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Minimalism: Gifts for Minimalists

Updated on November 10, 2017
TessSchlesinger profile image

Tessa has been a miminalist for the past decade. It was difficult initially but she loves the lifestyle change!

Gifts for minimalists
Gifts for minimalists

Gifts for Minimalists

More and more people are deciding to downsize. Some are baby boomers who have decided that homes are too large for their current needs while others are millennials who prefer having happy enhancing experiences rather than accumulating goods.

Minimalists don’t often have a lot of storage in their homes, whether it’s a tiny house on wheels, a small apartment, or a quaint cottage which is off the grid. And if they are official minimalists, they will often go with the trend not to own more than 150 things.

So when Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and other gift-giving days roll around, it’s difficult to know what to give someone who doesn’t want everything. Also, do we really need to wrap gifts in pretty paper accompanied by a card?

Treehugger, the website that caters to greens and minimalists, notes "Together we buy 2.65 billion Christmas cards—enough to fill a 10 story football stadium."

Attractive kitchen items can be both highly functional and a work of art.
Attractive kitchen items can be both highly functional and a work of art.

Excess Gifts are a Form of Pollution

Gift giving has become rather extreme during the past half century, and so much of what we purchase for others just goes to waste. It ends up either stored in a garage or chucked into increasingly large landfills.

It’s also important to consider that over-production of goods in our present time is responsible for much of our pollution. By giving something that is needed rather than something just for the sake of giving, we contribute to lessening the effects of pollution.

A Guideline to Multifunctional Gifts

There are five factors to consider when choosing a gift for a minimalist – small, highly functional, long-lasting, non-toxic to the environment, and beautiful.

Mutlifunctionality is vital when there is insufficient space for many things. So each item needs to have more than one function. For instance, a smartphone acts as a computer, a calculator, a camera, a calendar, and more.

Something that is small in size is far easier to store than something that is large, and while it is easy to find small ornaments, an ornament is not particularly functional.

It’s also vital that the item pleasurable to the eye. The human spirit sags when surrounded by ugliness and austerity. Alain de Botton notes in his book, The Happiness of Architecture, that our happiness is affected by the beauty (or ugliness) of the buildings surrounding us. In the same way, when we are living in a small home, it’s vital that each item gives us joy.

In China, several rivers have become sewers of toxic poison as a result of the 350 million pairs of jeans they manufacuture each year. So while it looks as if a pair of jeans does not harm the environment, in reality, their production has done a great deal of harm.

It’s important to check to check whether there is a need for your gift. If someone already has a highly functional minimalist kitchen, then there’s no point in giving them something for which they have no need.

Built in obsolescence as been a curse since the sixties. Products are manufactured to expire in a very short space of time. Rather purchase something that will last a few decades or more.

Always consider the following aspects when purchasing a present for someone else.

  1. Do they need it?
  2. Does it contribute to pollution?
  3. Is it multi-functional?
  4. Is it attractive in design?
  5. Will it last a long time?

What would you prefer to give?

See results

The Kitchen

Increasingly, as builders begin to focus on smaller apartments and homes, the traditional stove in the kitchen is being omitted. However, this is not done without thought. It's simply that there are now many options available. Instant Pot, electric frying pans, and/or convection ovens with hot plates on top make the stove obsolete. These items also take up a lot less space.

While the Instant Pot is currently all the rage I find it limiting in that I cannot use it to fry an egg or grill a piece of fish. I used to love my stainless steel electric frying pan, and in certain instances, I still think it’s a great buy, but these days I have another favorite. This is convection oven with two hot plates on its upper surface. It uses less electricity, bakes and roasts faster, and takes up less space than a conventional stove. It also does everything that the traditional stove does.

The important thing to do when selecting a gift for the kitchen is to check whether someone needs it or not.

The traditional stove in the kitchen is no longer seen as required equipment. There are far better options! Included in that list is this convection oven with two hot plates. It uses less electricity, cooks faster, uses less space an is easy to clean
The traditional stove in the kitchen is no longer seen as required equipment. There are far better options! Included in that list is this convection oven with two hot plates. It uses less electricity, cooks faster, uses less space an is easy to clean

Books vs E-Reader

Books can take up a lot of space, so generally when people downsize, the books tend to move on to new owners. E-readers are an excellent choice as hundreds of books can be stored in one small space.

Some e-readers have multiple functions. They not only permit the reading of books but can be used to source articles on the web as well. When selecting an e-reader as a gift, check for the following:

  1. that the screen has no glare,
  2. that it has 300 pixels for clarity,
  3. that it has a touch screen,
  4. that it has a long battery life,
  5. and that it is sturdy should it be dropped accidentally.

Gift Gards

It’s often quite difficult to know what someone else would like. Certainly, you can ask, but that takes away the surprise. The best way around this is to give a gift-card. Virtually all big stores have gift cards – Walmart, Target, or Amazon are just a few.

Of course, it’s difficult to know what amount would be acceptable. If you give $25, it might be considered insultingly small, and if you give $1000, it might be more than your pocket can bear.

A really nice way around this is to get together with friends and family and decide collectively to use gift cards from the same store. So, for instance, if there are half a dozen friends, each donating $100, it gives a generous $600!

Shopping for others is stressful

The best gift you can give someone is to ask them not to gift you because you already have too much...

Multi-functional Clothing

Most minimalists have very few clothes. Each item of clothing is selected for versatility as well as comfort and beauty. There are items on the market like the trousers which have a zipper just below the knees so that it can become a three quarter jean, plus another zipper that enables the trousers to become a pair of shorts.

There is also a trend in our current disastrous times to offer coats which convert into tents so that you can sleep in the wild. This could, also, be a great present to someone who is homeless.

Yet another idea is a dress that converts to a bed covering.

Multi-functional clothing is ideal for both travelers and minimalists

Americans spend a average of $800 on gifts during the Christmas season

About half of gifts go into the garbage within a year.

LED Head Light Lamps

'Head lights' have become very popular recently. They provide light for quite a long distance so they’re ideal for runners. They also provide sufficiently bright light for readers and those who sew. The can be used when riding a bicycle for additional light at night. They are wonderful for camping or tiny house living. They also take up very little space to store, have long lasting battery life, and are light to carry.

About 50% of all gifts land in the garbage.
About 50% of all gifts land in the garbage.


When we receive gifts from others that either do not appeal to us or for which we have no use, please consider re-gifting to someone who needs the product. While it is tempting to donate it to a charity shop or give it to someone who has a birthday or anniversary coming up, the real talent for giving to others lies in the value of the gift to the person. If they use it and love it, it’s a gift well given. If it is only something that demonstrates that the person was in your thoughts, then it is better not to re-gift.

The Gift of No Gift

Gift-buying can be enormously stressful and an stressful financial burden for many. One of the best gifts you can give to others is simply to send them a card or an email beforehand to explain that you have everything you need and want, and that although you will always be deeply touched by the intention to gift, you would prefer not to receive any gifts at the present time.

Of course, that is not always true. Sometimes there is something that we desperately want. In that case, find a wish list somewhere and attach it to your email signature throughout the year. That way, not only will you receive what you need and want, but there will be less waste - a prime consideration in our fight against pollution and global warming.

© 2017 Tessa Schlesinger


Submit a Comment
  • Trudy Grossman profile image

    Waltraud Grossmann 

    2 years ago from Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada

    A well researched, timely article. Valuable tips for today's wasteful wealthy nations.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    2 years ago

    Poppy, I meant check it out for mistakes. :)

  • poppyr profile image


    2 years ago from Enoshima, Japan

    I have a friend who recently got divorced and lost everything to his wife. He now lives in a small apartment in Kawasaki. All he had was a futon and a pile of books until his friends gifted him a table and some kitchen essentials. Recently he got a TV and a PS4 but as far as I know he doesn't play it all that much. I got him a mug for his birthday since he didn't have any mugs, and he loved it.

    I agree with your article that it's better to get something they need rather than something cute but useless. When you said "please check this article" in the forums, did you mean check it out, or check for mistakes?

  • k@ri profile image

    Kari Poulsen 

    2 years ago from Ohio

    I respect how the minimalists live. When I became a travel nurse, I sold everything. It was an act of freedom I found out. Not having all that stuff seemed to lift a great weight off my shoulders. Now I have no income and live a very minimalist life, lol. But, I am happy and grateful for what I do have. Pollution is a giant problem. I read that clothing is one of the top 3 things clogging up our landfills. It seems many people do not think about pollution. I can remember ice skating on a lake that had tires and all types of trash frozen into the ice. It was cleaned up and now it is a beautiful lake that people swim in. :)

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 

    2 years ago from East Coast, United States

    I hate the idea of waste and giving (or receiving) useless gifts. Years ago I stopped buying gifts that I imagined people would like when it was me that liked the gift. My family makes and passes around a gift list in November so that people get what they actually want. I also like to give people things that will be used up like candles, food, lotions, soap, etc. Most of us have too much junk around.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    2 years ago

    I agree. The gift of our time and energy is the greatest gift we can give!

  • letstalkabouteduc profile image

    McKenna Meyers 

    2 years ago

    Wow, I'm way under the average on gift giving! $800.00 is a lot to spend and half goes in the trash—what a waste! Although millennials get a lot of bad press these days, I admire how they value experiences over stuff. I love all these suggestions, Tessa, but especially the gift of no gift. Most senior citizens I know would just like someone to take them out for lunch, come for a visit, or make them a meal. When I was a kid, I would have loved for my grandparents to take me to a movie or an ice skating show rather than send me a gift or give me cash. The gift of time is what matters most and shows the most love.


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