Gift Closet Guide: Get Organized for Frugal Gifts and Giving!

gift closet guide

We should all have a friend like my friend Joyce. No matter what the occasion, she comes up with the perfect gift--even at short notice.

Her wrapped packages are lavish and lovely, her cards are sweet and well-chosen--and she does it on a budget and without last-minute dashes to the shopping mall. Her secret?

A gift closet.

It's a concept we love here at Organized Christmas: a dedicated space in the household to store gift items, gift wrap and cards. A gift closet holds a stockpile of gift items and everything needed to wrap and present them.

Why bother? Two words: time and money. A surprise child's birthday party invitation won't wreck the budget at month's end when a nice selection of age-appropriate gifts are tucked away in the gift closet. Baby shower invitations and graduation announcements are easy to answer with the help of stockpiled gifts. Shopping sales and catalog clearance items cuts the cost of Christmas gifts; holiday shopping is simple when the "store" lies at the end of the hall.

Ready to set up a gift closet in your organized home? Try these tips to save money and time on holiday gifts:

Select storage space

Don't let the word "closet" fool you; a gift closet can live in any storage space, so long as it is secure and accessible.

Tuck gifts into under-bed storage units in the master bedroom, or stash them in a sealed plastic storage tub in the attic or garage. Clear a shelf in a high bathroom cupboard, or stow gifts in a large bureau drawer.

Households with children will require the exercise of ingenuity, however. Whether it's the "hide in plain sight" method of stacking the gift closet container in between two identical tubs of stored clothing, or sneakier strategies, such as consigning gifts to locked suitcases, parents of young children will need to prevent premature ransacking of stored gifts.

Track your treasures

From time to time, I'll get a negative reaction to the gift closet concept, along the lines of, "A gift closet? Oh, I tried that--but I never knew what I had in there, and couldn't find it when I did!" The problem? Ignoring the second--and most important--gift closet principle: the inventory.

It's easy to acquire gift items here and there, and easier still to lose track of them. The solution: a gift closet inventory. This simple inventory form brings the gift closet into high, visible relief: you know what you have and where it is. Period.

Whether you keep a written record, use our gift closet inventory, or keep an electronic record on computer or smart phone, the gift closet inventory is the go-to source for gift-giving information.

Don't stop there! A companion powerhouse is the master gift list: a record of occasions, recipients and gift items. Working in tandem with the gift closet inventory, the master gift list brings gift-giving specifics to the process. You'll know the who, what and when of any gift-giving occasion.

Shop at home first

With space at the ready and a road map in hand, it's time to assemble closet candidates. First source: your home!

Shopping at home first means gathering all likely gift items from their respective hiding places about the house. Whether it's never-used re-gifting candidates, treasures found at flea markets or crafts fairs, or designated gifts that were overlooked or forgotten, assemble and inventory any existing gift closet candidates. Chances are, you'll have a good start on closet contents from your very own in-home store!

Similarly, gather gift wrap, ribbons and cards into a central location. Note what you have, what you need on a separate page; it'll guide you when shopping.

Shop smart, shop sales!

Once in place, the gift closet shines when it comes to year-round gift-buying. Whether it's the after-Christmas sales, seasonal merchandise clearances after each holiday, or summer inventory reductions, be on the lookout for gift closet candidates. They'll build your stock of give-able items at rock-bottom prices.

Buy in bulk

Into each life, many birthdays, bridal showers and high school graduations must fall--and who says you need to give a different gift for each one? Stock up on favorite gifts for each category when you find them on sale--and save time and energy.

In the Ewer household, new parents receive paired "for my child" journals for Mom and Dad, while bright jewelry sets make welcome birthday gifts for friends. High school grads enjoy gift cards from the iTunes music store when inserted in a funny musical card holder.

Stocking standard "occasions" gifts is a smart time- and money-saving strategy that turns gift-giving into a pleasure.

Stock up on stocking stuffers

A gift closet isn't just for "big" gifts; it's a perfect place to stockpile stocking stuffers throughout the year. Shop back-to-school sales for loss leaders on crayons, markers and art supplies; hit the summer clearance aisle for small toys like jacks and jump rope.

After each seasonal holiday, stocking stuffer candidates are marked down, so don't miss post-Easter and after-Halloween clear-away events. You'll help Santa fill stockings well--cheap and easy!

Bring on the baskets

Presented in a pretty gift basket and nestled in colorful Easter grass, a simple loaf of nut bread gets a gift-pizzazz promotion. Use the gift closet to collect containers, filler, wrappings and bows for gift baskets.

Look for discounted raffia shreds and Easter grass in April, and buy baskets at yard sales or on the clearance table at the crafts store.

Assemble the makings as you find them, and it's easy to punch up presentation with a pretty gift basket.

Wrap it up

Finally, make room for gift wrap, ribbons, bows and cards in the gift closet. Make it a one-shop stop for gifts and giving, to save time and money around the year.

A bonus organizing tip: store gift wrap in commercial gift wrap holders designed to hang from a closet rod. Even hung on an over-the-door hook, it'll keep gift wrap organized and close at hand.

A gift closet? No organized holiday home should be without it!

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