Mindful gifting is both an art and a special gesture. I’m sure you know the kind of gifts I’m talking about – things or experiences chosen with care to add value to your life. It may be an item you’ve been wanting or something you’ve never thought of, like a set of ceramic dishes my mother-in-law gifted me from her travels. I never knew I needed them and yet use them regularly to hold my tea strainer, jewelry, or an afternoon snack. Gifts like this are truly touching and remind me of the gift giver.
While we all want to gift carefully chosen items, the craziness of the festive season means that presents can sometimes become just another item on our long “to-do list”. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In case the pressure is already starting to build, below are a few simple and gentle practices to help you choose more intentional gifts during this rollercoaster time of year.
1. 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 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.
2. 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.
3. Ask yourself these questions about the person you’re buying for before going shopping
When practicing mindful gifting consider these questions 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?
Knowing a person’s love language can also help you choose gifts, particularly for those close to us. For example, if you know their love language is gifts you can buy them a physical item but if it’s quality time, a planned shared experience might speak to them on a deeper level.
While you probably already consider these questions, sometimes it can be hard to think clearly when decision fatigue can set in at 10pm in the late-night opening hours, staring at a shopping aisle, surrounded by crowds and Jingle Bell Rock serenading you for the 100th time that week. Sound all too familiar?
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 enabling you to avoid the crowds entirely.
4. Meaningful doesn’t equal expensive
Mindful gift giving to me means choosing an item that is 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. For example, my husband dubbed the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat “one of the best presents” I’ve ever given him.
5. Factor in your budget and skillset
What does your budget allow? Is there 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. If in doubt, don’t underestimate the joy of a beautifully written card or letter. Sometimes all a person needs is to hear how much you care about them – mindful gifting at it’s best.
6. Mindful gift wrapping and sustainable practices.
I think mindful gifting goes beyond simply the gift itself and includes the way it’s presented and the impact it might have on the world we live in. There are so many amazing sustainable brands these days as well as eco-friendly ways of presenting gifts in a more sustainable, but aesthetic manner.
About the Author: Bridie Leah is a collection of visual and written stories for the everyday minimalist; mindful, timeless style and design and meaningful conversations around life, connection and creativity.