I’ve been pondering the virtue of thoughtfulness lately. It’s an odd word with seemingly opposite meanings: to be absorbed in inward thought, or to be attentive and considerate of others. But both definitions imply care and measured intentionality that are both too often lacking in a society of disposables.
Christmas gifts sometimes get a bad rap by the purists who, often fairly, critique the consumerization of the world’s most humble holiday. But there is redemption even for Christmas presents — and pop culture’s most memorable ones are those marked not by their quality but the thought behind them, from Imogene’s Christmas ham to Della’s watch chain.
So perhaps, instead of some expensive gadget from Amazon (that may be stuck off the coast of California for Christmas anyway), opt for something simple. Or for that friend you don’t necessarily need to get a gift, pick up something small but lovely to remind her you thought of her amid your busy holiday preparation.
Here are some of my favorite simple gifts that are still lovely and thoughtful — and inexpensive enough to justify buying “just because.”
A Feminine Calendar
A wall calendar like this one from Floating Thistle Paper, featuring rich colors, floral prints, and gold hardware, or a stand-alone desktop one like this minimalist black and white number, will make scheduling appointments a little more lovely.
Classic Photo Prints
A set of photo prints — like these from Artifact Uprising — runs about $12 for 10 matte, 4-by-4-inch photo prints. Choose a thin white border around the photos (or not), and choose between square prints or traditional landscape/portrait, or simply buy her a gift card to customize her own.
A Hand-Painted Trinket Tray
This hand-painted, monogrammed trinket dish from Utah-based, California-founded company Called to Surf is a simple way to bring summery beauty into her home — and an inexpensive one, at only $9.
A Chosen Candle
With scents like “midwinter embers” or “golden hour,” these minimalist candles from Chosen Candle are hand-poured in Virginia and made with soy wax and phthalate-free fragrance oils. They’ll add instant warmth to her coffee table, and 10 percent of profits go to help victims of human trafficking.
A Printed Bandana
Move over, red paisley — these organic cotton bandanas can be tied on a purse, used as a headband, or worn around your neck.
Art Print from Fox Hollow Studios
From Texan Tabitha Paige’s Fox Hollow Studios, consider an art print like this made-in-U.S.A. watercolor barn, or one of her elegant dog prints like this one. For friends with little ones, check out her illustrated children’s books.
This Linen Planner or Notepad
American-made, Washington D.C.-based company Appointed offers this undated monthly planner or this understated notepad for $18, with a linen cover and subtle gold foil lettering, for the organized lady among your friends. Both can be customized with a gold foil monogram too.
A Velvet Jewelry Case
Christmas is always the season for velvet, but the luxurious texture is extra trendy this year. A delicate velvet jewelry case like this one from Benevolence Los Angeles will add a touch of class to her suitcase or dresser.
This Holiday Gift Box
A lovely gift box from Virginia Dare Dress Co. comes with a handwritten note and from a small company that emphasizes high-quality materials and femininity. This box comes with all the ingredients for a cozy mug of sipping chocolate, or you can splurge for a bigger gift box or customize your own.
A Hand-Painted Ceramic Ornament
This chinoiserie-inspired ornament is painted by hand and comes on a velvet ribbon.
These bath bombs from Pottery Barn are only $6, making them perfect as stocking stuffers or to throw a few together into a gift box as an assortment. Try the fir and grapefruit one for a festive holiday scent or a year-round classic like lemon sage or washed cotton.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
This one takes a bit of DIY, but that makes it all the more personal. Make a batch of gifts at once by buying some Madagascar vanilla bean pods and some glass bottles (or recycling an old bourbon bottle), and adding vodka, and you have a homemade gift that will grace her pantry into the next year.