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gifts of experience

Top 10 waste-free gift ideas create more memories

Top 10 waste-free gift ideas create more memories

The holidays provide moments for meaningful gift ideas that show love and appreciation for those in your life - and ways to create more memories instead of more stuff.

Alicia Polacok from Resourceful PDX partner, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, shared examples from this Top 10 Waste-Free Gifts on the KATU Afternoon Live TV show. She also told viewers about the Portland Winter Curbsider, in mailboxes now and full of more good ideas and holiday related information. 



1. Classes or lessons

2. Activities or adventures together

3. Virtual downloads (music, movies, games)


4. Memberships or tickets

5. Get-away experiences (babysitter, restaurant, hotel)


6. Service-oriented businesses (house cleaning, organizer)

7.  Gift cards for pampering (massage, nails)

8. Your time! (helping with home project or teaching a skill)

9. Local handmade gifts (crafts, food, drinks)

10. Vintage or secondhand finds

Find more ideas to create memories in your life in our resourceful #holiday series. 

Need even more ideas? The Center for a New American Dream has you covered. Check out the many ways to Simplify the Holidays with the More Fun Less Stuff Catalog and this year’s calendar to get six weeks of daily inspirations and practical tips for simplifying your holiday season.

Alternative gift ideas for kids bring more joy (and less stuff!)

Alternative gift ideas for kids bring more joy (and less stuff!)

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a gift that fits just right, especially for kids, check out these fresh ideas for something that’s one-of-a-kind and maybe even enjoy it together this holiday season!

Families with kids may like a membership to the zoo, OMSI, children’s museum, or tickets to a play, movie or a sports event. While experience gifts can be a tough sell to little kids, you can help make it fun in the moment too.

Try creating a countdown calendar and mark off the days until they get to go to the event or destination. Or print out photos from similar past experiences, and wrap them up, to help them imagine the experience and create excitement.

Inviting friends can make it even more fun, if that’s an option for the type of experience you’re giving. And helping kids choose experience gifts for others can also help them appreciate this kind of gift giving. Starting this tradition with them now can create memories that will last long beyond the holiday season.

Here are some more non-toy gift ideas for kids (borrowed from Nourishing Minimalism's Non-Toy Gift Guide):

  • Classes: Music, dance, riding, drawing – classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
  • Activities: Mini golf, bowling, skating rink. These are so much fun! And a big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives; they want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
  • Recipe and ingredients: Cooking brings people together. Baking something special or cooking dinner is an ideal time to spend together and learn life skills. Print out a recipe, purchase all the ingredients and set a date for cooking together. Bonus: PDX Parent has a profile of Portland chefs cooking with their kids – recipes included!
  • Arts and crafts supplies: If your craft box is running low, stock up a little on things you need. Add in something fun the kids haven't used before. A gift of arts and crafts supplies often brings on the imagination, and kids can't wait to get to work. Bonus: Set up a crafting date, take time out of your own schedule and make crafts together! Keep a basket of craft supplies and get out a book for inspiration.
  • Coupons: An envelope of coupons that they can "spend" at any time: I'll do one chore -- no questions asked; movie and popcorn night, you pick the movie!; 1:1 game of cards or basketball (whatever the child's interest is in); sit and read a book with me; stay up 1/2 hour past bedtime.
  • Restaurant gift card: Dinner, ice cream, coffee, cupcake – whatever suits their fancy! Give them the freedom of inviting whomever they wish: it may be mom or dad; it may be a grandparent, aunt or even teacher they would like to spend more time with.
  • Dress-up clothes: Gently used clothing offers hours of play.
  • Books: Get books from the library or pick up a used copy at one of Portland’s many bookstores. Be sure to pass the books on when you are done, so they don't clutter up your home.

Photo credit: Oregon Zoo

Find gift ideas for other hard-to-buy-for people in your life in our resourceful holiday series. #holiday

Give busy parents a “time out” this holiday season

Give busy parents a “time out” this holiday season

Annette’s choice to start new traditions is a win-win for her and her family and offers inspiring gift ideas for the parents or busy couples on your gift list.  

“Once my kids got married, I started giving them overnight stays at local Portland hotels as Christmas presents. I also give them a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant. They always look forward to seeing where they are going, and I feel good about supporting local businesses. It really isn’t any more expensive than buying a bunch of stuff, provides lasting memories for them, and is quick and easy for me to buy this way.”

When Annette’s daughter and son-in-law started a family of their own, free time became even more precious. To provide them with a break, Annette not only gives gift certificates to a hotel and restaurant, but tops off the special evening out by babysitting the two boys, ages 7 and 4, allowing quality time with her grand kids.

“My daughter is a stay-at-home mom, so these weekend getaways mean a lot to her. Her husband works long hours and travels frequently, so this down time is great for them, and for me because I get time with my grandsons. They look forward to time with their ‘Nana,’ which includes eating candy, beating me at video games and staying up past their bedtime.  It’s a win-win for everybody!”

Annette’s son and his wife are young, busy professionals. They have to pencil time into their calendars to spend time together, so they also benefit from this time away together. With the hotel gift idea, they can call and reserve whatever date they want that fits their busy schedule, for any occasion.

Offering any part of this getting-away experience could be a valuable gift to time-crunched family. Perhaps consider offering to babysit the kids while parents take themselves out for dinner, or buy movie tickets to kick off an evening out for friends.

Deals are available for local restaurants, hotels and businesses. Visit Travel Portland to gather some gift ideas, drop hints for your own local wish list, or find coupons for many local restaurants in Chinook Book.

Find gift ideas for other hard-to-buy-for people in your life in our resourceful holiday series. #holiday

Six tips to simplify your holiday season

Six tips to simplify your holiday season

Casey Hazlett of Sustainably Organized shares six tips for simplifying the holiday season ahead.

Most of us want the holidays to be about spending more time with friends and family, and not about spending more time shopping at the mall or online. Start the holiday season by reflecting on what you want more of, and plan your time around those goals or values, to have a calmer and more joyful season. 

1. Start with your values

Write down a few words or draw a picture that represents your values (especially what you value during the holidays). Consider involving others in the family to help. Some of my values include having relaxed time with family and keeping long-standing family traditions going (like going to cut down a tree).

Simplify the Holidays, a program of The Center for a New American Dream, includes a calendar to help focus on what matters most during this time of year. You get six weeks of daily inspirations and practical tips for simplifying your holiday season. They also offer a booklet, coupon ideas and other resources to connect more with each other. Need more inspiration? Watch their video!

2. Make your to-do lists

Make a list of all the events or projects you want – or feel you need – to do this holiday season. Consider making separate lists for each holiday. Don’t forget to include what you’ll need to do for preparation, during the actual project or event and clean-up.

For example, the activity “Christmas Dinner” may include sending out invitations, choosing recipes, buying food, preparing food, decorating, cleaning up and putting away dishes and decorations.

3. Revisit your values

After you have your list of activities, revisit your key values to make sure your activities align with them. Consider filtering out activities that don’t match up with your key values, or adding activities focused on downtime, relaxation and fun.

4. Assign your time

Once you have your activity list, assign the amount of time you think each activity will consume. Be realistic when assigning time to each activity and add some extra time. If you’re not sure, give it your best guess – it doesn’t have to be perfect. The important part is realizing that everything takes time to complete.

5. Create your calendar and revisit it regularly

Schedule your list of activities on your calendar. Scheduling your activities ensures you are creating space to get them done. As we all know, things will change and you might need to add, remove or change activities. By allowing for some buffer, you’ll have space to be flexible as things change.

6. Delegate

Consider which activities you can delegate. Have a teenager in your life (son, daughter, niece, nephew or neighbor) who loves to wrap? Let him or her take on some of the present wrapping. It gives others a chance to contribute and feel involved with the festivities and play to their strengths. It also allows us to share some gratitude with those that make these holidays worth enjoying.

Find gift ideas for other hard-to-buy-for people in your life in our resourceful holiday series. #holiday