How to Receive Gifts as a Minimalist

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The holidays, simultaneously the most wonderful time of the year and also an annoyance to the minimalist crowd who doesn’t love all the consumerism or want a bunch of new stuff.

Especially if you’re early on in your minimalism journey it can feel stressful to know that people are going to want to buy you gifts. Particularly if your loved ones aren’t per se talented at gift giving and already tended to buy you lots of things you didn’t want before you became a minimalist.

Today I want to share with you my personal opinion on the best way to handle gift receiving as a minimalist during the holidays.

First and foremost you’ve got to have an open and honest conversation with the people who want to buy you gifts and tell them what it is that you would like from them. Maybe you want no gifts at all or just no physical gifts. Or perhaps you just only want gifts from a pre written list of items.

Make sure you can explain why it is you’re asking your loved ones to change their gift giving habits. If you aren’t able to communicate that this request is about your own personal desire to change your lifestyle and not about other people your requests may raise insecurities. Loved ones may jump to conclusions and think you’re ungrateful for past gifts, think you’re having this conversation with them because they’ve given bad gifts in the past, feel that you are judging their consumerist or cluttered habits, or they might be worried that you’re joining some type of minimalist cult.

Especially if people in your life have gift giving as a love language, they may also just be disappointed that they are missing out on the joy of giving and also have concerns about how else they can express their affection for you. Even if it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal to you, there are a ton of reasons people might react poorly. So having a well thought explanation ahead of time can help curb miscommunications and combat people leaping to conclusions.

In the case that many people in your life have gift giving as a love language I think it’s best to not tell these folks that they can’t get you anything at all, even if you’d prefer that. Especially when it comes to family, I think everything is about compromise and it isn’t in the true spirit of minimalism to take that joy of gift giving away from others if it’s important to them.

That being said, sometimes people are just plain stubborn about changing their ways and their insistence on buying you a gift doesn’t have as wholesome an explanation as love languages behind it. I know some families can be petty and insistence on giving you a gift against your wishes is more about a passive aggressive power trip or disrespecting you. And if that’s the case than it ain’t really about the gifts and y’all got problems beyond the scope of this blog post.

But in general, what do you do if you end up with gifts you don’t want? Minimalist or not this a pretty common and hard to avoid occurrence. Maybe people just didn’t listen to your wishes, or you forgot to tell someone, or you just ended up with some random gag gift from an office party or yankee swap.

Option one, you can give the gift back or refuse it. However, I’d be pretty cautious with this method and make sure that you really know your audience. Personally, I only do this with people I’m very close to who respect my life choices and I know would rather get their money back if I’m not going to use the thing they got me. Additionally, I’d make sure you’re aware of potential cultural differences, for example, I was a summer camp counselor for Taiwanese students this year. Gift giving is a really important part of their culture and the kids had pre-packed souvenirs from Taiwan to give to the counselors at the end of their trip. I didn’t really want most of the things, but I knew refusing the gifts would have been insulting and upsetting to the kids and that just wasn’t worth it to me.

I accepted all the gifts, and with the rest I employed option number two which is re-gifting or giving away. Once again, be careful with this strategy, you generally don’t want people to know you’re regifting what they got you. I handle this by just making sure I don’t regift into the same social group I received from, so if you don’t have many separate social groups this may not work for you. Additionally, don’t just regift things instead of actually buying people unique gifts.

Much more often than I regift I give away, I just text my friends saying “Hey, I have x, y, and z things I don’t want do you want any of this?” Personally, I don’t find it immoral to regift or give away gifts. No one benefits from you holding onto something you don’t want, and personally I feel I am honoring and appreciating a gift more if I am able to find joy in giving it to someone else rather than being annoyed everytime I see it in my closet.

Options three, four, and five are to return the gift, sell the gift, or donate the item to charity.

Personally, my preference is for people to purchase gifts from a list I’ve written or just have a conversation with me to make sure they’re getting me something I’ll like. If I still get something I don’t want I usually just regift it or give it away. Even though I’m a minimalist I do still enjoy both giving and receiving gifts.

In general, try not to stress out too much about receiving gifts on the holiday. There are many ways for you to get rid of something if you don’t want it and prevent it from becoming clutter in your life. Plus, at the end of the day it’s a pretty privileged worry to have, it means a significant number of people in your life want and are able to buy you things! Which is actually a pretty comforting thought.

How do you handle gifts as a minimalist? Have your minimalist wishes ever caused conflict among your loved ones? Let me know in the comments below.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

So, your loved one has become a minimalist.

This may be concerning news to you, but I assure you that they are alright. No your friend hasn’t joined a cult and they don’t hate you just because you enjoy shopping. Your friend is just trying to improve their own life.

You want to be respectful to your pals new lifestyle, but it’s the holidays! How do you buy a gift for someone who doesn’t like stuff? Well I am here to help, this article isn’t a guide with specific gifts, but a guide to choosing something on your own that will help you be supportive of your loved one’s lifestyle and get them something for the holidays that they will truly value.

Without further ado let’s get into it.

Ask Them What They Want

The best way to buy a minimalist a gift is a pretty universal gifting strategy that works for almost anyone. Just ask them what they want, and actually buy based off the list they give you. I know some people feel that a gift is ruined if it isn’t a surprise, however your minimalist friend is likely to get rid off your gift if it isn’t something they actually want and if they don’t specifically say they’d prefer a surprise they probably want whatever they asked for. Given minimalists have put a lot of effort into paring down their belongings they aren’t apt to appreciate being given something they just don’t want and will have to declutter.

Get Them Foods

Foods are great gifts for minimalists. Why? Because your gift is edible it will be consumed and won’t contribute to clutter. I’d also advise goods that are at least a month shelf stable because we all tend to have a lot of food in the house around the holidays or be eating out a lot. Something that will stay good for a while like chocolates or alcohol gives your loved one the flexibility to enjoy your gift at their leisure and not worry about eating it before it expires. 

Gift an Experience

This is an idea that is increasingly popular not just among minimalists but the millennial generation as well. By experience I mean something like tickets to a show, massage or spa vouchers, movie theater or restaurant gift cards, or tickets to a game. Experiences, just like edible goods, don’t create any clutter and the values of minimalism encourage people to spend more time doing and less time getting things. You can help your loved one create a fun memory whilst also respecting their values.

Cash

I know there is a bit of a gifting taboo around cash, however there is an equal amount of jokes during the holidays about cash being all people really want. Especially if your friend is a minimalist I wouldn’t worry too much about them looking down on you for giving them cash. Minimalism is already unconventional and your loved one will likely appreciate your support of their new lifestyle and willingness to modify your gift giving habits for them.

Gift Cards

Just like with cash, people often say that giving gift cards is a cop out, but they are some of my absolute favorite gifts to receive. The beauty of a gift card is that there is no pressure to spend the money in a utilitarian way or to save it. Because you can only spend it in one place you are able to treat yourself at that location or retailer without feeling any twinges of guilt that you should be saving that money. Just like with cash, your friend will likely appreciate your support of their minimalist values and not be mad that you “copped out” of buying a gift for them.

Charitable Donation

On a similar vein to gift cards, if your minimalist friend is a very ardent supporter of a cause such as protecting the environment, women’s rights, or ending poverty consider donating to a charity on their behalf. This is a great option if your friend has told you that they truly don’t want anything this Christmas, a charitable donation not only shows support and respect to their minimalist lifestyle but to their passions as well. 

Offer to do Something for Them

Do their laundry, clean their car, meal prep their food for a week, pick up their kids from school, clean their bathroom, or do any other little chore for your loved one that can help make their life easier. Time is the most valuable resource we all have, and being willing to spend yours to making their life a bit easier is a really beautiful way to show you care. 

What No To Do

Thus far, we’ve focused on what you should do to successfully shop for a minimalist, I’d also like to provide a little guidance on what NOT to do.

Buy Something Generic

Ladies, we’ve all received generic Bath and Bodyworks gift sets and most of us have gifted them to others as well. The last thing you want to do when you buy a gift for someone who is a minimalist is buy something generic, minimalism involves being very choosy about what items you bring into your life and values vary too much from individual to individual to go the generic route. Look above for other ideas.

Buy Them a Physical Item if They Specifically Asked You Not To

Now this may be difficult if your family has a strong gift giving culture, however if your loved one has gone as far to actively request no physical gifts they are probably quite committed to the minimalist lifestyle. Don’t take it personally, because honestly your loved one’s choice isn’t about you. They don’t want to be rude they just want their lifestyle choices respected. If gift giving is your love language, consider the fact that it isn’t theirs and get them something non-physical.

These are my tips and ideas for how to buy gifts for a minimalist.

Of course this is general advice and not all of it will or can apply to every single minimalist, but all of this advice does align directly with the most common principles and interpretations of minimalism. If you still feel unsure, just have an open dialogue with your loved one about gifts.

This post is the first in a whole series I have planned about how to handle gifting as, or for, a minimalist or environmentally conscious person. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to cover anything specific on this topic or create a particular gift guide.

As always, thanks for reading and happy holidays!