In the coming weeks there will be many office holiday parties accompanied by the traditional gift exchange. Let’s face it, it’s hard to buy thoughtful gifts for people you don’t know personally. That’s often why the office gift exchange leads to not-so-useful items that create clutter in our homes and offices.

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the purpose of gift exchanges and create new traditions that let us celebrate the season without adding to our clutter. Do we really need more?

Here are a few suggestions for more sustainable ways to give, share some laughs and get to know each other. Some will even give you the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.

Buy gifts for those who really need it

If your employees or colleagues enjoy buying gifts, continue with that tradition but change the recipient. Buy gifts for those who will really benefit, like families that are struggling to make ends meet. There are many toy drives during the holiday season requesting new unwrapped toys for children. There are organizations who have family wish lists you can commit to fulfilling. Some employees may relate and share personal insight. Some will simply enjoy the shopping experience and putting the gifts together. It can be as easy as making a simple contribution or as deep as a group effort that helps employees get to know each other.

Make a group donation to a charity

Instead of buying gifts, work together to choose a cause and make a financial donation. There are many worthy causes. Pick one that resonates with your employees, or involve them in the process of selecting the charity.  That $20 gift budget will be welcomed and put to good use instead of towards a gift that typically offers little value to the recipient.

Exchange something you already have

If buying for others or donations doesn’t seem right for your group, consider a gift exchange where each employee brings something they already own, but no longer needs and is in great condition or has never been used. Make the request broad or narrow it to a specific category like books. Do not pick names.  Randomly assign each employee a number and allow them to pick an item from the entire collection when their number is drawn from a hat—previously selected and unselected. Often one or two popular items cause a lot of laughs as people steal it from each other. At the end, kindly offer a discrete collection and donation for poorly matched items.

Giving is full of good intention and a huge part of our holiday traditions. We don’t need to give it up, but we would be wise to reassess how we give. There are many benefits to this, including less clutter and more goodwill. Why not reconsider your office gift exchange tradition this year?

Please share this article on social media to promote the discussion of more sustainable giving traditions. I would love to see your alternate ideas for office gift exchanges.

Read about meaningful gift-giving ideas for family and friends that create less stress and clutter.

Happy holidays!