Last Minute Gift Ideas

Christmas list gift

The holidays are getting closer and closer, yet you still have no clue what to give to your loved ones? Lighten your load with these low-stress gift ideas and strategies from Josie Ortega.

The Burden Of Giving A Gift

Friends, I have been a gift-giving failure more times than I’d like to admit.

As a non-expert, with less than a week until Christmas, I want to offer a few ideas that might relieve the pressure you’re feeling to find THE perfect present for EVERYONE on your list.

This post is only for those of you who haven’t thoughtfully selected gifts, based on a profound understanding of your loved ones’ hopes and deepest desires. Perhaps you’ve been an excellent listener throughout the year, making notes when family members and friends casually mention interests or items they’d like.

I had a document like that once . . . it still exists, somewhere in the cloud.

gift ideas antique typewriter

Gift-Giving Fails

My husband and I both love history. I enjoy browsing antique shops and my husband once mentioned WITH CLARITY that he’d love an antique typewriter. I captured that information in my Gift Ideas document.

When an old typewriter came up for grabs in my local Buy Nothing group, it triggered my memory. I confirmed my notes, and I foolishly took my kids with me to pick up the ancient typewriter from a very nice stranger’s porch. IT WAS SO HEAVY and probably caused irreparable damage to my sturdy off-road jogging stroller. (I never run with the stroller, and I never take it off-road, so at least it could haul an antique typewriter.)

Worth it, right? I was so proud of my organizational skills and my wifely thoughtfulness. And then: My husband did not remember his specific, expressed desire for an antique typewriter, and he just thought I was a weirdo.

That gives you some context for my gifting philosophy and the baggage I’m carrying. (The typewriter still resides in his office today.)

sister brunch gift ideas

Easy Gift Ideas

You win some, you lose some. Let’s try to keep it simple and joyful:

  • You don’t have to give gifts. Last year my friend Laura and her sisters decided to enjoy brunch together on December 26 and call it their gift to one another. They didn’t feel bad paying for a nicer meal, and they enjoyed quality time together.
  • Some structure to limit kids’ gifts: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” Or simply cap it at three gifts, because that’s what the wisemen brought.
  • 12 Days of Christmas. The Christmas season on the church calendar lasts through Epiphany on January 6. Embrace that and don’t feel bad for sending or delivering gifts during that time. They’re not late! It’s on purpose! (Also: post-Christmas sales.)

Gifts From One-Stop Shops

Take a page from my brother Will’s book, who with curmudgeonly charm used to pull out a cardboard box on Christmas morning, full of books from Oxford Mississippi’s famous Square Books. Not wrapped. Not necessarily for a particular recipient. He’d describe them to us, make recommendations about who might like what, and we could each choose a book or two.

gift ideas books
  • Local one-stop shops. I love that Will’s approach embodied efficiency and minimal effort, yet it still conveyed care and thoughtfulness. If you haven’t carefully considered your recipients’ desires, it still feels thoughtful to give them something that means something to you. Something you love completely. The go-to item I never want to live without: coffee beans from Alexandria, VA’s own Swing’s Coffee Roasters.
  • Our local cheese shop (and I pray that you may have one also) has a bevy of consumable gifts, as well as cute knives and accoutrements, and charcoal crackers that make perfect stocking stuffers. (Get it?? Naughty = charcoal.)
  • Dock some points for not being local, but you can complete your entire shopping list at Whole Foods, which carries everything from stinky cheese to large stuffed giraffes. At the checkout I was so tempted by John Denver and The Muppets Christmas Album.
  • To top Whole Foods, and to even out this map, you can find amazing gifts on your drive home at any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. If you’re not familiar: it’s half restaurant, half store, ALL COUNTRY. I noticed the scope of gift options on our Thanksgiving drive, including, but certainly not limited to:
    • fireman rain boots for children
    • John Deere trucker hat for toddlers
    • toy kitchen
    • audio books
    • buckeyes
    • nostalgic candy
    • on-trend Aztec shawls (at least on-trend within the last five years; I’d definitely wear it)
    • a decorative wrench that reads “Can’t Fix Stupid.”
Cracker Barrel gift ideas
Editorial credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

More Gift Ideas

You also could just wrap up items from around your house, like Great Aunt Bethany in Christmas Vacation. Kind of a hoarder prevention thing. You don’t have to call it death cleaning, like they do in Sweden, but it’s worth considering.

Keep it light-hearted and you’ll be headed in the right direction. (Remember: people are more important than things. When in doubt: skip the shopping and schedule a lunch date!)

Good luck and Godspeed with your holiday shopping. May the discounts be with you.

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