For the Person Who Doesn't Need Anything: Gift Ideas for a Minimalist

If your house is anything like mine was growing up, Christmas lists were sent out weeks ago and the shopping season is in full swing.

As we step into the most consumerist season of the year, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable to give out gift lists to your family when you've shifted your focus away from material possessions. Similarly, it can be difficult as a family member to know what to get for someone you care about who has potentially spent many months out of the year focusing on minimizing and decluttering.

It's a whole new spin on the person who has everything — what do you get for the person who doesn't need anything?


In the same way that minimalism represents a shift in thinking, gift giving for or to a minimalist requires a shift in thinking about what an "acceptable" gift is. To get you started, as a minimalist making a list or the loved one of a minimalist looking for some guidance, here are a few gift ideas for a minimalist.


For me, gift giving has always been a representation of my relationship with the person. I hate giving off a list, because I want the gift to be something only I could give you. For this reason, things like gift cards always felt extremely impersonal to me. After all, anyone can buy a gift card for someone, so how would the person know I truly loved them if I got them a gift card? Or worse still, a cash or check gift?

The reality is, for minimalists, this is a perfect option because gift cards and money can be used for a whole lot more than just a "traditional gift."

For that person who just has to have their Starbucks in the morning or their Panera bagel, you can give them a gift card to one of these establishments. If you know they love a particular restaurant but rarely go there due to the expense, gift them a night out without having to worry about the bill.

For college students or young professionals who are dealing with a limited budget, gift cards to the grocery store of their choice can be a fantastic option as well. The options are literally endless and where you give the gift card to can be just as personal as that super special gift that could only come from you.


For myself and many other minimalists, giving back more is a current or long-term goal as we minimize and declutter our lives, so rather than adding another item to their home this Christmas, why not give the minimalist in your life the gift of giving back or ask your friends and family to do so?

For those of you with friends and family who are minimalists, ask them which charities and organizations they would give to if they were able, or ones they'd eventually like to add to their list. Then make a donation to the organization in their name for the holiday season.

If you're the minimalist giving out a list, list a few of the organizations you love and would like to give to, and any additional information that would be helpful for first-time givers.

Many organizations even have special options during the holidays that allow you to purchase animals or specific supplies for families and communities that will have a tangible, long-term impact.


My primary love language is quality time, which is part of why gifts off a list always felt impersonal to me. I've always felt that if I was spending enough time with you, I would know that "perfect gift" you'd always dreamed of.

What I've learned more and more as I and the rest of my family has gotten older is that there is no greater gift than time. It is the only resource in our live that can never be renewed. When it's gone, it's gone and there's no getting it back.

Life gets busy fast and it's easy to go weeks, months, or even years between seeing people, so often the best gift you can give them is your undivided attention (yes, that means putting the cell phone down), and this is one that can often be combined with another gift. 

That gift card to their favorite restaurant? Tell them it's an opportunity for the two of you to go out to dinner and catch up for a few hours. You could even give a voucher of sorts for an afternoon, an evening, a full day, whatever you feel fits the relationship. I guarantee the memories you'll create during the time you spend together will last far longer than any other gift you'd give them — on a list or not.


Finally, my favorite of all the non-tangible gifts — experiences.

I love experiential gifts because they create some incredible memories, and they're basically a combination of gift cards or money, time, and a personal knowledge of the person you're spending the experience with.

Experiences can be as inexpensive as a couple of tickets to go see a movie or as extravagant as something like a Caribbean cruise.

One of my favorites that I've gifted to multiple people in my life is going to see shows on Broadway. Theatre is one of my favorite things in the world and it's a love for many people in my life, so going to New York City together to see a show is a wonderful gift because we get to spend time together while traveling, we get to make memories running around the city, and also experience the beauty of live theatre. For me personally, few gifts are more wonderful.

Think about the things you love, the things your loved one loves, the things you love to do together or things you just know they love, and the things that fall within your price range. Chances are whatever you come up with will be far more memorable than any trinket or random gift you'd otherwise give.

I hope these categories have given you a few ideas for things to give the minimalist in your life or things to share with your friends and family when they inevitably ask for that gift list and will make this often stressful season a little less so.

Sarah Anne Hayes