5 Tips to Simplify Gift Giving

Zero-waste gift wrapping with recycled craft paper and jute twine

Wherever you are in the pursuit of simplicity, we can probably agree that gift giving around Christmas can include occasional moments of stress. Whether it’s searching for the perfect gift, giving up and getting something — anything — just to cross it off the list, or trying to communicate that you want less this year, I’ve put together a list of five things that help ease Christmas prep and encourage mindful giving.

1. Communicate. Each year looks a little different for us in terms of how much we would like to receive, so we try to communicate our desires well in advance. It might feel strange to set a limit or make a request, but you’re in charge of how much stuff enters your space so there’s nothing wrong with letting others know what would be a blessing. There may be an adjustment period for family, so love what they give you, keep communicating graciously, and be patient with the process. Also, keep flexing that giving muscle! Giving feels amazing and can demonstrate love. Choose gifts from a wish list or give consumables or experiences.

2. Exchange gift Lists. It might seem like lists drain the creativity out of giving, but they reduce guesswork and encourage mindful giving. Feel free to request lists from family members — another way to foster communication. My requests are specific and include things that I know will add value like consumables, experiences, and things that will upgrade or replace for something I already own.

3. Consumables and experiences are great gifts. Who doesn’t love homemade treats, nice shampoo/conditioner, soap, flowers, wreathes, candles, lip balm, or essential oils? I request fancy baking vanilla every year — it doesn’t disappoint! Experiences like movie passes, date nights, or a trip to the spa, are great gifts and make memories. Instead of physical gifts for my 30th birthday recently, my husband gave me a day of events (private architectural tour and baking class at my favorite bakery with friends). I felt so loved and celebrated.

4. Keep an easy list of gift ideas. If I’m not prepared, it’s common for me to draw a blank when I need spur-of-the-moment gift ideas. So I came up with two easy ways to prepare myself for those situations: 1) take quick pictures of things my family members like while browsing and 2) keep a private Pinterest board and Amazon.com wish list to save gift ideas. When I need to come up with a thoughtful gift, I quickly scroll through my pictures or online lists for intentional ideas.

5. It’s ok to let go of unused gifts. What do you do with that gift you haven’t used? I highly recommend the practice of giving it away rather than letting it collect dust. The memories that surround it will stay with you long after the item is removed — so love it for a time, take a picture to help you remember the person or thought behind the gift, and let go of it. I typically let unused gifts stick around for 3-6 months and then donate if unused.

Let me know how you’re preparing for the season of giving! Do you use Christmas lists? What’s the most intentional gift you’ve received? Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas in the comments below! I’m always on the lookout for new ways to simplify Christmas and restore the joy and purpose of the season.


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TV-Free January: What I Learned


My TV-free January experiment ended last week, and it was so freeing and enlightening! The first couple days were rough since I purposely left the TV in plain sight so my husband could watch it occasionally (so rare — he only watched it twice during the month). But within the the first week, the TV somehow faded into the background and I had little draw to turn it on.

Through the month, I realized that I am quick to hide from my fears (mainly of quietness which I think is actually a fear of loneliness) with the easiest source of entertainment for distraction. Deliberately turning off the TV forced me to take a hard look at when and why I sometimes felt lonely, tired, uncreative, and uninspired and pushed me beyond that to create, learn, explore new friendships, be OK with the quiet, take risks with new endeavors, be bold, and let ideas flow without editing them right away. Addressing these fears instead of hiding from them has been powerful.

Here’s what I learned and did instead of zoning out in front of the TV.


Journaling without editing myself. Two things: 1) I bought a sketchbook last October to sketch lovely things in art museums, but instead I filled it, cover-to-cover, with scribbles about blog post ideas, thoughts and questions, how I want to connect my mission with my blog, career, and decisions, doodles of new interior design ideas for our space, and a myriad of random lists. The journal’s a mess — once, I frantically wrote a handful of thoughts only to realize later that the book was upside down. But, it’s the first of my journals that I actually love skimming through because it’s un-cut, authentic, JOYFUL, and includes plenty of ideas for me to explore and expand on later. 2) Good old 2B. I tend to edit my thoughts before they even hit the page when writing with ink so I switched to using pencils after rediscovering their free-flowing, butter-like, temporary nature. Writing without the limitation of journal lines and using a pencil has liberated my ideating and writing process. Now to decipher what I wrote. :/


Creativity in the kitchen. Sometimes all I want to do in the evening is crash on the couch, but without the TV on, I frequently found ways to keep myself busy with little tasks in the kitchen. This resulted in tasty things and less food waste because I took advantage of extra time to make things like super easy homemade applesauce with squishy apples and using up the poppy seeds that my mom gave me a few months ago by using them as bagel toppers.

Walked through the snow to get coffee. Walkability is a little harder to come by out here in the Minneapolis suburbs, but I took advantage of living within a 20-minute walk to a nearby Starbucks. I trudged through the snow and loved every moment of it. It’s easy to miss the quietness and rhythm of nature by getting in the car so I like connecting to where we live by walking when I can. I always think that I’ll freeze in the winter, but I typically arrive sweating and happy even though it’s frequently been near zero degrees.


Compiling a booklist and actually reading them. Committing to a reading list can be challenging for me — typically using the lame excuse that “I’m a visual” and love reading things like magazines instead. Turning off the TV forced me to fill my time with things that interested me so I decided to read about the life and work of great artists. I’m currently reading a book about Edgard Degas and noting who and what were catalysts for growth in his career. It’s causing me to think about how to put myself in similar situations to explore my creative potential. I have a long list of books like this that I want to get my hands on now! I’m on a biography kick, but would love to add a good novel to my list. Any suggestions?

These are only a handful of the revelations that I’ve had since turning off the TV! Sometimes pursuing lightness in life requires an experiment or two to reveal what things that are hindering personal growth. By targeting my TV-weakness for a month, I opened myself up to opportunities that span far beyond media. Going forward, I plan to keep the TV off as much as possible for the remainder of the year and only use it for a handful of specific occasions like movie dates. I’m ready to work it into the rest of my daily life!

Would love to hear how your New Years resolutions and experiments are going? What are you learning about yourself, others, the world? Leave a comment below!