I was really tempted to use this title as clickbait and write an article about how the real gift of Christmas isn't presents, but presence (see what I did there?). But while I totally agree with that idea, I also recognize how fun and meaningful it is to give a gift that someone will really appreciate. Yet thinking of the perfect gift for someone is not easy; it can take a surprising amount of time and energy to think of a truly useful, valuable thing to get someone. With that in mind, here are a few present ideas for those of you who are last-minute shopping and can't think of anything.
1. For the tea lover: a bottom dispensing teapot.
This is a real game-changer for anyone who enjoys tea, but has never had the energy to get into loose leaf. These nifty devices are like a french press for tea, but even easier to use. Loose leaf tea is usually cheaper, fresher, and more unique than bag teas, not to mention it means less waste. From my experience, other types of loose leaf tea infusers tend to leak bits of tea leaf, or are difficult to clean. This style of teapot only drains when the bottom apparatus is pushed up by something like a mug rim and rarely leaks. The ingenuiTEA brand has worked well for me, but there are plenty of others out there. As a bonus, most models are dishwasher safe.
2. For the clothes lover: a fabric defuzzer/ pill remover.
I found this strange device my sophomore year, and bought one for both myself and my roommate. We immediately had a defuzzing party because it was so satisfying to remove all the pills and fuzz from our clothes. I hadn't realized how many sweaters and shirts I had stopped wearing because they were so pilly due to overdrying and wear (looking at you, coin-op dryers). I've even used this device on Goodwill finds to make them look brand new. It's also an effective stress reliever!
3. For the kitchen enthusiast: a good pair of silicone grip tongs.
Okay, I get that this seems pretty lame for a Christmas gift. But I honestly use my tongs on a daily basis. I feel like tongs get a bad rap because we've all been forced to use old, metal tongs that are slightly bent and hard to close and generally make life complicated. But these are a totally different story; they are incredibly easy to use, don't hold much heat, and make cooking with hot oils or baking foods much easier. Also, they give you an excuse to think about how funny the word "tongs" sounds. Get these and some other useful kitchen tools (like wooden spoons, silicone spatulas, and square baking pans) to make an amateur cook's life easier.
4. For the perpetually cold/sore: a microwaveable corn bag.
As a practical expert on warm things, I would suggest that this bag is better than a heated blanket or an electric hot pad. While both of those tools are great, these corn bags (usually a handmade item from Etsy or random boutique stores) can hold a lot more heat and conform to your body for maximum heat transfer. Whether I have neck tension, fever chills or just cold feet, this little bag does the trick. I also can't absentmindedly leave it on and waste electricity! One thing I don't understand is how the corn doesn't pop, but that's not too important.
5. For the interior decorator: wire string lights.
I used these adorable little LED string lights for my wedding, and loved them so much that I got my own strand for mood lighting at home. They are LED, so they don't heat up like regular string lights; the (usually) copper wire is very malleable and light, so it doesn't require nails or heavy duty light hooks. They are also less likely to break or burnout. These lights can be bought with a battery pack or a plug-in, and are great for table decorations, soft area lighting, or just making a space feel more cozy.
6. For the clean freak: a cordless handheld vacuum.
I know what you're thinking: this is the most boring gift list ever. But honestly, these practical gifts are super incredible! I got a cordless handheld vacuum from my grandparents, and it has been so useful. We have an apartment with mostly carpet, so instead of a broom we use this to pick up crumbs on our tiny amount of linoleum. It makes cleaning the car really easy, and can even pick up hair after a home-haircut. I also use it to slurp cobwebs and dust from corners. Like all vacuums there's a huge price range, but even the inexpensive ($20-30) ones can really make cleaning easier.
7. For the traveling soul: packing cubes.
Has your suitcase ever resembled a teenager's bedroom after a few days of traveling? Just appreciate how neat and tidy that suitcase looks; that's the beauty of packing cubes. I got some for my Junior's Abroad trip last summer, and they enabled me to pack for three weeks in a carry-on and never confuse my clean and dirty clothes. Packing cubes usually come in a set of different sizes, and make it much easier to organize and maintain a neat suitcase for days on end. I never pack without them now.
8. For the coffee drinker: a no-spill travel cup.
This seems like the kind of thing everyone already has, but from my experience a lot of us are surviving on lousy travel cups. The world is an imperfect place, and cups fall over all the time. I had a full cup of coffee in an 8 a.m. class once that got knocked over and completely drained onto the ground because the lid popped off; needless to say I was not happy. A friend of mine won a very nice, 20 oz Contigo travel cup and gave it to me since he isn't a coffee drinker. It is incredible. Contigo is really great at making spill-proof cups, and 20 oz is the perfect size since I can order a 16 oz americano and still have room for cream. I can attest to how great a gift this kind of cup is.
9. For the inexperienced art lover: an adult coloring book.
You've probably seen these in the checkout area of a bookstore a million times, but this and a pack of good colored pencils is a gift of stress relief. This particular image is a colored piece from the book Secret Garden by Johanna Basford, one I own and enjoy (my coloring isn't this good, though). I've spent hours on just one of these pieces and find it a great way to enjoy art without having to do all the work.
10. For the writer/doodler/dreamer: nice pens.
This is tricky, because most people have their favorite brand or style of pen. Some people like fine point, others like felt-tip, some strange souls enjoy those cheap roller ball pens that dry out really quickly. But nice, high quality pens are always useful, and you may even help someone find a new favorite. I particularly enjoy Pilot Precise v5 pens, but rarely buy them because the G2 pens are cheaper. They have great glide, and really soak into the page for sharp lines. With a little digging, you can find out what kind of pens your scholarly friend likes and buy them a few months' supply.
Hopefully this list gave you some ideas for gifts that you may not have thought of; at the very least, you can rule out 10 gifts you won't be getting anyone this Christmas! But like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Christmas really isn't about gift-giving and getting. The best gift you can give your loved ones is your time and attention. A thoughtful note or coffee date can be the perfect gift to give to those you don't see often. But if you want to give a gift, try giving something both personal and useful, so your family and friends can think of you even while doing daily chores and activities.