The Idle Christmas Gift Guide, Part 2: 50 under £20 (Stocking Stuffers and Secret Santas)

Let’s talk novelty gifts. You know the sort, the “amusing” books (one year, in the knowledge that we were (and are) an anti-Brexit family, we got 3 copies of “Five Go To Brexit Island”, a Famous Five parody), the joke tat (the “press for champagne” bell, the motorised racing grannies). It’s all well and good, and provides a moment or two of festive LOLZ, but then what? I don’t want it in my house! I have enough to contend with! So it’s off to the charity shop with it, and that all feels like a huge waste. Jenn Jordan, a professional organiser, who helps overwhelmed people declutter their homes and lives, is a huge advocate of “putting the no in novelty this Christmas” and buying better. She sees this from the other end of the chain, and is the one who removes the tat from cluttered houses. You can find her at @orjenise on Instagram. I’m absolutely with her on this.

This edit is for stocking stuffers, for Secret Santas, for little tokens of appreciation, all under £20. Where I have a budget to stick to, I generally like to buy one lovely thing for the full amount of that budget, rather than a few smaller things. I want the present to be as special as it possibly can. I think William Morris’s wise mantra of having nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful is absolutely appropriate here. Nice one, Billy, lad.

With those words firmly in mind, I’ve picked out 50 (actually 54, bound by my templates of 9 again) very delightful items under £20, which would be a treat to eat, drink, use or look at. As with all my Christmas gift guides, I’ve chosen a lot of things from small businesses, who need, and should have, our support, wherever possible. We don’t want to lose them and their lovely wares.

Here’s to non-disappointing stockings and Secret Santas where you don’t have to hide the crushing disappointment of yet another meaningless gift, and wish you’d just been given the tenner instead, because you could have bought a nice bottle of wine with it.

Some of my links are affiliate links.

Top row, L-R: Donkey Disco chocolate with rosemary and chopped almonds by Arthouse Unlimited (a wonderful charity that represents a collective of artists living with complex neuro-diverse and physical support needs – their art is sublime); Hedgerow candle from Join (quite simply my favourite candle, made from soy wax and essential oils); Hedgerow gin minis twin pack from Sloemotion Distillery (a company in York who hand make small batches of spirits, with sustainability at its core) NB since I wrote this blog, the minis have disappeared from the site so I’ve linked to a large bottle of damson gin instead – perhaps even better, if a little over budget.

Middle row, L-R: Leopard earmuffs from Oliver Bonas (definitely not just for 8 year olds); “We’re in the shit” magnet by Magda Archer at the Baltic Shop (an excellent artist); Pink Winter Jasmine sleep mask from Dilli Grey (as always, one of my favourite small businesses, ethically working alongside Indian artisans).

Bottom row, L-R: French Girl nail & cuticle oil from Liberty (a luxury product you probably wouldn’t buy yourself, but a lovely gift that would definitely be used (if you are me)); Auguste Rodin “Femme Nue” tea towel from Tate online (I’m sure Auguste totally intended his work to end up drying the dishes); Hay 3 minute hourglass from Liberty (I’m fond of an hourglass).

Top row, L-R: Sweary socks from Brainbox Candy (I own these, we all need socks, and at least one pair should be sweary); whiskey wedge by Corkcicle from Kooks Unlimited via Trouva (I mean, I’m not a whiskey drinker, but this ice wedge arrangement is very pleasing indeed); leopard beeswax wraps by Harris & Hall from Black Bough via Trouva (sustainable chic).

Middle row, L-R: Esmie assorted pencil set from Liberty (I’m certain these would make whatever you’re writing/drawing at least 68% better); peppermint leaves herbal tea from The Calming Room (proper, posh tea is always a treat); Kimmy Scafuro Flowerfield mug from Anthropologie (green is my favourite, lily of the valley is my favourite, ergo I love this mug).

Bottom row, L-R: Reusable silicone straws from Percy Langley (guaranteed not to go soggy after 5 mins, and will not end up wrapped around a turtle); natural shower puff from Percy Langley (isn’t this so much nicer than those plastic ones?); British Colour Standard striped pillar candle from Liberty (something about striped wax makes me very happy).

Top row, L-R: John Derian Painter’s Palette jigsaw from The Hambledon (very blooming pretty); Urban Meadow seed balls from The Calming Room (they look like truffles, do not, under any circumstances, eat them); Flower Recipe notecards from Percy Langley (we must not lose the art of letter writing (says the woman who hasn’t written a letter for years)).

Middle row, L-R: Phenomenal Women discussion card game from Oliver Bonas (women ARE phenomenal and we should talk about it loads); “I wish you a happy sunshine” badge from Arthouse Unlimited (cannot fail to cheer); Cocoba hot chocolate bombes (they melt in hot milk and release marshmallows – I KNOW!!).

Bottom row, L-R: Blue Skies & Fluffy White Clouds bubble bar from Lush (my all time favourite Lush product, it smells of patchouli and frankincense and we all know who received frankincense as a being-born gift); Omorovicza “Queen of Hungary” face mist from Space NK (I got this the one hallowed year when I got the Liberty advent calendar. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary for a skincare regime, but it smells incredible and makes you feel very posh); Wuthering Heights print from Alex Sickling (Alex’s work is lovely, all of it).

Top row, L-R: David Shrigley playing cards from Percy Langley (if Shrigley’s made it, I would like it); Liberty print sweary eye mask from Catherine Colebrook (I absolutely love the sweariness against the prettiness, and I want one to wear throughout the entire festive period while I snooze); Chanel “Rouge Noir” nail varnish from John Lewis (a classic for winter).

Middle row, L-R: Noble Isle “Rhubarb Rhubarb!” bath and shower gel (I have this and it smells incredible – all the Noble Isle products I’ve tried are extremely delicious and sophisticated); “Paddle Your Own Canoe” A4 print from National Park Print Shop (lots of lovely prints from this shop which – fun fact – is owned by my ex-colleague Ian!); Marian cake knife from Anthropologie (I don’t own a cake knife – how have I lived 44 years without one?).

Bottom row, L-R: Obamas mug from The Cornrow (another excellent site with lots of lovely things to browse); soap sampler set by Nova Botanics via Trouva (just very pretty and useful and, I’d imagine, delightful-smelling); David Sock-Knee socks by Chattyfeet (I mean, for the pun alone….).

Top row, L-R: Bud vase from The Small Home (I want them all, which is very much over £20, but when they’re this pretty….); Grayson Perry door stopper from Hold via Trouva (when you’re immortalised as a doorstopper, then I think you’ve made it); Winkie candleholder from Rowen & Wren (everything on their website is beautiful – worth a look for the styling and photography alone).

Middle row, L-R: Emma J Shipley Lynx e-coffee cup (always useful, and Emma’s designs are magical); WXY “Deepen” lavender and patchouli essential oil (two of my favourite smells, and WXY products are always great); John Derian “Simple Leaves” matches from Maze via Trouva (more aesthetically pleasing than a packet of Swan Vestas for lighting your posh candle).

Bottom row, L-R: Chiltern Classics “Wuthering Heights” (wonderful novel, wonderful cover); Grown Alchemist Persian Rose & Argan Extract Intensive Hand Cream from Workshop via Trouva (fancy hand cream is always appreciated, even more so in pandemic, repeated hand-washing, times); Pump Street Jamaica 75 drinking chocolate from The Hambledon via Trouva (festive drink in packaging which will enhance your kitchen shelf).

Top row, L-R: 70s floral glass carafe from Urban Outfitters (not just for the teens, Urban Outfitters always has some really great home stuff); “Shut Up” ceramic espresso cup by Anna & Nina at Liberty (cute); Seeing Stars horoscope books from Anthropologie (I don’t think these fall into the “useless novelty books” category, because they’re very pretty and display-worthy).

Middle row, L-R: Dog Christmas hanging ornament by Alex Sickling) (I would display this year-round, however); silky fringe tassels by Wandalust (these are great hung around doorknobs); Fee Greening “A Parliament of Owls” matchbox from Polkra (as before, classier than Swan Vestas).

Bottom row, L-R: Petite pooch trinket dish from Anthropologie (slightly over £20 at full price, but cute enough to make an exception); Matilda Goad weekly desk planner from Papier (beautiful – tick, useful – tick); sparkle golden stretchy waist belt from Oliver Bonas (party like it’s 1988).

PHEW! I hope that gives you a few ideas for your stockings and Secret Santas, or just general gifting… I’ll be back with the Big Boy – the over £50 gift guide – once my fingers have recovered from inputting 54 individual product links. I’m off for an eggnog.


  1. Caroline
    26 November 2021 / 8:26 am

    Thank you so much! Extremely useful for buying things for myself as well as others…. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about????

    • 27 November 2021 / 7:13 am

      That IS what Christmas is all about! Where giving (to yourself) is the most important thing!

  2. Alison Stevens
    26 November 2021 / 12:15 pm

    Wonderful selection Sandra. When I win the 139 million tonight it’s off to anthropologist first thing tomorrow! I’ve got my eye on a few of your recommendations, I’ll let you know what I get. Hope you and your darlings are all well.

    • 27 November 2021 / 7:15 am

      Hi Alison! That’s odd, because I’m sure it was my turn for the Euromillions this week? Must be mine next week instead. Do let me know what you get, and I’m glad it was helpful. All good here, thank you – hope you and yours are well too x

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