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This Website Helps You Avoid A Holiday Gift Fail

Last-minute gift shopping? Unstuff makes it easy to shop for “experiences” someone actually wants to have.

This Website Helps You Avoid A Holiday Gift Fail
[Image: Presents via Shutterstock]

If you’re wondering whether you’ll give (or get) an unwanted Christmas present this year, the unfortunate answer is probably yes: Americans returns billions of dollars worth of gifts after the holidays, and that’s not even counting the presents that hapless friends and relatives awkwardly pretend to like and keep.

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Maybe one solution is giving presents that aren’t actually physical things. A new site called Unstuff suggests experiences instead, like coding lessons, a Breaking Bad trolley tour, or campground reservations.

“So many of the gifts we get are things that we just didn’t need at all, and just end up in a sock drawer or closet,” says David Littlejohn, creative director for Humanaut, the digital agency that dreamed up the site. “But you can give a gift that doesn’t take up any space. And new research backs up the idea that people value experiences more than material possessions.”

While you could try to dream up experience-related gifts yourself, the site makes the process easier. You can browse through a few dozen ideas, or connect with Facebook and let an algorithm analyze your friends’ interests and recommend experiences they might like. If you want to suggest that your great-aunt give you an experience rather than a sweater, you can send her a link to the site.

As Littlejohn points out, experiences also have the advantage of being more environmentally friendly than the typical gift, with no materials, no manufacturing, and no gift wrap or shipping. And an experience isn’t going to end up in the landfill.

“We love gadgets, so this isn’t so much anti-stuff,” Littlejohn says. “But when people give you presents you don’t need, it just seems really wasteful.”

If it continues to get a good response over the holidays, Littlejohn says he’d like to keep the site going, eventually partnering with experience-providing companies that are looking for better ways to market themselves.

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For now, the site is what Littlejohn calls a “fun experiment.” And for anyone doing last-minute shopping, it might be a good source of inspiration: One other big advantage of buying experiences rather than stuff is that you don’t need to fork over money for next-day shipping or wait in line at the mall.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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