As my birthday approaches, I get ready to answer the same daunting question I get asked every year. What do you want for your birthday? This is so stressful for me.
I am fortunate to already have everything I need. And if I don’t, I am also fortunate enough to afford buying it. That’s the charm of not needing much. I am also debt free, so I don’t need anything – honestly.
Four years ago I stumbled upon Joshua Becker’s book, Simplify. It is a short story about how he and his wife started on a journey of minimalism. It is a book about the benefits of minimalism, written before it became a hot topic. The book didn’t make an impact on me. It was too early. But two years ago I discovered The Minimalists. This time the philosophy came into my life at the right moment. I started seeing the benefits of minimalism, and I’ve embraced it.
Today, I carefully consider every purchase I make. Every item I buy needs to either serve a purpose or bring me joy. Clothing is usually in the first category. So is my Fitbit, which helps me stay on top of my health. Most of the things I own serve a purpose. When you buy things, they have a short period of bringing you joy, and then they become something that serves a purpose or something that ends up in a storage room. That’s why I rarely buy things that bring me joy, if they don’t also serve a purpose.
Gift-giving is a difficult topic for me to discuss with my friends and family. If they don’t embrace my philosophy of living with less, it’s difficult to understand. So I wrote this essay to help my friends and family gift me things that I enjoy.
Years ago I used to throw myself at the opportunity of buying stuff for people. Sometimes we give material items to make up for the time we don’t spend with the people we love. Little thought goes into presents.
Today, I tend to avoid giving physical gifts. Instead, I gift experiences and time. If I give material goods, it’s usually a consumable. It can be a bottle of wine, good tea, or chocolate.
The best way to find a good gift for someone like me is to look at what I enjoy doing.
Travel & holiday
Traveling is high on the list. I haven’t seen enough of the world yet, and there are so many places I still want to discover. With rent and bills to pay, often times travelling can’t be a priority. Think of flight tickets and airline vouchers or credit. Bed & Breakfast trips are great too, and so are hotel and Airbnb getaways in other cities. You can find many of these on the cheap on Groupon.
My love for music is no secret. I’ve crossed Tomorrowland off my Bucket list in 2016. I still want to go to Ultra Miami Festival, Untold Festival, and return to Tomorrowland one day. These festivals are expensive, but at least you can get an idea of my type of music. Then think about any other gigs. Gift me tickets to concerts or events. It doesn’t have to be electronic music. Are Bryan Adams or Andrea Bocelli in town? Book me in. Or some jazz band you’ve heard of. Everything works for my ears. It’s the experience that matters.
As the song (almost) goes, I like big books and I cannot lie. I have a reading list on Amazon, so why don’t you buy me a book? Do we live far apart? No problem. You can gift it to me on Kindle or iBooks. Just ask for my account email.
It’s fun to learn new things. Why don’t you look for a course or lessons in latin dancing, cooking, woodworking, or writing? Or maybe a new language, calligraphy, self-defense, or piano lessons. Even better, make it something we can do together. Again, no one beats Groupon if you want to find a good deal.
Last Christmas, my partner bought a German course for the both of us. Hands down the best gift in a long time. In a world where we live busy lives, what she bought was not a German course. She bought time for the two of us to spend together. Nothing is more valuable than that.
If I wouldn’t have an active lifestyle, I would be overweight. I love trying new food; there’s no such a thing as “too exotic”. I’m into Thai food a lot lately, but anything will do. Mexican, Argentinian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, local food… bring it on!
Take me out to a place and let’s eat something good. Or even better, cook something for me. Bring more people for a fun evening. Let’s turn off our phones and enjoy an evening with each other. I know it will turn out to be an evening to remember.
I am one of the fortunate people in this world. I make enough money to support myself. But there are billions of people who don’t, and they’re just like you and me. When I was younger, I promised myself that when I will make enough money, I will donate to the less fortunate. Now I do. But I am only one person and I can’t solve everyone’s problems. Sometimes, doing something for others is not only about donating money. It is also about spending time with the less fortunate, or helping as a volunteer.
Think about making a donation in my name to a local charity. I don’t have a favourite, but I’d like to think that they help make the world a better place. Even better, donate your time. Time is the most valuable asset we have; even more valuable than money. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. That’s how valuable it is. So donate your time at a local soup kitchen for me. Even better, let’s do it together! Let’s spend a Sunday together volunteering at a local homeless shelter. I can’t imagine giving me a better gift.
When talking about gifting experiences, it doesn’t have to be something out of this world. It can be a full-body massage, a sports car driving experience, watching a sunset together, or a trip to the zoo.
Spending time together is the most valuable gift. That’s often enough. I don’t get to see the people I care about so often. Doing something together is on top of my list. Let’s rent a car and take a roadtrip somewhere. Or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a roadtrip. It can be a walk in the park and some good ice cream. Or wine tasting. Or a comedy night. I appreciate spending time with the people I care about. More of that and less things for this year, please.