As I get older, there are fewer and fewer objects that I feel I would like or really want. I’ve already acquired quite a bit of stuff in my life and quite frankly, I’m starting to wonder where to put it all. And then, every year when my birthday or the holidays come around, I get asked by my super generous family and friends, “What would you like this year?” For someone who is big on being thrifty, buying things that last (which often means vintage), and trying hard not to fall into the consumption trap — this increasingly is a difficult question to answer.
Sure I would like some things — we’re saving to remodel our master bathroom, and to have our yard look nicer than it currently does. And of course, there are always a few pieces of furniture or hard-to-find vintage accessories on my list that I’m waiting patiently for on craigslist or Ebay. But, you can’t really put those things on your holiday list. So I sat and thunk for a while, and what follows is my list of 10 ideas for the hard to shop for, vintage loving, my-basement-is-already-full-o-stuff minimalist. Maybe you have some ideas for me, too??
1. Vintage enamel flower pins
Vintage costume jewelry may make a great gift for the retro-loving minimalist. My personal favorites are flower power enamel pins. Not only are they a bit of a bright summer day in the midst of winter — but they are very versatile. These colorful pins can be used as intended to brighten up a coat or outfit, clipped onto a necklace or even used as decor. Hang a ribbon or a small cork board filled with these flower pins on the wall to create instant art — or display them like Pam and attach them to a vintage dressmaker’s dummy. They can be found very inexpensively at yard and estate sales as well as on Etsy, Ebay and in vintage shops. Also, vintage jewelry does not take up a lot of space.
2. Fiesta ware pieces
As someone who loves colorful dishes, Fiesta ware has been a favorite gift of mine for several years. These dishes are well made, dishwasher and microwave safe, come in a variety of colors and are made in the USA. What more could you want in a gift? I’m particularly in love with the new color Homer Laughlin added to the Fiesta ware collection — Flamingo. Giving one or two pieces of Fiesta ware a year can — over time — help to build a lovely set of dishes. Can one ever really have too many plates, mugs or bowls? [Pam comments: Yes. I have, like, dinner service for 100. Beware.]
3. Blankets and sheets
Since I live in the arctic tundra — also known as the state of Wisconsin — gifts of warm blankets and flannel sheets can help make the coldest part of the year a little more cozy. I’d rather have one well-made wool blanket or quality flannel sheet than 10 that fall apart a little more with every wash. Consider splurging for high quality flannel pillow cases one year, fitted sheet the next, etc. By buying solid colors, you can mix and match without worrying about paying for a complete set in one shopping trip.
4. Vintage Vera scarf or tea towels
Similar to the concept of the enamel flower pins — vintage Vera Neumann scarves can often be picked up very cheaply at yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores. They take up little space and are very versatile. They can be worn as intended, hung on the wall as art and made into decorative pillows. If the recipient of your gift really isn’t a scarf person, vintage Vera tea towels have much of the same charm — and you can use them every day in your kitchen. Go ahead: Use them!, Vera would have wanted you to!
5. Socks or slippers
Another gift that is great for making winter feel more cozy are wool socks and slippers. When my feet are cold, I’m cold — that’s why I usually double these up and wear wool socks with slippers over them while I’m hanging out around the house. This is even a great idea for those in warmer climates — simply buy lighter weight slippers and socks to match the climate where your gift recipient lives.
If you know that your mother collects anything with a hippo on it or your best friend likes to paint in her spare time — why not give them another piece for their collection or art supplies to create with? Maybe their collection is seasonal — my mother-in-law collects Santa decorations that she displays all over the house at Christmas. Whether you are buying them a few skeins of yard to knit with or a set of screwdrivers, you know your thoughtful gift will be used, displayed and appreciated.
7. Holiday ornament
Every year since I was a little girl, my mother has gotten me an ornament for the Christmas tree. At first they were put on the tree at my parent’s house — but now that I’m out on my own — I have a whole box of ornaments for my own tree. For the last few years, I’ve been receiving a pink flamingo ornament, and now I have a mini collection of those for my tree. This kind of gift is great — they will be opened and enjoyed for the holiday and then packed up until next year with the other decorations. There is no stress over what shelf it will “live on” and every holiday when the ornament is unpacked, a memory of the previous holiday will be unpacked with it. Ornaments can be vintage, store bought or even handmade.
8. Food and drink
My best friend lives in Cleveland, Ohio — very near a small chocolate shop that makes the best chocolates I have ever tasted. Every year for my birthday and sometimes again on Christmas, I get a small box full of decadent treats — which I savor and do not even share with my husband! There are plenty of special treat type foods and drinks that can be sent for the holidays — chocolates, good cheese, fancy coffee, flavored olive oil, red wine or spirits even gourmet popcorn. The key is knowing the taste of the recipient and making it special — something they would not ordinarily buy for themselves.
Vintage communication — also known as snail mail — is still fun to us retro loving types. Stationery is always a good gift for people like myself who write thank you notes, feel-better letters and other correspondence the old fashioned way — in the mail. Notecards that reflect the person who is sending them — like my Pantone color notes which are a great choice for a graphic designer — have extra thought built in.
10. Tickets or passes to an event, museum or concert
Often, the most memorable and treasured gifts are experiences. Why not get passes to go to the art museum with your art loving friend, see a play or go to a concert. Even movie passes that you pledge to use together for a night on the town are a great gift. These kind of gifts create memories and strengthen bonds between friends and family — and isn’t that the best gift of all?