Over the past few years, Robby and I have pursued what we call a “simple life,” which includes a minimalist mindset. (Read more about our simple life here.) In short, we spend our resources (time, money, and energy) on what matters most to us. That means we also avoid the accumulation of “stuff,” which has to be stored, cleaned, maintained, insured, and—if we ever move—boxed, shipped, and then unboxed.
Before we had Gordon, our family respected our minimalist ideals. They agreed to put a halt on the usual gift exchange and to simply enjoy spending time together, especially around the dinner table.
Then we had Gordon. Now all bets are off as both sets of grandparents and extended family clamor to “get the baby something for his first real Christmas.” Still, they don’t want to buy him something that we won’t want to keep around the house.
Minimalists focus on what they value, so what do your loved ones value?
Perhaps you’re in the same boat. You love your family and you want to get them something nice for Christmas, but they don’t seem to want “stuff.” What do you do? Well, worry no more! I’ve put together the following shopping guide to help you buy for your favorite minimalists.
But first, here’s what you really need to know about minimalism:
1) Minimalists focus on what they value, so what do your loved ones value? This could be date nights, family trips, saving for college, big family meals, special activities for the kids, etc.
2) Minimalists purchase less stuff, but they usually put more thought into what they do purchase. That means they value quality over quantity. They may also insist on goods that are humanely sourced, cruelty-free, eco-friendly, or American made.
3) Minimalists try to avoid buying stuff, but they still need to eat, buy household goods, and replace clothes and shoes when they wear out.
4) Minimalist parents pass on their ideals to their children, so they may have a limit on the number of toys their kids can have.
5) Minimalists think about the life cycle of products: “Once my kid is done playing with this toy, can it be used by another kid?” “Is this material durable?” “Can I recycle this when I’m done with it?”
Beware of These
With these things in mind, beware of…
1) Disposable gifts.
You know, the ones that are cute, don’t cost much, are made in China, and will probably break in a few weeks.
2) Chotchkies. Decorations. Pretties.
These are the very things minimalists are trying to minimize.
Minimalist parents pass on their ideals to their children
3) Sentimental items.
These could go either way. If it’s an item your minimalist values, she’ll be touched by the thoughtful gift. If she doesn’t want to make room for it, though, it could be something she can’t get rid of but doesn’t want to keep. Best advice: ask her ahead of time if she wants it.
4) Large or “needy” items.
Minimalists save room and money by getting rid of bulky items and those that use up a lot of electricity. So think twice before you buy things that take up a lot of space (inside or outside), that require constant electricity (like drink coolers), or that need to be fed and walked (that should go without saying!). If you do think your loved one would appreciate something like this, it’s still a good idea to check with her before you buy it.
Look for These
So what should you buy? Here are a few gift ideas your minimalist should appreciate:
1) Electronic Subscriptions.
It seems every business these days is promoting a subscription. While you want to avoid subscriptions that would deliver unwanted stuff (like magazines or random health-and-beauty products that your loved one will never use), electronic subscriptions can be really beneficial.
One of the most popular is Amazon Prime. For a yearly fee, you get free shipping on thousands of items on Amazon.com. You also get access to Prime, which provides tons of TV shows, movies, music, and books for no additional cost. If your loved ones don’t have Prime, you could offer to pay for their subscription. (We love ours!)
If your minimalist is a book worm, she may have switched to eBooks, or electronic books, which are often read on special devices called eReaders. While there are a lot of free books available through Amazon Prime, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program offers thousands more for a small monthly fee. If she’s a fan of Barnes & Noble, check out their equivalent, the Nook.
Kids can have electronic subscriptions, too. Gordon loves the kid-friendly lullaby app LooLoo Kids, which is free on our TV but charges a monthly fee if I download it on my phone (which I’m seriously considering for those long car rides to Grandma’s!).
2) Children’s books and solid toys.
While parents may be switching to eBooks, kids need to hold real books and turn the pages to fully appreciate them, so children’s books are always a good bet. So are solid toys like those from companies like Melissa & Doug, which are usually wooden and require imagination (not batteries). Legos, building blocks, science-related items, and even board games are all great gifts because they promote activity, togetherness, and learning.
If the kids are old enough to love getting mail, a subscription to Highlights magazine or a book-of-the-month club can be really fun all year round.
Oh, and don’t pass up those thrift stores. Minimalists appreciate secondhand books and toys because they extend the life of the product while reducing waste—a win-win!
Everyone has to eat! You could send a gift card to their favorite restaurant or their local grocery store. However, homemade dinners or desserts are always special.
Everyone has to eat!
4) General gift cards.
We all have to buy toilet paper and shampoo, so a Visa or MC gift card is a great idea. A card to a local retail or grocery store would also be well-received. Avoid those specialty stores, though, because it may be hard for your minimalist to find something there she can’t live without.
5) Togetherness items.
Look for gifts that foster togetherness like board games, event tickets, and camping gear. Items that record special moments, like cameras and camcorders, are also really nice, but make sure you find out what kind they want before you buy.
Another option: family photos. Everyone likes a good family photo, but they can get expensive. Offer to pay for a session in exchange for an 8×10.
If your loved ones really don’t need or want anything, they may appreciate it if you make a donation to their favorite charity in their name. Compassion International has a great gift guide for this very purpose.
That’s right. Your minimalist most likely wants nothing more from you than a good visit. So consider setting aside a weekend afternoon or taking a day off work. You can even take a pie for good measure.
One final thought: talk to your favorite minimalist. Ask her what she and the family really need or want for Christmas. And then listen to what she says. Yes, this might take away some of the surprise (at least for the adults), but it will ensure your hard-earned money is well-spent and that the gift is well-received. Plus, your loved one will appreciate that you cared enough to ask.
What are you getting your favorite minimalist for Christmas?
Pin this for later.