When I was a kid, Santa would not come unless I cleaned out my room first. We hauled out bags of trash and donated toys to make room for new stuff. And then as I got older, I stopped wanting new stuff, but I still really wanted to clean out my apartment. I love the cleanliness and the lightness that comes from clearing away the clutter. But the holidays ... they are an explosion of stuff and clutter.

Don't throw a clutter bomb at someone! Here are some alternative gift ideas that are awesome but won't get someone kicked out of the cult of less:

1. Monthly flower delivery. Fresh flowers in the house is one of my favorite indulgences. The air smells prettier (without toxic chemicals), and a good bouquet just lights up a room. Spare someone the agonies of trying to justify the cost or occasion and just send a fresh bouquet once a month. Check out Organic Style for options.

2. E-Z Pass. This is the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving. My dad got it for me one year, and I think happy thoughts of him every time I get to a tollbooth and zoom past all the suckers still paying in cash.

3. Car cleaning. This can be as simple as taking the car down to the local place and vacuuming it yourself (saving someone time and the discovery of gross stuff), or you can splurge on a professional cleaning. Either way, it's like having a brand-new car for a fraction of the cost.

4. Gift cards and experiences. These get a bad rap for being unimaginative, but I heartily disagree. You're not just giving cash, which would probably be spent toward paying bills (though that may be a great gift), but when you give people gift cards, you give them permission to treat themselves. Don't want to encourage their acquiring more "stuff?" Give a restaurant gift card, a voucher for yoga classes or movie/theater tickets.

5. Magazine subscriptions. Especially to titles like Men's Health, Women's Health, and the like ... just kidding! Not really. But seriously, magazines are wonderful little distractions each week or month. It's the gift of knowledge, daydreaming or even just a half hour sitting quietly on the couch (and you can recycle as soon as you're done). Ahh...

Story by Maya Rodale. This article was reprinted with permission. For more from Maria Rodale, visit mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.

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