Gift Closet 101:
1. Make a master list of people who need gifts for the year. Include birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, whatever you celebrate with gifts. My calendar is in a little notebook by the month.
2. When you see something on sale and think "It would be so perfect for so-and-so," BUY IT, even if the next gift occasion for that person is 10 months away. Immediately stash it in your gift closet with a sticky note on it for the recipient, and log it on your master list.
3. When you see sales of little fun things (sticky notes, candles, soaps, pens, bouncy balls, lip gloss), BUY THEM! Put them immediately in your gift closet with no label, preferably corralled in a clear container so you can see what you have. These will be your stocking stuffers, "just because" gifts, Easter basket filler, big sib gifts, gift exchange fodder, etc.
4. Round out your gift closet with wrapping paper (recycled maps and newspapers are great), gift bags, tissue, ribbons, scissors, tape, and gift tags. I really like neutral paper like silver, gold, or kraft and plain bags and tags, because you can buy in bulk and not have to purchase a roll for new baby, a roll for kid boy birthday, a roll for tween girl birthday, a roll for manly-men (you get my drift).
Gift Closet 201 (for the advanced):
1. In September, start prepping your closet for the holidays. Try to get one extra shelf-stable goodie each time you go grocery shopping, like a box of fancy cookies, gourmet cocoa mix, or a bottle of wine on special. Now you'll have something to take with you to parties or use as an impromptu gift. If you make it all the way to Christmas or New Year's and have extra food, plop them all in a basket - great gift for daycare, co-workers, in-laws, etc.
2. BOGO coupons are great for stocking up your closet. Both items can go directly in your closet.
3. Use post-holiday sales to your advantage. If you bake Valentine's cupcakes every year, why not get a pack of papers on Feb 17? Do you have an annual family ornament exchange? Pick out a (non-dated) ornament on Jan 6 for 75% off! This only works if you can find them next year, so into the closet they go!
4. After becoming a Mommy to the very social Nugget, we find ourselves suddenly with lots of kids' gifts to get each year for his buddies. I love buying and giving kid gifts, but I didn't want to break the bank or spent hours shopping every weekend either. I decided on a system: keep an "any-season" baby girl and a baby boy gift in stock for new babies, use Borders coupons to get big sib books, get board books for the kids turning 1 or 2 this year at the discount book warehouse, and order cool crayons online for the 3+ set paired with a unisex coloring book from a discount store. All are things that won't take up a lot of space, are definitely free of lead paint, and should be equally mom-approved by both camps of squawky-mechanized-joy and Waldorf-Montessori-zen. Now I won't have to worry if I gave N the same gift I gave him last year, or if M's gift is really "equal" to what I gave D. Of course, I purchased all these before the Nugget started making friends in our new town, so I'm sure I'll have to get more, but I'll know exactly what I'm looking for and where to get it, which is half the battle. Steal my ideas or choose your own age-appropriate toys/books/games/clothes and make them your "signature" gifts.