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Minimalist Gifts


The gift giving season is upon us.  Not that we do not give gifts during the rest of the year, but for many, this quarter of the year is fraught with frenzied buying, wrapping & giving, as well as receiving, returning or re-gifting.  Why so much frenzy? Why so much stress?  Often, it has to do with too little thought.  Of course, the giving of a gift to another person is a sign that you are thinking of them.  Most people feel gratitude when they receive a gift, even before they’ve unwrapped it.  But, once the gilded paper is off the gift & you’ve returned home, does it still hold the same warm spot in your heart?  Or has it now become an extra burden?  You must find a place to store it.  It was not precisely what you were looking for.  It doesn’t fit you properly.  The material irritates your sensitive skin.  The list goes on.  Added to this is a sense of obligation to keep said gift because of the thoughtfulness of the giver.  The shirt you received may make you itch incessantly, but you feel obligated to keep it hanging in your closet for years because you love the person who gave it to you.

For the elderly, this problem is even more pronounced.  They want to show love & care by giving gifts, but often their income is very limited in their later years.  They love to receive gifts, but space in their apartments or rooms may be very limited & it is very difficult for them to get rid of anything that they cannot use.

We are in search of a better way.  Refraining from giving gifts would take much joy out of the season we’re celebrating.  We do not want to turn into the Grinch.  We just need a bit more thoughtfulness to go along with the gift-giving.  Gifts that will not give the recipient a disappointed or frustrated or obligated feeling once they’ve brought them home.  Gifts that will show that we really care, without burdening the giver by their expense or the receiver by their bulkiness.  Because of that, I’m going to offer a few minimalist gift suggestions that might help during this season.

  1. Give the gift of paying for something they already purchase on a regular basis.  Whether that something is gasoline, a haircut, a meal out, or a coffee, getting that item paid for can be just as exciting as opening a traditional gift because you know that the next time you go to the shoppe, you won’t have to purchase that item.  It’s like receiving cash, only better, because the person giving it knows you well enough to know which places you frequent & what you like.
  2. A family history. If you have grown children, this gift would be an amazing one that costs very little monetarily.  Write or verbally record your family history.  Include any important dates that you can think of.  Include prints of photographs that you have.  Include mementos if they are in your possession, or the location of those mementos for them to look at when you both have time.  This gift would not be appropriate for most six-year-old children, though they would appreciate sitting to look at photos of their ancestors & hearing the stories just as much as anyone.
  3. An excursion. Perhaps plan an excursion for someone you love.  It’s better if the pair of you can do this together, but if that’s not possible, plan it all the same.  Perhaps a trip to see a theatrical production with a hotel included.  Maybe a trip to a national park.  Maybe a fishing expedition.  Think about things that they would like & plan them far in advance so they can arrange their schedule around it.  Provide anything that they might need for the excursion.  Many people need time away, but few people will take it for themselves.  This forces the issue, as they will not want to waste the effort you’ve put in.
  4. For younger children/teenagers consider gifts of lessons in some area in which they’re interested.  Music or voice lessons.  Dancing lessons.  Horseback riding lessons. Cooking lessons.   Sculpture lessons.  The list of possibilities is long.  These things are often fairly expensive & not something that families can always afford.  Find out an interest area for them, the time commitment involved and be sure to check with a parent to ensure that the child would have transportation available if needed.  This gift might also be suitable for an adult with varied interests.
  5. Gift a massage or chiropractic appointment.  A house cleaning service.  A makeup or skin consultation. A membership to a gym.   Giving anything that includes a little bit of pampering makes it feel like a luxury.
  6. Something they won’t do for themselves. If you know someone who is going through trying times, consider giving them something that they need but will not get for themselves.  If they’re without insurance, gift them a dental or eye appointment that they need.  Oftentimes parents will go without these necessities if they have children that are also needing them. When choosing between wants and needs, they see their children’s issues as needs and their own as afterthoughts or wants.  If they are having true difficulties, this will mean far more to them than that adorable sweatshirt you found at the department store! You’ll have to use discretion on this gift, so  as not to make the person feel like a case for charity, but rather that you understand times of life that are tough & have walked them before.
  7. Pay for a subscription that they already order or something new that they’d be sure to use.  Whether it’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Audible, The New York Times, or GRIT magazine, it is always fun to gift things that you know the person will get use out of. 

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but to start the brainstorming process.  You can give & receive gifts that enhance the lives of those giving and receiving without being a source of frustration for them or you.  You can give things that make people feel cared for without burdening them.

This holiday season, give with that end goal in mind.

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