The Shopping Guide For A Minimalist Christmas

Simple Christmas Ideas For Minimalist Families

Wherever there are parents, there are people in search of a simpler life. Green moms, in particular, find ourselves combing social media sites with keywords like “minimalist,” “declutter,” “organize” and “simple.” Family life can be chaotic and overwhelming with little people, not to mention all that Lego underfoot. This current zeitgeist of minimalism has, most recently, turned up in a new, and instantly popular idea: Give only four things this Christmas – Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. 

Minimalist Christmas Gift Ideas

You can now find memes to this effect on every social media platform. In homes and malls around the country, many moms can be overheard shouting, “Yes! I’m totally doing this!” with relief at the thought of slowing down the pace and shopping fervour of the holiday season.

The Guide To A Minimalist Christmas

As an elementary school teacher and generally Type-A person, I love frameworks. If Santa visits your house, you might suggest to him that this would be a great way to limit children’s gifts, and yet make them diverse and special. In our family of five, we’ll be using it as a Kris Kringle gift exchange framework. Five is the mathematically ideal number for a four gift structure. Each of us will pick from a hat, giving one gift per person, and all end up with something we want, something we need, something to wear and something to read. Perfect!


Getting and giving things that people want, and will like is nothing new – it’s what we’ve always done, for holiday gifting. But what if I end up with the earrings I want (you’ll know which ones, because I circled them in the magazine and stuck the page on the fridge door,) plus a wooden spoon, underwear and an Archie’s Digest magazine? Or the veggie spiralizer I’ve been going on and on about, but duds in the other three categories? The “want” is easy. But with a little thought, the “need,” “wear” and “read” can be just as much fun. Here’s how:


“Something they need” doesn’t mean a certificate for facial waxing, a pair of odour eaters. Although when shopping for an adult in the family, if artisanal whiskey will fit the bill, go for it. Even though a necessity, it’s still a gift and can be thoughtful, fun and make the recipient light up inside as well-chosen gifts should. Need a new lamp or chair for their room? Choosing a special one, and saving it to be a Christmas gift rather than just provided automatically, gives it importance and singles it out as something to be appreciated and treasured, rather than just needed. Lots of great local boutiques and Etsy crafters have done wonders with necessary items. Necessities can be pretty stylish too, for kids and adults alike:

  • Funky patterned socks
  • Stylish desk accessories
  • Colourful shoelaces
  • A rainbow selection of hair ties or headbands
  • Vintage drinking glasses
  • New bedding in a favourite colour or theme
  • A special hat, mittens and scarf for their favourite coat

These are neat choices from Presto!Paper & Home in Toronto.

Want, Need, Wear, Read: The Joy of A Minimalistic Christmas


In our family, Christmas Eve has always meant new pyjamas. I love coming home from our community pageant and settling in for a cozy evening of hot chocolate, PJs and good books. We always finish with a read-aloud of The Night Before Christmas, and you never get too old for that in my opinion. “Something to wear” doesn’t have to be limited to nightwear, but cozy is always nice. Here are some great wearable simple Christmas ideas:

  • In Toronto, shop local, and represent your neighbourhood with one of these stylish, Canadian-made hats or tops from The Tuck Shop Trading Co., in Toronto. There’s one for just about every local ‘hood in Hogtown.
  • Give the gift of infinite choice, with a gift card to a favourite clothing boutique. Dad might not think to up his fashion game on his own, but a certificate from a menswear store with a bit of style might inspire him to shake it up.
  • Online children’s stores also offer gift cards. My own children’s resale boutique, iSpy Clothing, offers electronic gift cards, for the recipient to choose from over 3,000 like-new pieces online. You may be surprised how much your kids love choosing for themselves, from the pictures!
  • Give a special Christmas dress or dress coat, to be worn on Christmas Day.
  • The onesie trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. From infants to tweens, teens to twenty-somethings, everybody loves a onesie.

The 4 Things Minimalists Need For Christmas


As an elementary school teacher, with school librarian credentials, I’m a card-carrying picture book lover. My own mother (also an educator) gave my sister and I an illustrated, hardcover picture book for Christmas every year, as well as on birthdays, graduations, and special occasions — right through our teen years. As an adult, I now have a huge collection for my own children and classroom.

For my own kids, I have been using holidays to build our library of classic novel series like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Little House on the Prairie and of course, Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys. Making books part of your family’s tradition is as classic as Christmas Eve by the fire. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing, that will help your children’s book collection stand the test of time:

  • Choose well-illustrated, well-written books. Ask the bookstore staff for recommendations or do research first at great online bookstore sites.
  • Avoid books with trendy tie-ins to current TV shows or popular characters. These are often less well-written and designed to market the toys or paraphernalia that go with them.
  • Buy hardcover, or trade paperback rather than pocket paperback editions. Not only are they more attractive, but if your plan is to build a library for your children, they will last years longer.
  • Invest in book series, or books by the same author as your child’s favourites. Box sets make great gifts.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop secondhand. For those who don’t collect books or build libraries, books are often a single-use item. Many “used” books have never been read or were read a single time, leaving them in near-perfect condition. Shopping secondhand is not only green but saves you money as well.

Read, five more tips for an eco friendly and minimal Christmas.


  • Betsy (Eco-novice) says:

    I love the want need wear read framework for gifts. I think we all need something to keep our consumerist tendencies in check at Christmas time. I personally have a lot of trouble not buying too many gifts for my kids. Great suggestions for each category!

  • Diane MacEachern says:

    I love these ideas. We all can do with a lot less stuff! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • mindfulmicaela says:

    Neat suggestions! Actually, we often give nice wine as gifts! It’s not extra stuff and people love it!

  • anna@greentalk says:

    Most people don’t need anymore stuff. I love the idea of giving someone exactly what they want. I always ask.

  • Janelle says:

    Brilliant! What a great way to think about gifting in a more eco-friendly way.

  • Rebecca Saha says:

    Yes, wine always works 😉

  • duhuela says:

    Great ideas! We can all do with less clutter and unnecessary stuff.
    We love giving edible gifts such as homemade granola, jams and soaps since they are eco-friendly and well received. We often gift wine but just for a change this year, we’ve been gifting maple syrup from Forbes Wild Foods.