How to Create a Gift Closet that Makes Your Life Easier

A bright and colorful gift closet setup for kids, with Crayola crayons, Better Together plushes, candy, ribbons and a confetti-patterned card organizer.

Has your kid ever sprung last-minute “I’m invited to a birthday party” news on you? Has social media ever reminded you too late that today is Boss’s Day? Yeah, us, too. *facepalm* 

It’s a real bummer to drop the ball on gift-giving, especially when you consider yourself a pretty thoughtful person. But the good news is, you are a thoughtful person. You just need the right tools to make last-minute gift-giving a breeze. Enter: the gift closet. 

 

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What is a gift closet?  

Put simply, a gift closet is a stockpile of great gifts for unexpected circumstances. It ensures that when life throws you a surprise gifting opportunity, you’re not like, “I got nothin’.” A gift closet can be an actual closet, a cabinet, or even a storage container you keep under the bed. That part’s not important. It’s what’s inside the gift closet that counts.

A gift closet setup with homey gifts like homemade preserves, kitchen towels, tumblers and wooden utensils, as well as a selection of baby gifts and gift wrap in muted, natural colors.

What do you put in a gift closet?  

Your needs may vary but, generally speaking, it’s good to have gifts on hand for adults, kids and pets. You want to have options for happy occasions and tough situations, everyday gatherings and holidays. We’ve got a few ideas to get you started, but feel free to add your own based on your unique relationships and circumstances.

A good gift closet gift is…

  • Useful—not a dust collector
  • Special—a treat or indulgence
  • Not too personal—so you could give it to multiple people
  • Something you’ve liked/tried/read/loved
  • Nonperishable or has a reasonably long shelf life
  • Not size-specific: scarf, earrings, hair accessories
  • Unique—either by itself or in the way you give it
  • A good add-on—something you can give with a bigger gift

When does a gift closet come in handy?  

When does it not come in handy, really? Life is good at keeping us on our toes, gift-giving occasions included. We’ve brainstormed several situations when a gift closet can come to the rescue.

 

Last-minute host and hostess gifts

Save a panicky trip to the store on the way to the party. Instead, keep gifts on hand for the quintessential entertainer that will be enjoyed longer than a hummus plate. Like attractive kitchen accessories that make their job easier and make their home look good while doing it. Or festive drinkware that adds to the party atmosphere. And grab a decorative tea towel while you’re at it—you can use them to create a sustainable and creative package. Better yet, make the tea towel yourself for a more personal touch.

Casual housewarming gift 

At any given time, there’s probably at least someone in your life calling a new place home. It might be neighbors moving in next door or a friend getting settled in a new apartment. Help them make their spot feel more lived in with an inviting welcome mat or a cozy throw blanket, or help keep them fed with gift cards for takeout or meal delivery while their kitchen stuff is still in boxes. (Psst…we’ve got cute gift card message ideas.)

Kid birthday 

You never know when a kid’s birthday party is going to pop up on your calendar. (Most likely the night before.) Stay prepared with art supplies, outdoor toys, books, building blocks and musical instruments appropriate for different ages. These things never go out of style, and they’ll help you avoid toy aisle overwhelm. (You’re welcome.) 

Adult birthday

Most grown-ups won’t pitch a fit if you show up to their birthday party without a gift, but if you have something in hand, they’ll be thrilled you thought of them. Stock up on your favorite little things that you know others will love, too. Your most beloved books, skincare products, kitchen and grilling essentials, fun accessories and tech gadgets. 

Two clear storage bins sticking out from under a bed, filled with colorful cards and small gifts like nail polish, pet bandanas and toys, tumblers and friendship bracelets.

 

Co-worker birthday 

Don’t be caught empty-handed next time a birthday rolls around at work. If it’s somebody you don’t know well, it’s hard to go wrong with a travel mug or nice office supplies. For the commuter, an audiobook or music service subscription could make their travel time an enjoyable experience. Help them treat themselves with gift cards for coffee shops or restaurants near work (or near home if they work remotely). 

If you work in a specific industry like healthcare, education or engineering, stock some gifts with more of an “inside joke” feel. After all, one of the perks of having co-workers is commiserating about the little world you inhabit together. Pro tip: Keep co-worker gifts where you work so they’re ready to go.

New pet or pet birthday

The furry family members in your circle deserve some love, too. Keep toys, accessories and treats with a long shelf life in your gift closet. If you have pets, buy extras of their favorites to share with new pet parents. Or get a gift that works for a dog mom as well as a bearded dragon dad—a picture frame to show off their cute creature.

Unexpected holiday gifting 

You make your list and do your shopping, but somehow there’s always a need for another gift around the holidays. Maybe you get a present from someone you weren’t expecting or a relative brings a new plus one to your holiday gathering. Not to worry. You can pre-wrap little somethings that will let them know you care. Keep it simple with useful gifts like journals, stationery sets, candles and bath and body products. Have them wrapped and ready for extra preparedness points.

Unplanned hospital visit

It’s not fun to think about people you love winding up in the hospital, but you can make a stressful situation a tiny bit easier if you have something to bring them when you visit. Stock up on puzzle books and coloring books to help them pass the time. Make them more comfortable with a cozy blanket, slippers or a robe. Help them get quality rest with headphones, ear plugs or a sleep mask. Keep them well connected with a charger for their phone or tablet (portable or one with a long cord). For kids, a soft stuffy can feel like a friend in an unfamiliar place.

A bright and colorful gift closet setup for kids, with Crayola crayons, Better Together plushes, candy, ribbons and a confetti-patterned card organizer.

Who should you stock gifts for in a gift closet?  

Adults

Gather a variety of grown-up approved gift options for all occasions. Keep them entertained with books and games. Treat them to a shopping spree or a night off from cooking with gift cards. Make them laugh with gag gifts for white elephant gift exchanges and milestone birthdays. Keep plenty of gifts for common hobbies and interests, like gardening tools or coffee or tea accessories.

Kids

Collect kids’ gifts that don’t add to the stuffed animal overload. Books, games, puzzles and craft kits will all get put to good use and don’t take up too much room. Gift cards let them pick out the perfect gift themselves.

Pets

Stock something for all the cute critters in your life. Depending on the animal, entertain them with squeaky toys, silent toys and enrichment activities. Keep them looking fresh with accessories, bandanas and grooming supplies. Keep them cozy with blankets or towels. Make them happy with treats that have a long shelf life. Not much of a pet person? A pet supply store gift card will fit just about any need.  

What else goes in a gift closet?  

Unless the people in your life love spoilers, gift wrap is a must for your gift closet. As thoughtful as you are, you probably already have a stash of wrapping supplies. But while you’re outfitting your gift closet, make sure you’ve got these items covered for all your last-minute gift-giving needs:

 

See? All it takes to be ready for those unexpected gifting moments is a little planning and organization. Ask anyone with a gift closet or cabinet and they’ll tell you—the effort is totally worth it.