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Receive gifts for more life instead of more stuff.

jessica's journey Dec 16, 2019

In our consumerist culture, holidays are often an opportunity to ask for our wildest desires to be fulfilled. That often translates into asking for things we cannot afford from those we believe can. It also opens the door for extravagant or unnecessary items that will serve no purpose in a short amount of time. With minimalism, we have the ability to counter that culture and add purpose back to the gifts we receive.

As recipients of gifts, there are 2 things we should be focused on managing: the types of gifts we receive and our response. If we can master these two things, we can continue to have authority over our time and attention – integral pieces to building a life that we love.

Keep reading to check out 4 tips for receiving gifts during the holidays!


Tip #1: Share your why and process

As holidays and special occasions approach, share with those closest to you why saving space (mental, physical or emotional) is important and what you’ll do with the things you decide not to keep.

Working to simplify your life is futile if after every birthday, holiday and special occasion, you come home with a bunch of stuff, anxiety, or stress you don’t need. While it’s not always easy, the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Before determining how you will approach others, be sure to confirm with yourself why this is so important.

Finish this sentence, “having more unnecessary stuff, stress, anxiety, will keep me from _____________________.”

This is your reason why. Keep that close to your heart as you chat with people you love.

If you’ve developed rules for your stuff, share that with them too! Some minimalists remove 2 things for every 1 thing they add. Others keep what they want and donate the rest regardless of the number. If you share this with your loved ones they’ll think twice before making a purchase. Ultimately, no one wants to feel like their time and money were wasted, so it’s a win-win for everyone.


Tip #2: Request clutter-free gifts

Once you’ve shared your why, tell your loved ones what types of gifts you’d like to receive. Below are some examples of clutter-free gifts and how to ask for them.

Clutter-Free Gifts

  • Physical items you actually need
    • Sometimes you really do need more socks and pajamas. Don’t hesitate to ask for that.
  • Gifts that support your side-hustle or business
    • What skills, personal development, and (potentially) stuff would help you move your side-hustle or business forward? Ask people to support you in your endeavors. The first year I hosted my conference, I asked anyone who was interested in buying me a gift to donate to my conference instead. I obtained just over $1000 in donations.
  • Gifts that support your hobbies
    • What do you enjoy doing with your free-time? Are you interested in learning something new? Share that with your friends and family! You may even be able to learn something new together.
  • Donations to a charity
    • Is there a charity or cause that you’d like to give more support to? Share it with your friends and family through GoFundMe or Facebook. This is a great way to support a great cause without bringing more stuff into your life.

How to talk about it

Say something like, For [insert holiday], I’d really appreciate gifts that can help me with [insert your side-hustle] OR gifts that will allow me to [insert an experience] OR I’d really love some new [insert physical item]. I’m working on [insert goal] and gifts like this will help me achieve them.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be uber-specific like, “I want a new Sony DSLR camera”. You could say, “I would love something that will help me with my photography skills”. This allows the gift giver to be creative and maintain the element of surprise.

Tip #3: Receive gifts with grace.

As you declutter your life, one of your toughest challenges will be managing gifts. Many people give gifts as an expression of love and gratitude. If you’re human like me, the last thing you want to hurt them by reacting poorly to gifts you don’t want.

Here are some things you can do to avoid tension:

Be thankful/grateful.

Even if you receive a gift you don’t want, it doesn’t change the fact that someone spent their time and money to purchase it for you. Express to them how thankful your are for their love and willingness to think of you.

Re-gift, donate, or sell it.

So now you’ve got a gift that you don’t want or need. What should you do? Consider re-gifting, donating, or selling. There will always be someone who could benefit from your stuff. Start first by re-gifting to a friend or family member. Can’t think of anyone? Consider giving to homeless shelter, Goodwill, or directly to a person in need. Can’t find a shelter or a human to take it? Search for a thrift, consignment, or re-sale store who will give you a few bucks in exchange for taking it off your hands.

Fun fact: this tip used to be tough for me because I was certain that the gifter would find out and be upset. The truth is that most people don’t circle back to see if you used, needed or loved their gift. I’ve given away and donated a lot of gifts and not once has someone followed up with me. Don’t worry, your secret is safe.

Tip #4: Create space quickly

Let’s say you follow these tips and start receiving stuff you actually want or need. As soon as you can, find a “space” for each gift. The sooner you find a home for or utilize for each gift, the less likely it is to become useless or forgotten. If you receive a physical gift, find space in your home or give some consideration to how it can become apart of your daily/weekly routines. If you receive an experience, begin thinking about when you can use it and plan it out.

Bonus tip: Give thoughtful gifts

In year 1 of minimalism, I found myself being frustrated that so many people chose to buy me stuff even though they knew I was decluttering my life. I didn’t know what to say, so I just kept those frustrations to myself. Over time, I realized that their actions were more about them than about me. Many people buy gifts the way they do because it’s all they’ve ever known. They often don’t stop to consider any nuance. The best thing you can do to help shift this behavior is to use the buying tips listed here. The more that I buy experiences and thoughtful gifts for others, the more I receive experiences and thoughtful gifts – without having to say anything at all!

What gifts would you love to receive?

 Que-so Goodbye,



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