And they will never know.

I’m a firm believer in a gift closet. It doesn’t have to be an actual closet. Mine, for example, is a large plastic tote IN a closet where we also house the wrapping paper, gift bags, birthday cards, and something we like to call the “Transformers graveyard” where I send my kids when they are looking for that tiny plastic thingy that attaches to Grimlocks leg. But I digress.

Some might say that having a secret stash of generic-ish gifts means that there is no thought involved. I wholeheartedly disagree, especially if you stock it with gifts that have meaning to you. For example, if there’s a board game that your crew loves to play every Friday night, here’s your chance to buy a few and share that love. Just because you had one or two on-hand doesn’t mean it’s not a meaningful gift.

Because I’m also a firm believer in gifts being something that people want but don’t necessarily want to spend their own money on (like a luxe-scented Jonathan Adler candle in a reusable metallic vase), I always use that notion as a starting point, too.

Throw blanket

Blanket statement

I can have a storage ottoman overflowing with blankets and you will always have me at the words “soft, cozy, ultra-plush luxury throw.” From the it’s-so-cold-outside winter months to the let’s-crank-up-the-AC summer months, you can’t have too many for your home, office, or car. Make sure it says something like “amazingly soft to the touch” on the label.

Nail polish

Sealed with a kiss

Lip glosses or balms are the makeup essential that most personalities would appreciate. Keep a few sampler packs handy to gift adults and kids. Nail polishes in fun colors from a luxury beauty brand like Butter London are an invitation to pampering and style—and are always appreciated.

Game of Thrones coasters

Life is funny

Magnets, to-do lists, sticky notes, coasters: Practical things we all need go one step further when there’s extra humor and personality involved. Anne Taintor’s retro-inspired gifts with witty sayings have long been my favorite in this department, as have Knock Knock’s collection of magnetic organizing pads for things like grocery lists and meal planning.

Start where you are

Book smart

What was the best novel you read this year? What was your favorite book or series as a kid? Is there a theme journal that can help them nurture creativity, enhance their hobbies, or simply hold on to special moments?


Warming trend

Traditional hats and gloves as a gift? Boooooo. Bluetooth-enabled beanie hat and touchscreen-friendly commuter gloves? Yesssss—especially when presented as a tech-savvy set. Even if they have a pair already (doubt it on the hat), winter accessories are so easy to lose that extras are welcome.

Travel Doodle

Never go against the family

As a rule, I try to only give kids and families gifts that a) won’t make a mess/make a lot of noise/make siblings attack each other and b) won’t put any unnecessary pressure on parents (“Awww—an explosive volcano kit complete with plaster and paints! Exactly what I want the kids to be doing this weekend in my kitchen!’) Highlights Hidden Picture Puzzles, an AquaDoodle drawing toy, or Dinner Games-style conversation decks are examples of low-key fun that everyone will thank you for.

Just because these are great last-minute ideas, doesn’t mean you have to wait ‘til the eleventh hour. Start shopping now and get that gift closet started!

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