There are five love languages and it’s not hard to figure out which one you are by taking a simple test. The five languages are Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts. It can be difficult to know someone else’s love language and give them a gift that truly speaks to them unless you ask them to take the test.
If you know the person really well, such as your spouse, child or good friend, you can usually guess one of their top love languages. Furthermore, it can be difficult to buy gifts for minimalists who view physical objects as obtrusive to their lifestyle and happiness. Here’s a short guide to overcoming gifting problems.
1. Everyone has a secondary love language; utilize it.
My love language is Quality Time but my secondary language is Words of Affirmation. If you aren’t able to offer me quality time, because you live too far away or are too busy, then please write me a beautifully written note or letter about how you feel about me. If you MUST buy me a physical gift then I would prefer something useful (like a specialty tea) or something that’s ‘just so me’!
Gifts for the Words of Affirmation type: a letter or note, a list of things you love about the person, a book you made especially for them, a homemade meme about them (here’s an app for this), have a cartoon drawn of them, a CD or iTunes combination that they would like. The key to this language: being creative and knowing their best qualities.
Gifts for the Quality Time type: Invite them to wander around a city or town together, tickets to a show or play, a night with no phones and no screens – just the two of you, a pass to take a class together, or as a big gesture take the whole day off of work just to spend with them. The key to this language: no phones. This person feels really hurt when you look at a screen instead of them.
Gifts for the Acts of Service type: Take the kids and allow them some personal time, buy them a car wash or house cleaning service, plan out a trip to take them on or make a list of things to do in their area, make them dinner (that’s freezable), make them a calendar and take the time to write in all the important family birthdates and holidays. The key to this language: know what they do often and find a way to do it for them.
2. When we don’t know the person well enough to know their love language.
When we don’t know the gift receiver well enough then Quality Time, Physical Touch and even Words of Affirmation are really off the table because let’s be real, that could get awkward. As a minimalist it’s hard to buy this person just random junk we know will be trashed or donated. What a waste.
Focus on their occupation: for a gift for an acquaintance or friend, figure out what they do all day. Teachers love gift cards and fun school/art supplies and they will never go to waste, bonus points if you can put it in a super durable, useful organizer. Stay-at-home moms can always use coffee or tea, a nice sweater or leggings (gift receipt please) and if you’re really ambitious, a home-cooked meal they can freeze or free babysitting. If the receiver has a long commute buy them a book on audible, a subscription to a magazine or newspaper, or make a CD/iTunes mix just for them. The key to finding the right gift that won’t go to waste: utility and ways to make their life easier.
3. The hardest love language to please when you’re a minimalist: Receiving Gifts
Receiving Gifts, as a love language, is usually hard for minimalists to follow through on. Why buy something they aren’t going to keep or that will clutter their lives? But Receiving Gifts is a real love language and lots of people actually view love in this way; arguably, this is how most people express love in our culture. How can you do this in a productive, non-wasteful way?
Gifts for the Receiving Gifts type: a basket of consumables (think jam, candy, flowers, wine), a book you know they’ve been wanting to read, a gift card or catalog telling them to circle what they want, a photo album of your favorite memories with them, a journal with prompts, a kindle, iTunes gift card (for apps or music), something related to their birthday month (ex. birthstone earrings). The key to this language: buy them a gift that reminds you of them or you know is their favorite. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it has to be about them and not junk!
4. Kids and the never ending Legos.
Children receive so much STUFF, between holidays, birthdays and general visits to the grandparents, it seems to never end. You would think a child’s love language is always Receiving Gifts, but I urge you to think about why children love receiving gifts so much. Does your kid ask you to build legos with them all the time or do art projects with you constantly? I’d say their real love language is Quality Time. Is your child super happy when you’ve cleaned their bedroom for them or made them their favorite meal? Maybe your little one’s love language is Acts of Service. I don’t know a child that doesn’t love to hear Words of Affirmation. How can we limit the amount of junk that comes into our homes through these other love languages?
Ask grandparents to take just the birthday girl/boy on a day just for them; they could take them to the movies or out to dinner and really get to know them one-on-one. Try to emphasize how important days like this are over physical objects.
Here are some presents we all wish you would buy for our kids but never do: museum passes, zoo passes, movie tickets, amusement park passes, jump or play zone passes, musical instrument lessons or money towards any lessons, and subscriptions of any type. Live far away? Buy them a personalized stationary set and ask them to be your penpal. Snail mail is so fun and the world is quickly losing good writers!
For kids birthday parties: Gift cards to kid-oriented restaurants or ice cream shops are always fun. Project boxes that kids can do on their own are a blessing to parents and kids alike (I have a stack all ready for when they are ‘bored’ this summer). Think outside the box, we all have enough Legos already. Some great building projects are kiwi crate and Creativity for Kids. Outdoor equipment is also a pretty safe bet, like roller blades, scooters, beach toys, or gardening sets. If all else fails, gift cards are always welcome!
5. Physical Touch as a love language should be saved for your immediate family. Enough said.
There isn’t much need for explanation in this category but if your spouse’s love language is Physical Touch make sure you’re extra loving on their birthday and throughout the year. A cuddle here, a kiss there, make sure you pay extra attention. Again, put down the phone and hold their hand! This type of person will also love a massage gift certificate or mani-pedi.