Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist

a(Photo: (nutmeg))

Ask any minimalist what they want for Christmas, and I guarantee they’ll say “nothing.” However, if you’re set on buying something anyway, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas in keeping with their lifestyle.

(If you’re the minimalist, you may want to pass this post along to friends and family!)

So here it is—the Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist (or What to Give Someone Who Doesn’t Want Stuff):

1. Amazon Kindle. Yes, the Amazon Kindle is another gadget—but it can replace entire shelves of books! Personally, I love the information in books but hate the physical format; they take up too much space, they’re bulky to carry, and they’re heavy to ship. I dream of having my entire library in digital format someday.

2. Scanner. It’ll help the minimalist in your life declutter their documents, and can also be used for digitizing photos, postcards, letters, magazine articles, and any other stray scrap of paper lying on their desk. Two to consider: the NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and the Canon LiDE200 Scanner.

3. iTunes gift card. If they have an iPod, they can always use some digital music.

4. Gourmet items. Minimalists prefer consumables to stuff. A bottle of fine wine, a box of nice chocolates, or a selection of fine cheeses will be appreciated and enjoyed—without generating any clutter.

5. Luxury bath items. A bar of artisan soap, or luxurious lotion, is another lovely “consumable” gift. Choose something that they’d like, but wouldn’t necessarily splurge on for themselves.

6. Tickets. Minimalists also prefer experiences to material things. If it’s consistent with their interests, tickets to a cultural (symphony, ballet, opera) or sporting event make an ideal gift.

7. Restaurant gift certificate. Pick their favorite restaurant, or new hot spot, and treat them to a nice dinner out.

8. Gift membership. Give them a year’s membership to a museum, zoo, botanical garden, or other cultural institution. They’ll get free admission and other VIP perks.

9. Charitable donation. If your minimalist is passionate about a certain cause (or just generally philanthropic), make a donation to their favorite charity.

10. Nothing. Hey, it’s probably what they asked for anyway—so why not make them happy, and make your life a little easier? ;-)

I’d love to hear any further suggestions! If you’re a minimalist, what would you like to receive?

Related posts:

  1. Minimalist Holiday: Declutter-Gifts
  2. Minimalist Holiday: The Gift of Time
  3. Miss Minimalist’s Gift Avoidance Guide

43 comments to Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist

  • Michel

    Great ideas. :)
    I wouldn’t like a kindle, I think digital clutter still is clutter. I don’t believe in having a great library, digital or otherwise.
    Besides, if I buy a second hand book and sell it after reading it (I only keep essential or favorite books), sometimes I can even sell it for a better price! That would almost mean that I have been paid to read, which I think it’s cool.

    • Dinah Gray

      We have a great big used bookstore where I am. I have gotten used books and turned them back in for store credit. But I find that I like to re-read my books if they are good or if they are books I want to reference later. That’s where I find the kindle useful. I have a nice little library of books to re-read on it.

      Also, I use text to speech all the time, which a regular paperback can’t do. I have a long commute and I plug it into my car so I can keep reading while I drive. I also use it when I do dishes, even when I cut our townhouse lawn (I have a manual mower, which is quite).

      Call me paranoid, but the only thing I do not like about it is that one company (Amazon) knows every book I read.

  • nicole 86

    I offer baby sitting evenings to parents,
    I offer perfumes, trees or plants to put in the garden (if they have got one).
    I invite children for a week-end and suggest their parents to do wathever they enjoy.

    As for Kindle or ipod, I think they would be clutter for me.

  • Zoe

    With everyone so busy these days, the gift of someone’s time is very precious to me. A lunch or dinner date or a hike with friends is a great gift to me.

    I also like to receive (and give) a holiday outdoor wreath or winter forced bulbs as they brighten up my home and after the holiday I can dispose of them in the compost.

  • Willoughby

    Nothing. The habits of reflexive buying and material affection need to be broken.

  • Wow, these are all such great ideas. I love the idea of a plant for someone to put in their garden. A hike and picnic also seem like such a nice gift. I work for Aveda and you can make a customized perfume for someone for very little money. That would be a nice personal gift. A facial or massage would also be nice. What wonderful ideas. As for reflexive buying, I eliminated that a long time ago. When someone gets a present from me, it is from the heart. I also like the old fashioned gift of something baked!

  • Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m adding your site to my daily fix reading list. I think others would enjoy your blog.

    ~janet

  • Money, If I want a gift then I will buy it for myself. Plus, you can never go wrong with cash/check.

  • Edwina

    I got a kindle about a month and it’s great. I have freed up so much space. I’ve kept a few books that I love and am unable to get in kindle format but like you, aspire to have a digital library.

  • Nothing! My sister and I have agreed not to exchange “stuff” this year. Hoping we can influence the rest of the family, but my mother is the worst – she has everything and still wants more. Quantity over quality! Give her the trinkets and doodads and she’ll be happy. Makes this minimalist’s heart break….

  • Jean

    I like your list.

    No Kindle for me. Old school – love the ‘feel’ of holding a book, and the ability to pass it on, fraught with my highlights and margin notes :-)

    The best gift for me: Time and attention from/with a beloved. Wrapping optional :-0

  • miss minimalist

    Good point, Michel–that’s a great system for enjoying books, while maintaining a minimalist library. I travel a lot (and very lightly), so digital books are more convenient for me; I can read them on my iPod Touch on long plane and train rides.

    nicole 86, I think babysitting services are the BEST gift for parents!

    You’re right, Zoe–giving the gift of your TIME is much more precious than store-bought presents.

    Well said, Willoughby–I agree, and hope our society starts taking steps in that direction.

    janet, I love a gift of baked goods too… Thanks so much for adding my blog to your reading list–I really appreciate it!

  • miss minimalist

    Adam, I agree–and I think cash would be a particularly appreciated gift in this economy!

    Edwina, I’m glad you’re enjoying your Kindle! I haven’t purchased one yet–I’ve been reading my digital books on my PC (at home) and iPod Touch (while traveling). I hope that the more obscure titles in my library become available soon so I can sell/donate the physical books.

    Michelle, I understand, it can be difficult to get the whole family on board. Sometimes you just have to take baby steps in the right direction…

    Jean, my only quibble with digital books is the inability to share. But I’m willing to sacrifice that to avoid lugging/shipping/storing a box or two of books every time we move. As far as gifts go, I’m with you–I’ll take time and attention any day over a store-bought present!

  • [...] Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist [...]

  • Kelly

    I am a bit late to respond, I just found your blog today and am very much enjoying your posts and reader comments. Finally, my mom has jumped on board with my family’s minimalist wishes and we received 10 lbs. of coffee, nuts, cheese, and Amazon and itunes gift cards this holiday season – I have a kindle and love it so far. Books are a bit of a challenge, as I am in grad school and the reading is a bit esoteric to find easily, be it second hand or in digital formats.

    I usually ask for nothing, no gifts for holidays, birthdays, etc. But I noticed that by requesting this, it took away the joy of giving from my loved ones, and that was not what I was after. So instead, I wish for us to do things together – I ask for acts, acts of love, service, and kindness. On my birthday last year, I asked for a love letter from my longtime beloved – he is usually quite pragmatic, but this request brought out his romantic flair and the letter he gifted me with generated a palpable change in our lives, that love letter was a humdinger and I recall it at least once a week.

    For Christmas, my request was that my family memorize the monologue from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Boris Karloff – just in case any of us would need to recite it at will – it is hilarious that we all know it. During the summer we all learned Michael Jackson’s dances to Thriller and Beat It…when he passed away suddenly last year, we were all able to pay him tribute through our own less-athletic interpretations of his classic dances.

    The memories of these moments are better than any material thing any of us could possess.

  • miss minimalist

    Kelly, many thanks for sharing this! I love the idea of asking for “acts of love, service, and kindness.” What a great way to create fabulous memories for your family, without any “stuff!”

  • amandine

    Hi miss m, I’m really enjoying your blog & catching up with older posts. I feel you are a kindred spirit.

    Every year for Mother’s Day, my DH & kids take my car in for “spring cleaning” – wash, wax, shampoo upholstery, and fix any scratches. That is my Mother’s Day gift, and I love it, as it would take me almost a full day to accomplish DIY.

    For Father’s Day, the kids & I always renew my husband’s flight-club membership. He travels a lot for work and it’s a way we feel we are helping him be more comfortable while he’s on the road.

    Great gifts that we both appreciate & are truly grateful for.

    One year for my teenage daughter’s birthday, we gave her a homemade “book” of envelopes stapled together; each envelope containing $20. She’d reached the age where she needed money for activities more than anything else. I decorated each envelope with a suggestion, such as “Play golf with your friends”, or “Have fun at the county fair”. She has a lot of good memories of that summer.

  • miss minimalist

    Wow, amandine, what wonderful gifts! I especially like the idea of a car wash for Mother’s (or Father’s) Day–such a nice alternative to something bought in a store.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, and hope to hear from you again! :-)

  • Michelle

    Before I got married some friends wanted to throw me a bridal “shower” but I did NOT want any stuff! Instead of the traditional shower, I agreed to have a gathering where the “gifts” were stories or anecdotes shared by my friends about me. It was a riot! Everyone worked very hard to embarrass me (in a good way) and it was so much fun to hang out and remember. There was nothing to throw away and I’ll keep the memory forever.

  • Springleaf

    As a child/young adult (when you can’t so easily tell people not to get you stuff) I used make three piles of my presents at birthdays and xmas 1:Keep 2:Eat/use up (chocolate/shower gel) 3:get rid of as soon as discretly possible. When I explained this process to my sister she was horrified -and made me realise not everyone thinks the same way.

  • Theresa

    I Love this site! I am ready to start decluttering my life. For gifts – I agree, gifts of service are wonderful. I have Celiac disease, so I am always working hard to make special foods/meals for myself and ones that my family will enjoy too, so for me – I love a gift cert to Outback – my fav place to eat GF! My daughters live out of state for college and asked just for gift cards, so they don’t have to ship “stuff” back with them and have it cost more money etc. That makes my life so much easier too – no more crowds. My sons are still in high school and they do enjoy shopping/spending – so gift cards are cool with them – iTunes or generic cards, ones for places they like to hang out at etc. I do still decorate, Christmas is a bit hard for us, my stepdaughter died of an illness 3yrs ago at the young age of 22 – her birthday is just before Christmas – it was always her favorite season/holiday, so we decorate for her! We also started a tradition in her memory – our church had a “giving tree” – we always choose someone from the tree in her memory and get a gift card or whatever – when we do this – we get to keep a memento from the “giving tree” – we keep these in her Christmas stocking – so each year we can see it getting more and more full of the service we gave to others. I do put out some lights in the bushes, my daughters enjoy coming home to that after a hectic December at school – they don’t get to decorate, since they have to hustle out to fly home for the holidays! I definately keep it to a minimum – partly because we have a kitten that likes the play with ornaments! lol THanks for all you do – I am looking at my world with a different set of eyes. I really can do with so much less.

  • kcar1

    Gearing up for the NEXT Christmas soon as well as downsizing from a small-ish house with a garage and basement for that stuff to a slightly smaller apartment but with no garage or basement… it is going to be rough this year because we’ve already hurt g-ma’s feelings with a reminder that stuff is causing more problems than enjoyment at this point in time. I am really considering skipping the big family celebration because the competitive gift-giving means piles of stuff but an x-mas away means a present or 2.

    One of the things that I have enjoyed giving (and would enjoy getting) is audio books through iTunes, audible, or any other site really. No, it isn’t as cost effective as buying and reselling books but my dad has enough issues with his vision that reading for pleasure is not high on his list but he loves to listen to nonfiction books. I commute with public transit and would love to spend it reading but I get motion sick when I read so audio books are the solution! And my pre-literate children also love to listen to audio books — and a lot of those are available for free – the classics are in the public domain and there are a couple of projects where volunteers record and post the mp3s.

    I disagree about going completely gift-free. Gifts are important psychological/sociological objects — they symbolize a lot. The key is “stuff”-free — we don’t really need another stand-alone plastic toy but the perfect book bag for a kindergartener, a set of colored pencils, or a special winter hat for the boy who out-grew the last one — those are good gifts. And they will accomplish a lot of more the what the gift-giver hopes (remind the receiver they are loved) when they are toted around, used lovingly, or pulled on every day instead of the toy that sits bottom of the toy box because it wasn’t fun after the first 20 minutes.

    One key for me in reducing the stuff is trying to be a lot more conscious about thinking ahead (buy the special bag for the birthday in April rather than school in Sept) about (quasi) necessary purchases so those can be gifts rather than just things we buy. It is a struggle because it was kind of a big thing in my family that happened when I was a child to be able to make the other transition — not have to have birthday presents be socks and underwear out of financial necessity. It helps me and I try to help my mom by emphasizing the quality aspect, i.e., I am not getting the 6-pack of Hanes socks but the nice wool socks or the Smencils not Crayola colored pencils, not the first pink backpack at the discount store but the right bag that will hopefully last a long time — i.e., both durable and it isn’t plastered with the Disney Princess that will be “babyish” before we know it.

    It isn’t so much that the quality is so superior or more money is spent but that items selected indicate care and effort — none are the kind of things you just toss in your basket on your way through Target unlike Crayola, Hanes, and Disney. In fact, a favorite and well-used gift from last x-mas was a sleeping bag I picked up at Goodwill.

  • [...] You might enjoy this holiday article from our friends over at Miss Minimalist, “Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist.” Christmas, Eco-Friendly, Environment, Family, Green, Green Living, Holidays, Saving [...]

  • [...] kids, too, especially if they are skeptical about a Christmas where they won’t be receiving traditional gifts. Make sure during the holiday season you are not only not onboard the consumer train, but you are [...]

  • [...] Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist: Ask any minimalist what they want for Christmas, and I guarantee they’ll say “nothing.” However, if you’re set on buying something anyway, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas in keeping with their lifestyle. (If you’re the minimalist, you may want to pass this post along to friends and family!)… {read more} [...]

  • My wife wants to buy me a Kindle for Christmas. I’ve been debating that with myself. It *is* another techno toy; and because I make my living from the internet I have quite a bit of technology in my life already. But, as you point out, having the kindle will allow me to eliminate huge volumes of books.

    I read voraciously. I have always loved books, and the look of a well stocked library. But as I try to simplify my life and rid myself of clutter, a traditional library just doesn’t fit the plan.

    I think I’ll say ‘Yes’ to the Kindle. Thanks!

  • Leo

    I have always been a natural minimalist. I was raised that way. My parents never wasted anything. We bought quality stuff, and we enjoy what we need to live a comfortable life without waste. I love the way I was raised.

    I stop giving gifts to my siblings a long time ago when I turned 21, and it helped, because after not returning any gifts, they stopped giving gift too (yeah!)

    I don’t have kids yet, but I have 6 nephews and 4 nieces ranging from 16 months to 11 years old. I used to give them gifts, but i got stress out every birthday and holiday seasons. This year, I told them that they will not get any gifts, I know it’s mean, but my siblings are hoarders, and if I keep give the kids gifts, I am NOT helping them either. . . .

    I will take my neps & nies to a park or movies (experience is much better than clutter. .. .)

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn M. Gorman, Michelle Dickens. Michelle Dickens said: RT Top Ten Gifts for a Minimalist http://bit.ly/bveef1 [...]

  • Celia

    My husband and I gave each other kindles as our holiday gifts to each other this year. They’re both on the same account, so we can immediately share the same ebooks, just like we share hardcopy books. Also, amazon has announced that a sharing feature us in the works!

    For gifts, I’m requesting amazon gift cards to indulge in new release books; so far, we’ve been indulging in the thousands of free ebooks available on the web. Yes, digital clutter is still clutter, but I’ve discovered that one reason I’ve accumulated so much stuff is the joy I derive from cataloging and organizing things, especially my books! Organizing ebooks will let me clear away huge amounts of physical clutter, while still relishing my inner-librarian. :-)

  • [...] of my favorites. Even though my family has decided not to exchange gifts this year, I think books make great presents, especially if it’s something you’ve  already read and can spend time discussing [...]

  • I think a gas card is a great gift for anyone that travels regularly.

  • AJ

    Love the kindle! I’m happy I don’t have to buy physical books anymore. Decreases clutter tremendously. I just now have to sell my remaining books.

  • Rachel

    I already have a Kindle and I love to get food or experiential gifts, but I loathe bath items because I rarely use as many as I get (I get a ton!) and I’m particular about what I use, so they end up piling up under my sink… ugh. Nothing… nothing is good. :)

  • Joanna

    I just got a Kindle fire and feel it really does eliminate clutter for books, even on my kindle as I can “park stuff” on the cloud! I love the gourmet idea, but personally I love to bake homemade cookies and wrap in cling film and add a pretty bow. Almost everybody likes homemade cookies!

  • Michelle

    this chistmas i’m giving outdoor cinema vouchers…it is summer here in australia and certificates for high tea in the city.also a bokhasi compost bin…a “green” gift. and kindle gift cards or books for the kindle. gourmet teas and teapots and other tea accessories

  • What about gifts for children? I’m as much against the materialist habit as anyone, but children do love to get stuff in the mail and open presents. Are there “things” we can give children that aren’t plastic toys made by Chinese slaves?

    • S. Smith

      Regarding gifts for children: Several posts mentioned the idea that you don’t have to give up gift-giving entirely, but rather choose so that the gifts that you give are in line with your values. How about toys that feed interests or inspire hobbies? An artists kit with a drawing pad, drawing pencils, erasers and a book on how to draw…flower and veggie seeds, a watering can and child-size garden tools…good wooden toys (pricy, but worth handing down to siblings)…A how-to-knit or crochet kit…a children’s cookbook with a chef’s apron (boys too!). Themed gifts are nice: a DVD of a favorite movie with popcorn (classics- ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Charlie and th Chocolate Factory’, etc. that can be donated to a library or given to brothers and sisters later on), a membership to a zoo, Art Museum, Science Museum, gift cards to craft and hobby stores. As others have said, gifts that create memories. You can make a clever presentation, like giving a book on animals with the zoo membership so the child has something to unwrap. I know it’s hard to avoid all of the advertising. Hopefully we can teach our children to unplug and entertain themselves in creative ways.

  • [...] Visit this blog post for an amazing list of gift ideas for the minimalist or downsizer/declutterer in your life, and [...]

  • Sandra

    10 entries to a swimming pool/gym/yoga center.
    Home made healthy stock cube.

  • Tina

    I need so little that I’m always tempted to say no gifts. But for Mother’s Day I got a fancy card, an emery board, a plant and a kit with beads and findings.
    My son baked cookies and we had carry out Chinese food.
    There are still people who are buying clutter and junk and we can’t change them but our world is neater and nicer just the same.

  • Rose

    How about an international donation of clean water, chicken, etc? I convinced my sister, who bought a goat in my name from Heifer International. Best gift ever. We have both been buying experiences for our parents for years now as well.

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