Here are five categories of gifts that can express your love for your loved ones without danger of cluttering up their homes:
Food, wine, and other alcoholic beverages, chocolates and other special treats are one good way to spread holiday cheer. Especially in hard economic times, consumable holiday treats may be particularly welcome for people who are struggling. I started ordering unbelievably succulent pears and peaches from Harry and David when my kids were little as one way of introducing a holiday tradition that they would always remember, and would not outgrow. And it’s worked! It’s been a nice bit of continuity in our holiday celebrations as my children have grown and changed through the years. (Soaps, lotions, and other pampering products are another subset of “consummables.”)
2. Atmosphere enhancers
Candles, perfumes, and other evanescent (and aromatic) gifts (sachets, incense, potpourri, etc.) also make nice gifts that are both useful and special. And all of them are meant to be USED UP!
Notice I did not say “books.” For the readers on your gift list, how about a subscription to a favorite magazine (recyclable), or an e-book (digital)? (And yes, you can give e-books as gifts.) Many independent bookstores are now also offering e-books: ask your favorite independent bookseller how you can do so.
4. Gifts to a favorite charity
This is a very nice way to give gifts to people who “have everything.” Or to people who have more than they need, and want to share with others who don’t have enough. You can present a gift certificate showing that you have given a gift in the name of the person you are gifting. Heifer International specializes in this kind of gift-giving, providing an effective and meaningful way to help people in the developing world. But of course any charity that the person you want to honor through your gift believes in and likes to support would be a good choice.
5. Concept gifts and special events
You don’t have to spend any money at all to give concept gifts: you could create your own gift certificate for the gift of your time, or a labor of love (offering to take over a despised chore for your spouse or significant other for a month, for example). But you might also consider giving a gift of tickets to the theater, opera, a rock concert, or other arts event. Or you could enroll your loved one in a writing workshop, yoga class, or for the music lessons he or she has always wanted. Gifts like these give doubly: to the person enjoying the gift, and to the providers of services that are struggling more than ever to survive in these lean times.
Of course, there is also the possibility of not buying anything at all, and finding meaningful ways to do that. A few years ago things were so lean in our family that we drew names and then imposed a $5.00 limit on the materials used to make homemade gifts for each other. It was one of the most meaningful, and sweetest Christmases we have ever had. downsizingthehome.wordpr