It isn't always easy settling on a gift for the bewildered and reluctant bright-eyed and enthusiastic college grad, especially when you're well aware that if you deviate from what they really want (read: cold hard cash) there's a good chance that said gift, however thoughtful, may wind up in a box shoved into the back of a closet in their first post-grad pad.

One suggestion that's not an all-expenses paid trip to IKEA? Give them something practical, something that they'll actually need and use in their first post-college home whether it's a shared rental or a micro-home-on-wheels. Below you'll find my top gift picks, selected with an emphasis on unique and utilitarian items designed and/or manufactured in America with a few grad-appropriate purely decorative (and fun) items thrown in for good measure.

Sure, you may be on the receiving end of a confused stare if you bestow your 23-year-old nephew with a couple of light bulbs, a water filter, and a doormat as a graduation gift. However, you can remain confident that your gifts will be used at some point down the line — because if there's anything that cash-poor recent college grads hate spending their own money on, it's things like light bulbs, water filters, and doormats. Think of it this way: you're doing them a favor.

And while we're on the topic of college graduation gifts, what's the most bizarre/useless thing that you received? What about a cherished, utilitarian item that you still use today?

Thumbs Up Trophy by iamhome @ CB2 ($59.95)






Key Target by Bower @ Areaware (ships 6/15)






Large Wine Glasses @ Lifefactory ($24.99/2-pack)






Soap on a Rope by Pat Kim @ A+R Store ($16)






The Hostess Collection: Oven Mitt and Pot Holder by John Hiemenz @ shopSCAD ($14)






Sunrise Door Mat @ Izola ($45)







Foodie Garden - Scotch Bonnet Pepers @ Poketo ($15)






Soma Water Filter @ Drink Soma ($99 - Glass carafe/1-year filter supply)











The Mansion Keychain by Various Projects @ Cooper-Hewitt Shop ($15)






PinWorld Map + Wall Map Diary by Palomar @ A+R Store ($44/$75)






Twain Catch-all @ Izola ($45)







Wall Mounted Bottle Opener - Green @ Brook Farm General Store ($10)







Daruma Money Bank @ Cooper-Hewitt Shop ($40)







Philips SlimStyle 60W Equivalent Soft White Dimmable LED Light Bulb @ The Home Depot ($8.97)







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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.