The holiday season can be a challenging time for minimalists: with all those gifts flying around, it’s almost guaranteed that one or more unwanted presents will land in your lap. And after you’ve decluttered your house, reduced your consumption, and pared down to just the necessities, the last thing you want to deal with is more stuff.
Never fear – my handy Gift Avoidance Guide is here! Put these tips into practice, and you’ll greatly increase your odds of coming through Christmas unburdened with extra things. Just think: no more items to return, regift, or defeatedly stash away in your drawers and closets!
1. Propose a “gift-free” holiday. Ah, the minimalist’s dream! Admittedly, this strategy has a slim chance of working in many families and social circles – but it doesn’t hurt to try. You may as well swing for the fences; if this meets with success, you’ll wipe out all your worries in one easy step.
2. Opt out of gift exchanges. It’s all too easy to be pulled into “obligatory” gift exchanges – whether it’s among friends, coworkers, colleagues, neighbors, or extended family members. The more you can wriggle out of, the easier your holiday will be. Cite your choice of financial, religious, philosophical, environmental, or personal reason for declining participation.
3. Distribute gift exemption certificates. I’ve designed a “One Less Gift” certificate that you can print out, or simply email, to friends and family. Send this to someone at the start of the season (like now!), and you’ll both have one less gift to worry about.
4. Request spending time together in lieu of gifts. Schedule a lunch, walk, or coffee together. Plan it around a holiday activity—like strolling through town to admire the shop windows and Christmas lights—for a particularly festive atmosphere.
5. Request a charitable donation in lieu of gifts. The money we spend buying each other gadgets, knickknacks, and tchotchkes can do a world of good for those less fortunate. Direct the giver to the website of your favorite charity, or better yet, choose a cause together. Selecting a sheep, goat, or water buffalo to donate through Heifer International, for example, can be a lot more fun (and certainly more fulfilling) than fighting crowds at the mall.
6. Request good deeds in lieu of gifts. Suggest exchanging services, like babysitting, snow shoveling, a car wash, or computer assistance. Give each other “coupons” for specific tasks, which can be redeemed when needed. Such help can be far more valuable, and appreciated, than another scarf or kitchen gadget.
7. Express your desire to save the earth’s resources. Every gift we give up is a gift to our planet: our air will be a little cleaner, our water a little clearer, and our landfills a little emptier. If a “no gift” policy doesn’t fly, ask the giver to adopt a tree, coral reef, acre of rainforest, or natural habitat in your name — see The Nature Conservancy’s Green Gift Guide for ideas.
8. Propose a virtual gift exchange. Have fun gifting and receiving private islands, luxurious vacation homes, celebrity-worthy bling, professional sports teams, and other wild extravagances. Simply send a digital photo of your “generosity” to the recipient. A light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek twist on holiday consumerism – with no material items changing hands.
9. Don’t reciprocate. If all else fails, this is a last-ditch, tough-love attempt to stop someone from giving you gifts. Accept what they give you graciously, add an “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” and don’t offer anything in return. Chances are pretty slim you’ll receive something from that person next year. Yes, it’s awkward, but typically rather effective.
10. Disappear. The holidays are a great time to jet off to a tropical island or other exotic locale. People can’t give you gifts if they can’t find you.
I’d love to hear your gift avoidance strategies. Please share them in the Comments!