My Favorite Christmas Gifts, or Gift Ideas for the Casual Minimalist

For a few years now — and not just since having children — I’ve found myself moving more and more toward a modest sort of minimalism. All the STUFF cluttering my life, from the zillions of phone pics to my packed closet tipped me to a point of constant aggravation, frustration and lack of appreciation for my belongings, so I’ve been slowly cleaning out and lightening up and it has made such a difference.

So, with Christmas behind us and a successful trial of a NEW approach to Christmas gifting in the bag that I’ll post about soon, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my OWN favorite Christmas gifts. And in the spirit of not contributing to landfills, many of these are consumable goods – or recycled.

  1. Christmas ornaments
    I constantly find adorable, sentimental or hysterical ornaments that remind me of friends or family as I shop for Christmas each year. This year my sister was the recipient of a hysterical, leggy, bespectacled Hedwig-like owl and a garland of llamas that I just couldn’t stop tittering over in the aisles of T.J Maxx. These were the gifts I was MOST excited to see her open on Christmas day. The thing is, unless there is a birth, wedding, or anniversary, I don’t think many people think to gift ornaments or decor. But as a sentimental Christmas lover, I can’t think of anything better. And it’s far more fun to decorate a tree covered in ornaments gifted by family and friends over the years than tearing through Target and filling a cart with themed ornaments just for the sake of having a fully decorated tree.I’m hoping to begin an ornament exchange with friends NEXT year, but I wanted to also mention a brilliant idea I saw at a bridal shower recently. The “wishing well” suggested guests bring a Christmas ornament for the newlyweds tree — aww! Finally, (and this is definitely NOT in the spirit of minimalism), I’d love to do a Secret Santa with my siblings but with a twist and that is to seek out the most ridiculous Christmas decor they can find. We’d all end up building our decor collections, have a laugh, and end up with decor we can cherish (and laugh over) for years to come.
  2. A playlist
    I’m the laziest music lover ever so a thoughtful selection of songs for my Spotify playlist makes me happier than you could imagine. Bonus points if it’s a gym mix or for easy listening.
  3. Citrus Fruit from Florida
    When I was growing up, my paternal grandparents retired to Florida but would send an absolutely enormous box of oranges and grapefruits up to us shortly after Thanksgiving every year. The cardboard package usually arrived dinged and worse for the wear, but the contents within might as well have been glowing jewels. To this day, I find myself stockpiling citrus around the holidays. After mentioning this memory to my husband last Christmas, he surprised me with an early January shipment of my Florida favorites and it was one of the gifts I’ve most wished for a repeat of.
  4. Lenox Holiday “Holly” china
    We were ecstatic to celebrate our first Christmas in our new house last year and I love family traditions, (particularly if they’re related to food), so when I found a beautifully patterned Lenox Holiday china set, there wasn’t too much persuading that needed to happen to convince Brian that we should begin a collection to break out for use starting on November 1st.We added just 4 place settings that first Christmas and plan to add to it over time, but shortly after I started to search secondhand for a few more pieces, we were actually gifted a 2-tier server by a college friend’s mom who heard we were collecting. Talk about a wonderful memory to carry with us through the years of holiday gatherings.
  5. Any meaningful family treasure
    There is a photo of me as a toddler sitting on a wrought iron couch in my grandparent’s yard. Today, that same couch sits in my backyard, newly sandblasted and repainted and absolutely treasured because it belonged to my grandmother. My grandparents are both gone so it’s all the more meaningful to have something of theirs that is a part of my everyday life. As much as my grandma talked about the jewelry she’d leave for me one day, it’s her patio set that my family can enjoy today that keeps my grandparents alive for me today.

  6. Your favorite X, Y or Z
    My husbands’s aunt and uncle visited us just before Thanksgiving and thoughtfully brought along Uncle Greg’s favorite bottle of wine. Love it. Love wine. And love that I now have a tried and true bottle to add to my “Wines I love” list without having to do any legwork to hunt down an excellent bottle. Similarly, I’m an in-denial coffee drinker. I don’t seek out the best beans because, in my mind, I don’t actually drink coffee. My coffee pot would sing a different tune since I shouldn’t even be conversed with until I’m at least two huge cups in. Thankfully, one of my best friends is a well traveled coffee aficionado who regularly sends me the best beans from wherever she had been. (Thanks, Lauren!)
  7. A box of books
    My college friend Stef deserves credit for this one. One of her favorite gifts she once told me is simply “a box of box” from her parents each Christmas. Mostly found used, it’s just a curated collection of books the giver thinks the recipient would enjoy. An EMPHATIC YES. Is there anything better than a good book recommendation? A box of books takes it a step further so it’s perfect for a busy student or mom. I don’t read as much as I did before I had kids, but that’s often because I don’t have a book at the ready. This would go a ways in solving that problem and doubly, eliminates a lot of waste since I’d probably pass the books along once I’d read them.
  8. Absolutely ANYTHING from Patagonia
    OK, maybe not a hiking pack. I was thinking more in the realm of a half-zip sweater or a sweatshirt. I own just two Patagonia items and they are probably worn more than anything else in my wardrobe. Plus, I love everything the brand stands for. This could extend to anything you know your gift recipient doesn’t have or could use a “Best” version of. I finally broke down and invested in Bean boots a few years ago and they’re one of the most-used items in my wardrobe. I’ve got them in my gift arsenal for anyone who says they could use a pair of boots because they’re amazing.
  9. Spotify subscription
    I work in digital marketing and design but have managed to keep my personal life reasonably “unplugged.” I’m not what you’d call an early adopter — ever. I owe my early adoption of Spotify to my co-worker Dan, the developer at my old digital agency for introducing the magic of Spotify into my life. I recently learned that Spotify will now work with Amazon’s Alexa, so you can command the device to play whatever you want to hear on command. For me, this magic because my iTunes collection is a disaster and I rarely have the songs I want to hear at the moment in my library. For any music lover, I think Spotify is a must.
  10. Holiday-specific treats
    After discovering TapasAddict on Instagram just after Thanksgiving, all I wanted to snack on while we decorated, wrapped presents and watched Christmas movies, was antipasto and charcuterie boards. Around this time, a Harry & David catalog made it’s way into my holiday mail pile and it set in motion, what turned out to be one of the easiest and most well-received holiday gift-giving experiences ever. In case you’re not familiar, Harry & David are famous for their absolutely perfect pears but also, their gourmet treats — Moose Munch and Chocolate Covered cherries are just a few of my personal favorites. I ordered everyone some iteration of their tower of treats and called it a day. Everyone who got one LOVED it and I had nearly all my shopping done (online) well before the first of December.

I’ve always prided myself on my thoughtful selection of gifts for friends and family, but as life gets more chaotic with a growing family, what brings me the most peace is to make space in my life which has largely meant minimizing all the stuff. I’m not depriving myself or my family, but… I’m choosier and more mindful of what I bring into my home. Christmas can often be a time of mindless spending and needless consumption, so I hope you find this Minimalist gift list useful. I’m not joking when I say these are among my favorite gifts I’ve ever received. And since starting to give them back to friends and family, I’m finding they are loving them too.



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