Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Daily Meditation – February Goal

Daily meditation is one of those things that I’ve always known I should be doing, but never actually put in the effort to make it happen. Back when I was frequently running, I considered that a substitute and let myself off the hook. We meditate at the end of the yoga class I go to once a week. That counts! I’m done.

But January was a rough month for me (and most Americans). The political upheaval was constantly swirling in my mind. Headlines and New York Times notifications would keep me up at night.

My mind has been full – overwhelmingly stuffed with so many ideas and way too many worries. I can’t seem to get a grip or slow them all down. I’m standing in the middle of a Formula One raceway trying to slow my thoughts down without being run over or blown off the track.

I’m taking on meditation this month to try to get some peace and quiet in my own mind. I need to slow my roll and get back in control.

Daily Meditation

February Goal: Daily Meditation

Daily meditation has been on my list since for months, but I somehow, conveniently, never get to it.

Once I committed to doing a new goal every month this year in the hope of creating a few new habits that improve my daily life, I knew meditation would be one of the first I would try out.

For now, I will meditate every day after lunch before picking up work again. I spend the morning fully focused and allow myself to indulge in some internet reading while I take my lunch break. More often than not this leaves me feeling scattered and I have trouble coming back to my work day afterwards.

I can’t completely shut out the world for my entire work day – I have to stay up-to-date on the latest news and delve into the internet for my own writing. But that doesn’t mean that I have to spend more than half the day feeling overwhelmed and like my mind is just dragging me along for the ride.

The final push (or guilt trip) came from Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans. I picked up the book late last week, and I have been spending my morning reading time curled up with it. Just about every person highlighted in the book recommends meditation of some kind.

 

Daily Meditation “Rules”

I have to spend at least 5 interrupted minutes on intentional meditation.

Moving meditation counts, but I have to do it intentionally. I can’t just come home from a workout where I blasted music and sung along (in my head) or constantly repeated my to-do list like a mantra and check off my meditation practice for the day.

For the most part my daily meditation practice will consist of me sitting in a chair for 5-10 minutes. I plan on following guided meditations, especially for the first half of the month while I’m getting into the swing of things.

 

Resources to Make Daily Meditation Easier

There are tons of meditation apps. I’m starting with Headspace, but I may try others like Calm, Stop Breath & Think, and Meditation Studio.

 

Do you have any favorite meditations or apps I should check out?

 

Digging Through the Trash

We don’t produce anywhere near the 4.3 pounds of trash the average American creates every day, but we could definitely do better.

The indoor can fills up about every two weeks or so. It doesn’t smell at all since we compost all food scraps so we tend to let it fill up completely. But every time I toss something into it or take it to the curb I am flooded with sadness and frustration.

Our trash is full of plastic bags.

At least 75 percent of our total trash volume is non-recyclable plastic food packaging like chip bags, cracker containers, and the plastic film that goes around jars or over hummus containers.

Zero-Waste Bulk Grocery Shopping – Skip the Trash

What’s in our trash (by volume):

1. Chip/snack packaging
2. Tissues
3. Plastic films and safety seals
4. Floss

I’ve known for months that we could cut our trash down by 50-75 percent just by no longer buying packaged potato and rice chips. At 4-8 bags per week, we are stuffing ourselves and the trash with junk. But the habit is much harder to kick than I anticipated.

 

How we can reduce our trash:

1. Ditch the packaged snacks.

In my dream world we buy crackers, chips, and healthy snacks from bulk bins. Our local bulk bins have nuts, granola, and cooking staples, but very few snacks. There are only 1-2 pre-made snacks that I could conceivably eat out of the bins since I am allergic to nuts and gluten-intolerant.

But that doesn’t mean we have to starve or overfill the landfill. A recent trip to Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco gave me hope that we can find more snacks and staples in bulk bins – we just may have to travel a ways for them.

Actions:

1. Buy tortilla chips from a local restaurant in bulk to replace our packaged rice/potato chips. This makes it more likely that we will skip the snack isle at the grocery store, and it helps us increase our daily calorie intake (important with our training schedules).

2. Make more snacks at home. In the past I have massively struggled to not only come up with zero-waste snack ideas, but also to then set aside the time to make them. When I did manage to make something like granola bars or homemade hummus, we quickly got tired of them and I’d have to find a new recipe and start all over.

The good news is that I now know we get tired of snacks every 2-4 weeks. We can plan a snack for each week and rotate them to keep things interesting. It’s time to dig into some of my snack ideas and make snack preparation part of our weekly meal prep/cooking dinner habits.

3. Eat more whole foods for snacks. In the past couple of months I’ve been eating salads as snacks. It’s an easy way for me to sneak in more greens and also not feel like I’m loading up on junk throughout the day. More options are veggies with hummus, leftovers from dinner, and hard-boiled eggs.

4. Schedule monthly trips to better bulk bins.

 

2. Use Handkerchiefs

This switch has been on my list for months. Due to allergies, I use at least a couple of tissues each day. After a ton of research and decision paralysis, I finally chose a pack of reusable organic cotton baby wipes to use at handkerchiefs. Well, the internet was wrong. They make terrible hankies.

My failure was disappointing, and I lost motivation. But I need to go back to my list and find a set that will actually work the way I want them to.

 

3. Compost Tissues

My boyfriend is less than enthused on the handkerchief idea. Since I make the bulk of tissue waste anyways, this isn’t going to impact our trash greatly. To make composting tissues easier, we can add a small paper bag next to (or inside of) our trash can to collect tissues.

 

4. Floss

Eventually we may switch to completely compostable floss, but for now we should start with reducing how much we use in the first place. Most of the floss we pull off the roll each night doesn’t get used. We need to use shorter strands each time. I might get super nerdy and make a guide for the smallest amount of floss for comfortable flossing so we don’t have to think about it each time or accidentally take too much.

 

Related:

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Inspiration

The Truth About Plastic

Toxins Hiding in Your House

Zero Waste Tea

Can I Recycle This?

Tales of a Paper Towel

Simple Morning Routine for a Productive Day

How I spend my morning can make or break my entire day. It has taken me almost a year of working at home to hone in on what works for me, and what completely derails the rest of my day.

One of the most important things, I think, is how personal a morning routine is. Over the past few months I have tried different iterations of routines that people swear by: exercise first thing, clean out email, no email, reading, journaling, start working immediately after breakfast, and on and on.

Many of the things that are conventionally accepted or that highly productive people swear by were complete failures for me. Exercising in the morning, or even before 11 a.m., led to a minimum of three hours were I felt like nothing got done. Email quickly leads to me reading newsletters and then the entire internet.

Simple Morning Routine for a Productive Day

 

Trial and Epic Failure

Working from home was a shock to my system. So much of my routine was built around getting to the office and settling in. When I no longer commuted and had the routines of the people around me to feed off of, I felt unmoored.

For the first month or so I completely threw out the idea of a morning routine. I was so excited to start over and do whatever I wanted. It felt like summer vacation after a grueling nine months of college. I slept in when I felt like it. I did whatever I wanted first thing in the morning. I went completely rogue.

I thought it would be glorious, but I ended up hating it.

I am a person who thrives on routine, especially a morning routine.

The right morning routine sets me up for a good day. It helps to make me feel grounded and present. My morning sets the tone for how I will approach my work and how I feel about the rest of my day. If my morning doesn’t feel productive, I often feel like the whole day is wasted. It doesn’t matter if the afternoon was actually wildly successful.

 

Simple Morning Routine for a Productive Day

 

My Morning Routine

These are my general guidelines. Some of them are more strict than others, but in general they are meant to help me transition from a foggy, sleepy brain to a productive, creative mindset.

1. Wake Up

I wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. during the week. Most often it’s 7:30 am.

 

2. 9 Minutes to chat and check the weather

I got into a really bad habit of lying in bed for 15-20 minutes after the alarm went off. Instagram and blog posts would capture my attention, and I would laze about in a semi-conscious daze. The longer I was in bed the less motivation I would have to get up and get moving.

What I read could also completely alter the rest of my day. Some posts or stories could inspire me, or they could leave me upset and off-kilter. In the aftermath of the election I realized that reading the news from bed left me feeling unsettled. A single headline could change my mood for the rest of the day. All it took was me swearing off news for a week or two for it to really settle in.

Now I give myself the time of a snooze to talk with my boyfriend and accept the fact that I have to get out of the warm bed. Once the alarm goes off again, I need to be out of bed getting dressed (or you know, putting on the sweats I will spend the whole day in).

Important: The snooze is not for sleeping! I spend the rest of the day exhausted if I drift back off to sleep after the alarm goes off.

 

3. Breakfast

Always! I often wake up hungry in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Breakfast is essential and nonnegotiable.

 

4. Tea and 30 minutes of reading

For the past two years (at least) I have started every work day with a cup of tea and the internet. I loved to catch up on the news and my favorite blogs. But it often left me with dozens of tabs open that I felt compelled to finish before starting work. What I didn’t get to would distract me throughout the day. Minimized windows would sing their siren songs as soon as I sat down to work on an important task.

Not anymore.

At the beginning of January I realized that this reading was the biggest detractor from my day. It left me with a busy brain full of facts and random thoughts that made it impossible for me to hear myself through. I couldn’t focus afterwards.

I hated starting the morning feeling overwhelmed with information. 

Instead I have been experimenting with reading a physical book for up to 30 minutes. This gives me a chance to let my brain get used to thinking again while still leaving me relaxed and ready to work when I’m done.

I don’t know if this will stay, or if the time will change, but so far I’m really enjoying it. Fifteen to 30 minutes of reading in the morning has completely changed my mindset. I still feel like I get to relax and indulge a bit first thing in the morning without overstimulating or draining myself.

 

5. Five Minutes of Journaling

So far this bit is more conceptual… as in I haven’t really done it. But doesn’t it sound great? Usually I get started on a blog post or skip this little bit in favor of jumping in on first big work task for the day. I’m keeping it here because it’s still a goal for me.

 

6. Work Through Until Lunch

It’s so tempting to jump on the internet and start voraciously reading all of the blogs and news sites that I put off in the morning as soon as I’m done with the first thing on my to-do list or during my first Pomodoro break (you can read more about how I use this productivity technique/tracker here).

But that quickly spirals out of control and before I know it it’s time for lunch and I’ve only done 30 minutes of actual work.

It took me months to realize that the morning is my best writing/working time. I get the most done during this time when I stay disciplined and give myself room to actually do the work. And if I get stuff done and feel productive, the rest of the day feels productive and successful. The mornings that I succumb to procrastination and time wasting end in frustrated evenings and late nights to catch up.

1 Productive morning = 1 Productive day. 

Every day so far has been a fight to stay focused and not slip back into bad habits, but so far I haven’t slipped up.

 

Why Stick to a Morning Routine

I’ve known for months (if not the whole year) that my mornings were not going the way I wanted. But I finally decided I was ready for change when I realized:

When I waste the morning I struggle to regain momentum all day. I run out of time to get things done. My work bleeds into the evening. It pushes dinner later and later and causes us to go to bed late. Then I wake up tired, lay in bed too long reading, and put off work. It’s a vicious, stressful, disappointing cycle.

And I am breaking that cycle. One morning at a time.

Simple Budget and Spending Tracker

Tracking your spending and frequently checking in on your monthly expenditures is key to sticking to a budget. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated and confusing!

Simple Budget and Spending Tracker – Free Download

I’m one of those people who loves a good budget and can easily tell you how much I spent on groceries in the past month (it’s a frighteningly high number). I should be a dream user for most budget and spending apps/services. But after playing around with a few of them I realized they were either too complicated, time consuming, or rigid. I needed a budget spending tracker that could easily fit my typical expenses and the random purchases that most apps don’t know how to categorize. And I really didn’t need all of the extra junk that just got in the way.

So I made one myself.

For the past four years I’ve been tracking my expenses and planning my monthly budgets in a simple Google spreadsheet. It’s not fancy or complicated, and it works great.

It takes me maybe 20 minutes a month to track all of my purchases, adjust my budget, and transfer my savings from one account to another. I used to spend more than that trying to get my purchases properly categorized.

 

Download my free, simple budget and spending tracker

All you have to do is open the link and copy the spreadsheet to your Google Drive. You can also download the spreadsheet and save it to your computer as an Excel doc under File – Save As – Excel.

 

Simple Budget and Spending Tracking Tips

1. Consistency.

I like to update my spreadsheet with my most recent purchases twice a month. Payday is a great reminder to update and check in. Once a week or even once a month would also work. But keep in mind that the more frequently you enter your spending into the tracker the easier it is and the more likely you will keep doing it.

 

2. Be honest.

A budget is worthless if you aren’t honest with yourself about what you are really spending and what you can actually save. It’s tempting to leave off purchases that you regret or didn’t have control over (like that insurance deductible), but this won’t give you a real picture of what you are spending.

 

3. Make it your own.

Change the categories. Create a new color scheme. Make fancy graphs. Do you.

 

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

Piles of wrapping paper. Broken Christmas lights and ornaments. Browning trees resting on the curb. When you peel back the wrapping, the holiday season sure is full of trash.

Americans create 25 percent more waste in the month between Thanksgiving and New Years. That adds up to an extra 1 million tons of trash that go straight to the landfill or end up in the ocean.

Celebrate the holidays without the waste or the clutter with these zero waste Christmas decorations.

Cranberry and Popcorn Garlands

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Cranberry and Popcorn Garland
Reading My Tea Leaves

Compostable garlands are great to decorate your tree or hang around the house. Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves used cranberry and popcorn to create beautiful, mostly kid-proof decorations.

 

Petite Rosemary Wreath

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Rosemary Wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon
Spoon Fork Bacon

Whether you are using them as place cards or just sprinkling them around the house, these little rosemary wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon can be made out of compostable materials. They will also add a lovely scent.

 

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Applesauce cinnamon ornaments
Katy Elliott

These clever ornaments or gift tags from Katy Elliott are made of two ingredients – cinnamon and apple sauce. They also smell divine.

 

DIY Eucalyptus Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Eucalyptus Garland via Homey Oh My
Homey Oh My

Decorations don’t have to be overly complicated or heavy. This DIY garland from Homey Oh My is a beautiful addition throughout the winter.

 

Felt Ornaments

Felt Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Ornaments via Purl Soho
Purl Soho

I’m such a sucker for plush ornaments. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about them that feels cozy and inviting. These ornaments from Purl Soho will last for years, and you can make them out of repurposed felt. They also seem like a great activity for kids on a cold winter day. (These snowball ornaments from Purl Soho are also great.)

 

Paper Snowflakes

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Paper Snowflakes via iheart Organizing

IHeart Organizing

These aren’t the clunky snowflakes you made in elementary school. Jen and her family at IHeart Organizing made their decorations in a single night.

 

Tree Trimmings

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Mason Jar Tree Trimmings
A Barefoot Day

Clippings make a great alternate to an entire tree. You can also take your tree trimmings and spread them around the house to enjoy the scent and the festivities everywhere.

 

Pine Cone Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Pine Cone Garland The Sweetest Ocassion
The Sweetest Ocassion

My mom still has pine cones my brother and I painted in elementary school. This pine cone garland from The Sweetest Occasion is a bit more chic than those are, but the spirit is still there. Skip the paint to make these compostable and zero waste.

 

DIY Fresh Mini Trees

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Mini Christmas Tree from Trimmings via Say Yes
Say Yes

Next year I should make one of these adorable mini trees from Say Yes for our tiny house. Make these without the hot glue in order to reuse the base and compost the top.

 

Foraged Garland or Mantle Decoration

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Foraged Garland Style Me Pretty
Style Me Pretty

Not only do you get a lovely winter walk in, but you get a free, stunning decoration. The incredible women behind Petal Floral Designs shared their tips for how to make your own on Style Me Pretty.

 

Floral Tree

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Floral Tree
Design Love Fest

I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The results are stunning. I would imagine the downside would be that the flowers aren’t going to last very long resting in the tree without water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take Design Love Fest‘s idea and use hardy winter berries or other longer lasting plants.

 

Cinnamon Stick Himmeli

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY cinnamon stick himmeli
Jojotastic

You can’t beat the smell of cinnamon on a cold, dark day. Jojotastic created these beautiful decorations out of cinnamon sticks and twine. Use cotton thread and leave out (or save) the wooden beads to make these compostable.

 

More on celebrating the holidays sustainably:

Sustainable Christmas Lights

Minimalist Gift Ideas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Homemade Beauty Gifts

Last-Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Why You Should Celebrate a Minimalist Christmas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Yes, yes, the decorations are lovely, but hands down my favorite part of holiday festivities (after the people) are the Christmas cookies. For years my mom and I have made big plates of Christmas cookies and wintery desserts to give out as gifts. I love spending the time together in the kitchen… and eating all of the gooey cookies straight out of the oven.

This year my boyfriend and I decided to forgo any decorations in our small space since we were both going home for Christmas. Instead, we are making a batch of cookies each week to eat and share. It’s also my first year baking 100 percent gluten-free, and so far, two weeks in, it’s going great!

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Christmas Cookies and Other Goodies to Gift

These are all cookies that look beautiful, hold up well, and feel special as a gift. But I beg you, don’t forget to save some for you too.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Easy Shortbread Cookies

I love taking the dough for these and splitting them into different cookies. I’ve made them with cranberries, topped them with jam, and even sprinkled them with candy cane pieces. I’ll be adapting them to gluten-free flour this year.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Nutella

I used to work with Dzung from Honeysuckle Catering at Sunset, and people would go CRAZY for her cookies. We would seriously run down the halls to try to get there first. They go FAST.

I’ve only had her original version (just leave out the Nutella for the recipe), but the look on people’s faces when they bite into this Nutella stuffed version is pure heaven.

Zebra Cookies

My brother asks for these every year. You probably should too.

Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies (GF)

I’ve made these twice… in the past two weeks. If sugar wasn’t bad for you (and I wouldn’t get sick) I would make them when no one was home and eat the whole batch.

 

Bonus: These cookies look amazing, but they are all cookies I haven’t made yet so I can’t vouch for their tastiness.

Super Soft Gluten-free Sugar Cookies (GF, V)

Chocolate Brownie Cookies (GF)

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’m a sucker for salted chocolate chip cookies. The sheer number I have eaten is unreal. I might just need to try to make these gluten free with my own flour blend…

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies 

These have a vegetable in them (pumpkin), therefore they are good for you.

Homemade Salted Butter Caramels

Chocolate Loaf Cake

This recipe makes my mouth water every time I see the picture on my Pinterest. It doesn’t help that it’s the cover photo for my dessert board.

Clementine Butter Cookies

I’m usually a fan of thick, chewy cookies, but these thin cookies look soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Natural ingredients, beautiful finished product.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Raspberry Hand Pies (GF, V)

I would cry tears of pure joy if someone gave me buttery, homemade gluten-free hand pies. Huge hint.

Cookies to Eat Right Now

Christmas Cookies to Gift – healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

My Standby ‘Healthy’ Oatmeal Cookies

Gingerbread Men (GF)

Sure, you could give these away. But why would you share them?

A photo posted by Angela Liddon (@ohsheglows) on

Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF, V)

You only have to dirty a single bowl.

Perfect Holiday Party Treats

These treats are the perfect thing to share.

Chocolate Molten Cakes in a Cupcake Pan (GF option)

I made these for a work holiday party last year and they were a huge hit. They worked out great with gluten-free flour.

Chocolate Sheet Cake (GF Option)

This recipe feeds a crowd and comes together FAST. I’m so happy to just pour on frosting and be done with it. Plus, just grab the entire sheet and go. You can decorate it like the cake above or make your own chocolate trees. I won’t tell if you just leave it plain too.

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Truffles (GF, V)

People go crazy for little bites. Especially if it’s something that is relatively healthy.

November Reads

I can’t believe it’s already Christmas time. Where have the months gone? Everything after our trip to Wyoming in August is a complete blur. So much so that I couldn’t have named a single book I read this month off the top of my head.

But after perusing my Goodreads, I can’t see how I could ever forget. My November reads were perfectly eclectic, and I think I’m finally back into the swing of things with fiction again. Well, I might have something to say about that next month given how my reading is going lately, but at least it was true this month.

November Reads

November Reads

 

The Unseen World

Oh man, so good! I really enjoyed the story, so much so that I spent an entire day reading after picking it up at lunch. Oops.

The characters feel real, and the story is rich and engrossing. The book follows Ada’s unravelling of her eccentric father’s past. It was one of those books where I didn’t see the ending coming (and I also wasn’t furious at the end of it like Gone Girl).

If you have an interest in tech or programming, I think you’ll enjoy it even more.

 

The New Better Off

There is something both comforting and off-putting about reading a book that so perfectly aligns with your beliefs. I started to feel weird about it at the end, like maybe I needed to have my views challenged a bit more. Then I realized that’s what every day life is for in Silicon Valley.

Courtney E. Martin believes that while we may not end up wealthier than our parents in the traditional sense, we have the opportunity to be happier and more fulfilled. She argues for discovering what you really want to be doing with your time, and she made me take a hard look at my community and how I could build it.

While I won’t be moving into a co-op anytime soon, it was a nice reminder that I have more control over my life than I often realize. It also made me want to start putting in more effort to my friendships and building new ones.

 

The Curated Closet

I stumbled across Anuschka’s blog a couple years ago when researching capsule wardrobes. To say she takes detailed consideration seriously is an understatement.

After reading the book all the way through, I’ve been slowly working my way through the exercises. My closet is already cut down fairly significantly–I’m still somewhere around my 50 or so pieces in total–but it doesn’t feel cohesive. Before reading this book I couldn’t have told you my ‘style’ or put into comprehendible words what I like to wear.

I can now answer mot of those questions, and I feel like I have a good roadmap to slowly updating my wardrobe, defining my style, and replacing my worn out pieces. If only it involved never having to shop.

 

Today Will Be Different

I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadettebut this one fell flat for me. The narrator does nothing to make you like her, if anything, everything she does makes you dislike her more. This one was just an ‘eh’ for me.

 

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After walking the aisles of Powell’s for well over an hour in a frenzied daze, I finally settled on Hunger and got out of there. I had seen Carrie Brownstein around here and there, but I knew nothing of her band Sleater-Kinney. Turns out it’s probably important that you know about the band. The book was alright, but I think it would have been way better if I had listened to the music and been a fan before opening it.

 

Little Victories

Please excuse me while I pat myself on the back for (accidentally) perfectly timing this one with Thanksgiving.

This short book is full of stories from Jason Gay’s life and quick tips for modern life. Nothing life-changing, but enjoyable for a lazy Thanksgiving weekend.

 

PS. You can see all of my book reviews here.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas

 

Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.

 

Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.

 

Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.

 

Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.

 

Babysitting

Or dog sitting as it may be.

 

Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.

 

Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.

 

Subscription

Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.

 

Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.

 

Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.

 

No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)

 

Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.