Minimalist Living: Gifts

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Holiday season is right around the corner, and that means The Gift Giving Season is upon us. Giving and getting gifts can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the giver and receiver. It feels good to give someone a gift, and we all know it is pretty awesome to get one. But how do you deal with gifts as a Minimalist? How do you approach The Holiday Season? Our culture pressures us to buy the biggest, best or most gifts in order to show our love for friends and family. For some people giving gifts is equivalent to giving love. The more you spend, the more you love. How does a Minimalist deal with gift giving/receiving and still maintain their lifestyle?

Gift Giving

Minimalists tend to not give gifts, but when they do it will probably be something hand-made, or single use like tickets or gift cards. It’s not that we don’t like giving gifts, but rather we’d like to give you an experience rather than a physical item. I haven’t purchased Christmas gifts for people in over seven years. I make gifts. I give books that I find at used bookstores, or that I have finished. As a Minimalist it seems contradictory for me to spend money on a gift just because it is Christmas. I’d rather take you to a museum, or a concert. I’d rather paint something for you. It means more to me that you have a life enriching experience than something from a list or registry.

Here are some ideas for gift giving as a Minimalist:

  1. Tickets (Concert, play, festival, art show, movie…)
  2. A nice meal (Either at home or a nice restaurant)
  3. Something you made (poem, painting, scarf, mix CD, photo…)
  4. Books (look for nice editions of classics, or find interesting used books)
  5. Gift card (Movies, books, food)

Gift Getting

This is the hard part. It is really difficult for people to understand that you don’t want a gift. You don’t want to come off as ungrateful or cold, but you also don’t want a pile of stuff (that you neither want or need, nor asked for) on your living-room floor come December 26. The best way to approach the holiday season as a Minimalist is to be proactive. Set the expectation with family and friends that you don’t want, need or expect a gift. Ask them to please respect your wishes, and if they insist on giving you something, ask that it be an experience rather than a physical gift. Going to a dinner together will mean much more to both of you than a new sweater.

If you have stubborn family members who don’t care about your lifestyle and insist on giving you a mound of gifts, the holidays can become stressful. Most of us don’t want to piss off our family members by seeming ungrateful. We don’t want to offend anyone. My advice is to say “Thank you” and then move on. Most people won’t notice or care what you do with the item after the fact. The people that do will be offended, and that’s okay. You can’t let that bother you. You can’t be expected to keep things that are not adding value to your life. Especially if you were upfront and honest about your expectations. If people can’t understand that, it’s their problem – not yours.

To sum up: The holiday season shouldn’t be about who gets/gives the most. It should be about spending time with the people you care about. Don’t buy gifts, give experiences.


3 thoughts on “Minimalist Living: Gifts

  1. The best gift I ever got my dad was the promise to have lunch with him once a week when he spent four months in Erie, Pennsylvania, after eight months in Florida. And he paid. Still, it was the time and the love. Your words are wise. Thanks, John

  2. Nice post and I agree with the sentiments of preferring experiences over physical gifts, but I’m curious about your opinion on asking for physical things you know you will really use? The tradition of giving is so strong that sometimes maybe this is easier for people who don’t understand a minimalists viewpoint?

    • I’ve tried that, and sometimes people appreciate guidance in choosing a gift. But sometimes they resent it. It’s weird. I tell my family if they insist on getting me a gift, then ask me what I need. If you just give me a bunch of sweaters and stuff – it will end up at Goodwill. They need to know you are serious before they listen 🙂

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