Gifting mindfully

Christmas. The stores have replaced the back-to-school and summer holiday essentials for party dresses, reindeer chocolates and an incomprehensible amount of gift ideas.

We’re bombarded with brightly coloured displays of items we should be buying for our partners, children, friends, pets (…the list goes on) at every corner. It seems that the marketing teams at every shop go into overdrive at this time of year to find ways to entice us into buying their products. It’s therefore easy to see why so many of us get swept away with the wave of “buy, buy, buy”, without having time to consider the significant trail of rubbish this season will leave behind for years to come.

Reversing the tide
With 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans each year, perhaps this is a good time for us to start thinking about ways to reduce our contribution to this shocking statistic. It’s a lot simpler than we may first imagine: have you ever watched a child shun fancy toys and gadgets on Christmas day to spend hours sitting in, on or under the cardboard box the gift arrived in instead? We can take a lot of inspiration for gift ideas from children. When we were younger, we warmed the hearts of many adults simply by presenting them with some sort of drawing, painting, or hand-made card, but when was the last time you took some time to make something for someone or to write a letter? In a world where a frequent answer to the question “how are you?” is “I’m so busy”, our time is fast-becoming the most precious gift we have to give not just to others, but also to ourselves.

The joy of giving
For those of us living far from our friends and families, it‘s not always easy to schedule time together with them, but wouldn‘t Aunt Mildred or Onkel Jurg be thrilled to receive a hand-written letter instead of an e-card this year? It costs more time but less money, and has the bonus of being therapeutic for you as you (mindfully) put pen to paper and concentrate on producing your best handwriting. Doesn’t that sound a lot more relaxing than sifting through an online catalogue while countless adverts vie for your attention? The second-hand shops (e.g. the Offcut warehouse in Dreispitz/Basel) are filled with goodies to help you create something special and unique.

So this year, let’s spend the next couple of months investing our time in gifting quality rather than quantity, and reducing the stress of the festive period at the same time. Check out some of the suggestions in the box  below for some inspiration.

Ideas box:

  • Sweet and/or savoury home-made hamper
  • Homemade gifts such as candles, body scrubs, lip balms or anything edible
  • Invitation to a home cooked dinner
  • A voucher for a present such as an item of clothing which you go shopping for together, preferably visiting ethical stores such as Changemaker and Claro
  • Voucher for a movie night, museum visit, massage, sporting event, concert or other experience
  • Promise to wash the dishes / do the shopping / clean the house etc for a period of time
  • Day trip or weekend away together
  • Membership to a sports or hobby club, or to the local library or a museum
  • Organise a treasure hunt or other event for the whole family and/or friends
  • Gift them some credit on online lending sites such as Kiva.org for them to invest in local projects around the world
  • Attendance to  a self-development course e.g. yoga, woodwork, tango, calligraphy…anything that they‘ve wanted to do for a while, or that would be fun for you to do together
  • Visit the Zero-Waste shops (for example Abfüllerei and Basel Unverpackt in Basel) for some waste-free gifts. Why not take an empty jar or bag with you and fill it with chocolates or nuts as a gift?

Useful links:

Author: Samina Ahmed