for every level of adventurer: pre-paid time in the batting cages might be just as exciting for some people as a week of baseball fantasy camp; a fulfilled promise to go camping with your kid might be a much bigger deal than a month at a fancy summer camp.
A Whole New Year—Secure a state (or multiple state) fishing license, a U.S. National Parks annual pass or year of college alumni or professional association dues.  Gifts of memberships at local attractions like zoos, art galleries, science museums and historical societies may even be reciprocated when your recipients travel nationwide.  Even if a company doesn't have a formal full-year subscription, ask if they'll create something for your budget.

Organization—All of the above gifts are intangibles or at least only briefly-tangibles, in the case of the foodstuffs.  But the ironic thing about organizing is that most gifts of organization require something tangible, taking up space.  (One exception?  A gift certificate to work with a professional organizer.  Check out the National Association of Professional Organizers or www.OnlineOrganizing.com's referral services to get you started.)

There are other great organizational gifts that are tangible, but if properly used, help eliminate clutter.  For example, when we talked about identity theft, we discussed the importance of having a shredder.  But if your loved one already has a shredder (or wouldn't consider one to be an acceptable holiday present), how about adding a stocking stuffer like stainless steel shredding scissors?

Fireproof safes, tickler files and label makers are also great clutter-reducing gifts.  They are tangible, but these practical gift ideas help reduce paper clutter, protect financial identities and in the case of label makers, are just downright nifty to use.  I prefer tiny ones, but my colleague Brandie Kajino just put up a cool video review of the Dymo LabelWriter Twin Turbo, which is even able to print postage.

I hear you saying, "But what about organizing books, Paper Doll?"  With so many great titles out there (just look at all the paper organizing books www.OnlineOrganizing.com carries!), it would be hard to pick only a few (and impossible not to mention my own Tickle Yourself Organized).  Instead, Paper Doll will start adding book reviews to the blog in 2009 to cover all the decluttering books out there.  So instead, I'd just like to mention two organizing-related books that would make great and useful gifts this season:

First, I'd consider The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuffby Julie Hall, a professional estate contents expert and certified property appraiser.  I have to admit, I'm always a little wary of organizing-related books written by other than professional organizers, but I can strongly recommend Hall's practical style of dealing with downsizing elderly parents' belongings. 

Hall focuses on the serious issues, like how to watch for the onset of mental and physical health-related obstacles, but she also has a humorous and no-nonsense approach.  For example, in her chapter "The Hearse Doesn't Have a Trailer Hitch", she notes that clients sometimes talk about items passed down from a distant relative in 1837.  Hall says "As an appraiser, this is the part where I have to say that they had junk in 1837, too.  Just because it is old, does not mean it is valuable."  This is a wonderful book to share with your sandwich generation friends, the same ones you told about my September post on "nana technology".

Bob Sullivan's Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About Itis another winner in my book.  Organizing is all about doing things better--saving time, saving money, reducing stress and being more productive.  Well, we've all been paying hidden fees for just about everything:  credit card companies and banks, cell phone, internet and long distance services, groceries and gift cards, student loans and insurance!  You can be sure those hidden fees aren't just wasting our money, but also our time and productivity, and that sure stresses Paper Doll!

Sullivan doesn't merely scare or depress with the facts; he provides a toolkit of scripts and sample letters to help you get refunds, negotiate lower interest rates, remove fees, and stop a sales pitch in its tracks.  Every grown-up on your list, but especially graduating students and newly out-of-the-nest young adults, would be lucky to get this as a gift.

Finally, in case you're wondering what Paper Doll would like for Hanukkah this year, my tastes haven't changed much throughout 2008.  I probably don't need the calorie clutter of my beloved Reese's Peanut Butter cups, but if anyone has a direct line to seemingly-streamlined George Clooney , I'd gladly accept (no matter how much secret clutter he may have).

posted on: 12/16/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Ann Zuccardy on 12/17/2008 10:14:38 AM:

Hello Julie, Thank you so much for mentioning Vermont Shortbread here. I have a Google alert set for Vermont Shortbread and this popped up yesterday. Happy holidays to you. Any snow down your way? Want some? Ann

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 12/17/2008 10:30:48 AM:

You're welcome, Ann. Your shortbread is delicious, and in moderation (ha!) won't lead to too much clutter on the hips. Crumbs may cause clutter, but since I write mainly about paper, I think you're safe. No snow--it's rainy and 59. Stay in your warm Vermont Shortbread kitchen!

by Brandie, The Home Office Organizer on 1/4/2009 10:06:44 PM:

Thanks for the mention, and glad you liked the review. It's a great little device! :)

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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