There have been a lot of thoughts around trying to make sense of gift giving without falling victim to consumer culture. Some suggest giving experiences instead of objects as a more sustainable option. Or even not exchanging gifts at all.
I appreciate the thinking and support anyone's efforts to become more minimalist, but I think the issue may have more to do with the types of things people often buy as gifts rather than the entire concept of gift giving itself.
So perhaps there’s a straightforward approach we can use to give more mindful gifts:
When buying a gift for someone, practical presents can seem a bit boring. But when done right can offer the possibility of a meaningful gift that isn’t at odds with consumerism because they serve a purpose.
I view these gifts as minimalist because they celebrate the practical dimension of minimalism. And they’re meaningful because they endeavor to help make someone’s everyday life just a bit better.
Here are a few qualities I look for in a “minimalist gift”...
If you think about the classic wasteful presents (the “dad tie” or "ugly sweater”) there’s a tacit understanding that the item will almost never get used. To counter that, consider getting someone something that they’ll use on a consistent basis.
I also like how the idea of getting a nicer version of something is aligned with Buy it For Life (BIFL) sensibilities. This can be good for gift giving because often times longer lasting products are more expensive. So giving a really nice version of something can also end up being an item that someone gets a lot of use out of.
Long-lasting is great from a craftsmanship perspective, but it’s also important that it’s a joy to own and use. The last thing you want is something that’s supposed to be used daily, will last forever, but isn’t enjoyable to use! I imagine a really heavy cooking set falling into this category for someone who has difficulty lifting things.
Practical Too Boring?
If you can’t get on the practical gift bandwagon, how about going in a completely different direction and buying an object created by an artist or independent designer? You can look for local artisans on Etsy, online craft stores such as Renegade, or try and find them online directly.
The key is to avoid the consumer middle ground: Mass-produced objects that don’t serve much of a purpose and which aren’t likely to be enjoyed on a regular basis. Kind of like the Marie Kondo “does it bring you joy” question in reverse- consider whether having the item in their life will bring them joy, whether through practical use or emotional satisfaction as with art.
I hope this sparks some ideas for you as you buy things for your loved ones...
What are your favorite gifts you consider minimalist? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given or received? Let others know in the comments below...