The minimalist guide to gift-giving

Christmas can be a risky time of year for many of us. All things considered, rarely a Christmas will pass that didn’t include me getting at least one pointless thing. I am literally running out of room for pointless things, and so are my children so I’m normally confronted with the hard and time-consuming task of disposing of these items while feeling like an awful individual for throwing or giving these items away or storing an endless supply of pointless stuff just because I feel bad because I will never use or have rarely used the item in the past.

Maybe you find yourself in the same boat. You don’t need more stuff. You would like to limit the amount of stuff (of the consumerist attitude your children are beginning to display) you get and have but the holidays make you feel bad if you don’t spend, spend, spend! I made of list of some cool ways to give without breaking the bank, going against your values and will be appreciated (no one will feel cheated).

Remember: minimalism is a choice and a journey. No need to throw out everything you own or pledge to not buy anything… moderation is always the key! Start small, scale up and as time passes you and your family will become more comfortable with less. It’s not a race. It’s about mindful living.

First: It’s easy to go the gift card route. People can get what they want and need, even when research shows most go unused. Also, It’s simply masked as minimalist. People typically have the capacity to spend their money on whatever they want/need and it’s still a way to consume more stuff, and so in this manner, it’s not genuinely minimalist. If you know the person is having money problems or trouble meeting their monthly needs… a grocery gift card could be a great way to help especially for an elderly neighbor.

There is something about minimalism that everyone agrees — at least to some extent — is that owning less makes your life easier. And you know what? That is true. But to sort through your stuff can be a painful process, and it’s not easy to admit that it’s hard to disconnect from your “stuff”.

Strangely, only the first time is most difficult. Because once embarked on the path of following your values to have less stuff and more meaningful stuff, even as a beginner, you will experience multiple benefits.

When most people think of minimalism, they think of the 100 things challenge- but that is only one extreme possible approach to minimalism- and it’s not for the faint of heart. Living with only 100 possessions is not where I would recommend you start!

The goal is to begin with your thinking and that can translate into behaviors that allow you to live more mindfully. A follower of the minimalism idea or approach is just someone who questions the necessity of “stuff” and tries to live with what is needed and has real value to them rather than having a consumerist “never enough” attitude.

If you want to try a fun, enlightening challenge connected to the 100 things living- try it as a game. What 100 things would you choose? Can you give everything else away? How would you make due? How creative could you be? What would your life look like? What would your life feel like, after the shock of course? Can you get your possession down to 100 items? 200? Question: Does everything need to be counted like a comb and nail clippers or can they be grouped as toiletries? Haha What would you do with the extra money? What would you do with the extra time? Think of this exercise as a tool- a tool to get your thinking about what’s actually necessary and important for you to live a full, happy life. Ask yourself… what do you own that you could actually live without?

The holiday season is upon us. The season of giving, getting and debt! So in this short article, I decided to share some ways you can make this Christmas holiday a memorable one without breaking the bank, buying too much stuff and panicking about credit cards bills come Jan 1st.

So what are good gifts to give with the minimalism idea in mind? How to make gift-giving more conscious, more meaningful and less consumer-istic?

1. Consumables

Gifts that consume themselves are always good. The risk that such gifts end up gathering dust in the corner, there is little here. Provided you meet the tastes of the recipient: red or white wine? Olive oil, pesto or gourmet snacks? Food delivery service? Baking supplies (for a baker). A few additional ideas for consumable gifts: learning activity [glass blowing class, lessons for someone learning a language, women’ self-defense class], hygiene products such as Shower gel, lotions and perfume (just not the cheap stuff). Think about stuff they said they would like to try.

2. Giveaway time!

Time is probably the most valuable resource any of us have today. We all have seemingly too little of it. Giving away time by helping someone with a move, building an ikea bookcase or helping with yard work, is invaluable. There are tons of ways to give of your time- you’ll think of something! Also consider tickets to an event or outing that you all can go to together: cinema, to the theater or an exhibition. Spa and massage packages are very popular gifts this time of year too. Besides beautiful memories, nothing superfluous remains!

3. Experiences.

Can you think of something someone wanted to do but would never splurge on the experience themselves? Maybe your mother always wanted to go skydiving, but has never dared? Hot air balloon ride? Race track fantasy? Helicopter ride around the city? Horseback riding? Ziplining? Zoo keeper for a day? An all-out model photo shoot with make-up, clothing changes, the works? The ideas are endless… start helping them check things off their bucket list with the gift of an experience.

4. Homemade.

As with the gift of time, not everyone is happy about receiving a homemade gift. It really depends on what the homemade gift is, its perceived value and your level of skill. But for those who appreciate such things, they couldn’t be more pleased and satisfied with the gift and your effort.

5. Pay for subscriptions.

Make sure to know your loved one before you go this route. I gave subscriptions to YES! magazine once and it was a big hit. So think about a subscription to their favorite magazine, the newspaper or an online service, like Netflix, Hulu or even satellite radio. itunes gift cards and kindle gift cards are a big plus to those users as well, so are specialty food delivery services, wine of the month clubs, and exotic beer clubs. Subscription clubs come in all sizes and types, be creative and find something unusual, practical or crazy.

6. Give Supplies.

This is a great idea for your hobbyist friend or family member. For example, if you know a runner, how about new running shoes (or a gift certificate for new running shoes)? Bookworms rejoice over a new book, painters, how about about color and screens, jewelry hobbyist, how about new beads- the ideas are endless. And if you are not sure to pick out colors, sizes or materials, then give away a voucher/gift card for the corresponding shop. Another great thing about hobbyist is they love to learn new techniques, so why not a class, a training session, or workshop.

So there you have it, valuable and useful alternatives to maximizing your budget or worrying less, circling the shops, purchasing a ton of stuff that will probably end up in storage anyway! I dare you to have a more Minimalist Christmas or holiday where giving to your lover, kid, friend and family alike is more about time and joy and connection- those things, I promise are worth more than any material offering.

If you would like more tips on minimalist giving this holiday season and how to take the spirit of Christmas back from big business… check out my addendum here: Mindful and Meaningful Gift Ideas that Everyone will LOVE… even your kids! Click to read. Happy Holidays!