Please don't think I'm a Grinch.

But the Swedish Death Cleaning challenge is giving me pause to think about stuff ... and how much of it we give to others for the holidays.

As much as we all want to wrap something up and give a big present to open on Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve, if you were one of the lucky families with that tradition), my question is: Do we really need it?

Do we need another plastic toy that's going to break? Do we need another T-shirt? I'm trying to get rid of stuff, so why would I want more?

I finally understand why my parents were so excited for the Christmas after we bought our house. They gave us a ton of garden tools, a wheelbarrow, a rake, a shovel, all these things we actually needed because we had a yard where we could use them.

It's wonderful to give gifts that the recipient finds useful — we loved these gifts — but there are certain points in our lives when we need to stop acquiring stuff because we don't really need more.

I started thinking about this when a longtime friend became a traveling nurse. I couldn't buy her things for her house anymore because, well, she didn't have a house.

Anything I gave her that she couldn't experience or consume became one more thing to pack up and put in storage at her parents' house, her new home base.

Gift cards became a good idea, as I knew at each new assignment she would need to set up her new apartment and could always use that gift for the basics. I know it's not a sexy gift, but it's useful and appreciated.

As I persevere with the de-cluttering of our house, I've realized I've become one of those people I find frustrating, the ones who cannot answer a simple question about what they'd like for a gift.

"Oh, nothing." "I can't really think of anything." "I don't really NEED anything."

These are the answers none of us want to hear. But I assure you most people would appreciate some of the ideas I've come up with for dealing with annoying people such as myself. They mostly involve giving experiences, not things.

■ Socks — Yes, I know it's something you wear, you don't experience it and maybe you don't exactly "need" more, but hear me out.

Socks are something we will always use. And as a child, getting them for Christmas wasn't the most exciting thing, but I've found my appreciation of socks has increased with age, especially if they're good ones that will last.

■ Movie tickets — If you're the kind of person who likes to go out, movie tickets are a fantastic gift. The recipients can just use the voucher or gift card to see whatever flick they like, and usually can find a good movie they want to see before the awards season.

■ Restaurant gift certificates — This one is a little tricky. You don't want to give a vegetarian a gift certificate to a barbecue restaurant with only iceberg lettuce salad and corn muffins as their choices for a meal.

But it's not hard to figure out where people eat and give them an appropriate gift card, or check out an online menu for a new place and know they have a good selection of entrees to experience.

■ Downtown gift certificate — Did you know you can buy a gift certificate to spend anywhere downtown? More than 100 downtown businesses will accept them, including retail stores, restaurants, salons and coffee shops. Go to for information.

■ Self-care gifts — Some people appreciate a gift that makes them feel pampered, something they wouldn't indulge in normally if they were paying out of their own budget.

Why not give them a certificate for a pedicure, a spa day or a haircut? While you might worry that the recipient would interpret that you're giving a big hint — wink wink, your toenails need help — most people would be thrilled. Just like on "Parks and Recreation," they like to "Treat Yo'self!"

■ Consumable gifts — This one is a little tricky, too, but easily done if you know someone or do a little research. Chocolate is a no-brainer unless someone hates it or is allergic (blasphemy!). Wine or artisan-crafted liquors can be a nice gift for a connoisseur as well.

It's hard to be mindful of people's preferences sometimes and avoid the pitfalls — nut allergies, gluten-free, someone decided to stop drinking, etc. — but you can usually ask someone close to the person and check before buying to avoid a faux pas.

■ Experience gifts — Maybe you've heard the gift recipient say they'd like to learn something or make something. There are plenty of places to learn to do arts or crafts here in town or online, including classes at Western Colorado Community College, which has a schedule of community education courses.

What about a fun vacation? There's nothing wrong with writing up a plan for a day out of town and awarding the recipient with an itinerary for a day of fun. Or maybe you want to take someone to a musical or theater performance at Colorado Mesa University or the Grand Junction Symphony.

Maybe a day trip to Ouray, complete with a soak in the renovated hot springs is in order? Perhaps a stay at a historic hotel someone has always wanted to visit is a good idea. Or if you want to go all-out and give your whole family a trip somewhere more far-flung, it can be exciting to get everyone in on the planning and anticipation for somewhere fun.

The memories made on these trips will last a lifetime and don't have to be dusted, re-gifted or donated to the thrift shop someday.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and best wishes for a restful holiday to all of you. May your gift-giving be mindful and meaningful.

Erin McIntyre is a journalist and completed advanced master gardener training in 2012. Email her at with story ideas or feedback.

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