Slow down and simplify / Tread lightly

What to do about Christmas gifts as a minimalist

Twig with a gift tag to illustrate how to approach Christmas gifts as a minimalist

Christmas gifts, the dilemma of dilemmas for aspiring minimalists! Giving, receiving – it all becomes fraught.

One of my Christmas must-haves is gifts. I love watching my Dad trying to guess all his gifts before opening them, and seeing my Mum coming into the room late in the day having just found that gift she bought for me months ago and had stashed in a “safe place”.

But then there’s the other side – the gag toilet seat golf set from Secret Santa or another hand cream. You do your best to keep things minimal all year, only to be defeated by Christmas clutter creep.

You don’t have to be a Grinch to be a minimalist at Christmas. Here are some tips to help you through.

Giving Christmas gifts as a minimalist

There are a few very special people in my life and it’s a pleasure to give them a treat. Being forced to find the perfect gift by 25 December is not always such a pleasure!

Start early – it can be difficult to materialise a thoughtful and meaningful gift at the last minute. Also, decide what you are going to buy before you go shopping (online or in person). If you have a tendency to what to buy random stuff when shopping, these mantras to stop impulse buys may help.

Consumables – if you don’t want to add to someone’s clutter burden, then going with consumables can be a good approach. Food and beverages are particularly good. Nice toiletries are also an idea – these are easy for people to donate or re-gift to share the love.

Experiences – experiences are another great alternative, from simple things like movie tickets, to more adventurous like piloting a glider (Dad didn’t guess that one before unwrapping it!). The options are wide open. Buy two tickets and it’s a great way to give your most precious gift – your time.

Receiving Christmas gifts as a minimalist

Take a deep breath – you’re probably going to be gifted some new clutter this holiday season!

Acceptance – to quote The Minimalists “You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you” – except at Christmas, you’re generally stuck with the family that you have. Their views on the giving and receiving of gifts and yours may differ greatly – that’s life.

Grace and gratitude – while  you may have little control over what gifts you are given, you do control how you receive them. Marie Kondo’s approach to gifts is helpful here – joy is in the act of giving – receiving the gift with grace and gratitude is what really matters to the giver (rather than if you display the gift in your living room for eternity). Be thankful for the giver’s time and effort in selecting the gift for you, regardless of the nature of the gift itself.

Hints – tell people what you want. Saying you want nothing is generally ineffective. From my experience, it’s better to say what you’d prefer than to be silent. Your family and friends will get used to your preferences over time. Go easy on them, and make it easy for them by politely giving them some direction. I’ve been fairly minimalist since my teens and my family is used to my preferences. They ask for a list of ideas and I provide one. My mum would love to give me more gifts, but she knows I don’t want them. Instead she shares stories about how she almost bought me stuff!

The thing to remember in all of this is that stuff is just stuff. The purpose of minimalism is to transcend stuff – to not get weighed down by the pursuit of stuff, and not to derive meaning from mere stuff. Focus on the love and meaning this Christmas. Don’t sweat the stuff.

What’s your approach to Christmas gifts? Are you dreading or looking forward to Christmas?

No Comments

  • Kirsty Dee
    November 23, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I love Christmas, but I do worry about the excess clutter especially from my kids getting more toys, but hey it’s once a year and they love it ☺

  • Amber from Red Two Green
    November 23, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Love this! And I love the idea that you don’t have to completely do away with gifting to live a more minimalistic lifestyle. We just have to be a little more intentional about our “stuff” and make sure our focus is in the right place 🙂

  • Jane @ Sustayable Me
    November 24, 2016 at 2:31 am

    Great ideas! I am already preparing because otherwise it does turn into mindless gift shopping as you said.
    I need to work on my grace and gratitude. My face is very expressive and I am not good at faking if I don’t like something ekkk!

    • Amy
      November 24, 2016 at 2:39 am

      Oh, I know what you are saying there!

  • Louann Kristy
    November 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I love dropping hints during the year of things I need. Sometimes I even make a list and send it to my family just so I don’t get something I won’t use.

  • twoboysonepup
    November 24, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Great article! I don’t like extra clutter and things that are just gifts for the sake of giving a gift!!

  • Claudette
    November 26, 2016 at 2:34 am

    I liked your post. We do seem to give stuff that others don’t want or need just because it is Christmas. I have found as I get older that I really don’t need anything, and trying to think of something that my loved ones can get me for Christmas (and birthdays) usually distills down to edibles, or plants for the garden. I do love the idea of tickets for things, might have to look at that.

  • iamfollowingrafiki
    November 28, 2016 at 6:17 am

    This is a great post! I was getting a little worried about the holiday season this year as it’s the first once since I’ve really started to embrace minimalism, but your advice is spot on! Thanks 🙂
    xx Stephanie

  • purpleslobinrecovery
    November 30, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Amy, Anne from MinimalismSometimes sent me over. Seems like you and I are both participating in the paper purge.

    • Amy
      November 30, 2016 at 2:42 am

      Yes, which reminds me I should get purging

  • David
    December 16, 2016 at 5:30 am

    I like your thinking. What for have a lot of unnecessary things in the house. It is better to present an evening of joy and communion.


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