Photo: How to give the gift of time

Instead of "presents" I demand "presence" from my friends and family.

I don't want presents from my friends and family. Shopping and buying stuff is the easy way out.

I want much more.

I want to appear as a line item in my loved ones' calendars, take them away from screens and enjoy their presence over a coffee or lunch, or an experience like a light festival or ice skating.

Life is about relationships — I want to invest in, deepen and nurture those. I want my friends and family to consider giving me something they can never get back (that I also won't have to dust, regift or recycle) — their precious time.

How I launched "presence" instead of "presents"

The first step was having a courageous conversation — with myself. What was my real intent? I didn't want to make people feel bad or guilty.

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So I first told the people in my life who would have the hardest time giving up giving things that I'd rather spend time with them.

It was awkward at first. Now my family and friends are used to my way of expressing generosity. (I don't get stuff!)

Still determined to give material gifts?

  • Give homemade items (also an indicator of time spent)
  • Make a donation
  • Regift
  • Practice true generosity — a gift freely given doesn't require acknowledgment or even a thank you!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to try a no-material-gift policy for the first time in order to lower consumption and nurture relationships this holiday season?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

November 30, 2015

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Dec 15, 2016
7:22 AM

Any advice on doing this when you live across the world from many of the people you care about?

Feb 06, 2016
3:10 PM

I tell people what I would like. I am not a needy person but there are times when I would like a music cd, a book, tea towels or new nighties. I could run out a buy them on my own but I will wait to receive the items as gifts. I am also good at noticing what other people need, ie warm socks, towels, gift cards for the local hardware store if someone is doing renovations. For special occasions, a fruit tray is always great. My grandkids will now ask me for warm socks, a new pair of boots etc.

Dec 12, 2015
9:21 AM

I had a mother who adored Christmas and went overboard many times. A couple of years ago I decided to change how I choose to give. They are actions that I take everyday of the year to make the world a better place. Most don’t cost a dime. This is what I am giving family and friends. I hope that I am giving them the gift of knowing that one person can make a difference. This is what we have accomplished.

Dec 09, 2015
5:30 AM

I would say first off by don’t be afraid of re-gifting, making gifts, or coming up with something creative. Some ideas could be coupons to offer a family member with kids a coupon sort of thing to babysit so they can go out on date or making soap or a homemade meal or home made jam the ideas are endless. It might seem like your cheap but you are really thinking of the over all picture like environment instead of being in the throwaway world and giving people things that they will enjoy and remember.

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