Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!

Don’t let gifts be a burden

I’ve cleared a lot of unused items from my home over the years since becoming a minimalist. Many I’ve donated, and many I’ve given to friends.

I always try to remember to tell my friends, when they receive my cast-offs or gifts, “Don’t feel obliged to keep it should you change your mind.”

Gifts are not supposed to become burdens. When we receive things from people that love us, they’re not intended to weigh us down.

Our loved ones give us stuff to help us out. To be kind. Because they think we might like it or it might be useful to us.

So don’t ever feel obliged to keep anything you’re given.

I know a lot of people feel they must keep gifts. That’s not so. You have no responsibility to keep any items you’re given. Not ever.

If you don’t need or want something, no matter who gave it to you or how valuable it might be, let it go. Donate it, give it to someone else, or sell it.

Don’t let it weigh you down a moment longer. Because nobody ever wanted that.


The hummingbird

I inherited a hummingbird brooch from grandma.
It was cloisonne: red, green, blue on gold.
All vibrant colours. A work of art.

I never wore it.
I don’t know why.

I think…it just wasn’t me.

I don’t have it now.
The brooch is gone from me.
I gave it away to a friend who loves it and wears it.
She cherishes it in a way I never did.
She wears it often.
It reminds her of our friendship.

It can be hard to pass on belongings we inherit.
But an item is not a person:
It’s just a thing.
Just stuff.

I don’t think my grandma gave me that brooch
So it could sit in a jewelry box, unworn.
I think she would smile
To see my friend, a good person,
Wearing it proudly,
Looking so beautiful:
So happy.

The hummingbird flies again in the joy it brings my friend.
That is what gifts are for: To be used, enjoyed
And passed on with a generous heart
To those who will use them again.


Reverse Advent Calendar: here’s how!

Now this is the best idea for Christmas I’ve seen in a long while:

Seen on Facebook. Idea and image from

Seen on Facebook. Idea and image from Mum In the Mad House

If you can’t see the image the idea is simple. Start the Reverse Advent Calendar when you start your regular Advent Calendar.

Grab a basket or box, and every day leading up to Christmas, add something useful to the box (tinned food, cleaning stuff, toys, whatever you think would be welcome).

Then, on Christmas Eve (or even a day or two before), donate the entire basket and contents to your local charity.

This year, make someone else’s Christmas a little bit brighter.

Merry Christmas!

5 steps to a sane and simple Christmas

Christmas is a consumerist paradise…and hell for would-be minimalists like me.

Here are five steps to keeping Christmas sane and simple:

1. Plan your budget in advance.

How much are you going to spend on each person? On each child? Plan a budget and stick to it. If you can put savings aside through the year, that’s better than having all your expenses come at once.

2. Double-up with joint gifts for children.

Buy one great gift the wole family will enjoy. For example, this year we’re buying a games machine for my kids, plus some games. They’ll both love it, and can share it, plus we’re sharing the expense between them.

3. Buy one great gift, instead of lots of little things.

Small gifts can really add up! $20 here, $40 there, and before you know it you’ve spent hundreds with just bits of plastic rubbish to show for it. Instead, buy one great gift that will be really appreciated and that will last.

4. Give experiences, not stuff.

Have older loved ones? Why not take them out? Ideas for elderly relatives include:

  • River cruises
  • Picnic in the park (if the weather is suitable – I live in New Zealand, and it’s summer at Christmas!)
  • Take them fishing
  • Take them to a play
  • Take them to the zoo
  • Buy them wood for their fire, or pay a bill for them! (many companies offer vouchers)
  • Book them in to a hotel for a night
  • Mystery flights
  • Take them to Carols By Candlelight
  • Take them to work at a homeless shelter with you – and learn the real meaning of Christmas!
  • Volunteer together at a lost animals home
  • Have a day out at the Botanic Gardens
  • Do “brunch” at a lovely little boutique cafe
  • Visit a baby animal farm, or farm sanctuary together
  • Go on a winery tour together
  • Eat fish and chips huddled up watching the waves in the car by the beach

5. Give greenery for gifts.

Instead of stuff, why not give the gift of living things?

House plants, seeds for the garden, herbs, or even donating to a charity that plants trees to offset carbon – these are all great gifts that won’t clutter up your loved ones’ lives.

Merry Christmas!


Dealing with gifts

I used to have a big problem with the gifts people give me.

I felt ashamed and awkward getting rid of the stuff, and was afraid to do so in case the gift-giver ever asked after it.

What solved the problem for me was realising that when people give gifts, they don’t want their gift to ever be a burden. That’s not their intention.

People give gifts to make others happy. The purpose of the gift is in the giving. The aim is not to burden. And if the item no longer makes me happy, true friends always feel fine about me passing the gift on to someone who can use it.

I talked to some of my compulsive gift-giving friends about how I felt, now that I was trying to simplify my life and reduce my possessions. They all said the same, all variations of: “If you need to pass it on, do so.” Their words made me feel better, and less burdened.

Friendships aren’t ever defined by gifts, or stuff. Friendships are defined by love.

Imagine if we kept everything we'd ever been given!

Imagine if we kept everything we’d ever been given!

Nowadays, I’ve asked all my friends who are in the habit of gift-giving not to give me gifts at all. If they feel they really must give me something, I ask that they give to my chosen charity (KidsCanNZ) instead. They’re more than happy to do so, and it makes their lives easier because they don’t have to think about what to get me!

Some of my friends have even become regular donors to KidsCan! 🙂

Don’t ever think that because something was given to you it must become a permanent fixture in your life. If it is a burden, or you don’t use it, give it to someone who will need it and use it. Honestly, nobody will mind, and someone somewhere might be very thankful.