Those who do not crave material possessions seem to live in a plane somehow elevated above the rest of us. There is a regal, Zen-like simplicity to such a mindset. Those who achieve it tend to exude a certain wisdom and an aura of mindful inner peace, as well as the gentle impression that they already have everything they want. It is an enviable position to be in.
Let’s be honest, though: It also makes finding gifts for that person a royal pain.
Living without want for material possessions is admirable and is something we should all strive for, but giving gifts is an act of love as natural and legitimate as any other. There is nothing wrong with wanting to give — so if a person has transcended materialistic culture, where do we turn for ideas when we want to give something to them?
Here is a guide for anyone struggling with such a question as a holiday gift guide for a minimalist. People who seem to have everything they want often exhibit similar qualities: a minimalist décor around their home, for example, or personal spaces free of clutter. Receiving a physical gift often causes them more pain than pleasure, as they view it as something that will accumulate and ultimately contribute to the visual noise they work so hard to keep out of their lives.
Here are some excellent gift ideas for such a person.
1. Buy them a trip somewhere.
Those who are fatigued by the empty cycle of consumerism are likely to value experiences more than possessions. Indeed, part of the joy of minimalism is that one is tied down by fewer things and more able to enjoy the physical and spiritual parts of life — and a trip is a perfect way to share such an experience with them.
If you’re unsure of their dream travel destinations, it’s time to start probing to find out where they’d like to go. Some of the current travel hotspots — and those with the most affordable airfare — are:
Crete and Greece
Whether they have an affection for the snowy north, the desert heat or the sunny tropics, the look on their face when they see that plane ticket is sure to be forever imprinted on your memory — and theirs.
2. Get them tickets to a show or a concert.
There are so many forms of live entertainment available that it can be hard to choose one over the other.
Tickets to a concert or performance, particularly by a band or artist you know the person loves, are an incredible gift to give. Live music is so much more than a momentary pleasure. It is a rich, emotional memory that can be a source of fuel for energy, inspiration and joy for years to come. Whether you are treating them to an evening with their favorite musician, or opening their eyes to something new, you are sharing one of life’s greatest pleasures with them.
Tickets to the theater are another such gift. It doesn’t have to be a Broadway show — though a Broadway show would be a memorable gift, mind you — but can be a local theater, independent play or even an off-Broadway production. Theater is as alive today as it always was, and there are tons of good plays from every genre to choose from
3. Restore one of their old, prized possessions.
Many of us have some family keepsake sitting around, such as a grandparent’s guitar, an old photograph or a piece of jewelry. Often, these heirlooms are in regrettable shape from years of use and neglect, and one of the kindest gifts a person can receive is having an old treasure restored.
If the item is a photograph, consider having it professionally framed so your gift recipient can incorporate it into their household and have it fit in aesthetically. If it is an old instrument, find a repair shop or luthier who might be able to make it sing again — provided it is not too damaged. An expert jeweler can repair and clean broken or tarnished jewelry, or remove the gem from an old ring and re-use it in a new piece.
There are plenty of other options, as well. Does your friend own a bicycle that has seen better days? Take it to the bike shop and have it cleaned, oiled and have new tires put on. How about an old clock that has stopped ticking?
By giving a gift like this, you are improving the things they already own — not adding new items to their household.
4. Restore or renovate part of their home.
While we’re on the subject of restoration, why not check out some home renovation gift ideas? We’re not talking about those types of intense renovations that last for weeks on end — something like resurfacing a countertop, bathtub, kitchen counter or section of tile can completely change the look and feel of a room within just one day.
Some people describe the best gift as something the recipient wants, but is hesitant to spend money on. The reason this gift is so special is that people put off performing upgrades and refinishing on their homes. Often, countertops and bathroom tiles begin to look grimy or dated, but there is no urgent need to renovate them. This creates a situation where the offending surface remains grudgingly tolerated for years past its welcome.
A home needs to be an aesthetically pleasing place to be, and this gift can create a dramatic change in a household.
5. Offer to help complete a home-improvement project.
Some presents blend a gift with an act of service. There are so many things you could offer your loved one to take a load off their backs and minds — and if you live in the same house, it can be mutually beneficial as well.
Some examples are:
Painting a room
Doing a day of landscaping for them
Helping make a walkway in the yard or garden
Organizing and cleaning out crowded storage spaces
Cleaning the house
Washing their car
This type of gift replaces your money with your labor, and to many people this can be an even more special and symbolic gesture.
6. Make them food.
Food is the ultimate happy gift. Everyone likes it, and it can elicit an immense range of reactions and emotions. But this is no regular dinner — it is a special gift, and so it’s time to get creative.
Perhaps your loved one thinks Indian food is the best cuisine on the planet. Your goal is simple, then: Save the date and go to the Indian market to load up on turmeric, cardamom and garam masala, because they are about to get the home-cooked meal of a lifetime. Food can be anything from pies to tacos to Norwegian saltfish — it’s as open a platform as anyone could hope for.
Cooking food is also an intimate process that allows for lots of little surprises, particularly in the realm of desserts and decorations. Finish off an epic home-cooked meal with a beautiful birthday cake for the perfect evening.
7. Get them a membership to something they’ll love.
Having a membership opens up a whole world of activity, social interaction, growth and fun for a person, so definitely consider one as a gift.
The first option is a gym membership. Tread cautiously here: This gift can sometimes come off as a suggestion rather than an act of generosity, so be sure to know your audience. However, it also provides the opportunity to make a huge positive change by developing a workout routine.
There are other types of gyms to consider, as well. Climbing gyms may be perfect for someone who enjoys bouldering and wants a bit of thrill added to their daily workout schedule. Crossfit and other bare-bones gyms may appeal to the more intense athletic types, while others may be happy having a pool to swim laps in.
Next, consider a membership to something like a movie theater. Many theaters offer these plans for people who wish to be able to drop in on whatever movie they’re dying to see at the moment. If your friend is into cinema, this could be a great way to let them cash in on their passion. Other places like museums also tend to offer these memberships.
Then come more practical memberships. AAA is a great membership to have, as they will tow your car and help with roadside breakdowns anywhere in the country. If your loved one has an old car that can charitably be described as “at risk,” they may appreciate this gesture.
8. Gift some quality time together.
With our world so full of obligations, stressors, gadgets and constant communication, it is easy to neglect what we often desire most: time with our loved ones.
To make the occasion special, plan a date night, weekend getaway, short trip or outing with your loved one. Make it an outing in which no cell phones or other distractions are allowed. This act alone can create a level of quality time that may surprise you — it’s incredible how much easier it is to connect with someone without that incessant nagging to check our phones.
9. Make an artsy project for them.
There are loads of creative gifts that would mean the world to receive. Here are a couple of ideas that are sympathetic to a person who doesn’t want more stuff lying around.
Knit something for them. Knitting a scarf or a winter hat is a skill you can pick up by watching YouTube tutorials — like pretty much everything else these days — and it is a meaningful present to give to someone. It is also a useful one that doesn’t take up much space.
If you are musically inclined, write a song for them and either record it or perform it. This is a really touching gift that allows you to express yourself thoughtfully, and like many of the gifts on this list, it can stick with them for the rest of their lives. If you want to record it, don’t worry: You don’t have to book Abbey Road Studios. Your computer or smartphone probably has all the equipment you’ll need. Simply record the song as a voice memo and send it to your email, and voila! You’ve got a recording.
It is also fun to take an old piece of wood and turn it into something like a cutting board or spice rack. Plenty of tutorials for this type of thing are on the Internet, as well as creative ideas for repurposing different sorts of items. Turn a small suitcase into a boom box, a T-shirt into a produce bag or a filing cabinet into a rack for garden tools. There are also loads of bathroom gift ideas, unique kitchen gift ideas, gifts for chefs and more you can create by yourself.
10. Get them a gift card.
In a way, a gift card may seem like the least personal gift…perhaps second only to a wad of crumpled cash. At its worst, it can feel like a last-minute gift you picked up at the grocery store on your way over. However, when you plan and deliver it appropriately, a gift card can show true thought and consideration.
To make this gift special, try to think of something the person needs. Are they going to be building a shed at some point soon, or doing some work on the outside of their house? If so, a gift card to the hardware store would be very thoughtful. Do they love having an unlimited supply of music to listen to? Try an iTunes gift card. If they are planning a road trip, a prepaid debit card could be the perfect way to help them fund their fuel costs.
At the very least, you should deliver a gift card in a way that lets it shine for what it is: something that allows your recipient to get items they want or need. Make it special, and don’t think twice.
11. Have their family history researched.
There are plenty of companies that offer a chance to discover your family history and lineage. This discovery represents a special gift for almost anyone, as it allows us to trace our roots both temporally and geographically to determine our ancestry.
The catch is that genetic testing requires you to send in a sample, so you’ll probably have a hard time surprising the recipient with this — unless you can devise a way to swipe some of their saliva onto a cotton swab without them noticing. If so, hats off to you. Otherwise, there will be a bit of preparation and a lull while the company runs the tests, but the payoff will be huge when they can see where they come from.
Alternatively, there are private historians for hire who can research and write any type of history you should desire — whether it be your loved one’s entire family, or the life of one particular family member. This service can be expensive, but there are many options available, depending on your budget.