MINIMALIST GIFT IDEAS TO SIMPLIFY GIFT-GIVING
If you’re looking to simplify life, avoiding clutter is a great way to live more intentionally without excess stuff. However, gifts at Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions can be difficult to handle if you’re trying to live clutter-free. Here are some minimalist gift ideas to simplify gift-giving without adding to your clutter.
MINIMALISM AND THE MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE
A minimalist lifestyle is a life without excess stuff and clutter. There are many misconceptions and myths around minimalism which can feel off-putting in the beginning. Perhaps you’ve heard some of them?
You might think, for example, that you need bare white walls, little furniture and a restricted wardrobe. You can have all these things but you don’t need to live like that if you don’t want to just to call yourself a minimalist!
Minimalism is so much more than being just about your stuff, or lack of it. The minimalist lifestyle is a life of intention and choice – about what clutters and removes you from life and creating more time, space and freedom for what matters.
What the minimalist lifestyle does encourage us to do is think about the clutter that we have in our home, schedule, mind and heart. What really adds value to our life or what’s just empty padding or the clutter of everyday life that we’re too tired or busy to sift through.
Minimalism is about being aware of the different types of clutter in our lives and taking small, intentional and consistent steps to keep that clutter out and make space for what matters.
MINIMALISM AND GIFTS
So then, what do you do at Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions when well-meaning family and friends want to give you gifts. Or, conversely, you want to show your love, appreciation and kindness to others by buying them gifts.
Giving and receiving gifts as a minimalist can be tricky. We don’t want to clutter up our own homes with gifts from others and equally, we don’t want to add to the clutter in other people’s homes either.
If this is something you feel stuck with, I hope the tips I’m sharing in this article will simplify gift-giving and offer you some minimalist gift ideas to try out yourself!
FEELING LIKE YOU HAVE TO BUY PRESENTS
These days it’s really easy to fall into the trap of a commercial Christmas or other special occasion. In fact, there seem to be special occasions for so many things these days. In our society of bigger, better, more, it’s big business for the shops and advertisers to encourage us to spend as much as we can, as fast as we can.
From every angle throughout the year, we’re bombarded by messages to buy stuff for ourselves and as presents for others. Shiny objects on the shelves, advertising on the TV, sales galore, easy returns, next day delivery and everything available at the click of a button.
When it seems like everybody else is buying presents, it seems counterintuitive, even miserly to go against the norm and deliberately choose to give less.
Just to be clear, Minimalism isn’t about not spending money, never going shopping, or living as frugally as possible (although there are some common parallels). Instead, minimalism is about shopping and spending intentionally.
As I hope this article and minimalist gift ideas will encourage you, it’s possible to buy and give thoughtful, intentional presents that don’t cost a fortune but have plenty of meaning behind them.
RECEIVING GIFTS FROM OTHERS
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.
HOW TO AVOID RECEIVING UNWANTED GIFTS
To help you out, here are some ideas that you could use next time your birthday, anniversary, Christmas or another special occasion comes around to help you avoid receiving unwanted but well-meaning gifts.
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.
Perhaps you could explain how your home is easier to look after, you can spend less time cleaning, and feel more confident and proud in your home when guests come over.
You could explain that your kids play better with fewer toys, have more imaginative and creative play with less overwhelm and distractions.
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 of consumable gifts 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.
WHAT TO DO WITH UNWANTED GIFTS YOU DO RECEIVE
If you do have an enthusiastic and insistent relative or friend who’s determined to buy you something, doesn’t follow your wish list and still gets you something you really didn’t want or need, then don’t panic. Be grateful for their generosity and thoughtfulness and then deal with the item(s) as follows:
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 at this time.
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!
HOW TO GIVE GIFTS THAT WON’T ADD CLUTTER
Now that we’ve looked at some ways you can avoid receiving gifts that will add clutter, now let’s look at how you can GIVE gifts that won’t add clutter. These minimalist gift ideas will help simplify gift-giving and giving gifts that people want and appreciate without just contributing to yet more stuff!
1. Ask for a wish list
Just like you can provide a wish list, why not try asking people what they want too. Perhaps they have a list of books they’ve been meaning to buy, a replacement tool for their DIY projects, some new make-up or art and craft materials.
2. Consumable gifts
Where there’s no wish list or specific requests, try buying some consumable gifts. Make a mental note or ask some subtle questions about what’s their favourite food, wine, snacks, tea or coffee.
Do they have a favourite bath product brand? Or would they like to try something new they’ve had their eye on for a while?
3. Buying fewer gifts
Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away buying gifts. Maybe it’s keeping up with old traditions where you buy multiple gifts at Christmas or birthdays. Could you decide to buy fewer gifts or, for example, keep a big one for their birthday and smaller ones for Christmas?
We get into the habit of doing the same thing because we’ve always done it. Minimalism is about questioning why we do things and finding a simpler, more intentional way that might suit us and align with our priorities better.
MINIMALIST GIFT IDEAS THAT AREN’T PHYSICAL THINGS
Gift-giving is a way to show our love, affection and thanks for someone and, as we mentioned above, in our consumerist world, it’s easy to press the ‘buy now’ button to appreciate another person.
However, money is a limited commodity for so many people and not everyone can afford to buy presents for everyone special in their lives. Even more so to the value that we might like to give to our nearest and dearest.
Money isn’t our only limited resource. We have time and energy as well which have value to others, not just ourselves. So what about finding other ways to show our love without having to spend money on material gifts.
Perhaps you could gift your time, skills, experience and energy in other ways?
Some examples could be offering to:
- Do housework
- Do the weekly grocery shop
- Walk the dog
- Mow and weed the garden
- Paint a room
- Offer a massage
- Donate to a charity of their choice
- Teach them a foreign language or another skill you could share
- Bake a cake or cook them dinner
There are so many ways we can show our love and they often require more of us than just our money. Our time, energy and presence (rather than presents) are priceless and show we care just as much, if not more, than that easy click of the ‘buy now’ button.
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Minimalism can be a hard concept for some people to grasp, especially if they haven’t felt and seen the benefits for themselves. Not everyone wants to live a clutter-free life and simplifying life looks different for everyone. What might be a priority and benefit to you might not be so important to someone else right at this time.
Even though a minimalist, clutter-free life and home might be right for you, for many people gift-giving is a love language and it’s how they show they care about you. It wouldn’t be right just to expect them not to buy you something when maybe they’ve bought you presents for years.
Have realistic expectations over what gifts you might receive and from whom and use the minimalist gift ideas in this article to deal with them in a way that feels right for you!
OTHER RESOURCES ON MINIMALIST GIFT IDEAS AND CLUTTER-FREE PRESENTS
- Clutter-free gift ideas that won’t add clutter
- Thoughtful clutter-free gift ideas for Mother’s Day
- Clutter-free Valentine’s Day gift ideas
DON’T MISS OUT!
I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!