If you have heard of, or read about the 5 love languages, you are familiar with the idea that everyone has a different way of expressing love. Words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and receiving gifts comprise 5 different ways humans can share and reap love. Admittedly, gift giving/receiving rates VERY low on my love language radar. In fact, of the 5, it always comes in as my lowest priority and interest.
With that trust invoking introduction, I plan to proceed with a blog post about the best sorts of gift giving. Now, maybe these aren’t the sorts of gifts EVERYONE loves, but if you know someone who is a lover of sustainability, practicality and minimalism, then use this as a generic guideline for being the best gift giver, ever!
Donations are some of my favorite gift ideas, because it is a way to promote generosity and take care of others in need. There are SO MANY amazing organizations or ministries that are doing beautiful things in and for this world. Whether it is feeding those who are hungry, sharing hope with those facing addictions, aiding the war on human-trafficking, rehabilitating lands and communities, or simply showing love and positivity to a community in need, there is a non-profit or mission that meets the needs of something you or another are passionate about. I think putting some effort into discovering an organization that reminds you of someone or highlights someone’s focus in life, and putting money toward that group or facility in the name or honor of a friend of family member is one of the most beautiful gifts that can be given.Some of my personal favorite places to give…
- ADRA Adventist Development and Relief Agency. This is a group that helps in natural disasters all over the world, but they also help in a variety of ways by being present in countries all over the world and helping people find jobs, food, and education. They have SO many ways you can give…anything from helping to build a well where clean water is needed, to helping a family afford a goat or even giving a young girl with physical disablities horseback riding lessons. Their gift catalog is seriously awesome.
- Amazima Ministries. This is a ministry started by a young girl from Tennessee. I read a book called, “Kisses from Katie” a few years back, and I LOVE what she and her ministry are doing in Uganda for children and communities in need of love and education.
- Kiva. This is so cool. You can support startups and businesses all over the world. It allows you to give the gift of encouragement and support people in difficult economies. I love that you are not only aiding someone, but you are helping to develop their dream.
- Charity Water. I am a believer in clean drinking water and I absolutely LOVE this organization and their transparency. There are many wonderful organizations making a difference in building wells and bringing clean water, such as Healing Waters, and these groups are places where money is being very well utilized, for something we take for granted!
- Local YMCA– support your community, or the community of someone you are giving a gift to!
- Church Mission Trips- Really all things church/faith related are typically a great way to give during the holiday season. Especially if you know they are helping a cause that touches close to home, never overlook this option!There are truly SO MANY amazing non-profits and organizations you could give to. PLUS, they are hopefully a tax-deductible donation. I recommend praying about it, and finding an organization that supports something you or your gift recipient is passionate about.
We have too much stuff. No really. The majority of people, especially in America, suffer from an overabundance of “things”. To maintain a simpler and more minimalistic lifestyle, let’s focus on time spent together and experiences versus material goods. This could be in the form of a homemade meal or taking someone out to dinner. Or it could be the gift of travel, or a show/play/movie or event of some sort. It could be giving parents some “free” babysitting, or a child a “free” day where they get to choose all the activities. Spend time with people, and plan events and experiences versus buying another device or material good.
3. Something Homemade.
OK, homemade items are always cool. Art for art’s sake, or for gift’s sake, shows time, creativity and love. Can you sew, paint, make a scarf or a hat? These are beautiful gifts. It is especially awesome when you have taken into account the recipient and their tastes. You might be a wonderful craftsman, but don’t make a homemade jewelry box for someone who doesn’t wear jewelry. Likewise, scarves may be some of your favorite things to wear, but make sure the person you choose to make a scarf for, also has your same affinity towards wrapping fabric around their necks. 🙂 Usable gifts like bath salts, body butters, food items and candles are some ideas for homemade gifts. In addition, any sort of wood-working creations, blankets and/or other wearables are definitely appreciated.
4. Used Items/Hand-me-downs.
For people who love sustainability…get thrifty! I LOVE when people share well-kept baby clothing or toys. Sometimes, even a piece of clothing that someone doesn’t want, can seem like new to me! Buy used items or give them quality pre-loved things from your own collections. This can be dangerous, if used poorly. Don’t clean out your closet or junk drawer and pass on the stuff to those who do not need it. But, if you have quality electronic devices, computer gadgets, clothing, or other possessions that are in great shape and needed/wanted by family/friends…then, instead of taking it to Craigslist or Ebay, give it away!!
5. Cash or Check.
I don’t care who you are. Cash is ALWAYS an acceptable gift. If you are wanting to give someone a gift, get/make a beautiful card, write something meaningful, and give them the gift of freedom. Cash/check allows people to save or spend depending on what is needed in their life at that time. You are giving that person support and encouragement and yet trusting their financial decision making.
Below are my “Runner-up” gift ideas…these can be great, but should be considered carefully…
Books are always a wonderful gift idea. However, I have them on the “Runner Up” list because they are still a material product that often take up space. Some books, like the Bible, or various reference books, are tangible books that get a lot of usage (or should get a lot of usage ;)). But most books are SO readily available in other formats, it seems a little wasteful to purchase hard copies. Digital versions are wonderful or even taking the time to recommend a great book to someone and recommend they pick it up at their local library!
7. Gift Cards
Some people love gift cards. I am not one of them. I don’t like having to keep track of them in my wallet, and I don’t like being forced to shop at a specific store or location. As a minimalist, we do everything we can to avoid clutter, and often gift cards, although small, just add to our mental and physical clutter. Yes, sometimes you get a deal or cash back by buying a gift card, and in those cases, do it. OR if you KNOW a person will be eating or shopping at a specific location, it is probably safe to give a gift card. However, most minimalists and sustainable thinking people will prefer cold hard cash. If you want them to use that cash in a specific place or for a specific thing, give them direction in your card or in person…it is like a handmade/personalized gift card. 😉
8. Amazon wishlist (or some other registry).
This is a great place to look when you don’t know what to get someone, because hopefully they have put things they actually want/need on this list. The reason I have it on the “runner up” list is because I still don’t understand why we would get someone a gift, when we could just give them cash and let them choose what is most important. Yes, sometimes you get someone a gift they would not get themselves, as a way to pamper them, but for sustainably-minded people, often extravagance or excess does not make them as happy as the practical options do.
Another runner up. There are so many subscriptions to great websites for seeds, gardening information, podcasts, and other permaculture focused businesses. I know my husband LOVES his subscription to the “Member’s Support Brigade” from the Survival Podcast. But almost every permaculture podcast, youtube channel, or website has some great subscription for growers and off-grid thinkers. I think this is a great way to get something special for your permaculture friend, and yet, it is a runner up because it, like a gift card, can often add to our mental clutter of unnecessary things.
Overall, gift giving has become a materialized and commercialized market. We, as a society, spend so much money, time and energy on gifts!! This list offers a way to show “love” through gift giving, while also avoiding the materialism and excess that so often accompanies birthdays/holidays and every other gift-giving event. I hope you can gather some ideas and maybe get or give some meaningful gifts this holiday season!