Lean Gifting

December is not the most comfortable time of year to be an Essentialist. It can be difficult to stay mindful with both external and internal pressures and expectations. One of the more challenging aspects is the gifting and exchange of stuff. Greg and I have come up with a few ways to integrate holiday gifting into our lives without compromising our values: Lean Gifting.  

+ One note is that this is a special time of year. Maybe it isn’t the time to completely embrace minimalism. We first allow for it to be special and different as we focus more on family, generosity and embracing traditions.


1. We’re not shy about our values. Greg and I have been communicating our lifestyle and priorities to family and friends for a number of years now. There were a few moments of misunderstanding and discomfort but we now feel like our desires are respected while we still take part in the holidays. Most people know we don’t like owning a lot and that we prefer fewer, better things. We receive fewer gifts but they tend to have more meaning. We can’t take full credit but our gift exchange with Greg’s mom is now mostly charitable donations!

2. But we also understand others have different values so we embrace the differences and embrace the season. If it were up to us, we probably wouldn’t gift exchange at all. Our families love gifts though and are so generous, especially this time of year. We don’t want to ruin Christmas for them or come across as ungrateful. So we take part in the decadent gift exchange with an intimate group of people and welcome the family’s traditions. Again, because it’s such a departure for us, it does feel truly special.

3. We give for the right reasons, for us. A while ago we stopped giving gifts out of obligation. We give only because we want to. There’s no guilt, no resentment and no expectations. Maybe not everybody needs to be part of a gift exchange. Maybe one gift will work as well as five. Maybe a card or a note of gratitude will do.

4. We try to ask for and give within our values. Other than overall reducing the number of gifts we give and receive, there are a few ways we do this:
+ One is to request and give experiences or consumable gifts. Since we all have most of the stuff we need, we think about how we like to spend our time. Would tickets to a class or concert be appreciated? My grandmother is 90 and has most of what she needs (except for maybe a heavier sweater ;). She gets restaurant gift cards and donations to Wounded Warriors. My mom loves a spa treatment and Greg loves whisky.
+ Another is to volunteer together or give to charity. Gifts don't have to come in boxes wrapped with ribbon. Time together is usually the best gift. Giving back is a great way to bond, with smiles! Maybe a group activity or get together can be more meaningful than a gift exchange.
+ And overall, we try to give thoughtfully. It's stressful to try to think of gift ideas at the last minute or in a crowded mall. I collect ideas for loved ones over the year. I mentioned in the post on Inspiration Clutter that I like to collect them using Amazon Wishlist. Throughout the year, when my family or friends mention something they could use, I make a note. When I come across something cute for our niece, I add it to Amazon. We also pick up things when we travel. By the end of the year, I usually have a few ideas for gifts that came from consideration and not stress.

5. A gift is not an obligation. Finally, we don’t feel like we have to hold on to everything. If and when we receive something that we don't love or won't use, we always smile and say thank you. It is, of course, the thought that counts. (It can be a mistake to gush over something you don't love, you might just get a matching set next year!)
It's okay to get rid of a gift if you don't like it. I give you permission. I don't think anybody wants you to hold on to something out of guilt. You can try to explain your values so maybe the gift-giving tradition will change but if not, be gracious and then let it go.

Does any of this help? I wish you peaceful and meaningful holidays! Happy gifting and happy last day of Hanukkah! <3

++ Financially, one simple thing we do to reduce stress is to budget and save monthly into a separate account for this time of year. All gifts and decor are easily afforded and don’t feel burdensome in any way!