Reflections on Minimalism and Gift Giving.

Hello everyone. I want to start out by saying that my husband and I have an unusual holiday tradition that I have come to embrace over the years. My husband’s annual  work Christmas party requires a jump over the Border of Utah into Nevada. My favorite part of this journey is driving past the Bonneville Salt Flats. Some people may view this as desolate wasteland but to me it gives the illusion that there are reflective mirrors all over the place. Each time I’ve looked into these pools, there is always something different. It’s one of my top places for taking photographs. I’ve heard the Country of Bolivia also has extraordinary Salt Flats so I feel so fortunate enough that these are right here in my back yard.


What I love most about the journey across these flats, is that it generally happens in the second week of December. I can not tell you how Zen-like it feels to escape the hustle and bustle of Christmas just weeks after black Friday and stare out into this glass menagerie. One can also have a lot of fun with the Salt Flats as a picture taking destination and not just a place to appreciate while passing through.


woman camera desert high heels
Photo by Cara Vescio on



I’m not the only one who has seen the potential in this landscape. There is a documentary on minimalism that I have really enjoyed and a lot of the scenes in the film have been shot at the Salt Flats. One can see why such a place would inspire minimalism. I also have fond memories of this place that take me back to the Bonneville raceway. As a child, I used to watch my grandfather race stock cars here. The flatness of the speedway  is a race car driver’s dream.

I’d like to get back to this idea of minimalism and zero waste because they really do go hand in hand. Acquiring “stuff” can no longer be the answer. It can’t be. So, when it comes time to shop for the holidays there are two gifts that I am a firm believer in and these are:  1). giving someone else an “experience” or (2). cultivating a talent that one can share with the world. If you don’t believe me, just watch this holiday commercial featured on Upworthy. You will not regret it.

So, I am happy to say that my children (Sh…) are getting musical instruments for Christmas. I’ve had other odds and ends that I’m trying to acquire for the other people in my life and that has been a challenge. Here are some of the obstacles I have had when integrating my ideals of minimalism and zero waste into gift giving:

  • The hardest part of going zero waste requires sacrifice. I have to admit, I have always been a sucker for pretty paper and textiles. I’ve taken great pride in my gift wrap, curling my ribbons, and making the best tags. I was always one of those that if someone came at my presents with a black sharpie I’d pretty much have a small freak out. These weren’t just presents. They were art. (Sounds petty just writing this I know).
  • With all this gift wrap I have acquired over the years, do I just let that all go?
  • Neighbor gifts are tough. How do I integrate zero waste into neighbor gifts?
  • Many of my friends and family are all about bath and body.
  • Then there are the obligatory gifts (You know the ones). Where you feel compelled to give for whatever reason.  So…you pick up any random useless thing, that whomever this person is, will  probably not like anyway, but you do it because it’s the thought that counts and you don’t want to be that person.

Here are some ways I have tried to work around this:

  • I’m trying to share my love for zero waste to those who might be receptive to it. I have the added perk of working at a zero waste market, so I have made some zero waste kits for some of my family. I’ve used fabric and buttons I already had on hand to make these kits. I come from generations of fabric hoarders.
  • What’s done is done. I can’t take all the gift wrap I have acquired over the years back. I made it a goal to not purchase anymore and to use what I already have until it is gone, and then NO MORE. I know of several people who I knew were going to go out and purchase wrapping paper. I’ve called them all up and told them to help themselves to mine. This has also been fun, because I have wrapped with a few friends, and this has been a nice bon voyage to my gift wrapping habit. I’ve even had a gift wrapping friend tell me they like the idea, and that they have felt inspired to take on the zero waste gift wrapping habit in the future as well.
  • I’ve made my peace with the gift wrapping thing.  I know going zero waste will require innovative resourcefulness and this can also breed creativity. I’m ready to take on that challenge. I’m actually excited to carry my love of gift wrap and textiles into homemade bees wax wraps.
  • I’ve shipped amazon gifts directly to family. It has its own packaging. It may not be pretty, but they are opening a box with a surprise in it. That is more than sufficient.
  • I’ve made it a point to personally thank companies when they send me items that I feel were not ridiculously over packaged.
  • I’ve gone through all my stuff and I’ve tried to configure how I can pass along neighbor gifts with items I already have. I have a ridiculous amount of mason jars and old tins, and I’ve “hoarded” gift bags from previous years. There is no need to buy new.
assorted brownies and muffins
Photo by Chay A. on
  • I made a list of homemade gifts I could make for my neighbors, and then I made my final decision based on which would have the least amount of waste.
  • For bath and body gifts, I’ve used aesthetically pleasing refillable containers that I have filled with high quality bulk products with essential oils that I HOPE my friends and family will refill. With one of these gifts, I accompanied it with a book on how to make homemade body care. They may not refill these but I can sleep better knowing that if they do not at least I have contributed to a zero waste bulk market I support instead of some beauty supply store who is not on board with the zero waste concept.
  • This is going to sound evil. Those “not so nice” people that I’ve felt compelled to take the high road with and give the obligatory gift? I’ve made it a point to purchase their gift at a business that I support. I may never have their appreciation, but at least I have helped a friend out or a cause that I believe in. Just another side note: I try to do this with everyone so it doesn’t feel so “mean” Win/win situations are always best.

Anyway, I KNOW I can do better. This is just how I have done it thus far. Zero waste does not happen over night, but I am trying. I would love to hear how some of you are integrating zero waste into your holidays this year!


Rachelle Whiting

4 thoughts on “Reflections on Minimalism and Gift Giving.

Add yours

  1. I feel a void even thinking about not wrapping presents. I enjoy gift wrapping and I take great pride in it. Something we both inherited from mom I think. As a child, my favorite part about receiving presents was tearing into that wrapping paper. I’ve noticed at birthday parties I’m the only who brings a wrapped present. Everyone else puts it in a pretty bag with colorful paper. I do this because I think those kids enjoy the excitement of ripping up paper as much as I did. Maybe they don’t even care. Last Christmas I had a friend who wrapped all of her child’s gifts in scarfs, dish cloths, towels, and blankets. Zero waste! And you still wrap a present that your child can open. I’ve thought of ways to do this when giving gifts for others. For neighbors, buy a dish towel to wrap a gift in for their kitchen or bathroom. For friends, buy a scarf to wrap their gifts in. For your kids, you can wrap some of their gifts in the yearly Christmas socks, underwear, pajamas, and Christmas outfit. Include the wrapping as part of the gift. That’s the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, totally blaming it on mom and the Santa thing too. These are great suggestions sis. Love ❤️ Ya! Tell mom I am coming for some of her fabric. She will never use it all in this lifetime! Lol


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