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« For Amelia | Main | The True Source of Christmas Cheer »
Wednesday
Dec192012

Gifts of Experience (Instead of Stuff)

Our family is going to enjoy a simple Christmas this year. Or, as I like to say, we’re getting back to the basics. We arrived here by accident and through intention. I know this doesn’t really make sense. So, I’ll explain.

For the past few weeks, my husband and I have had on-and-off conversations about simplifying life to help our toddler cope with his burgeoning independence and head off temper tantrums. We suspected that his introduction to movies, growing collection of toys, and resistance to naps all had one result: overstimulation. So we had to cut back on the “extras” to help our son—and our family—regain our balance. Which meant clearing physical and mental clutter and, thus, less stuff for Christmas. 

Even if we weren’t already planning on fewer things under the tree, we would have woken up to the same because I have yet to do my holiday shopping. With less than a week to go, this is a personal recipe for disaster. I absolutely hate last minute shopping. It feels like a waste of money or buying for buying’s sake instead of selecting that perfect gift for your best friend or husband. Consequently, the usual present buying isn’t going to happen this year.

These two developments aren’t going to make me go “Grinch” or “Scrooge” on the entire holiday itself. I’m more inspired to come up with meaningful and clever ways to share my love and appreciation for everyone. True, there may be a few gift cards for those who are close to my heart but live far away—and I promise they’ll be to a favorite spot. But I’m otherwise focusing on giving gifts that give back and gifts of experience.

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be a turning point in adulthood where you just don’t need or want as many things for the holidays. Of course, I’m not shunning presents altogether. It is nice to be pampered every once and awhile. However, that thing called “maturity”… or maybe it’s having kids … changes your feelings about how the season should be spent. Which is why certain friends and I donate to charities in each other’s names for the holidays. We’ve given gift certificates to participate in Kiva’s micro loan program or to Donors Choose so one can support a classroom of her choice. We’ve donated to the Children’s Defense Fund, Surfrider Foundation, and Nest. There are so many options to support a cause that is near and dear to your friend’s heart. 

Otherwise, I love to give experiences. This can be as simple as going out for a girls’ night dinner in place of a gift exchange to hosting a chick flick movie night with dinner and a sweet treat. Or you can get creative and plan a French-themed day for you and your Parisian-loving friend to enjoy—eat breakfast at a local French bakery, go to a museum and enjoy the impressionist paintings, then enjoy coffee and glass of rosé, followed by dinner at a bistro. Kids will absolutely love a day dedicated to public transportation—spend a Saturday using your local buses, trains, and metros to get around town making stops at their favorite places around the city. Consider museum passes, cooking classes, wine tastings, a pottery lesson, or even a trip. If you’re looking for more inspiration, Oh Happy Day offers up a great list of 10 experiences to give instead of stuff.

What’s been the most surprising gift you’ve received that wasn’t wrapped in a box?

~ The Other Sarah

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