I used to give people gifts year round. Here’s your St. Paddy’s day gift; here’s your Memorial Day gift; here’s your Tuesday gift. Often people would think I was being silly, but they’d still enjoy the random gift. After reading Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages”, I realized that gift-giving is how I express my love to those people close to me. For a long time, December was a huge month for me. It was an entire month of showering my friends and family with everything they could possibly want or enjoy. Gift giving was an addiction.
But now that I’m on a minimalist journey, I realize all those random gifts were just junk. I was a victim of flashy marketing and the general consumerism of modern society. I was trying to bring joy, but I was only adding clutter to my friends and family’s lives. Gift-giving is still an important part of how I show and receive love. Trying to reconcile my desire for gifts with my new minimalism is a struggle.
I’m not alone. The holiday season is difficult for minimalists and their friends. Society expects you to give physical things as gifts this time of the year. That’s a problem when you don’t want to fill your house with clutter. So I developed a list of five minimalist gift idea categories:
This is the easiest kind of gift to give. It’s a normal gift, but instead of an object that must be kept, stored, and will clutter their space, you give something that can be used and then discarded. Every year my best friend and I spend a day baking an excessive number of cookies. We invite people over and share them with all our friends. Afterwards we still have a lot of cookies. I wrap them up on nice paper plates and distribute them to my various family members as gifts. Homemade is a nice touch when giving consumables, but anything that doesn't create clutter works in this category: wine, candles, spice rubs, hot sauces, or fancy soaps. When you start looking for consumable gifts you’ll find options everywhere.
2. Something They Need
Ask them if they need something specific. Maybe they’ve been holding off on buying a new vacuum cleaner because their old on is still ‘working’. You can pitch in some money for a new appliance. The trick here is making sure you’re helping them buy something they really need, and not more clutter for their space. The problem with this gift idea is it is difficult to make it a surprise.
3. Charity Donations
Giving to charity in someone’s honor is very personal. I have a couple charities that I support. Around the holidays and my birthday (and even at my wedding), I give people a list of my favorite charities. I love receiving the note that a donation has been made in my honor. It brings me a lot of joy to know that I’ve contributed to making the world better. But this gift idea isn’t for everyone. For a lot of people gifts are objects. A donation to a charity might not make them feel like they’ve received anything. For this reason I would say this is more of a suggestion for minimalists looking for something other people can give them.
Like charity donations, some people may not get their gift trigger tickled by this idea, but it is my favorite to give and receive. It doesn’t produce clutter, but it still brings a lot of joy into your loved one’s lives. Again, this is another very personal gift idea. It takes a lot of thinking to come up with fun activities that someone might love to do. Some examples are tickets to a show, a membership to a museum or zoo, gift certificates for an activity park, pay for part of a vacation (or the whole thing if you can), or just make a few coupons for a coffee or lunch date. Each gift needs to be tailored to the interests of the gift receiver, but it can be a lot of fun.
5. Your Time
We get so caught up in the materialism and consumerism of the holiday season and we forget what makes this time of the year so special. This is the time to spend with your loved ones sharing experiences and showing what you mean to each other. You can show that meaning with quality time. Grab a bite to eat and catch up, go for a walk together, or just call them up and say “Hi”.
Whether you are on your own minimalist journey or you love someone who is, I hope you find this list helpful in coming up with a nice gift for this holiday season. Do you have any other good minimalist gift ideas?