Lately, when people respond to, "what would you like for Christmas/birthday/etc." with a response of "Oh, I don't need anything," I have been threatening to buy those people laundry detergent. One of those people once responded with the brand they prefer, so this method is not fool-proof, although it does result in getting them closer to saying want they want.
I've included below gift ideas for those people who don't want anything, and the actual gifts I have given them. These include some of my all-time favorite gifts that I have ever given, where you are waiting anxiously for the recipient to open them.
1) The Gift of A Memorable Experience
For many people--minimalists/people down-sizing etc. when they say they don't want anything, it is partially true--they do not want more things. There is a significant body of research regarding how experiential gifts create more happiness than tangible objects. People create joy thinking about the gift in the future, while they are enjoying it, and then remembering the experience in the future.
Real Life Occasion: Father's Day Gift: 2 Tickets to see Paul McCartney in concert
My favorite real-life experience of this was when I got tickets for my Dad to see Paul McCartney in concert for Father's Day. The Beatles are his favorite band, so when I found out that Sir Paul was touring again, I bought these tickets.
He would later say its the best show he ever went to. Now, whenever a Paul McCartney song comes on the radio, we can remember when we say him before it live.
So, I would recommend concert or show tickets for someone who doesn't want any more things--instead you can give them memories.
(Or Hamilton tickets. Everyone wants those.)
2) The Helping Others Gift
Another route that you can take for the people who do not want anything is to give a charitable gift. Try to pick a cause that is meaningful to them. Another good tip is try to give something more than just a card that says I donated in your name.
Real-life example: My sister-in-law loves animals. She rescues animals, and is involved in conservation efforts. For Christmas two years ago, I adopted an orphan elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in her name. As part of the adoption, she got monthly updates about the baby elephant, as well as a watercolor of the elephant.
Learn more here: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas since then, she has said the same as last year, so I feel it was a successful present.
3) Gift for Tiny Humans
In general, tiny humans (neices/nephews, friend's children) are fairly easy to shop for, as you can always just straight up ask their parents what you should go. In general, I usually confirm with the parent of the tiny human what I am getting i.e. I will buy little one a soccer ball and pop-up net, that way the parents know that that gift is coming.
However, every now and then, parents will be at a loss. For instance, I get a lot of "S/he has enough toys. Books are always good."
The quandary there is what book to buy. I am not extremely familiar with all of my little friend's personal libraries. The best bet there is either a new book, or a not as well known book.
My recommendation in that case is the Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak.
4) The Know Your Audience Gift
This one can be trickier. In this case, people say they don't know what they want, because they genuinely do not know--they likely do not NEED anything, or have an obvious gap, so it gets hard to answer. In this case, I try to think of something the person would appreciate, but that they probably won't buy themselves.
Real Life Example: My friend had just bought a historic home. As a thank you gift for one of my bridesmaids, I bought an antique map of the city that she lived in, which had her neighborhood, and outlined a structure that was her house. She loved it!
Example here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/98494011/old-new-orleans-map-art-print-1845?ref=pla_similar_listing_bot-2
In my experience, antique maps and postcards in quick frames make great, stylish, gifts.
5) The DIY gift
The trouble with experiential gifts, is that they can be very expensive. However, thoughtful gifts do not need to cost a lot of money. You can sometimes make something if you have crafty talents that will be even more valued.
If you don't have crafty talents, you can still make great gifts.
Real Life Example: My husband is a big fan of this British Game Show, called Only Connect. He has said that it is his dream to appear on this show. However, only UK citizens are allowed to compete. Since I couldn't give him the gift of UK citizenship, my friends and I made a surprise version of the game show to be played at his party.
This gift cost nothing, except time, but created a lot of joy.
6) If you are still at a loss
Laundry detergent. Unless your friend has a laundry service, everyone needs it.
What do you buy people who are hard to shop for? What are the favorite gifts you have given?