I still remember the embarrassment of opening a wrapped gift at my eighth birthday party — probably expecting a toy or book — and receiving a notice of a donation made to charity in my name. I had no idea what to make of the slip of paper in my hands at the time but, looking back, I now see so much value in non-traditional gifts and how they can help us revive the true meaning of the holidays beyond overconsumption of material items.
This holiday season, I could not be more excited to find unique and thoughtful gifts to give to my loved ones. In a time when we feel incessant pressure to consume new products from the constant advertising that has infiltrated nearly every corner of our lives, I finally understand that gift I received so many years ago. I am excited to reimagine the way we view gifts and incorporate sustainability and intention into my gifting.
You would be surprised how far a thoughtful, handmade card can go to express your love to those around you. Consider using stamps, tape, stickers, scrap paper or colorful markers and pens to create a pretty card. Writing out how you feel is guaranteed to make your loved ones feel appreciated this holiday season.
During the winter, when many of us are spending more time inside and want to feel cozy, gifting homemade vanilla extract, baking mixes, holiday treats or potpourri kits can be an environmentally friendly and inexpensive yet meaningful gesture. Try packaging these gifts using unique thrifted jars and decorating with old ribbon and string.
While not possible for many of us in the colder months, if you have your own thriving garden, gifting people a basket of fresh homegrown produce or a bouquet of flowers can be especially appreciated.
Check out local antique, thrift or vintage stores to look for unique clothes, accessories and home items. Bloomington-based shops I recommend are Cherry Canarie, skullznbunniez, Office Clothier and My Sister’s Closet.
This summer, I found a beautiful floral patterned jewelry tray at a charity shop in England that I gifted to my best friend because it reminded me of her. While it was only a few dollars, it was nicer looking and more meaningful than anything I’d ever seen somewhere like Target or Anthropologie — and I knew it would be one of a kind.
When I was home over this Thanksgiving break, my mom and I took a walk around our neighborhood and checked out all the Little Free Libraries — here is a map of all the ones located in Monroe County. In just an hour, we found several books we wanted to read or save for others. These libraries are an incredible way to find something you otherwise wouldn’t at a traditional store and gift something with chracter to your loved ones — for free.
Acts of service
Leverage your own or other people’s skills this holiday season. For someone who is sentimental, try turning their collection of old family recipes into a nice looking recipe book, commissioning a painting of their favorite family picture or creating a scrapbook of the two of you.
For someone who could use a pick-me-up, take their car in for a full detailing service or offer to help redecorate or declutter their living space. Putting in a bit of extra time to make a grand gesture toward those you care about can go a long way in making them feel loved and appreciated.
People often remember experience gifts for a lifetime, especially when they get to do it with someone they love. Research upcoming concerts by their favorite artists, book a cooking or art class, plan out a weekend getaway or find a local performance they would like.
[Related: COLUMN: On the clock: How I love being a woman]
Even our loved ones with the most luxurious taste or material indulgence are sure to appreciate thoughtful gifts that come from the heart. Whether you plan to spend lots of money and gift all new items or you will opt for handmade gifts this year, it is the meaning behind the gift that makes it special.
Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore studying policy analysis with minors in geography and urban planning.