10 Ways to Give without Stuff

Knitting scarves as Holiday gifts

On the most commercial weekend of the year, you are bombarded with messages to buy stuff so you can give stuff. If you are trying to keep stuff to a minimal in your house, you can extend that attitude to your giving. My daughter is my model of good giving this year.

If you are like me, you have a closet full of yarn (or craft supplies, beads, wood to carve, paints, or some other kind of craft supplies). Yes, the crafters I know tend to be hoarders of a sort. This year, perhaps you could pull all of those supplies out of the closet and see what you can do for the people you care enough about to make something personal. That is what my daughter has done.

Much like a hobbit, my daughter started around her birthday in July thinking of what she could do for her family for the holidays. We are going to spend a rare holiday with her grandparents and cousins, so she wanted to knit each person a scarf that suits them in particular—favorite colors, textures, and patterns. First, she emptied out my mother’s yarn closet, then she matched up yarn to people. She had to buy a couple of skeins to fill in, but that was only a couple out of about fifty balls of yarn. She did really well turning our closet into a beautiful pile of scarves. We leave for our holiday in a couple of weeks, and she is knitting the last scarf now.

Her advice is to start by thinking of the people: who they are, what they wear, and what kind of style they like. She used the same knitting stitches for every scarf because that is what she is comfortable with right now, but she made the scarves look quite different. She says your homemade gifts should not be about you but should match up the personality of the person you are giving to with your skills and time.

10 Ideas for Low-stuff or No-stuff Giving

1. Tuck a note inside an old book as a gift. Tell them why you enjoyed the book and why you think they might as well.

2. Sew old jeans into a bag. We made small jeans bags out of stray jeans legs. My son’s pant legs seem to come off as he wears holes in the knees that eventually join around the back. He gets long shorts for the next year, and he has a variety of legs in his closet waiting for a purpose. This year, he is giving his friends small bags that fit the cards they trade back and forth.

3. Create a craft kit for your child from some of your craft supplies. You could just to the closet with your child and choose, but the possibilities can be overwhelming. I always found kits exciting as a child. Write a note or draw a picture for younger children about the possibilities they will find in the kit.

4. Give a digital download of your favorite movie to a friend. I like gifts that keep on giving. Be sure to say what you like about the movie.

5. Create a family calendar. We did this for several years. We used big photos of our children then included birthdays and holidays for all of our extended family members. I still remember the year my aunt did this for every one of her nine siblings’ families. If you want to make this a regular gift, write on a certain day of each month a reminder to family members to send you more photos for the next year’s family calendar.

6. Give your child a big book of several hundred world folk tales then read one every night for the next year. I did this with each of my children, and they still talk about the stories. We not only shared all of those bedtimes, but we all have a common vocabulary of narratives

7. Make a holiday ornament from your craft scraps.

8. Make a photo album in a small book with photos from a typical day in the life of your child for a grandparent, aunt, or someone else they don’t get to see often enough. Sharing the little details can help them feel much closer.

9. Give the family a board game and a full afternoon of time to play. Yes, that’s a little bit of stuff, but this shouldn’t be about zealousness but about getting to the heart of giving. What your kids want is your time.

10. Bake cookies for a neighbor, and add a personal note of gratitude. Include a note thanking them specifically for chats, vacation mail pick up, shared dog walks, and anything else you appreciate.

Don’t just give for the sake of giving. Think about the person and what they mean to you, but let the feeling show more than the material stuff. Would a card or a phone call be enough? Don’t overdo it. You want to enjoy your holidays yourself as well, so give in ways that are personal to you and to the receiver without making yourself feel overwhelmed and frantic to get it all done.

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