Every holiday season I face the same question: How do I celebrate the holidays without adding clutter to my life? I’ve learned a lot over the years–mostly by making tons of mistakes–and today I’d like to share my Top 10 Gift-Giving Guidelines to help you celebrate the season without all the stuff.
1: Buy Something They Need.
Most kids do not need more plastic toys. What they do need, however, are pajamas, toothbrushes, and socks. The same goes for adults. Does your spouse need undershirts, a new lawnmower, an ergonomically correct pillow? I guarantee you, no one is ever unhappy to get things they really need!
2: Go Big.
For Easter, my sis-in-law, Gabby, buys her kids one large gift instead of a basket full of small ones. One year she bought her son Jonas a new pogo stick, her daughter Willah a pair of roller skates, and her youngest, Lizzy, her first big-girl bike. Consider getting your loved ones one big thing instead of a bunch of small things. As some famous football coach probably once said, “Go BIG or go home!”
3: Develop a Motto.
I love this gift-buying motto: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Following this motto really checks the impulse to over-buy. Even if I found myself stuck in a superstore the night before a holiday, I could follow it to buy basic gifts for my family. And imagine if you taught your kids this motto early on! They would know exactly what to expect when birthdays and holidays rolled around. My family has adopted a “One Big, Two Small” policy. For holidays, my kids make two wish lists: one for big items and one for small. They know they will get one item from their big list and two items from their small list. The definitions of “big” and “small” are up to them, which definitely leads to some interesting requests!
Gabby and I made a pact one Christmas: instead of buying new gifts, her kids each chose a toy they no longer played with to give to my kids, their younger cousins. I still remember Gabby telling me how Lizzy spent hours washing and brushing her My Little Ponies to give to my daughter, Mercedes. How sweet! Recycling toys is an easy way for kids to give each other meaningful gifts. It’s also good for the environment. Score!
5: Go Martha.
Channel your inner Martha Stewart and make something yourself. Every Christmas my neighbor, Kevin, brings us a plate of homemade cookies. I always look forward to this gift, and it doesn’t feel like Christmas until I see Kevin on my porch, cookies in hand. When I taught middle school, I spent the weeks before winter break helping my students craft gifts of writing to their loved ones. My students always came back in January, eager to tell of the teary-eyed hugs and thank you’s they received for these gifts. I guarantee you have some sort of talent you can use to create meaningful gifts for your loved ones.
6: Buy Consumables.
This might sound like it goes against everything I just said, but stay put. Sometimes you simply have to buy something, right? You can’t knit scarves for your entire office and giving a set of homemade coasters to your boss might seem a bit inappropriate. By consumable, I mean things that can be used without creating a lot of waste. For kids, think paints, crayons, bubbles, or sidewalk chalk. For adults, think wine, fancy chocolates, lotion, and candles. Be warned, though: if you give an adult all four of those items at once, they may think you’re trying to seduce them. So maybe stick with just one. (Unless of course, you are trying to seduce them, in which case, buy them all and good luck!)
7: Give Experiences.
Museum memberships, pottery classes, a night at a bed-and-breakfast, massages, manicures, etc. You get the idea. Experience gifts are my jam because the memories last a lifetime and they generate no clutter whatsoever!
8: Give Gift Cards or Cash.
I know some people think gift cards and cash aren’t real gifts, but I’ve rarely received a gift card I haven’t used and seriously, who doesn’t want cash? One year my parents moved right before the holidays and my mom didn’t have time to go shopping, so she gave all of us crisp bills folded to look like stars and Christmas trees. Everybody was happy under the tree that year! (By the way, if you’d like a gift certificate for one-one-one minimalism coaching sessions, you can contact me and I’ll hook you up!)
9: Give to a Cause.
What causes do your loved ones care about? Rescuing abused animals? Building schools in needy countries? Stopping rainforest destruction? Charitable donations not only support worthy causes, but they also show that you thought about the specific heartstrings of the receiver.
10: Give Your Time.
A woman in one of my live minimalism classes once shared that her 13-year-old grandson had asked her for only one birthday gift that year: a day for just him and her. The spontaneous “Awww!” from crowd drove home the message: we underestimate the gift of our time. Our time is the most precious thing we can give another person. (So by the way, thanks for giving me your time by reading this! You’re awesome!) Josh and I always give each other planned date nights. We give our kids coupons for one-on-one time with us. Our kids give their friends gift certificates for movie nights and sleepovers. How could you give your time to someone you love?
Cheers to less stuff and more you,
PS Ready to start your own minimalism journey? Get my FREE Minimalism Starter Guide and let’s get going!