Six Holiday Gifts That Can’t Possibly End Up in the Closet


It’s buying season; shopping season; bringing home boxes and bags and lists season.

It’s that time of year when we’re all obsessed with finding the perfect thing — an entire list of perfect things. But, what do you do for people who already have too many things? What do you get for kids or grandkids who can only own whatever they can move onto campus in a minivan? Or, the aunt and uncle who are downsizing to retire to Santa Fe? What do you get for the friends and the family who say “you know what…I honestly can’t think of a single thing I need”?

We’ve built a list of six gift ideas that are perfect for those friends. These are gifts that come from the bottom of your heart and will never end up in the back of a closet.

1. Philanthropy.

Make a donation in your loved one’s name.

Especially for someone who says they already have everything they need. There are plenty of people, causes and organizations that simply do not have everything they need and would be grateful for the support.

Timmy Global Health

We might be a tiny bit biased, because we partner with Timmy Global Health, but we’ve teamed up with them for a reason. Timmy is headquartered near us in Indianapolis and does amazing, much needed work — bringing medical care to communities in need around the world.

This has been an incredible opportunity for us — to provide UV-blocking sunglasses to a farmer in South America to protect her eyes from the sun, or to give a weaver in Africa the bifocal readers that will help him earn a living. (For more on our partnership with Timmy, read here.)

Heifer International

What’s not to love about giving people in need exactly the things they need to help themselves? Donations in a friend or family member’s name can provide a farm animal, clean water or even a small business loan to a community that will use the gift to gain an economic footing and move toward sustainability.

Building Tomorrow 

Another charity with a goal of community self-reliance, Building Tomorrow promises communities in Uganda materials and plans to build schools in exchange for community buy-in to help build and support it. What starts as a project that brings the community together becomes a long-term center for transformation and economic progress. (There’s a beautiful animation explaining what they do here.)

If you’d like to find a charitable organization that supports a cause that’s close to your heart, go to for information on which not-for-profits make the best use of your contributions.

2. Culture.

Consider a gift of the arts.

North American Reciprocal Museum Association

Many large cities have shared memberships between local museums, zoos and other similar cultural sites like, botanical gardens. Take a look at the North American Reciprocal Museum Association website for information about which museums offer membership plans that will give you member’s only access to partner museums around the country.

NPR membership

Admittedly, a coffee mug does take up physical space, but there’s always the option to turn down the gift you receive with membership to Public Radio. Find out more about benefits of becoming a supporting member of your local station here.

International Performances Live

Local movie theaters around the country host broadcasts like the Taming of the Shrew performed by the Bolshoi Ballet (Jan. 24th, 2016) and the opening night of TED Talks 2016 (Jan. 15). Go to Fathom Events to find more information on upcoming dates and times.

3. E-Books/Audiobooks.

When physical copies take up too much time. Or space.

For people with no space left on their shelves, eBooks are a perfect way to replace physical copies with something that doesn’t need to go back to the library. For people with no time to read, audiobooks might be the better answer.


Because its parent company,, offers an enormous selection of eBooks, Audible only carries the audio version of everything from contemporary best-sellers like The Martian, to classics like Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


One of Audible’s biggest competitors, Scribd, has a lower monthly fee and offers both audio and eBook versions of its selection.

Yes, Please

Amy Poehler’s hilarious memoir, featuring appearances by Seth Myers, Carol Burnett, Patrick Stewart and others.

Doing Good Better

Oxford Associate Professor of Philosophy William MacAskill on ways to maximize the effectiveness of philanthropy.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote’s classic, read by Dexter star, Michael C. Hall.

Stumbling on Happiness

Harvard psychology researcher Daniel Gilbert on why we’re all so terrible at figuring out what might make us happy and gives insight on how we can change that.


Lauren Hillebrand’s acclaimed story of Louis Zamperini’s will-driven journey through danger and desperate times.

4. Share a Documentary.

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than sharing some idea that moves you, in the hopes that you can share the depth of feeling that it evoked.


If someone you love doesn’t have an account, consider giving them online (and possibly TV) access to an incredible selection of movies, including some of the best documentary work out there for around $10 a month. See details of gift memberships here. Or, buy $30 gift cards here.

Tim’s Vermeer

A digital video pioneer sets out to prove that one of the world’s best known artists used state of the art optical devices to help paint his masterworks.

20 Feet from Stardom

The inside stories to some of the most famous backup singers in Rock and Soul music history.

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

The story of controversial Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei, whose work openly criticizes and defies his government. Ai Wei Wei’s work takes many forms, but much of it points out the imbalance between the human-driven Chinese industrial machine and individual identity and civil rights.

Life Itself

The story of film critic Roger Ebert whose witty, thoughtful and sometimes exuberant reviews were driven by a deep, abiding love for film, and life.

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s exclusive look at the science and magic of cave paintings sealed off by a rockslide for 20,000 years.

5. Apps.

There’s an app for nearly everything.

The best part about owning smart phones and tablets is customizing them to do the things that help fuel our obsessions, organize our days and enrich our lives.


The best app for people looking to start daily meditations or those who just need help taking a few minutes to relax and reconnect with themselves.


Your kids and grandkids are probably posting photos of their lives on this. If you want to see them at their happiest, most unguarded and most photogenic, join them on Instagram. It’s easy to install, easy to use and one of the most reliable ways to get an answer to the question “so…what have you been up to?”

List App

Actor and Comedian B.J. Novak (NBC’s The Office) helped found this startup dedicated to creating and sharing lists. Celebrities and other, non-famous users have compiled hundreds of lists (so far) dedicated to what they love, hate, fear, remember and look forward to. The results are fascinating. Here are a few examples.

6. Podcasts.

We are in a second golden age of radio.

But this is radio you can play when and where you want to listen. You can chose to listen to months or years of the same show, or spend months discovering the best episodes of a whole world of shows. A lot of the work being produced is available for free (and perfectly legally) if you know where to look for it. Consider gifting a list of the best of what you’ve heard; stories that touched your heart; interviews that made you laugh out loud. Here are a few resources to get you started:


One of the top podcast players around, Stitcher can play podcasts, download the latest episode of any podcasts you’d like to listen to regularly and will make recommendations based on what’s trending and new or their listeners’ favorites. The application is free and requires no monthly subscription for content.


This is easily the most talked about podcast series to date. It’s the ongoing story of Adnan Syed — a high school football player convicted in 1999 of murdering his ex-girlfriend. NPR’s Sarah Koenig takes listeners through 12 episodes in which the case against Syed is measured against new evidence, ethical standards and basic, rational thinking.

Found My Fitness

This is the site and accompanying podcast of Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who discusses the latest information about the connection between food, gut fauna and physical health. Topics have included the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and a variety of health issues and which nutrients that seem to prevent cancer, but may also make existing cancers worse.


An NPR sponsored site where listeners submit their favorite podcasts. This is an incredible way to find the best of what’s out there.

[Note: For those familiar with NPR, the podcasts listed on are not produced, edited or censored by National Public Radio and may contain potentially objectionable material.]

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