On Gift-Giving & Minimalism 

If you landed here after a Google search, chances are you were looking for for something other than a gift card or an “experience.” While those are two great options to give or get when asked for – the more I looked into the suggestions of other bloggers, the more I realized that it wasn’t just about the gift or lack thereof. I’d go into detail, but this blog post by Everyday Small Stuff does a very good job of summing up my exact feelings on the matter. Here’s an excerpt:

I had failed in my first attempt at a minimalist birthday. Not that I didn’t love my presents, and not that there was physical stuff I actually wanted, but in the end, it didn’t feel like my birthday without any presents.

Once she realized it was more about the effort of her loved ones (rather than the gifts) that made her feel celebrated, she had this to say:

We can figure out other ways of decorating to create the anticipation. We’ll find something else to do together as a family that doesn’t involve opening presents, but that still is completely out of the everyday. And between decorating and celebrating, I don’t think there will be any room to doubt the effort my family put in to making my birthday a special day.

So here, I will offer a few suggestions for gifts (almost) everyone can appreciate and ways to celebrate together to mark a special day.

1. Give them a key to your place. Not there yet? Maybe just clear out a drawer for their stuff. This is great for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries… etc. Have you ever seen the Valentine’s Day episode of The Office?



2. Show them how much you care and need them in your life by making them your Emergency Contact. This is the only other idea I got from TV 🙂



3.Research and plan birthday coupons for local restaurants. There are tons of places that offer freebies for birthdays. Put a little effort into planning a tour of a few places. Do them all in one day or find ones that apply to the birthday month and go to a different place each day for a week. Here’s a good starting point.

4. Anything on Groupon. I’ve had my eye on an exercise class for a while and keep talking myself out of it! I’d love to receive it as a gift though. It’s a great clutter-free gift, as are many options on Groupon, from food, to spa services, to all kinds of classes.

5. Pre-Pay an Organizer. Yes, I am advertising my services right here. Why shouldn’t I? A few hours of my time make a great gift for anyone who has *already* expressed interest in getting organized. Please don’t hire me or anyone else unless you know the recipient is actually interested. It’s painful for both the organizer and the recipient.

6. Ebooks or Digital Downloads. I got this idea from talking to a certain someone who got a Playstation 4 from me for Christmas. They went on to ask for digital games from others! I figure other digital items would be great for people who use them. A word to the wise, however, some people view these items as “digital clutter.” If you think that may be the case, you may want to opt for number seven.

7. Update Older Items. Chances are the minimalist in your life had to toss a few items that were past their prime but still favorites. If they’ve talked about it, offer to upgrade the item as a gift. Other good options include upgrading cables for electronics, specifically charging cables. These things are always getting damaged and there always seems to be a newer, faster version on the market.

8. Vintage Toys. (Actually this is from TV too but I couldn’t find a picture.) There’s a scene in the Santa Clause 2 where Scott gives out all these vintage toys at a faculty Christmas party. I couldn’t help but think how much I’d enjoy having a shiny new rock tumbler to polish up my collection. This would be a great option for the vintage-anything lover on your list.

9.Scratch-Offs. These are a ton of fun and can be thrown away (yay!) or exchanged for money (double-yay!).


  • Make the day about your recipient. It doesn’t cost much to give someone your full attention!
  • Decorate!! Home-made decor is always more fun and can be put up ahead of time to ramp up the excitement.
  • Have countdowns. We have an advent calendar for Christmas but why don’t we count down to birthdays or other celebrations more often?
  • Bake a cake or make some other special food item. This one can even be done together.
  • Arrange a scavenger hunt! Giving a gift that isn’t much in terms of material can seem a lot less fun, but if you add in a little adventure, you’re offering max effort as well as your time.

Regarding the Little Ones:

…The point of minimalist is not to deeply deprive or torture kids, but to help them thrive and play intentionally. Kids just play so much better without toy clutter. So if you’re going to buy a toy, make it one that has a purpose or is something the kid in your life is just DYING for. – Allie Casazza


  • Ask what they want. How hard is that and why do some people have such a hard time going with what the recipient has already deemed the “perfect gift?”
  • Be okay with giving nothing – only if that’s truly what your recipient desires. Hint: watch out for people who are indirectly telling you that they want you to figure it out on your own…
  • Accept gifts graciously (even if you’re working toward living with less). There’s no reason to rub your lifestyle in someone’s face who just put in their time and effort to give something to you.
  • Request time together instead of gifts. If you really would like something like this, it’s okay to ask for it 🙂
  • Follow registries. I’m not sure if people who buy off-list items just don’t realize that people put a lot of time into picking out the items on their list and are likely looking forward to receiving them but may never dream of buying them for themselves.
  • Investigate! See what *consumable* items (read: lotions, soaps, tea, coffee, fragrance, blah blah blah) they use regularly and buy them another one.

Do Not’s:

  • Impose minimalism on those who haven’t chosen such a lifestyle by passing out a “One Less Gift” certificate to your life-long clutter-bug of a friend. You can get them something consumable too… see above.
  • Give someone a membership they’ll have to cancel or pay for after the holidays. Re-upping current subscriptions or memberships is a nice gesture though!
  • Choose a gift card or impose a “where” limit to cash gifts. If you couldn’t decide what to get, don’t limit your recipient. I’ve had people tell me I couldn’t spend my cash graduation gift on bills or student loans. It made no sense to me – helping me out of debt would have been a great gift.
  • Buy something someone has specifically asked you not to purchase. Some people really don’t want you to buy their kids more toys. It’s not up to you to decide.

A final thought~

I feel fortunate knowing that I have so many possessions and am at a point where I must de-clutter. Truly. What an age we live in to actually have to devote time to downsizing, minimizing, and discarding items – so much so that we must ask others not to give us more things and be mindful of items we would like to give.

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