Mindful Gift Giving

I had the opportunity this week to step in for a colleague and present her wellness seminar on “Decluttering Your Life: Taking Control of Your Space.” This is a favorite topic of mine, partly because it is an ongoing challenge for me and my family and I am always looking for new strategies to help manage our “stuff.” We have made a concerted effort over the last several years to reduce the amount of material things that we possess, but I’ll admit it is still a work in progress.

If there is one thing that the decluttering presentation reminded me, it is that Americans have too much stuff. Did you know that 1 out of every 10 Americans rents an offsite storage unit? Offsite storage units have been the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. I believe it, as it seems like there is one on every corner here in Raleigh – and many of them are directly across the street from each other! It astounds – and saddens me – every time I drive by them.

Given this cultural obsession with stuff and knowing that many of my friends and family members have also reached a point of not needing or wanting any more material possessions, I intentionally seek out gift ideas that won’t contribute to the clutter epidemic. Given that the holidays are upon us, I thought I would share some gift giving ideas for those of you who also wish to shop more mindfully. Most of these ideas apply to adults, but I think there are many children who also would enjoy an outing or an experience over another toy that they will be bored with in a few weeks.

For the foodies in your life:

  • Restaurant gift cards – you can never go wrong with a gift certificate to someone’s favorite restaurant, or perhaps a new restaurant they’ve wanted to visit. Even more budget-friendly options like fast casual restaurants (think Panera Bread) will be a welcome gift for those nights when they just don’t feel like cooking.


  • Cooking classes – a great experience for anyone trying to hone their culinary skills. Many restaurants and culinary stores (e.g., Williams Sonoma) offer classes throughout the year.


  • Tasting tours – many cities have food tasting tours, where you visit multiple restaurants, talk with chefs, learn about the culinary landscape of the city, and enjoy delicious food and drink. As a bonus, many of these tours are walking tours so you get in some physical activity too!


  • Grocery store gift cards – whether it’s for their favorite grocery store or a more high-end store where shopping might be a real treat, they’re sure to be grateful for the nourishment.


For fitness-oriented friends and family:

  • Membership to the local YMCA or other fitness facility – or if they already belong to a fitness center, offer to pay for the renewal


  • Gift certificate to try out classes like yoga, Pilates, martial arts or indoor rock climbing


  • Pay for a round of golf on their favorite course, or maybe a new course they’ve wanted to try


  • A day pass for skiing or snowboarding at a nearby resort


For the entertainment junkies:

  • Movie gift certificates – let them escape reality for a couple hours and throw in a little extra for some concession snacks (Note: Consider Fandango if you don’t know their local movie theater chain)


  • Tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event – so many options at the high school, college or professional level. If your budget doesn’t allow a big splurge like Broadway or the NFL, staying closer to home is a great way to support local theaters, performers and athletes.


  • Membership to a local museum – whether it’s art, history, or natural sciences, you are giving the gift of exploration


These are just some ideas to hopefully spark your imagination! Whether the gifts you give are large or small, store-bought or homemade, those who truly love you know that it’s the thought that counts.




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