Receiving Gifts

How does a minimalist deal with receiving gifts?  

Perhaps you think minimalism requires an offensive "reverse Scrooge" attitude that shouts, "Don't you dare give me anything that will clutter up my life!"

Here's what I do.

If you're new to minimalism, or even just starting to feel that you want to live with more lightness and freedom, by all means share your resolutions and desires with your loved ones.  

Prepare to be patient with them, because the idea of wanting less rather than more is startling to some people, and can be a difficult concept to take on board.  As time goes on, and they see that your lifestyle becomes permanent, they'll make adjustments.  That's what happened for me.  Now my family and close friends know I'm not interested in acquiring a lot of things I don't really need, so they try to choose gifts they think I'll use and enjoy.

Minimalism makes room.  

As your home becomes less cluttered and your schedule less harried, you can accommodate a few new gifts or experiences.  It may seem contradictory to add new things, but one benefit of minimalism is that instead of being weighed down by your stuff and your past, you can be open to what the future offers. 

Provide a gift list well in advance of the holiday.  

There are usually things I need, and I do occasionally have wants!  For example, this Christmas I'm in need of a new warm nightgown, I'd like a couple of pure beeswax pillar candles, and there's a new book I'm interested in (Joshua Becker's The Minimalist Home).  Experiences and consumables make wonderful minimalist gifts, so I let it be known that I enjoy going to the movies and I'm a fan of Temple Coffee in Sacramento.  People who give gifts usually want to please the receiver, so my loved ones are happy to know about items I would appreciate having. 

Don't feel guilty about purging.  

If a holiday gift only adds clutter to your home or to your kid's toy box, don't feel guilty about donating or selling it.  It was given to you, presumably without strings attached.  If it will be valuable to someone else, let it go.  Your loved one would surely not want you to feel burdened by a gift.

If it's really the thought that counts, make it clear that you thought carefully.  

Just as you hope that others will give you gifts that meet your desires, so you should do the same for them.  You may prefer experiences over things, but that doesn't mean your loved one feels the same.  If she would love another item for her large collection of frog-themed décor, buy it for her, even if you consider it to be clutter.  If you know he'd really like an iTunes gift card, get him the gift card.  Share your thoughts about minimalism another time.

Be gracious.  

Maya Angelou once wrote, "When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed."  I'm thankful there are people who care enough about me to give me gifts, and I do my best to let them know I appreciate all that they add to my life.  A tangible gift is just a symbol for a relationship, and that's what I really cherish.


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