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The fact that many of us genuinely do not need more stuff is a luxury. It also allows us to support others through charitable donationsDonating in someone’s name to a cause they care about shows that you know and respect their values. For example, instead of a book for the writers and readers in your life, you could donate to PEN International, an organization that aids persecuted writers and promotes literature and free expression.

Your favorite healthcare provider might appreciate a donation to Doctors Without Borders, an independent group of medical volunteers that provides services in conflict and disaster zones and other areas of need in the world. And pretty much anyone can appreciate a chance to support the health of families around the world through a donation to The Hunger Project. Other thoughtful possibilities: Make the animal lover in your life into a “chimp guardian” with a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute. Or adopt a cheetah, sloth, vampire bat, or bison through the World Wildlife Fund. You could also support an orphaned elephant, rhinoceros, or giraffe at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Or keep it local and donate in your loved one’s name to an animal rescue or shelter in their community.

Lovers of the outdoors would probably appreciate a donation to The Nature Conservancy or a similar group. Or have a tree planted in someone’s name through the Arbor Day Foundation or A Living Tribute.

At a time of the year when many of us are enjoying the chance to gather with loved ones, it can feel good to help others be with their families. One way is by donating airline miles, credit card points, or cash to an organization called Miles4Migrants, which helps reunite families that have been separated.

In the same spirit of helping others, local homeless shelters and kitchens always need financial and material support. Check their websites to see what’s on their holiday wish lists. You can also donate time: Serving food or washing dishes can be a great way to get to know your neighbors during the holidays or spend time with family.

Finally, if none of this feels quite right — or if you’ve given it all before — consider giving the gift of your undivided attention. Offer to cook a dinner for your sibling or your best friend, or plan a day trip for the two of you. Jay suggests that parents plan a whole day with each of their kids, doing whatever the kid wants to do.

She does something similar with her friends at the holidays. “We’ve gotten to the point where, instead of [exchanging] gifts, we go to lunch or coffee. It’s such a great experience — it’s a busy time of year and we’re making time for each other. Our gift to each other is our presence rather than presents.”

For more thoughtful presents that don’t add to life’s clutter, see “Minimalist Gift Ideas” from which this article was excerpted.

Jessie Sholl

Jessie Sholl is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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