Make Memories Not Waste : Ideas for Gift-Free Gifts
piece written by Leah Sookoo
If you read my guerilla gift guide aka sustainable gift guide, perhaps you felt inspired to give waste-free essentials to your loved ones. However, not all of us can afford to give physical items to everyone we love nor do some of us believe it’s necessary. The Christmas season in many ways has become a consumer nightmare, with brands making us believe that the only way to celebrate is with a beautiful packages tied up with string (I blame The Sound of Music, personally).
A sustainable gift-guide would be far from replete without the mention that you needn’t give a gift at all in order to express love thoughtfully. In fact, the most sustainable option is to eschew the new and make do. (Did you like that rhyme?). Give from what you have. We all have gifts we can share with the world, gifts tucked away inside of us that enrich our communities and relationships.
I believe we often forget that a gift isn’t necessarily a tangible thing; it can be your energy, time, emotions, presence. More than once have I realized that these gifts have been sufficient to the ones I keep close to me: the gift of time, of heart-felt words, of shared experiences, of creative energy, have all been items that I unknowingly gave, but filled those around me with fulfillment and the essence of feeling known.
When you value giving as much as I do, you come to realize that giving love is about allowing others to feel seen and known. For someone with the gift love language, it’s less about the physical item, and more about knowing that someone thought of you, sees you, made an effort to surprise you. If you’re not familiar with the love languages, they say there are five main ones, and that they describe how each of us differently receive love. Not everyone needs a gift to feel loved, you see. You can do something kind for someone, surprise them, encourage them with your words, spend time with them, or show them affection through touch (a hug, massage, whatever).
And so, for those who aren’t quite sure what they have to offer, here are 12 suggestions on how to make someone in your life feel loved. Or, to make memories not waste:
Take someone to the movies (or just plan a movie date at home — Netflix and chill. Like actually chill. Like have a conversation and discuss the movie or that you like how they react to movies).
Take someone out for dinner (better yet, make them dinner! If you have friends with kids or a newborn, sharing meals means a lot. Some of my favourite friend memories include sitting at a dining table eating a carefully prepared dish).
Surprise someone with a road trip somewhere special (even if it’s just to the park with a packed picnic).
Book a trip together (If you’re my mom, you might book a tropical vacation instead of giving gifts. Last year we went to the Dominican. This year we’re heading to Curacao. But it needn’t be extravagant — go to a neighbouring city for the weekend).
Hire a housecleaner for them for the month (or do it yourself! And everyone with “acts of service” as their love language said amen.)
Book a class together (watercolour painting or pottery classes are so much fun. I have been taken to classes such as these and it’s true win).
Book a photoshoot for the family (this is my mom’s ultimate gift wish. It hasn’t happened yet but maybe one day we’ll figure it out).
Write a song, a poem, a story. Read it for them, perform it, record it. If you want to give a physical item, print it + bind it beautifully!
Plan a fun day: brunch, then the art gallery followed by cocktails and a live show (ok so I’m describing my perfect day but you do you, bb). How about this: Take someone to a concert or a local show (One year my dear friend took two of us to the ballet. I’ll never forget. Shout out to you, Shannon. Best experiential gift giver ever).
Treat them to a massage. I would recommend getting a professional so it’s really enjoyable for them. Many of us go through life without being touched very much, and it can be hard when your love language is physical touch. A massage or an appointment at the hair dresser goes a long way.
Donate to a charity of their choice. I have a family member who on behalf of the gift receiver, buys a family a goat or cow. Write them a card and let them know that you’ve given under their name.
Adopt a child together. Okay that might be a bit much so maybe sponsor a child together? Volunteer together somewhere locally?
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the main idea here is that you just spend time with people you love or treat them to an experience that’s thoughtful. Take your grandma out for coffee or make a concerted effort to call her weekly. Call your mom, tell her you love her, tell her why you appreciate the things she’s done for you. Tell her why you love her strengths and how they are also your own. Take your dad fishing, or to a car show? What do dad’s like doing? My dad would just like it if I asked him for advice and called him more often and sent him Portuguese sausages from Ontario. Maybe you decided to simply be more intentional about getting together once a week for coffee, or send an encouraging text message daily.
The point is: whatever your people do, do it with them. Whomever they are, share love and time with them.
Isn’t that what life is all about?