While we here at the Strategist like to think we’ve got the gift-giving game on lock, we also aren’t ones to rest on our laurels. So we thought we’d challenge ourselves with a trickier premise: What do you get the person who doesn’t have everything, and only wants for … nothing? In other words, what sorts of things make good gifts for those Marie Kondo stans whose minimalist lifestyle is more about shedding products than shopping for them. According to self-proclaimed minimalist Colin Wright, “minimalism is about spending more of your time, energy, and resources (including money) on the most important people and things in your life.” To find out what, exactly, a minimalist might want to spend their time with, we asked Wright and six other people intent on reducing clutter and waste about the gifts on their lists. Read on for their suggestions, which include everything from “consumable” gifts to experiential presents to kitchen items that will help a minimalist live even more sustainably.
Many of the minimalists we spoke to emphasized gifting “consumables,” or items that can be eaten or drank, rather than objects. “Minimalists prefer consumables to stuff,” explains Francine Jay, the author of The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify and the founder of the blog Miss Minimalist. “A bottle of fine wine, a box of artisan chocolates, or a selection of gourmet cheese will be appreciated and enjoyed without generating any clutter.” While Jay prefers to give and receive gifts from local producers, if you don’t have time to make a run to the farmers’ market, this selection from status candymaker Tony’s Chocolonely comes in pleasing, highly giftable ROYGBIV packaging.
If the minimalist in your life is a coffee drinker, a few of the ones we spoke to say quality coffee is a good gift. “Not every minimalist loves coffee, but a lot of them do,” says Joshua Becker, who founded the site Becoming Minimalist. He recommends gifting a coffee subscription service like MistoBox or Your Morning Grind to “keep the gift flowing (figuratively and literally) all year long.” In their gift guide this year, our friends over at Grub Street highly recommended the coffee subscription from Trade because it features small-batch roasters and the company will continually adjust what coffees you receive based on your feedback.
Certified KonMari consultant Kelley Jonkoff is a tea-drinking minimalist, and told us that, like coffee, the gift of tea would be a welcome one for people like herself. “Specialty loose-leaf tea,” or other fancy versions of her favorite consumables, are “some of my favorite gifts to receive,” she says. Artist and curator Miles Greenberg turned us on to this fancy breakfast tea, which he says makes a “pleasant, tasteful, useful, and thoughtful” gift.
Jay told us that luxury bath items, like this clay cleansing bar from Herbivore, also make lovely consumable gifts. We agree: The pink soap, which is vegan and cruelty-free, would look very nice sitting at the edge of a sink. If you want to shop around for something similar, Jay recommends going with soap from any brand that your minimalist likes but wouldn’t necessarily splurge on for themselves.
Another luxe bath item Jay loves to receive is scented lotion. There are, of course, many kinds to choose from, so if you’re unsure of where to start, a good place might be with our beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton’s favorite body cream from Israeli brand Lavido. Rio has described it as “an ultrathick, seriously hydrating body cream that penetrates deep down into your skin to restore the skin’s natural moisture levels.” The cream is especially great for those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin and is infused with tea tree, lavender, and cold-pressed black-cumin seed oils, “all of which smell amazing, and help heal dry skin,” according to Rio.
Minimalists tend to keep tightly curated wardrobes and to stay away from fast-fashion retailers, but some said that they’d love to receive gifts from brands that make high-quality basics and are transparent about their manufacturing. Alberto Negro, a co-founder of the site Minimalism Life, personally loves the classic white T-shirt from Swedish brand Asket. The tee is made from Egyptian cotton and also comes in gray, navy, black, charcoal, burgundy, green, and off-white. Asket also practices traceable manufacturing by providing information about its garments, including the farms its materials come from to the conditions of the factory floors where the clothing is made. While the T-shirts may not arrive in time to stick under a tree, they should still arrive before the end of the year, and seem like a gift your minimalist would be okay with waiting for (since, you know, getting more stuff isn’t necessarily top of their mind).
For sustainable minimalists, any gift that helps cut down on waste would surely be appreciated. Jonkoff admits that while she loves using reusable bags, some are better than others, and that Stasher’s lightweight bags are among her favorites. “I love that these Stasher bags stand up! Vertical storage maximizes space and visibility, so cupboards don’t feel crammed and contents are actually eaten,” she says. Since they’re made of food-grade silicone, Stasher bags can also be popped in the microwave or cleaned in the dishwasher.
Marais USA founder turned zero-waste-lifestyle acolyte Haley Boyd told us about these lunch containers from W&P, which she calls “beautifully designed, functional, and the right size to take your lunch to go.” If you’re looking for a more substantial gift that’s just as sustainable as a Stasher bag, we think the bowl would be a worthy choice. Boyd suggests keeping one at work and bringing it to your favorite lunch spot, so you never have to use unnecessary to-go plastic.
“To cut down on waste and the visual noise of packaging in my home, I buy dry goods in bulk, including salt,” explains Jonkoff, who has her eye on this white marble and acacia pinch pot. If your minimalist is currently relying on the same set of trusty Mason jars to store salt in, getting them something a little more design-oriented (that is still hyperfunctional) could be a good idea.
If you are going to buy your minimalist a less functional object, Kyle Chayka, the author of the forthcoming book The Longing for Less recommends Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports on vinyl. Chayka told us that Eno is largely credited to be the inventor of ambient music, a genre categorized by soft and interesting sounds that can be played in the background. “Music for Airports is a classic of minimalism,” he adds, noting that the vinyl can be displayed as a piece of art if your minimalist doesn’t have a record player. While the vinyl may not ship until after December 25, the CD — which is still delightfully old school — will.
“Minimalists don’t want more stuff,” says Chayka. That’s why he likes these boxes, which are just vessels to organize and display the stuff minimalists already have. “They will turn any mundane object into a Jeff Koons sculpture,” since even a pile of random junk looks good sorted into these clear, plastic geometric cases, according to him.
This may seem obvious, but most of the experts we spoke with say that giving a minimalist an experience is always going to go over better than giving material goods. “I often suggest opting for experiences over possessions: spending time with people you care about and accumulating memories rather than things,” explains Wright. Jay recommends gifting a spa treatment, like a massage or facial. While you could buy a gift certificate to a local spa, if you’re buying for a person who lives far away, Zeel offers in-home services and will send a therapist directly to your door, no matter where you live.
Another good option would be an annual museum membership. For New York–based minimalists, Chayka suggests a MoMA membership. He says it will make for a great year-round gift, but one your minimalist can particularly enjoy in March, when the museum opens its highly anticipated retrospective of works by the artist Donald Judd, one of the pioneers of minimalism. “From his art objects to the furniture he designed for himself, Judd lived more with less, so it should be inspiring,” Chayka says.
For minimalist parents, Becker suggests a subscription to Simplify Magazine. The quarterly digital publication aimed at families offers lifetime subscriptions for just $20 and covers many of the topics minimalists are interested in, including health and wellness, travel, and gratitude.