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Alternative gifts for loved ones and children

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

How to handle gift, giving and receiving, in minimalism.

Wrapping a gift plastic free

We heard that more than once.

There are a few scenarios that come to our minds when we think about it.

We want to address the important lines here.

First, we do not want to give a bad connotation to gift-giving or receiving because we understand the heartfelt gesture here. In our opinion, the problem is the misinterpreted word “gift". When we say a gift, most people will automatically see a wrapped box with a bow, and I am sure you did too, kind of like these ones.

Plastic free gift boxes

There is nothing wrong with this and we don’t want to start pointing fingers at each other to see who is better and more eco-friendly in their gift-giving ideas.

In our opinion, pushing back people who love wrapping gifts will only make the current situation worse. Instead, we want to bring a different perspective and some ideas that are better for the environment and for our own health. If everyone can only take one point and apply it, together we would have a huge impact on our environment.

Remember we are billions on this earth so if everyone makes one change, this sums up to a billion changes altogether!

To start, make sure you absolutely know what the person needs. In order for your gift to be extremely appreciated, they have to want and need what you intend to buy. Before you run to a big store and buy that gift look through this list to see if you could make your gift more environmentally friendly.

Try buying second hand

First of all, see if you or someone you know have that item. If you don’t use it, give it away. It’s not a bad gift only because you had it and didn’t spend more money on the person. That item still holds value, and you will put time, effort and love to make it shiny, functional and cute for them. If you don’t have the item you are looking for, thrift it.

So many places online are available like on Facebook marketplace, Kijiji, craigslist, Thredup, local consignment stores, local thrift stores and we love Poshmark too.

To help you out, here are some discount codes;

  • If you don’t have a Poshmark account, use code OZEYALIFE and get a 15$ credit and free shipping on your first purchase. You can also get 20% OFF in our closet. You only need to follow us on Instagram and mention your Instagram name in your bundle. We will add the discount for you!

  • Here you will get a 10$ credit on Thredup;

Think outside the box

Think outside the box light bulb

Think outside the box when you want to give a gift to someone and take the time to really know what they want, like or need. Be careful here, we are not talking about something You think they need, but something they actually do need. This is hard to know for everyone because we all have different needs, and your job isn’t to push your ideas or create random needs for someone else. Refrain from this one if you are not close enough to the person or if you are not sure, like to the exact color, of what THEY need.

When you find the perfect gift, make sure you wrap it, not only nicely but find a way to avoid filling the landfills.

  • Who said the word “gift” means a wrapped box?

  • What about a special moment?

handmade zero waste plastic free soap

Make them something.

Are you good at making things? We feel that there is nothing better than a handmade gift. Think about what they like. For example, cooking their favorite meal, baking their favorite cake or their favorite muffins, bread, and so on.

Can you make bath bombs, bath salts, creams, soaps, or anything else?

Maybe a nice basket for a new mom to care for herself would be appreciated. Bath bombs are always a big hit with kids. Maybe something they love got broken and you can fix it, or you could mend it? You might be a good gardener and they want to start a garden or have some indoor plants that you can help out with or make for them? Can you babysit, Petsit or housesit for them?

Offer your services for free. Do you have a special skill that they would like? Maybe you’re a hairdresser and they need a haircut, or a massage therapist and offer them a massage, or you work in construction and their house needs fixing. The list here can be wide and long. You can make it as big or as small as you want. To make it special, make it an upcycling project and create a card so that they physically receive something.

Teach them a new skill that you master. This would be a two-for-one, you spend time with them, and they come out with a new skill. Think about what you’re good at and what you heard them say they would like to try. Do you play an instrument and heard them say they would love to learn to play? Can you sew, paint, woodwork, cook, bake, play a sport they don’t know, know a language they want to learn, and so on.

creativity light bulb with light

Be creative with it.

This is an amazing gift, think about it, you took the time to listen to them. You are offering your time and energy to help them achieve their goal. You will also get to spend more quality time together and you will create a lot of special memories.

Gift of time

The gift of time.

You might have heard that the most precious gift you can give is time.


Well, you are giving away something you will never get back, something that is priceless. You cannot go back and buy the hour you gave to someone right? Why not offer that person a special day with you? Share their favorite meal with them, or even better cook that meal for them. Play their favorite game, go out to their favorite museum .Do they like art and you have a special presentation at your art museum? Or the science one, or the aquarium, or a fair they like attending, or a Broadway show?

Even taking them on a special hike or a camping trip. This could be a big hit with some children and even grown-ups. We had a special day where we went on a picnic and cooked supper on the fire and my children still remember to this day.

It was so special to them, and we had a good laugh. Another "gift" they remember was when we spent the day kayaking in the Glades. They loved it so much! We got to explore the area and see a lot of wildlife. These moments are priceless and are worth a lot more than a piece of toy that the child will outgrow.

To make those gifts special, we made a special online postcard that you can fill out and send. Those will be free on our Instagram account @ozeyalife. Feel free to print them on recycled paper or send them virtually. Use as many as you would like to make an original, very special eco-friendly gift.

Some questions and concerns we received

1. But my family loves treating the kids.

Explain to them that you want to keep material things low and that your children are on board with it. Tell them that you are trying to spend some quality time while they are growing up and that they prefer “time” as a gift. Make a list of membership passes to museums and events around your area that your child would like. You could even create a list with them.

bucket list journal healthy lifestyle

Make a “precious time” bucket list.

Things that they would like to see and do. Do they want to zipline, enjoy a national park, a special day camp they want to try, a show they want to see, a festival they want to attend, and so on?

Make sure that your list is full of activities that are approved by you and appropriate for your child’s age. My son wanted to do an escape room. He was so happy when we went and talked about it for years after. We had a lot of fun and appreciated our day together.

Once you have your list, make sure you update it on a regular basis. When a special occasion comes around, or you hear that a member of your family is coming and loves to bring gifts, talk to them about the list that your child made with you. Talk to them about what they said about it and how excited they got for some of them. Show that person that it will mean the world to your child.

Make it fun and special. If you don’t have actual tickets to gift, be creative. For example, blindfold them and drive them to the location, tell them to try and figure out what you have planned. Send a virtual card or a video of what you intend to do with them. You could even make it a game where they have to find clues to know what it is. This would give you two different “precious time” together. Create memories, not waste.

2. But what if they really do need something?

If they do need specific items, put them on another “buying” list. Make sure you are specific about it. Being a minimalist doesn’t mean not having anything. It means loving what you have and uncluttering what you don’t like.

snowboard| sports part of a healthy lifestyle

If your child is really into snowboarding, there is nothing wrong with buying them the equipment or going for the season pass and equipment rental. If they love painting, equip them for that. They will change and what they like will probably change too, but that is totally fine. You want them to dive into what they love to do right this moment. When it’s over, you want them to be able to move on and let go of things so that there is room to discover new things. Sometimes it might stick for a long period of time and other times it might be over after a season.

Let them explore and discover and if you show them that it is ok to try something and let go of it, you are teaching them to live in the present. They will grow up not worrying about tomorrow or next year because they are doing things that they cherish at the moment without being afraid of being stuck in the future.

Explore flag

Many have a hard time letting go and we think that it starts with the “what if" of material things. What if the one I have today breaks, and I don’t have the spare one anymore? What if I don’t like this one anymore but want the other color? What if I miss this thing when it is gone? What if I need one like this someday? What if, what if, what if…? We probably all used the what if at one point in our life. I am teaching my kids to live today and the solution for later will come when it is needed.

3. I get so many things from people, and I don’t know how to say no.

We heard this one often; “my family said well I like gifting, so you don’t have a choice.” Or things like “well you cannot get rid of this because I gave it to you, and it was special to me.” It happens in a lot of families. I know it can be hard to handle but think about it, if those people really love you, they will understand if you explain it to them.

Yes scratch learn to say no

Tell them something like, listen I know this was very special to you and I feel like you should give it to someone who will find it as special as you did. I know I won’t use it as much and I want it to be useful for someone else. If they try to force things on you or make you feel uncomfortable in your decision, simply tell them; I don’t force my way of living on others and would appreciate the same.

A podcast about the minimalist life summed it up very well when someone answered something like this to their loved one;

"So, I have to take it to show my love and appreciation for you, but you don’t care about what I actually want. Does that mean I love you and you don’t?"

This was pretty direct and a little harsh, but it did make me think. If someone truly loves you and wants to give you something out of love, shouldn’t it be something you will cherish? If they know what you like and what you need this battle won’t exist. If your child is excited about his list and the things on it, it will help your loved ones to understand.

If they want or need something, because let’s face it they outgrow their clothes a little too fast sometimes, try to get them excited about second-hand things. My daughters love to thrift now. I showed them an outfit they liked at the store and told them to look at the price and wait. We then went to the thrift store, and I let them look around and grab everything they liked and needed.

After seeing that they would have money left after buying what they loved at the thrift they got very excited. They don’t even want to go to the store anymore to keep their money for special things. When they have enough money, with a little help from families and friends, they buy passes to events, museums and we make it a special day. So many possibilities are out there, take the time to look around in your area.

Everyone is different so we all need different things. Make sure what you are gifting is for the other person, not your personal needs, nor your personal wants. If you do buy an item that you couldn’t find second-hand and that you know will be very useful for them, make sure you wrap it consciously.

Here are a few ideas;

Furoshiki gift wrapping plastic free zero waste

1- Reuse wrapping that you have. You might have some leftovers from a gift you received or from your neighbors. Use what is left and make it look nice. Use the newspaper, brown paper, and anything else you have on hand.

2- Be creative and use things like furoshiki to wrap. This technic involves taking a cloth to wrap your gift, but we’ve seen people use a T-shirt, towels, and so on, which they also gifted or kept as wrapping “paper” for their gifts.

3- Blindfold the person instead of the gift and make them try to guess what it is. This can be fun!

4- Make it a scavenger hunt. You leave clues and they must figure them out to get to the hidden gift. No need for wrapping as it is hidden!

As you can see, there is no limit to what your imagination can do.

  • Did you ever try an alternative?

Let us know your stories and your ideas.

Together, we will have a huge impact.

together hands intertwined different ages and ethnicity

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