It’ s just about time to start Christmas shopping (2016, where did you go?) and I’ve been thinking a great deal about giving and receiving gifts as a minimalist.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle, which has involved evaluating what I’m buying and getting rid of the things I no longer need. I’ve noticed that a lot of the items that I’ve gotten rid of have been gifts from people, which is tricky. I always feel extremely guilty when I get rid of something that someone else has bought for me, even if I totally hate that item. After getting rid of several gifts, I started to really consider the prospect of gift giving from a minimalist perspective.
Now, minimalism is a big umbrella term that means different things to different people. To me, minimalism is about simplifying my life. It’s about looking at my habits and pruning the ones that don’t serve me. It’s about clearing out physical, electronic and emotional clutter to allow space to focus on the things that are truly important to me.
Whether you identify as a minimalist, or if you’re buying a gift for a minimalist, here are a few ideas I have for choosing a present mindfully.
Ask them what they want.
There is this idea that for a gift to be good, it has to be a surprise. I think that a lot of bad presents have been purchased because the gifter madly wracked their brain too hard to come up with a surprise gift idea, and frazzled their synapses. In this scenario, the gift giver is out of pocket, and the recipient now has a gift they neither like nor need to deal with. And neither is happy.
Instead, just go right ahead and ask the person what they want. No really, you’re allowed to do that! And while they will probably initially shuffle their feet and reply “I dunno, there’s nothing I can think of” if you explain to them that you just want a few ideas to avoid getting them a shitty gift, they will most likely have a few suggestions. There might be one particular thing that they’re burning for, or they may be able to give you a few general ideas, and you can choose one thing from their list so the gift will still be a surprise.
Give an experience, rather than a thing
Most of us have homes that are packed to the brim with belongings, and the thought of trying to cram one more thing into those bursting drawers is enough to drive us to hide under the bed with a bottle of wine.
So rather than giving a thing that your loved one has to put away on Boxing Day, give an experience instead. Book them in for a spa treatment. Get a gift voucher to their favourite restaurant. Buy tickets to a play or concert. Get them a cinema voucher. Treat them to something you know will be fun for them, with the added joy that comes from knowing that they won’t have to stress about finding a place to keep it. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Red Balloon. They have some sensational “experience” gifts at a range of prices.
Give the gift of time
Time is one thing we could all do with more of, whether it’s time with our loved ones or more time to ourselves. Instead of buying a physical present, offer to do something that gives the recipient more time. Provide your services as a babysitter so they can have some down-time. Offer to walk their dog or do the housework so they can focus on a project they’ve been working on. Give them an afternoon of your own time, taking them for a drive to a cafe for coffee and a chat. Time is a precious commodity, and any way you can give your loved one some quality time will be appreciated.
Agree to forgo presents
While it may feel a bit mean to decide not to get someone a gift, sometimes it’s the best course of action. If you and a friend are both strapped for cash, or if there is genuinely nothing that either or you need or want, it’s perfectly OK to come to an agreement to not exchange gifts. Just be sure that you both honour your word, and don’t be tempted to sneak off and buy a secret gift to throw them off guard.
Do you have any ideas for incorporating minimalism or mindfulness into your gift giving? I’d love to hear them!