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Go-To Gifts for Minimalists (And Other Impossible-To-Shop-For People in Your Life)

My birthday is coming up in few weeks (shout out to all you Scorpios!), which means my family has kindly started asking me for gift ideas. Because I try to lead a very minimalist lifestyle, finding gifts for me can be a bit of a nightmare. Since my go-to response of “nothing” is typically ignored, I’ve come up with some Do’s and Don’ts for all you out their searching for gift ideas for people who don’t want “stuff,” and other “impossible-to-shop-for” people in your life. Here we go:

DO: Upgrades

Upgrades are an excellent strategy when buying gifts for minimalists. This is because you aren’t adding clutter to your loved-one’s lives, but rather upgrading something you already know they use and want. Notice that your wife’s classic trench coat or cozy UGG slippers have seen better days? Swapping for a brand-new model in the same style and size is a pretty safe bet for a much-appreciated gift. Does your husband drag along a towel to the gym each week? Upgrade his membership and lighten his load (not to mention the laundry pile) with towel service! Is there a podcast lover in your family, or someone with a long commute? Swap their standard ear buds for a fancy wireless set. My older model iPhone has been stuck in permanent silent mode since I dropped it while loading kids and groceries in my car last spring. I will certainly be asking Santa for a newer version this Christmas, when technology deals and steals peak.

DO: Acts of Service

Acts of Service is without a doubt my love language (although I do ponder if this was the case prior to having children). Acts of service gifts are especially fitting if the recipient spends their days in a caregiver role. It’s so important for these folks to be on the receiving end of care from time-to-time too! For me personally, there is nothing that makes me happier than having my car washed and vacuumed, or better yet detailed with the gas tank topped off! I have also been known to present my husband with a list of house projects to tackle as my go-to Mother’s Day gift request. Before my Grandma passed, we used to get together as a family and clean up her yard each year for her birthday, spreading new bark and planting zinnia seeds, her favorite flower. If all else fails, no one has ever complained about a surprise housing cleaning session, or simply getting a day off from the usual chores and obligations to do as they please!

Photo by N. Elena

DO: Experiences

Experiences are a wonderful gift because your loved one gets to do something they enjoy, with people they enjoy. The key here is to pay attention to their specific interests, finding an activity they will truly cherish. Everyone likes to feel seen, right? My dream birthday celebration would probably be something along the lines of getting my hair blown out and going to dinner, because I don’t have to do my hair for a few days, and I don’t have to cook dinner! Does your partner love to hike? Pack and picnic with their favorite foods and treats and hit the trails, maybe even inviting a few of their outdoorsy buddies along. Music lover or art enthusiast in the mix? Sign up for email reminders of upcoming shows to surprise them with. Sports fanatic in the house? Grab some tickets to a big game or host a viewing party with their favorite friends and food.

DO: Subscription Services

The key to finding a subscription service that your minimalist will love is that it should either create no clutter or be something they already buy (or want to buy) themselves. With a little internet research, one can find a subscriptions service for nearly everything, from consumables, to clothes, to crafts and hobbies. For a great clutter-free subscription service gift, think along the lines of an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription, an Audible membership, or even a SiriusXM radio subscription. When I took my Dad to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art while I was living in New York City, he surprised me with an annual membership as a hostess gift, which was such a thrill and something I would have never splurged on myself! If you’re subscription gift includes something tangible, consumables are a great idea because although they initially take up space, they will eventually, be, well, consumed. Some ideas include a membership to a favorite wine club, a high-end coffee or tea delivery service, or even a service such as Butcher Block, which delivers organic, grass-fed meat and poultry to your doorstep. You can really knock it out of the park by having an item delivered that conjures a memory you have together or speaks to a memory of their past. A dozen bagels from Russ and Daughters in New York City, a deep-dish Pizza from Gino’s East in Chicago, even Paris’ famous POILÂNE sourdough loaf can be shipped to your front door these days.

DON’T: Guess!

Minimalists are usually very strategic and specific about the things they buy. So please, never hit the mall shopping thinking you’ll find something they never knew they wanted. I’ve noticed that this often leads to the buyer unintentionally purchasing something they like or that is their own style, particularly when it comes to clothing or home decor. Another trap a buyer can get into here is purchasing “gadgets” to supplement your loved one’s hobbies or interests. I love to cook, for example, but have no interest in adding an item to my kitchen that a sharp knife can handle. My mom had an affinity for dairy cows when I was little, and after 10 years of everyone she knew buying her cow figurines or memorabilia, she was finally over it and gave the whole collection away.

If you’re insistent on giving a physical gift, definitely ask your loved one what they would like, and make sure they are very specific. Remember this post when I ended up with the liberty bell (disguised as a dinner bell) posted on my deck! The ever tech-savvy founder of NQM, Elizabeth Curtiss, turned me on to Amazon’s Wish List feature where you can create a list of things you’d like, then send it to select friends and family. This feature helped ensure my son he didn’t get five of the same Harry Potter Lego sets for his recent 7th birthday party. And, of course, gift certificates are fine too. Just make sure it’s for a place you know the recipient already frequents. Even if you’re not a minimalist like me, the wave of simplifying our lives seems to be sweeping up all of us to a certain extent. So, next time you’re about to give a gift, check out my Do’s (and Don’t) above, and consider the art of minimalist buying.

Feature photo by ML Harris.