How to start the "no gift" conversation

How to start the

Giving gifts can be a really lovely experience, but in my opinion, the requirement to give at certain holidays or milestones can ruin the beauty and thoughtfulness of gifts.

I love a gift paired with an "I saw this and I just knew you'd love it" on a random Tuesday in March. But I get overwhelmed with the thought of people feeling obligated to give me a gift and not knowing what to get me. Often, this means I end up with something I don't really want and have to either find it a new home or dispose of it.

If your family or social circle is big on gifts but you struggle with not wanting gifts, I’ve got a few tips for you.

Start the conversation early. I mean early in reference to the gift event, but also just in general. Start now! If you’re looking for a new home, mention early on that you don't want housewarming gifts, then when you finally move into your new home there is a bit of ground work already laid. Just start having conversations with the people in your life about your feelings around gifts. It might even be easier to talk about as a general topic instead of when a gift event is coming up.

Offer alternatives. No matter how much you talk about not wanting gifts, you might have people give you gifts anyway. To prepare for this, provide some other options. Maybe you’re saving up for an expensive item or a trip, ask for money to go towards that. You could also ask that all your gifts be consumable, meaning food or drinks, cleaning products, make up or skin care etc. You can also ask that all gifts be second hand/thrifted.

My family celebrates Christmas, and something I tried last year was to find the wishlists of local people and organizations supporting our houseless community. I got a bunch of mitts, toques, snacks etc, then passed them along. It was a win-win-win --  for the people who enjoy giving me gifts, for me, and for the people that really needed them.

This year I decided to lean completely into no gifts, so last week I sent out this text to each of my family members:

Hey! I'd like to not do gifts this year for Christmas. Is that alright with you?

I'm thinking of figuring out how much I spent on gifts last year and donating that amount to various organizations.

If you'd like to choose one of the organizations, I'd love to make that your gift.

And if you'd like to give me a gift, you can either donate time or money to an organization you think I'd like. You could also do something nice for someone, paying it forward.

Or, if you like shopping, I'll also be collecting items to donate to organizations that support the houseless community. So far their wishlists include:
- Coats
- Gloves
- Tuques
- Hand and Feet warmers
- Warm sweaters
- Socks
- Snacks (soft food, a lot of folks have dental issues)

Everyone was very receptive and I feel no stress about the holiday this year!

Finally, my last tip is to explain why. Asking someone not to give you a gift might feel like an insult to someone who loves giving gifts. I think it’s important to explain to them why you don’t want gifts, tell them that it’s important to you and it has nothing to do with them. Maybe you already have a lot of stuff at home and you don’t want more. Maybe you're trying to tackle consumerism. Maybe it’s important that you share your privilege of constantly getting gifts from loved ones with people that don’t have that experience. Whatever your reason is, communicate it.

As for giving gifts, if you feel like you need to give a gift here are some ideas:

  • Prioritize second hand items
  • Experiences - Tickets to a concert, local theater or a sports game, plan a weekend getaway, give a gift card for a massage, other spa treatments, bowling, indoor rock climbing or a museum pass. You can even decide on an activity to do together!
  • Think about something that annoys the person and try to find a gift that will help with whatever it is.
  • Gift card to activities – Rec sports classes, internet master class, art class.
  • Offer your time or give a gift card for – Babysitting, cleaning, car wash, professional organizer.