Mindful gifting can be an art, but if done well, is a special gesture. I’m sure you know the gifts I’m talking about – things or experiences chosen with special care which add value to your life. Sometimes this is something you’ve been wanting for a while. Other times it might be something you’ve never thought of, like a set of ceramic dishes my mother-in-law gifted me from her travels. I use them regularly to hold my tea strainer, jewellery or an afternoon snack. Gifts like this are truly touching and remind me of the gift giver.
As this post is slightly longer, I’ve broken it up into two parts:
- How to gift mindfully – where I share my approach to choosing gifts mindfully and some ideas for how to approach the crazy festive season in a more intentional, meaningful and sustainable manner.
- A guide for mindful gifting – where I share some ideas for sustainable or intentional gifts, in case you need some extra inspiration this Christmas. (If you’re after a mindful gift guide feel free to skip to Part 2 below)
Part 1 - How to gift mindfully
Keep the "Why" in mind
The exchange of gifts at Christmas can be a beautiful ritual. However, it can also bring with it certain pressures – be it financial, social, time related, unrealistic expectations portrayed by the media or even just trying to choose something for someone who seems to have everything already. Rather than viewing presents as another item on the Christmas to do list, try to think about what you’re why you’re giving the gift and how you can show that person your love, appreciation or care by carefully choosing a gift for them that you think they’ll love and use.
Consider a "Kris Kringle" approach
Each household has their own values, practices and belief systems around gifting – spoken and unspoken. All of these are unique and wonderful. However, one approach our large extended family takes is to do a “Kris Kringle” where names are pulled from a hat and each person buys for just one other up to a certain value (eg. John buys for Mary who buys for Ann etc.). Instead of the overwhelm and decision fatigue of trying to buy gifts for 20 plus family members it allows us to choose a special and good quality gift for one of them and puts the focus back on intentionally gathering together.
Ask yourself these questions about the person your buying the mindful gift for before going shopping?
When practicing mindful gifting consider these questions (and for more inspiration I’ve left some gift ideas below) before you enter the shops. What are the person’s interests and hobbies? Is there something practical that they need? What are their values and belief systems around gift giving? What is their aesthetic? Is there something that you think they might use or enjoy, that they wouldn’t buy for themselves? Do they appreciate homemade gifts or store bought? Do they prefer outdoor or indoor activities? Would they like an experience or an item? While you probably already consider these questions, sometimes it can be hard to think clearly in that crazy rush that is the midnight shopping (after you’ve probably already had a long day at work) and decision fatigue can set in. Instead, try to carve out a few moments to ask yourself these questions and jot down some of these ideas before you hit the frenetic atmosphere of the shops. It will also make the shopping process more efficient as you’ll know exactly what shops you need to go to rather than trying to find inspiration amongst rows of candles or packed crowds. Even better – you might just be able to order some of these items online – saving you precious time and enable you to avoid the crowds entirely.
Meaningful doesn’t equate to expensive
Mindful gift giving to me means choosing an item that best tailored to the person you’re buying for (while, of course, remaining within your budget). However, often the best gifts are not necessarily the most expensive, rather those that a person will really cherish and love. As I talk about here, my husband dubbed the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat “one of the best presents” I’ve ever given him.
Factor in your budget and skill set
What does your budget allow? Is their a pre-allocated budget? Do you have a special skill such as knitting or sewing or baking or gardening where you could make something? For many years I had a tradition of gifting family members homemade rocky road in coffee mugs. Although the concept was simple it was always a huge success and everyone could then use the coffee mugs for the following year.
Sometimes it's the thought that counts
You can tell when someone has been to a lot of effort choosing a gift. One of our friends is wonderful at gift giving and, despite having a limited budget, takes a lot of time to thoughtfully choose gifts related to our individual interests and hobbies. While the gifts are always beautiful this thought often means as much as the gift itself.
Mindful Gift Wrapping
I think mindful gifting can go beyond just the gift itself to include how it’s presented and the impact it might have on the world we live in. There are so many amazing eco friendly ways of presenting gifts in a more sustainable, but aesthetic manner. Perhaps you might like to consider re-purposed or recycled wrapping paper or even using fabric, as I have here, to take a more intentional approach to your gifts this Christmas. This blog post has some innovative but beautiful gift wrapping ideas.
Part 2 - Mindful gifting - gift ideas for the festive seaon
I know you’ve probably been inundated by many gift guides at the moment, but I still thought it was worth sharing a few of my favourite mindful gift ideas below, incase you needed some extra inspiration.
Experiences are one of my favourite things to buy for people. Not only are they often more environmentally friendly because they won’t eventually end up in landfill, but they can be a great way spend quality time and share interesting experiences with loved ones. It could be taking someone out to dinner, buying them tickets to the ballet or a music concert or gifting them a massage or facial. Even home made voucher to help them with household chores such as the washing or a car wash would be appreciated, I’m sure.
A subscription to a magazine or an online course can be a wonderful mindful gift; something that a person can enjoy throughout the year. For example, we gifted my parents a Masterclass subscription for their birthday’s this year.
Plants can also be a wonderful option. Sadly, I’m not much of a green thumb and, when it comes to plants or gardening, plants usually wither under my care and attention (or lack thereof). However, many of my family members are avid gardeners and gifting them plants not only brightens up their home or garden but is also an environmentally friendly present. Things to keep in mind when choosing the correct plant is the space that the person has, other plants in their garden and the climate.
Gifts such as chocolates, a beautiful bar of soap or a beeswax candle make beautiful gifts, because they are little luxuries we might not buy ourselves, but that can be used up. This is a great idea for a Christmas hamper as well.
Homemade gifts are special because they represent an investment of time and effort – a valuable commodity in this busy day and age. They make the perfect mindful gifts because they are personal, unique and have sentimental value. Think about what skills you have at your disposal. Do you knit? Sew? Bake? There are also so many great tutorials for homemade gifts such as this brownie jar , how to make macrame earrings, a gingerbread house or a canvas tote bag. Homemade gifts can also be a fun activity to do with children.
When it comes to mindful gifting, practical items make great gifts. They are often items that persons would have to buy anyway and will use regularly, for example a planner or calendar. (I love these beautiful diaries and notebooks from An Organised Life or this Planner from Words with Heart, a social enterprise where the proceeds help fund education for girls in third world countries). If a person has a particular sport or hobby, could you get them something related to that, like new runners. For some sustainable but practical gifts, considered giving a safety razor, or re-useable make-up wipes or a re-useable shopping bag set from Seed and Sprout.
Consider a "second hand secret santa"
Last weekend we had a few close friends over for Christmas gathering where we did a “second hand Secret Santa”. The premise was that each gift either came from an op shop or was re-purposed from something we already owned. It was a fun, sustainable and in-expensive way to get into the festive spirit and we ended up exchanging some great gifts.
Coming from a family of avid readers, books are always a fail safe gift. There are few things more enjoyable than becoming engrossed in a thought provoking story or learning something new from a non-fiction book. I’m of the view that nothing can beat a hard copy book, but for a more sustainable option you could consider an eBook or audio book too.
Sustainable and small businesses
When practicing mindful gifting I love supporting sustainable and small businesses when possible. I love these beautiful puzzles from One But Many. Biome always has such a great array of sustainable and zero waste gifts and Lois Hazel’s has such beautiful and sustainable clothes that I’ve been meaning to try.
If in doubt, don’t underestimate the joy of a beautifully written card or letter – like these beautiful and 100 per cent recycled cards from Earth Greetings. Sometimes all a person needs is to hear how much you care about them – mindful gifting at it’s best.
I’d love to know, what’s your approach to mindful gifting? What are some of your favourite mindful gift ideas?