Dec 9, 2015 · 5 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

What to give to align with your minimalist values

If you’ve made the decision to get rid of things, to concentrate more on people and relationships than on the stuff in your life, it can be hard for others to understand.

We’ve all been conditioned for a very long time, and at every turn, to value stuff more than anything else. It’s why we work long hours, at jobs we hate, doing things that don’t resonate with us. Each day, the TV bombards us with ads for things that companies claim will make us better parents and partners, better people. Especially around the holidays, we learn from ads how much people will love us if we buy them just the right thing.

It can add a whole lot of pressure to gift-giving, turning what should be an act of thoughtful generosity into a high-stakes statement on a person’s value, both the giver’s and the receiver’s.

The easiest way to avoid that is to avoid gift-giving altogether. And while we may really mean it when we say “don’t get me anything,” because we’ve spent so much time clearing the clutter, others who have not yet been convinced of the value of a simplified, decluttered life may not buy into that. It’s the holidays, and at the holidays, you have to give and receive gifts. It’s practically the law.

Let’s face it, gift-giving, particularly if you find a great one, can be fun. And whether you like it or not, you will probably still get something at the holidays, and you’ll need to get others things something. Why not make it something that aligns with your values?

You can even do it without others realizing they’ve played right into your minimalist hands. Bwahahahahaha!


To help you in gift-giving, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas that won’t result in too much clutter or waste this holiday season. Give these to the people on your list, and add them to your list for those who insist on getting you something.

Make something special

Nothing says “I love you” like spending hours of your precious time making something specifically for someone. They end up with a unique gift, and you’ve gotten to spend time doing something you love. Win-win! However, only do this if the person appreciates what you do. Not everyone is into handmade items, or is even a fan of the type of art or craft you practice. For instance, my boyfriend’s son is a 13-year-old baseball nut. I will not be knitting him anything. Know your audience.

Give the gift that goes away

This ingenious giving idea was brought to my attention years ago by a friend who hated clutter. For my birthday, he gave me candles and called it “The Gift that Goes Away.” To this day, I can’t look at candles without thinking about that phrase, and because of that, candles are one of my favorite things to give.

Gifts such as candles, wine, food, specialty bath stuff – they’re all made to be used up, and when you’re done, you should have nothing but some very minimalist wrapping left. (Try to buy stuff that comes in a recyclable container, and isn’t wrapped in plastic. You can usually buy handmade soap by the unwrapped slice or very minimally wrapped with cardboard, for instance.)

Give an experience

This is popular in minimalist gift-giving. Gifts can range from lessons in something your receiver has always wanted to learn to movie gift cards to concert tickets. The receiver will often share the experience with a friend or loved one, and whether it turns out good or results in a bunch of mad-cap mishaps, they’ll have memories and good stories to tell for a lifetime. It can get expensive, though. It costs a lot more to buy a skydiving experience for someone than it does to buy them a new book, so you might have to shop around to find something in your price range.

It could be your friend’s name if you’re doing the giving, or your own if it’s a wish on your list. If you have people donate to a charity you care about, they get a nice little write off, plus the satisfaction that comes with helping others, and you get to support a cause you feel strongly about. Vice versa if you’re donating to their charity. Another win-win! This minimalist gift-giving is good for everyone.

Give the gift of life

Plants. I mean plants. Give something living and growing like houseplants, trees, herbs for the kitchen or flowers for the garden. Plants brighten any room, freshen the air, and help combat climate change, all for very little effort. If your gift receiver’s thumb has brown undertones, you can always offer to help take care of it, which gives you the opportunity to get together now and then, throughout the year, have some coffee, chat and water or prune.

Minimalist gift-giving takes a little thought and a little creativity, but that’s what we’re all about in these parts. Gift giving doesn’t have to take up all our time, and we can give according to our values, even if those we’re giving to or receiving from aren’t as fully on board the simplicity train as we are … yet.

How do you give to minimalists?


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.