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Useful presents avoid stacks of stuff

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Prosperity Candle’s Essential Oils and a Forever candle are handmade by Prosperity’s corps of female artisans. When the candle burns low, it can be returned to Prosperity for a complimentary refill.

The holiday catalogs and gift guides are starting to pour in, full of wonderful stuff to wrap for friends and family. But what about those who don’t really want more stuff?

Small-space dwellers don’t have room for much. Seniors might not, either, or might just not want the burden of more things at this stage in life.

Instead, think about giving something your recipient can use, and use up.

Some consumable-gift options:

Food and drink, of course; unusual kits are creative options. Overstock’s new Farmers Market department has make-your-own mozzarella, tofu, bloody mary, hard cider or butter kits. For a culinary vegan, consider a box of sprouting seeds, with varieties of lentils, mung beans, adzuki and green peas. (www.overstock.com)

You might make homemade vanilla extract to give in small, vintage-style bottles. Or consider giving a week or two’s worth of surprise treats: Create a stack of little nesting boxes filled with favorite sweet and savory snacks.

Does a friend or family member love a particular shampoo? Put together a gift bag with a bottle; enhance it, perhaps, with a gift certificate from a blow bar, or a new hairbrush.

Or gather a basketful of seasonally scented body products like Buche de Noel cleanser and eggnog-scented soap. (www.lushusa.com)

A photo calendar with pictures of the recipient’s family, favorite places or other personalized content makes a yearlong gift. (www.shutterfly.com)

ProsperityCandle.com offers the Forever candle, made by — and providing a living wage to — female artisans in developing countries, and when you’ve burned yours down you can return it for a free refill. Fragrances include vanilla bean and peppercorn, amber and orchid, and redwood and patchouli.

For some the best presents are experiences, including classes, lessons, gym memberships, vacations, event tickets, massages, charitable donations and music or magazine subscriptions.

Humanaut, a branding agency in Chattanooga, Tenn., runs a site called UnstuffGifts.com that lets you find gifts based on the recipient’s interests. For example, a hipster might like a distillery tour. Adventure buffs might enjoy a day of indoor sky jumping. A hiking enthusiast could appreciate a state park pass.

"The spirit of giving is a wonderful tradition. But the truth is, most of us simply don’t need more stuff," says David Littlejohn, Huma­n­aut’s creative director.

"We created Unstuff so that people could give thoughtful gifts with a clear conscience, knowing their gift will be appreciated, used and never contribute to the planet’s growing amount of trash and waste."

Do you have a skill or talent? Know-how makes a great gift, says Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance.

He suggests giving away your expertise in, say, Web design, pet training, first aid, photography or a craft. Neat freaks might offer closet organization or cleaning services.

Tech-savvy teens might give several hours’ worth of their digital skills to more senior relatives.

No worries about size, breakage or where to store it; now that’s a gift you can use.

Kim Cook, Associated Press

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