Inside the stocking: Monkey bag clips from the Container Store ($4.99), a 4 GB penguin flash drive from Office Depot ($9.99), a small Lego plastic box from the Container Store ($4.99), Harmony lip gloss sampler from Sephora ($3), Heavanilli massage bar from Lush ($10.95), a candy cane from Big Top ($1), Grip silicon coasters from the Container Store ($7.99) and a Light My Fire BPA-free Spork from the Container Store ($2.99).
There’s a science to stocking-stuffing, and it starts in the toe.
You want a beautiful, rounded toe upon which to build a sock o’ surprises. People like to see their stockings full. An empty, flabby stocking toe is a sad, sad, thing.
My mother always put an orange or apple in the toe, but you can go with anything round or roundish — perhaps a tennis ball if the stocking recipient (henceforth referred to as the stockee) plays tennis. Or maybe one of those Bath Bombs skin-softening products from Lush. In fact, Lush is a great provider of stocking stuffers, including mini massage bars, tiny tubs of moisturizer, little bottles of scented bath wash and wee jars of lip scrub.
You can also put a sock in it. The toe of the stocking, I mean. Everybody loves and needs socks, given their penchant for divorcing their mates while they’re in the clothes dryer. A rolled-up pair fills the toe nicely.
Then it’s time to pile in the miscellaneous stuffings, usually a blend of the practical and the silly. The only rules are that the stuffer has to fit in the stocking — no pianos — and it can’t have sharp edges. People reach into stockings, and you don’t want them getting all maimed.
Some of the best stocking stuffers are practical items with a dash of whimsy: a penguin-shaped flash drive, for example, available at any office supply store.
For women’s stockings, you can’t beat the aforementioned Lush, along with fellow cosmetic/bath stores Sephora and Ulta. Sephora has little samplers of six glittery lip glosses for $3, for example. At Ulta, you’ll find a little kit of four Smashbox product samples, all expensive in their full-size form, for $19.
Write this stuff down, because Mama tends to fill all the stockings, but Mama needs her stocking filled, too.
“Don’t forget the parents,” says Mollie Kirby, who is one of those parents. “I don’t want to do my own stocking.”
Kirby knows stocking stuffers because she’s a sales floor leader at Austin’s Container Store. The place is stocking stuffer heaven, with racks and racks of little items for men, women, little kids and teenagers: silicone coasters that grab onto the bottom of your drink, handbag organizers, small flashlights, USB hubs, tiny little hand vacuums for computers, cloths for cleaning iPads, travel doggie bowls, waterproof electronics cases and little soapstone cubes that warm and cool your beverages — just to name a few.
“We’re the original storage and organization store, and part of being organized is getting stocking stuffers,” Kirby says when asked why her store invests so heavily in stockingware. So true. Disorganized people realize late on Christmas Eve that they haven’t filled the stockings and have to make a run to the grocery store or pharmacy to fill the stocking with whatever they can find. That’s how people wind up with stockings filled with huge bags of M&Ms and bottles of aspirin.
No, better to visit the Container Store. There I found, for my husband, who’s always losing his reading glasses, a Dokson Nosy, a squat little man with a slit in his head to hold eyeglasses. A small green plastic box shaped like a Lego will please the 5-year-old Lego fan and will be a good home for his itty-bitty Transformers. A daughter who likes to camp will love the original lightweight but sturdy Spork. This isn’t that thing you get with fast food that’s essentially a curved fork and tends to break. This one’s made in Sweden with a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. And, at $2.99, it’s a cheap stuffer.
We’ve come to the top of the stocking, and there, you need candy sticking out. When I was a kid, it was marshmallow Santas — I loved those — and a candy cane. Big Top Candy in Austin has some lovely canes and also some vintage stocking-topper options such as Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars, a favorite of my husband, and a gigantic 1-pound Sugar Daddy. (You’re going to need a bigger stocking.) I suppose if your stockee is virulently anti-candy (and, therefore, anti-fun), you can put an energy bar or a piece of beef jerky in there. But Santa won’t like it.
So, the stockings are full, and they’re hung by the chimney with care. Or, if you don’t have a chimney or mantle, you can hang them from the bar or the coat rack, or maybe laundry room door. (If Santa can’t come down the chimney, maybe he could crawl in through the dryer vent.)
Now, it’s time for the stocking idiot check. What did you get the stockee that you forgot to put in the stocking? Oh, yes: the silver, whale-shaped stapler from Pottery Barn. In these paperless days, nobody probably needs a stapler. But if you’re going to give one, it might as well be whale-shaped, assuming you want to spend $16.50 for that “awwwww” moment.
And here we come to the core philosophy of stocking-stuffing. Stockings are for fun little gifts, not expensive major gifts. An expensive gift presumably has some thought put into it. It shouldn’t wind up in a stocking. It should be wrapped beautifully and placed beneath the tree to be individually unswathed, revealed and admired.
The one exception: If you want to pull one of those clever tricks where your true love is expecting an engagement ring, and you want to make her think you didn’t get her one, and just when she’s good and mad she finds a ring … you can put it in the toe of the stocking. Just prepare to get dope-slapped.