Angie from Detroit wrote in with this little quandry:
Q: Dear Thriftfulness,
I am a crafty, thrifty, saves everything chica like yourself and like to give handmade gifts. But my boyfriend is a total minimalist. He doesn’t like accumulating “stuff” and pretty much considers everything but the clothes on his back and his iPhone clutter. The only thing he really collects is gadgets, but I can’t afford any of the stuff he likes. Boys have such expensive taste! Now his birthday is coming up and I have no idea what to get him. Help!
Dumbfounded in Detroit
A: Dear Dumbfounded,
Egad, the minimalist. We can’t stand the way they wince at our craft closets and they can be a thrifty gifter’s worst nightmare. In my younger days, I was quick to call out minimalists for depending on the hoarders when they didn’t have any chapstick or wrapping paper or empty shampoo bottles on them. “Sure, you’ve got acres of counter space,” I’d mock, “but who’s going to come begging for Mod Podge and old magazines when they want a new pencil holder? Wait. Where are your pencils?”
But now, at the ripe old age of 27, I’ve come to the realization that we thrifty crafty chicas actually have a lot in common with the spare lovers of Less. For one thing, neither of us like to waste. We just show it in different ways. They don’t collect stuff so they never have to throw anything away and we save junk from the wastebasket and store it so that in the event we are ever on house-arrest, we won’t run out of collage material or mismatched beads. We also share a love for being thrifty. Case in point: The Everyday Minimalist, authors a blog by the same name that gives tips and thoughts on being or becoming a minimalist. One of the chief reasons she decided to live more simply was in order to save money and she ended up getting out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months (see her other blog Fabulously Broke in the City). So see? We’re not so different (cue: Different Strokes theme song).
In terms of getting the BF a gift, I feel your pain. Since he does love gadgets, your first thought may be to craft him a kitschy accessory but I would advise against it. If he’s into the latest gizmos, he’s probably into their matching accessories, not a knitted bunny shaped iPod case, like this totally adorable one on Flickr.
One helpful idea might be to keep in mind the word USE when you’re shopping or crafting for your guy. As in “Is it USEful?” or “Can he USE it up?” For example, you could make a homemade cloth grocery bag like this one from Instructables. I made this one from the book Linen, Wool, Cotton by Akiko Mano because I thought it was manly and minimalist-y. It actually turned out but then I tried to stamp the word “Snack Bag” on it and f’d it up.
Gifts you could give that he can use up could be flowers, a nice bottle of wine, and some good cheese. In fact, if you’re intent on making instead of buying, you could make your own cheese. You could also give him nice organic soap like these from Soap Farm (there is one that is a loofah encased in soap to reduce shower “clutter”), a fruit of the month club membership, a few months of produce from a CSA, or a plant that he can start indoors, but move outside in the spring. These are all gifts that are thoughtful but USEful and they are gifts he can USE up to clear space for his…space.
Another option you have is to give a gift of service or experience. Are you good at fixing computers? Offer to clean and update his laptop and bookmark all his favorite webpages. Does he love your taste in movies? Get him Netflix and start a kick-ass queue for him. If he never has time for breakfast, make him a new batch of muffins or scones every week for his whole birthday month. If he’s a minimalist, he probably doesn’t own a ton of clothes and the ones he does own get worn out quickly from so much use. If you can sew, offer to mend his wardrobe or, if you can’t, sneak it all out to a tailor and return it good as new on his birthday.
Gifts of experience can be more expensive. But if you can afford it, buy him a set of music lessons, a yoga class, a cooking class for both of you or tickets to a concert, festival, or sports game.
Geez, I’ve been typing so long I fear BF’s birthday may have already passed. Anyway Angie, hope these ideas help. Good luck and let me know how it works out!