“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” Marie Kondo

The above succinctly puts into words why you probably want to change your gift giving habits…among so many other things in your life! Author Fumio Sasaki says “minimalism is built around the idea that there’s nothing that you’re lacking.” With that in mind, receiving and giving of gifts becomes much more about the symbolism and relationship-building aspect of the gesture. All the weight around something needing to be “cool” or new or expensive falls away. Rather than asking yourself what you “should” ask yourself instead “what is something I can give to this person I care about that is significant to our relationships, imbued with personality and respects my values?

When you look at gift-giving from that frame it’s absolutely guaranteed that a DIY gift is one of your best options. Things that are made by someone you care about are imminently significant, whether it’s a cake or a painting. The object becomes less important then the sentiment and the effort behind it. But maybe you’re not used to this whole DIY gift idea! Let’s get you started off with a few ideas you can use to spark your creative thinking…

29.1 Gifts From the Kitchen

“Remember, your memories are not stored in the object; the memories are in you.” Joshua Becker

Not everyone is at ease in the kitchen, but food can be a great gift for and from a minimalist, for obvious reasons. Food will not cause clutter, and hardly any waste if you choose your ingredients and packaging right and have access to compost. As long as you take people’s food restrictions into account (intolerances, allergies, dietary choices like veganism etc.), food is one of those things anyone and everyone will appreciate! You can also often get away with making a big batch of something and using it as a gift for multiple people. This works well with say jams, sauces, cookies and anything else you can make in bulk. They can then be personalized in different ways with cards, labelling or different types of containers (which you can also make at home using jars or other containers you can re-use instead of recycling them…).

Making food can also be a great family or friend activity if you’re all looking for ways to make waste and clutter free gifts. Have an afternoon cookie-baking get together and spend time decorating, labelling once you’ve made them. It can be a lot of fun for adults and children alike. And there are ways of doing gluten, lactose, and anything else, free versions! You just need to look up a good recipe. It can be a good idea, if using a new recipe, to make a test batch that you eat yourself to see if you need to adjust anything in the ingredients.

There are also food options that don’t involve any cooking, depending on your lifestyle. If you have maple trees, for example, little jars of maple syrup make a great holiday gift. If you have a garden, little bundles of herbs for cooking or in pouches or jars to be used as herbal teas are great. Anything that you make for yourself as canned goods over the year is also totally awesome to give as a gift, from salsa and tomato sauce to homemade wine or cider! If you do wildcrafting maybe you’ve got dried mushrooms, chaga or other things some of your friends would appreciate. Think outside the box! Anything that’s meaningful to you and that you sincerely think the other person would appreciate is a good gift idea.

29.2 Self-Care Gifts

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Dalai Lama

A lot of people forget to take time to enjoy the simple sensual pleasures of life. Many just don’t think to get themselves certain little luxuries that can be really enjoyable, and are very easily made! Several can also be made in large batches so you can make all, or most, of your gifts at once! Scent sachets for clothing drawers or to put underneath one’s pillow to help with sleeping problems can be great gifts. All you need is a bunch of dried plants and some material to make small sachets (or you can always buy a pack of small pouches as well instead of sewing them depending on time and skill level!). Be sure to check out if any of the people you want to gift these to have specific scent allergies. Otherwise you’re good to go! Simply stuff the pouches with the sweet-smelling herbs of your choice (lavender is usually a good bet for sleep sachets, rose petals or cedar for clothing, but go with whatever you think smells nice and feel free to make mixes!) and be sure to seal them properly, either tied very tightly or sewn up at the end.

“Bath bombs” are also something a lot of people enjoy and which you can easily make at home. All you need is a measuring cup, bowl, whisk and muffin tins along with some baking soda, citric acid, witch hazel and a fragrance oil of your choice. You can also decide to put in some colorant (water free) if you want to make the appearance more festive.[1] Different recipes can be found online, but basically it’s super simple, inexpensive, fun and you can make dozens at a time! Also a good family activity. It’s important to make sure to find out if anyone you’re planning on giving them to has any specific allergies to different scents! Otherwise the surprise may not be all that great.

Same goes for salves or creams. Again there are many different recipes out there but the basic things you’ll need are some beeswax, olive, coconut or other oil of your choice, and some essential oils. Some people take the time to infuse the oils with their own mix of dried herbs, but making an essential oil version is less time-consuming. All it involves is properly melting the beeswax and oils together and then mixing in the essential oils. You can either buy small jars to use as gift containers or save up all the small jars you would be recycling over a few months (or get them from friends who use more things in small jars!) and use them.

29.3 Time Savers: The Last Minute Gift

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” Francine Jay

Whatever your best intentions, there will likely be times when you need a gift and don’t have time for much. Or you might simply want or need to put your time towards things other than gift-making, whether it’s because of stress and a long to-do list or a simple desire to simplify your life and do things in the most time-efficient way possible. Instead of running out and grabbing something made in China and almost definitely destined to cause clutter or become garbage, here are some super quick and easy things to make. You may want to just get yourself the ingredients and have them around as backup for these last-minute moments (or in some cases, to make some for yourself every now and then!)

  1. Relaxing bath salts. Making them takes all of 10 minutes max! You’ll need: Epsom salt; unrefined extra coarse bath salt; pure sweet almond oil; 10-15 drops of essential oil of your choice (for children make sure you choose oils that are child-safe as their skin is more sensitive); Vitamin E (optional). You can get all these ingredients in most pharmacies and in any health-food store. Just fill a jar of choice up to one inch from the top with Epsom salt, fill the remaining inch with coarse bath salt and pour into a mixing bowl (this way you have the right amount for your container). Mix in all the liquids and pour back into the jar. Add a ribbon around the rim or a nice label to make it seem more gifty if you want. Tada! Adjust amount of essential oils by smell.
  2. The personalized mug. This can work whether or not you have any visual art skills. All you need is a mug, some sharpies and an oven. Wash and dry the mug thoroughly. Then you can either draw something, put a funny or significant quote, or simply the persons name. Then just bake the mug for 20 minutes at 350 C to make it stay. Voilà.
  3. Stenciled…anything! You can make a stencil with any kind of thickish paper and colour them in with anything permanent: spray paint, oil paint, permanent markers, etc. There are tonnes of stencil templates you can print or copy online to make it quick and easy. Once you cut out the stencil simply put it on something you want to give away (a T-Shirt or other clothing item, tea towel, wall hanging, pillow case…anything, really!), paint or draw it in, and that’s it! You can even use stencils on wood, metal or other materials if you have the right kind of paint or markers to do so.
  4. Bookmarks are great, easy to make, small gifts for when you just want a little something to accompany your best wished or handwritten card or perhaps to add a personal touch to a book or journal (which you could be regifting, or have bought second-hand,in the spirit of minimalism and non-consumption!).There are SO many ways to make simple bookmarks, from cutting up an already existing photo and attaching it to a piece of nice ribbon or thread, to gluing cool buttons onto the end of a large paperclip, to simply cutting out some nice paper adding a quote, name, initial or simple design, and getting it laminated (which you can do for almost nothing at most print shops or express post places like FedEx!). The ways of making these are almost limitless, so let yourself get creative, or check out various designs online for inspiration. This is also a super easy project to do with kids if you have any.
  5. Music mixes. Ok, so the days of mix tapes are gone for most of us. For those who still have cd players, personalized mix cds can be super fun to make an receive. You can also make personalized playlists and put them on a usb key and make some kind of funky presentation or card (adding info on each song is a bonus, for the true mixtape lovers are all about the inserts) to accompany. The point is mainly that the mix should be full of songs that represent something for you and the person you’re giving it to…that’s where the warm fuzzy feelings come in!

These are a just among hundreds of possible, easy, quick, inexpensive,

non-waste or clutter creating gift ideas that you can make at home, with friends,

or as a fun family project. Come up with your own!

29.4 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to Do Now!

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” Hubert H.


At this point you should hopefully be convinced that making your own

gifts is the best way to give gifts that are in line with your holistic minimalist

lifestyle and philosophy. Not only do they save you money and energy (no more

rushing around in frenzied crowds in pre-holiday shopping mode!), they often

allow to reuse and recycle various goods, they produce less waste and clutter,

they can serve as a participative, fun project for you and your family or friends,

and they’re usually more meaningful to your relationships than any bought gift

could be. There are easy gift-making possibilities for people of all skill sets, ages

and interests. All you need to do is see what you have on hand and be creative!

  1. Think about food gift options. (Make sure to take people’s dietary restrictions into consideration!)
  2. If you’re not into gifts involving food, check out these self-care gift options! Make some for yourself while you’re at it! Again, check if anyone might have a scent allergy or sensitivity to certain plants beforehand.
  3. Consider making either food or self-care gifts in large batches in order to have gifts for several people ready in one go.
  4. Come up with a list of last-minute easy to make gifts and keep some materials or ingredients around for when you’re in a pinch!
  5. Avoid buying wrapping paper! Reuse some you have handy, use old newspapers or old material you have around. Cut up some old clothes with nice fabric. Be creative! There’s no point going to all that trouble to not create waste or buy useless stuff if you end up wrapping it in something that’s going to go straight to the dump!
  1. DIY Bath Bomb Favors, Jen Causey, somethingturquoise.com

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