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A Quick Guide to Accepting Gifts as a Minimalist

A Quick Guide to Accepting Gifts as a Minimalist


Minimalists don’t like clutter and only keep what they love, need or adds value. So, what do you do when someone you love very generously gives you a gift? Do you stress about whether it’s going to add clutter, secretly plot to get rid of the gift later or do you stress about how to say ‘no thanks’ without offending them? To help you work out some easy (and kind) ways to manage the generosity of your loved ones, check out my quick guide to accepting gifts as a Minimalist.


Birthdays and Christmas particularly are a time of giving. Your family and friends will probably want to show you how much they love you by very generously giving you presents. We all know, for example, how much grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren!

Sometimes, though, well-meaning friends and family can unknowingly put a spanner in the works when it comes to keeping our homes clutter-free.

In this guide we’re looking at what you can do to manage the influx of gifts at Christmas, but my suggestions also apply to birthdays and other celebrations too.


It’s difficult to find a balance between being grateful and feeling lucky to be given presents whilst at the same time not wanting to fall into the trappings of a commercial Christmas or other special occasion where we’re encouraged to both give and receive gifts, the more the better. It’s virtually impossible these days to avoid being bombarded by advertising and incentives to buy more and spend more.


When it feels like everyone else is busy giving and receiving presents, it feels very scrooge-like to say “no, we’re not doing gifts this year”. Especially when you say why and explain you’re having a minimalist, simple Christmas and just don’t want the clutter!

What about on your birthday? It feels a bit rude and unappreciative to say “I’m really touched you remembered my birthday, but I don’t really want your present thank you.” That probably wouldn’t go down too well!

Young children don’t easily understand the concept of Minimalism. They’ll just see and hear you turning down a gift, or not buying one, as a sign that you don’t love them enough.

So, how do you tell your friends and family that you don’t need or want gifts just because you don’t want to clutter up your home?

They might not understand what you’re trying to achieve with a more minimalist lifestyle. Instead they’ll just take it that you don’t want or appreciate whatever they’re giving.

To help you out, here are some ideas that you could use next time your birthday or Christmas comes around.

1. Explain you’re trying a minimalist, simpler lifestyle

You could try explaining your minimalist lifestyle and what you’re trying to achieve to friends and family, and of course, answer any questions they may have. They may take a bit of convincing. So, it always helps to have some tangible examples of areas of your life and home that you’ve simplified and exactly what a difference this has made.

2. Suggest experiences over material things

Suggest that if they would like to buy a gift then perhaps it could be an ‘experience’ rather than an actual item. There are lots of gift experiences on offer these days. They’re often a fun day out for all the family regardless of who is receiving the actual experience. You can take photos and make memories. A physical, material present is more likely to get discarded once used or played with. Explain that you’re looking to do more activities together as a family and an ‘experience’ gift would help you do that.

3. Let them have a Christmas or birthday wish-list

Put together a list of items that you would especially like to receive. This is really useful as it makes it easier for the person buying the gift to know what to get you. They know that it’ll be something that you really want, and you can be really specific about what you allow into your home. For the kids I always suggest arts and crafts materials and Lego sets.

4. Ask for presents you’re going to use up

If you really don’t need anything in particular, then maybe go for things that you know you’re going to use up. Some examples are food and drink and bath products. I like reading, and usually have a list of books that I’d like to read so I put a few titles down on my wish list and hope someone might kindly get me one or more of these.

Accepting gifts as a minimalist

If you do have an enthusiastic and insistent relative or friend who won’t take no for an answer, doesn’t follow your list and still gets you something you really didn’t want or need, then don’t panic!

Here’s some tips on what to do with them (the gifts, not the relatives or friends!).

1. You don’t have to keep it

First of all, don’t get caught in the trap that just because someone gave you a gift, you must keep it! It’s the thought that counts not the actual present. Remember that although they were kind and generous to give you the gift, you’re not compelled to keep it.

2. Show your appreciation and then deal with it

Make sure you say thank you, write a thank you note oozing with appreciation, but stick to your guns about not allowing the clutter to creep in. You can decide to get rid of it later by donating or recycling it. If it’s some clothing for your children, perhaps take a photo of your child wearing it, send that to the giver and then donate the item.

3. Donate to charity

You can always lessen your guilt by donating the item to charity. There’ll be somebody out there who needs it and will put it to good use, even if you don’t.

4. Give to a friend

Or maybe a friend could make more use of the item than you? You’ll have found a good home for it with a friend that you trust so it’s not gone to waste and there’s no need to feel guilty!


Minimalism can be a hard concept for some people to grasp, especially if they haven’t felt and seen the benefits for themselves.

Even though you might explain your minimalist, simple lifestyle to them, many of our friends and relatives just can’t help but express their love for us through giving us gifts, even if we wish they wouldn’t.

Now, at least, you have some ideas of how to try to avoid being given gifts you’d rather not have and what to do with them if you do still receive them!