3 Things Not to Buy Your Minimalist Human (& What to Get Them Instead)

After spending eight months travelling, we decided to settle down again for a while. The thought of having a home was appealing. Filling it with stuff? Not so much. People don’t always get this desire to live with less, though.

One friend arrived with a housewarming gift in the form of a houseplant. “I know you’re minimalists and don’t want stuff,” she said by way of explanation, “but I thought you’d like to have a plant in your new home.”

The sentiment was sweet, and her heart was certainly in the right place, but we live in a sparsely furnished studio apartment. We barely have space for our laptops, let alone anything decorative.

We accepted the houseplant graciously (with enthusiasm, actually) and then re-gifted it. We’re not complete ingrates, and we did genuinely appreciate the gesture.

Rather than make assumptions about what your minimalist human wants (or needs), err on the side of caution, and don’t get them anything. The truth is, most of us would be quite happy to forgo gifts entirely.

We live with so much abundance nowadays, it seems unnecessary to be giving one another more stuff. Especially when you consider that so many people are still living in extreme poverty.

That said, for many people gift-giving is a time honored tradition, a way to express how you feel about someone close to you. Gifts often say what words can’t express.

We can’t expect our friend to stop giving gifts any more than she can expect us to keep something we have no use for, just because she gave it to us. Okay, so how do we find middle ground?

The Thing About Gifts for Minimalists

minimalist gifts

Let’s start by unpacking this business of giving gifts. When you give someone a gift, you need to give it wholeheartedly. What they do with it is not your concern.

You can’t expect to have a say over what happens to it. If the gift is no longer serving the person you bought it for, they should be free to let it go. No questions asked.

Remember, they may have let go of the gift itself, but the spirit in which it was given will remain with them forever.

My partner and I don’t often exchange gifts, but occasionally we’ll get each other something small, if the right thing presents itself (and the mood takes us).

Sometimes we’ll keep it, other times we’ll keep it for a while and then regift it. Either way, there are never any hard feelings. We just appreciate the sentiment.

What to Avoid When Gift Shopping for a Minimalist

minimalist gifts

Minimalists can be annoyingly fussy. We don’t own a lot of stuff, so when we do buy something it has to be just right. Because there isn’t really any margin for error, it’s best to avoid buying us actual, physical stuff.

1. Clothes

Claire from Want Less says she’ll gladly fight anyone who says socks are a rubbish present, so please nobody tell her I disagree. Unless you’re seven (or my ex-boss), they’re not a great gift.

In fact, clothes in general aren’t a smart move when shopping for your minimalist. Almost everything we own has a dual purpose, and we usually only figure that out during the recce phase of our shopping mission.

2. Kitchen Gadgets

Minimalists are old school. We’d rather gnaw a can of beans open with our teeth than allow another gadget into the kitchen. A slight exaggeration, but you get my point.

We don’t see the point of unnecessarily upgrading, either. We’d much rather keep our hand can opener than trade it in for an electric one that you can’t take camping or use during a storm.

We also don’t have any patience for herb scissors (how on earth do you clean those things?), corn on the cob holders (finicky and stabby) or an apple corer (even one that’s shaped like an arrow).

Come to think of it, gadgets in general aren’t a good idea. If you’re a minimalist you travel light anyway, so digital luggage scales aren’t going to be of much use to you.

3. Decorative Anything

It’s best to avoid anything that’s purely decorative. It might be beautiful, but for the militant minimalist, it has to serve a purpose beyond aesthetics.

Even if your minimalist human isn’t that hardcore, they’d still rather choose the painting, vase or whatever themselves. Annoyingly fussy, remember? (We’re lovable in other ways.)

What Minimalists Want

minimalist gifts

The reason minimalists are minimalist is because they value experiences over stuff. We’d much rather go for coffee with you than get an espresso machine for Christmas. Those are nice, don’t get me wrong, but time with you is better.

If you live too far away to hang out in person, we can hang out on Skype instead. When all is said and done, it’s the conversations we remember. The time we spent talking, laughing and just being together.

Yes, but what do you want? I hear you, you’d like to give us something along with yourself. You want some gift ideas for your minimalist human that they will actually appreciate.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Anything edible or drinkable is always a win. You can’t go wrong with wine, whiskey, chocolate, baked goods, coffee, nuts, toffee, liquorice, olives, marinated artichokes, the list goes on.

You know what your minimalist likes to eat, so buy them that. If you’re still getting to know them, just ask. Because we don’t spend our money on stuff, food is often our biggest splurge. We’re always happy to talk about it.

Gifts That Give Back

Minimalists are all about dual purpose. So giving them a gift that gives back is a real win. Make it clear that someone else is benefiting, and we’ll accept your gift gladly. (Who knows, we might even keep it.)

Making Memories

If something has the potential to create memories, chances are your minimalist human will love it. Treat them to dinner, take them to the theatre or arrange a surprise champagne breakfast. At the end of the day, if you’re there, they’re happy.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Louise R
Past Member 2 months ago

thank you

rachel r
Past Member 3 months ago

Thank you!

Lesa D
Past Member 4 months ago

thank you Angela...

Christophe Bazin
Christophe Bazin4 months ago


Angela K
Angela K5 months ago

thanks for sharing :-)

Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis5 months ago


Amanda M
Amanda M5 months ago

I'll settle for simply being REMEMBERED on holidays or my birthday. Few things are more depressing on holidays than an empty mailbox, and that goes DOUBLE for birthdays! As a stay-at-home mom, I'm already "The Invisible Woman" the rest of the year, and that's bad enough!

Marilyn J. L
Marilyn J. L5 months ago

I am trying like crazy to downsize. It hurts me to have family & friends spend time & money to give me something I don’t need, don’t want, & can’t use.

Chad A
Chad A5 months ago

Thank you.

Debbi W
Debbi W5 months ago

When we were first married, the gifts were very practical. We didn't have much money.