It is my birthday month!
*pauses for you to sing happy birthday*
Aw, thank you! Since it is my birthday, and this is my first time dealing with gift-giving since making the transition to a minimalist lifestyle, I figured this was the opportune time to talk about how to give gifts! This is specifically from a minimalist lens, but frankly I think it should, and can, be applied to everyone.
I HATE giving presents. I really do. I put so much pressure on myself to find “The Perfect” gift, which really, it doesn’t exist, and it shouldn’t. If you are GOOD at giving presents you might be shaking your head at me right now, but hear me out.
Many if not most minimalists choose this lifestyle because they want to either:
a)put their money into high quality products as opposed to lots of cheap items (quality over quantity essentially);
or b) they want their money to go to memories and experiences instead of surrounding themselves with shtuff.
So knowing this, how can friends and families go about giving gifts so that (this sounds harsh, but stick with me), so that they don’t hinder the minimalist? I’ve seen a lot of minimalists who stop giving gifts all together, one woman said something about “We got to a point where we were just giving money back and forth and it seemed pointless” but I COMPLETELY DISAGREE! Giving gifts is stressful, but it feels good! It’s fun to see the receiver’s face light up! And when you see them using the item later, you get a sense of pride for being so intuitive. Its great to GET gifts! It’s just plain fun to get a present from someone. I have a dress my best friend bought me as a birthday present – I think she got sick of my staring at it every time we passed the store – and everytime I look at it or wear it, I think back on the trip we were on and how surprised I was. The GF got me an authentic Polaroid Camera from the late 90’s and while I don’t use it often (film is expensive, yo!), every time I use it or look at it I am surprised all over again at how well she knows me. Overall it depends on what your love language is. Mine is stuff, but I also don’t want to be surrounded by a ton of crap.
SO, what should you get? I have ideas for you. And again, I think that these apply to everyone, not just minimalists.
- Something that can be finished:
Things that can be enjoyed, but have a definite ending are perfect gifts, bonus points if it could be reused in a different way. Things like candles (maybe in a jar that can get used for another candle, or as a mini-vase?) or wine (bottles can be reused or tossed in recycling), these are two things that also could be used when they are given, so it becomes a part of the experience. These are also great host’s gifts for a dinner party or holiday gathering.
- Something that grows:
If your gift is for someone who likes plants, or desperately needs something living for their home, then plants are perfect. A bouquet of flowers are nice, but they will dies so I’ve always seen that as a better “congrats!” type gift. A plant would (hopefully) grow and last a while. If the person isn’t great at growing things, or if you are uncertain: succulents. They are super *in* right now, and they are low maintenance.
- Something you can do together:
Do they love animals? Go to the zoo. Do they love wine? Wine-tasting. Do they love burgers? Go to that hipster overpriced burger place. Do they like scary things? Go skydiving. There are millions of things to do in this world, and they are all more fun with a friend. This is a tad less appealing, because it involves planning and scheduling, but those memories will likely be more cherished than any knick-knack you could have bought.
- Something they picked out:
My friend did this for my birthday last year. While shopping together, I was stuck between buying two purses, and months later she went back and got the one I didn’t pick. If you’re minimalist is a shopaholic (like me) this could be a dangerous option. It’s very likely that they didn’t get the thing because they thought deep down that they wouldn’t use it. My friend just got lucky, honestly.
- Gift cards or cash:
This is less personal, but you can rest easy knowing that it will be appreciated and used. If you want it to be more personal, then get a gift card that is specific to a store you know that they like (Such as Lush or Sephora for beauty product lovers; Target for ANYONE; a nice resturant, etc). Plus, you don’t have to stress about picking something out!
- If none of those work? Ask them.
I have a list written up of things that I want and will get eventually but they aren’t a priority right now. There are two books i’m interested in, but I have others I can read for now. I have those cute Eiffel Tower scissors from Target on the list; I need new scissors but I also need food. If you get them something that they specifically know they need and want, then there is little to no chance that your gift will go unused or get thrown out in 6 months.
I want to comment on gag-gifts. My mother (for example) loves giving gag-gifts. And they’re funny, and great for a little while. But they almost always get regifted or thrown out. Most of them are made from plastic, which means (not to get nasty, but) you are wasting resources for a moment’s amusement, and there are easier ways to accomplish that.
I also want to say, tread carefully about giving gifts you made yourself. If it something that they would ABSOLUTELY use, like a mug or a blanket, maybe rethink it? Things like art, or decor, those are things that everyone has a unique preference for. I may love something you make because YOU made it, but do I have the space? I would say this most applies to kid art. If you are having a child make something for someone, make something that will last and they will care for. Instead of a paper mache lion, how about a drink coaster? Instead of a necklace made from macaroni, how about a handmade key chain? Do they love reading? Help the child “write a book” and gift that. My sister made me and the GF little wooden things that have our name on them, and while I love that she put in the time to make these for us, I have NOWHERE to put them without them collecting dust. I’m thinking of stringing them together to put on our door, but if that gets annoying, I’ll feel pressured to keep them, despite the fact that they bring me stress.
Oh, and don’t take them to a store and “pick something out!” because that puts weird pressure on them! I see that randomly in movies or tv shows and it’s just awkward. Unless they are 5, and you’re at Toys R Us, and then it’s amazing.
What gift giving tips do you have? Any tips on minimalist gift giving? Share them with me!