I discuss gifts much more extensively in my book “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas.” I go over the popular 4-Gift Rule (“something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read“) and how to best implement it with your family at different age-levels. If four gifts truly seems too ambitious for your family right now, perhaps scale it back to eight gifts and change the rhyme to “2 things you want, 2 things you need, etc.” this year. Next year, you may feel more comfortable with four gifts if it suits your family.
Regardless, we must be more intentional with our gift-giving. Intentionality is the hallmark of minimalism and if you are able to add in sustainability and frugality, then I believe you will find even more peace with your gifting decisions. Whatever it is you’re planning to purchase, I urge you to please browse your area’s second-hand shops first before buying something new. It’s the most low-waste and frugal option and there are often perfectly good barely-used items that would be perfect as a gift–especially for little ones who are rough on their toys, anyways!
I also discuss in my book how to get family and friends on board with gifting less–especially the particular loved ones who tend to go overboard with gifting. One of the several strategies I suggest is to provide a list so that your household is at least receiving items you could use or need, rather than items that are destined to become clutter (for example, I create one Pinterest Board per kid, so all links can be found in a single place). Perhaps you find a few items in this list that you could suggest to the generous gift-givers in your circle.
Remember, this is not an extensive list for purchasing. Glance at it and locate only a few that seems like a great fit for your family. If you have suggestions of things to add, I’d love to hear them!
(p.s. Scroll to the bottom for ADULT Minimalist Gifts)
Note: None of the items linked in this post are affiliates or sponsored in any way. (How refreshing is that to read!) These are simply ideas and items I personally like.
Gifts for Children of Minimalists:
Experience gifts are great for getting the kids out of the home, moving their bodies, stretching their minds, building new memories and engaging with the family or with new friends. Classes, tickets and gift cards are usually the best way to gift these experiences to help ensure they will take place. It’s great to add a card or photo and a pre-planned date for enjoying the experience to look forward to. I love this viral story about “Grandma’s Adventure Box” full of experience gifts. You may need to do added research in year 2020/2021, as experiences have shifted dramatically due to the pandemic.
Science museum membership
Art museum membership
Play area membership
Ballet, jazz, or tap dancing classes
Karate or other martial arts classes
Putt-putt/mini-golf gift card
Gift card for favorite family restaurant, ice cream shop, donut shop, etc.
Music lessons (singing, piano, woodwind, guitar)
Ballet, opera or symphony tickets (or annual season pass)
Pre-paid thrill events (parasailing, bungie jumping, inner tubing, etc.)
Pre-paid local tourist attractions or events
Pre-planned day-trip within a couple hours of your home
Ice-skating or roller rink passes
The holidays should focus on togetherness, so I love the idea of gifting an item that allows for interaction. Siblings can play together or parents and family members can play with the child.
Find The Hidden Object books
I love the recurring nature of certain subscription boxes that are created for kids–especially if they are sneaking in education disguised as play! Be careful not to accumulate clutter with these, though. Many of them come with bits and bobs that are intended for, say, one science experiment, but may linger afterward. Be mindful of this so that it doesn’t slowly overtake your home. The same can be said for educational children’s magazines.
Science/STEM subscription kits for kids
Art subscription boxes for kids
National Geographic Kids magazine subscription
Big Joint Gift
Some years you may want to get a bigger gift that can entertain everyone in the family and last for a long time. There’s no need to do this every year, but Christmas can be a good excuse to finally splurge and get the one big thing you think everyone would enjoy. To build up anticipation, you could even add a little scavenger hunt for the kids to eventually discover the whopping surprise at the end.
other yard toy (trampoline, spinning swing, etc)
tickets for a big family vacation
tip: add a scavenger hunt to find the gift for more anticipation build-up!
playset with monkey bars and swing
other yard toys as mentioned in the “Big Joint Gift” category above
plants (they teach responsibility, patience, science and more!)
guitar, piano/keyboard or other musical instrument
homemade, edible treats (hooray for low-waste!)
essentials (fun toothpaste, bamboo toothbrush)
small magnifying glass (to inspect Mother Nature)
Something to Wear
Kid “capsule wardrobes” are ideal if you are able to whittle the miniature clothes down to a handful of items that will all mix and match together. I still appreciate quality hand-me-downs and a good thrift store find, so their wardrobe is not as coordinated as my own. But I know plenty of moms who have had success with this! If you are buying new clothes for Christmas consider these:
Search second-hand first!
Boden (my friend Denaye Barahona, Ph.D., of Simple Families (who wrote my book’s Foreword) recommends this brand for tops in particular. Tip: Look for their frequent 30% off sales throughout the year.)
Primary (This is my recommendation for clothes in basic colors with no prints. I also love their PJs for Christmas! I have bought the same red zipper footies (and eventually shirt/pants set) every year for my oldest as she grows, and then the previous year’s PJs fit her baby sister as a hand-me-down. This is the most affordable way I’ve found to have “new, matching” Christmas jammies.)
Something to Read
Books, books, books! Because they are so good for child development, feel free to be maximalist for children’s books.There are endless links and titles I could put here, but I simply don’t have the time. I will, however, tell you my favorite book series for young girls below. If you can, please support local independent bookshops! They needed our support before, but now that we are in this pandemic, these stores (and authors) REALLY need your support. When you are ready to declutter your books, you can donate them to your local library and continue to spread the love.
The most stimulating kind of play that also does not come with a ton of wasteful clutter is “open-ended play.” This kind of play allows your child endless possibilities during playtime. There are no instructions, rules, or preset sequential guides for children to follow. Unlike closed-ended games and activities, there is no “right” answer or “right” way to complete or finish the project. Ideas would be:
very basic toys (blocks, balls, etc.)
Here is a link to 100 toys for open-ended play
The Future ($)
These types of gifts are popular for Aunts and Uncles to give. They know they will not be contributing to clutter, but are gifting something hugely helpful for the child’s future. Invest in your child’s future and use the holidays as a way to remind yourself to add to it consistently.
Add a certain amount to their 521 account for college
Create an index fund account for them and add a certain amount each year (Example: VTI, VTSAX)
Many times, people gifting these amazing future funds also give a gift card or small sum of cash ($20 or $100) in a card that tells them what they are doing and when they can access it. It could be given to them for college (18) or when they’re more mature (25), for example. This is a way to still give something tangible while the magic of compounding interest is building for their future quietly in the background.
Gifts for Adult Minimalists
Here are some items that are lovely, high-quality and useful that some minimalists may find great joy in using in their daily life:
Always Pan from Our Place
This aesthetically pleasing pan is designed to replace 8 traditional pieces of cookware: fry pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest. Think of all the kitchen clutter they could get rid of and the lovely space they’ll gain!
This stylish and comfy outfit is not what it seems… A Tuxy Suit is a hoodie and sweatpants combo that is actually sewn together as a onesie. It’s the coolest looking onesie I’ve ever seen! Apparently it really helps keep the heat in and the rain out. They even have them for women, too! You can’t tell it’s not two separate pieces, so this can replace any collection of old sweatpants and sweatshirts someone may have.
Sustainable minimalists will love this one! You no longer need to purchase (and then feel the need to hold onto) stacks of notebooks for journaling, note taking, to-do lists, brainstorming, creative writing, doodling and more. You can simply have ONE notebook for a very, very long time. This Rocketbook connects to your email, computer and phone and can written on with a (certain type of) normal pen, so you still have that handwriting experience. The Rocketbook then converts your handwriting into text for you (so you don’t have to transcribe later!) and saves it in various digital areas for you to access later. Think of how clean your office desk and “briefcase” will be! Just drop this same notebook into your purse or man bag and literally lose the weight of your previous assorted journals and notebooks.
Gift Subscription to a Minimalist-Minded Magazine:
Simplify Magazine (quarterly, digital)
Simple Money Magazine (quarterly, digital)
Real Simple Magazine (monthly, paper)
Audiobook Subscription Service (reduces book clutter!)
You can also gift Kindle Unlimited, if your loved one prefers ebooks.
Gift a Masterclass Experience
You could give the gift of learning how to master modern Italian cooking, choreography, creative writing, screenwriting, opera singing, skateboarding, photography, fashion design, leadership skills and so much more! Since experience-gifts are going digital during the pandemic, this would be a fantastic way to still give something incredibly unique to a loved one.
You can also gift music streaming services, online yoga classes, access to all magazines digitally (reduces clutter!), Costco memberships, Amazon Prime memberships, food subscription services (ooh! A night off from cooking!) and so much more!
Add a thoughtful, hand-written card to make these digital gifts feel tangible.
And lastly, perhaps they’d like my book: “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas.” 😉
I hope you have found this helpful! Again, this is not a comprehensive shopping list. My hope is that I’ve given you ample ideas and you have found the one to four items that would bring the most value to your loved one.
I hope you have yourself a Minimalist Christmas, my friends! I hope it’s full of love, peace and togetherness.