“Minimalist gift ideas, Sarah? Like a single leaf in a vase? Or one drapey linen shirt? Har har har.”
I can already hear the good-natured eye-rolling, friends. And let me tell you with all the love in my heart I AM NOT HAVING IT.
When I say ‘minimalist gifts’ I’m not saying you spite-give everyone a copy of The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I’m not suggesting you give your sister a single polished stone (though honestly that would be so funny.)
To me, a ‘minimalist gift’ is something that
- Can be used up
- Recycled or composted
- Doesn’t require storage or dusting
Minimalist gifts don’t require us to lecture anyone about Consumerism! And Carbon footprints! And Fast Fashion!
I’m not talking about giving people things we WISH they wanted. (No matter how nice the sleeping bag is, I’m never going to like camping, guys.)
Honestly, you could probably give a minimalist gift to every blessed person on your list! No matter who you’re giving gifts to, there’s probably a way for you to give them something happy-making and life-improving that’s not for sale at Target and won’t end up in a landfill.
11 Minimalist Gift Ideas That Add To Happiness, Not Clutter
1. Magazine subscriptions
Magazine subscriptions cost a pittance and they show up every month. No matter who you’re shopping for, there’s probably a magazine for them. Imbibe magazine for cocktail lovers! Backpacker magazine for your hiker or adventurer! Culture magazine for cheese-lovers and/or me!
2. Tickets to events
Again, you can buy these for pretty much anyone. Plays! Boxing matches! Comedy nights! Concerts! Pretty much everyone likes to do things. Make it easier for them to the things they love.
3. A membership to something
Memberships can get a bit spendy, but you could go in together with other family members. Do you know someone who’d like a membership to a yoga studio? A makerspace? A CSA?
Pro-tip: unless someone SPECIFICALLY, EMPHATICALLY, REPEATEDLY requests a gym membership, do not give them one as a gift. It reeks of “I’d like you to lose weight” which, uh, none of us ever want to hear.
4. Spa treatments
A massage? Facial? Mask? Time in a salt cave or a sauna? If you’re not sure of someone’s preference (not everyone loves massages) just buy them a gift certificate to a spa with a variety of services. They can spend it however they’d like.
5. Time with a psychic
Even your most cynical friend would probably get a kick out of this, particularly if they have a life change coming up – marriage, kids, moving, going back to school.
I got my best friend a psychic reading for her wedding and she loved it. I, on the other hand, ended up with a woman who drew her own tarot cards on 8 x 11 office paper and channeled her dead Siamese cat. Yes.
6. Lessons, of the exciting type
Learning new things is good for our brains, bodies, and lives. And no matter who’s on your list, there’s probably a class they’d be interested in.
Indian cooking, salsa dancing, airplane flying, downhill skiing, all good options! Check out Community Ed, Groupon, or even Skillshare or Udemy for tons of ideas.
7. Exotic plants
These are particularly great for friends who work long hours in an office or a college student whose dorm room could use some perking up.
Those tiny pepper plants are fantastic and who wouldn’t love to have a Venus fly trap on their desk at work?
8. A visit from you
Okay, this gift will be most appreciated by grandparents and far-flung best friends BUT STILL. If you’ve been talking about visiting and they’ve been inviting you for years, make it happen!
See how many miles you’ve accrued on your credit card or use Airfare Watchdog to stalk cheap flights. Don’t forget about Megabus and Amtrak – they might be cheaper or more direct!
9. Gift certificates for weekend away
Do you know people with kids? 99% of the parents I know spend all their discretionary time and income on/with their children. Which is lovely! And makes sense!
But I bet they’d love some time to themselves in a lovely space that’s not covered in toddler toys. And you can give it to them! Pool resources with family members and buy them a weekend away! Again, Groupon has great discount packages and Airbnb is always affordable and fun. You can actually buy Airbnb gift cards now!
As a sidenote, just gift them the certificate; don’t book specific dates. Who knows what their work schedule is like!
10. Gift certificate for a task they hate doing
If everyone in my life would like to pool their gifts and get me a ‘loose door knob fixer’ and a ‘window treatment installer’ THAT WOULD BE AMAZING.
If someone in your life complains constantly about yard work, grocery shopping, shoveling the sidewalk, doing their taxes – you can buy them help for that. Buy them a gift card for Taskrabbit! Or put in the work of researching good vendors and give them a gift certificate to a specific service.
A word of warning: be super sure that someone actually wants a visit from a professional housekeeper. A lot of people complain about cleaning their house but would be offended if someone actually gave them a cleaner as a gift.
11. Specialty food from a place they’ve traveled or lived
Did your friend take the trip of a lifetime and now she won’t stop talking about Thailand’s mango sticky rice and green curry? Or maybe your buddy just moved back from three years in London and is feeling homesick for PG Tips?
Make them a little care package of foods from the place they’re missing! Obviously, you can order pretty much anything from Amazon or poke around your city’s international grocery stores. If you’re not sure what to get ’em, Google has all the answers you need: “Food from Australia” or “Thaisnackonline.com.”
When giving a minimalist gift, I think it’s particularly important to wrap it in an awesome, clever way. Getting a gift card is a bit underwhelming, right? Find a cheap little trinket that’s representative of the gift and wrap it nicely.
If you’re gifting someone a one-time cleaning service, wrap a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s along with the gift certificate. If they’re getting Indian cooking classes, wrap up a jar of Garam Masala. You get the idea!
My friends and I all go out together for Christmas and pay for ourselves, but it's our gift to one another because we're doing something fun we wouldn't normally spend the money on. Like taking a carriage ride through the lights displays at a garden where we live, or going wine tasting, or going to see a Christmas movie and then going out to eat, normally while dressed up in cute holiday dresses.
Adopting animals virtually. Last Christmas I got my brother an adopted one-armed chimp for a year. He's been down to Monkey World to see it and everything 😀
Rachel, did you adopt Lulu for him ?
I adopted bart haha
I'm a big mag gifter too! You can find cheaper subscriptions on Amazon too. I also adopted a manatee for my mom one year (her fave animal) and found one that managed to share our middle name – she loved it! My girlfriends and I also enjoy a night of doing a Christmasy craft, drinking wine and eating fudge, listening to campy music like Wham's "Last Christmas" 🙂 Best gift ever.
Duuuuude. If someone gave me a gift certificate for professional house cleaning, I'd weep silver tears of delight! My house is already hella clean, but there are some things I loathe scrubbing (what's up, bath tub!). I might get that gift for myself. 🙂
My closest group of friends and I always go out for a really nice meal at Christmas time – the same amount of money gets spent on amazing food, lots of wine and we all have a fantastic evening and most importantly we don't end up with loads of silly trinkets that we don't need or want and will just feel guilty about throwing away! Perfect!
My girlfriends and I do birthday dinners out. I'd MUCH rather have someone buy me food and talk to me than give me an object!
Great gifts! I especially love magazine subscriptions and events (concerts, classes, etc). But the best non-gift I ever received, by far, was a visit to a chiropractor. Aaaahh. Not something I'd usually spring for, but it was heaven on my bad back.
Great list, love the ideas! I thought I'd throw my two cents in about the star naming though- as it turns out, it's not really any sort of official naming in any way, which is cool, as long as you know that and I have a feel most people don't (at least I didn't). There's more info here about it if anyone is interested: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2001/12/49345
There's a surprise for you over on my blog.
(I wrote you an email too).
I make alot of diy-gifts, edible. They last until they are eaten and then done with.
As for magazines. When you've finished, a neat trick is to take them to a local nursing home/walk-in-clinic/hospital-for others to read. A recent issue of Vogue far outweighs a two year old National Enquirer. The same goes for soft covered books. Just leave them somewhere for others to take and read.
And oh, "I" buy a goat through this micro loan organisation each year. The goat is given to a family in need and is the first step to climb out of poverty. Last year I bought 20 cocoa trees in Africa too.
My bffs and I all decided instead of doing gifts, we were all going to make dinner together and watch a favorite movie of ours with some cookies and hot cocoa. I like this idea way better than stressing out bout a gift.
Every year my wife and her sisters pick a concert that's happening in December or January and buy tickets for her parents, along with a night in a hotel and a gift card for a meal. They LOVE it.
I love getting people tickets for concerts and theatre shows that they're desperate to see (especially if they ask me to go along 🙂 )
I love these suggestions, Ms. Von! I've given many magazine subscriptions this past year and it's a great gift!
I took my boyfriend to see the Counting Crows; a former boyfriend took me to see the Nutcracker. Both were awesome.
I try to give as many edible/homemade gifts as possible- with actual thought put into them! Ah! My brothers girlfriend is getting a cheese making kit, my boyfriend a homebrew kit. My dad and his wife are getting jars of homemade jam, my mom a tea blend that I made myself, and my step dad cookie mix with "be nice to my mom!" included in the directions. I love gifting this way!
What a fab list of ideas! So often I scratch my head only to conjure up some useless gift!
Baked goods! Give me a plate of homemade cookies and you'll have one very happy girl!
I love love love this list. Totally getting my mom a day at the spa for Christmas. Thank you for reposting this!
Hi! I had coffee with the lovely Jess today (Wellington, Little Old New Zealand) and she told me about your blog. I've subsequently spent the last 2 hours on here and just wanted to write and say I think I love you. Awesome awesome blog, keep writing!
Everyone I know is getting a hug and a heartfelt smile. Times are hard. I still appreciate the list. =)
For my best friend's 18th birthday I named a star after him. Super cheesy, but he still talks about it years later!
Perhaps you should do a post on how you restrain yourself from decluttering a friend's cluttered and messy house, when they are just happy living that way. Nah, I'm joking, but I seriously have to restrain myself from starting to tidy up my friend's place. I can see the potential, but it's hidden under piles of crap and broken coffee mugs! Ugh.
Anyway, I like to give gifts of experiences, (if I can afford to) – things like a behind the scenes tour at the zoo, a day sail on a well known boat, a wineyard tour etc. Gifts to use up are the best!
My mother asked me the other night what I want for my 21st birthday, which is coming in about a month. I had mentioned how my TV is very old and doesn't work with video games or a DVD player, so she asked if I want a new TV. I told her I'd think about it, because I wasn't sure it was practical. The more I've been thinking about it, the more I'm thinking I want to ask for something I've never asked for before: for her to give to a charity in my name. I've been thinking of adopting a plot of rainforest through World Land Trust. I guess I just can't think of anything I really need. I have so much stuff that I don't really need or want anymore. It would be so much cooler if she spent the money she would have spent on TV to save some trees.
AWESOME ideas love your blog.
Important phone numbers, http://www.FreePhoneList.com
Thank you so much for bringing up this it was a great gift ideas. Anyway,will certainly visit your site more often now.
Hello there! Great gift ideas, not the usual ones but definitely nice. Magazine subscriptions is fantastic this is the I'd like to have and also the idea that they'll think of you every month 🙂 Lotto tickets? that's funny 🙂 Thanks for these gift ideas, Christmas is fast approaching and I might get my friends 3 to 4 of your ideas above. Nice blog you have here, it's my first visit and 'be back to check more of your posts.
Yeah, receiving gifts that you don't like is really disappointing, I agree with you on giving gifts of "Memberships to something", you can't go wrong with that, right? 🙂
see, I really like stuff, that’s my problem.
this year I’m mostly giving toiletries and chocolate so at least its consumable rather than the emotional weight of say, another ornament. BUT, not so great environmentally!
I’m sure I’m not the only office worker who’s given a Christmas card to work colleagues who sit opposite/alongside me, only for them to give me one back? But when you think about, how ridiculous is that? So about 15 years ago I told people I wouldn’t be sending Christmas cards any more and the money I saved would be donated to charity instead. Now, I just email everyone a jovial Christmas message and wish them all the happiness in the world.
As far as gift-giving is concerned, I buy and pay for everything on my credit card throughout the year (taking advantage of sales) and in early December I reclaim vouchers from my credit card company, which pays for Christmas. Yes, it’s true – Christmas literally doesn’t cost me a penny!! I redeem my ‘points’ for bookshop vouchers, DIY vouchers, cinema vouchers and supermarket vouchers (which are for me) which stocks my pantry and fills my freezer to the brim – so a no-debt Christmas every year.
I’m going to call foul on no.1. I once told a friend, “if you like me, never give me magazines,” because they are clutter for me. I love images, ideas, reviews, projects… and so I keep it ALL. I’ve tried the tear-out-pages option and just ended up with a loose mess instead of a slightly thicker but neatly dog eared and bound pile. I tried the take-a-picture/scan-articles method, and just had an electronic file mess. I know I am completely basket case about paper, but never give it to me. Please.
You’re literally the first ‘gift ideas’ page I’ve ever seen in, probably my whole life… With some decent ideas!!! Well done, very helpful, as it is now 02:18am on Christmas day and I was really starting to get worried…
…My sister will be getting a dance subscription!
One year in college I was planning to take a summer study abroad trip. For Christmas that year, my parents wrapped up a tiny toy plane and gave it to me- it turns out they had bought my plane tickets for the trip!