12/18/2015 12:07 EST | Updated 12/18/2016 05:12 EST

9 Ways To Make Your Gifts More Thoughtful

Vintage gift box (package) with blank gift tag on old wooden background.
Vintage gift box (package) with blank gift tag on old wooden background.

We all feel the tension. The commercialization versus the simple joy of togetherness. The presents versus the presence.

Of course, I'd like to raise charitable kids over entitled kids, but I don't want them to think there is anything wrong with presents. I like presents! To me, the perfect gift is one that has thought behind it. Whether it's a simple letter from my husband saying all the things he knows I'd love to hear or a brand new food processor -- these are gifts that would tell me someone knows me. Thoughtful gifts are ones that say, "You are someone special to me, I have gotten to know you, I want to make your life better with the ability to make beet hummus."

Truly, it isn't about the "thinking of you" part. It is about the time. It is about someone taking the time to be mindful of you, to spend with you. The best gifts are the gifts of someone's time because, unlike money, that is their own personal resource that will always be limited.

Here are some ideas on ways to make your gifts more thoughtful

1. Say things you never take time to say.

A letter to someone saying all the things you never take the time to say and a bottle of wine to sit and drink together

2. Make food.

Food IS love, it IS! Homemade food, of any kind. It could be cookie mix in a jar or frozen dinners. The gift of food is the gift of time, energy and, well, food.

3. Give your time.

Offer to babysit for a mom, walk a dog for a pet owner, take your niece to the library, read to your grandma. And don't just offer this with the secret hope that they might forget, follow through on this gift.

4. Use your skills.

Here is a great list of skills that can be a gift to someone else. We all have skillz, spread them around in creative ways.

5. Present it beautifully.

Is it weird that there are YouTube channels devoted to watching people unpackage items from their wrapping? Totally weird. But it does attest to the power of presentation. Wrapping things in a lovely way is a simple touch that makes a gift more thoughtful than stuffed into an old dollar store bag with a crumpled receipt. Unless the gift is for a toddler, then they might prefer the wrapping to the present #toywhattoy #theyjustplaywiththewrapping #everymomrollstheireyes

6. Give an experience.

It may not be a present under the tree, but experiences are always more permanent and more valuable than "things."

7. DIY.

I am blessed with family and friends that are handy. Some of my favourite things in my house are the things that were made by hand, with devotion and skill. I've had enough pinfails in my life to give that silent nod of "I know that this project might have driven you to drink all the whiskey. Respect."

8. Fill it with memories. A personalized crossword puzzle, a well-curated photo album, a jar filled with memorabilia you've been collecting from each date you went on. There are so many ways to take great memories and turn them into something lovely.

9. Personalize it.

I don't mean monogramming everything -- I mean pay attention to them on a daily basis. Learn about what is important to someone. My son and husband once made me a Mother's Day card with scribbled crayon drawings of waffles. My sister-in-law once bought be the most amazing gin ever. They just get me.

This post originally appeared as part of A Simple Christmas series for the overwhelmed mom looking to do less and enjoy more this holiday. For more from Shawna visit Simple on Purpose, a site all about a nerdy mom of three learning about minimalism, motherhood and the perfect pairing of whiskey and waffles.


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