No one told me that parenting would come with so much stuff. It starts with the baby registry, the claustrophobic sense of overwhelm as you stare down forty-five varieties of pacifiers and sixteen different shapes of breast pumps and thirty-seven different material blends on baby blankets. Each choice brings its own anxieties. Did I pick the right one? What does it say about me? Will my baby be safe? Happy? Comfortable?
Later, though, the philosophical gives way to the pragmatic. You stop worrying about whether you made all the right consumer choices and end up with only one question left: Where am I supposed to put all this stuff?!
Many of us have come to that point of absolute chaos and made some much-needed changes. We pared down the toy shelves, went to the library more often instead of buying every new book, and created capsule wardrobes to simplify morning routines for both ourselves and our children. We thought we had a handle on the stuff, but then the holidays came.
Even the best-laid plans for simplicity can be thrown asunder by the magic of the holidays. First, there’s the pressure to make sure that the holidays are perfect, and that often includes a bunch of presents (perfectly wrapped in coordinating paper, of course) under the tree. Then there’s the fervor of wish lists and outright begging spurred by the onslaught of television commercials, pop-up ads, and circulars full of brightly-colored toys slipped through the mail slot. Finally, there are the thoughtful and well-meaning distant relatives who want to show their love but have no idea what your child actually uses and enjoys.
The end result? A whole lot of stuff. Again.
If this sounds familiar and you’d like to come out of this Christmas season without having to wade through a mountain of wrapping paper or finding a pile of forgotten (and now outgrown) toys in the closet that you put away for “later” in two years, then consider gifting experiences instead of things this holiday season. Why? Here are my four reasons.
Experiences Over Things
- Experiences mean more. Psychologically, experiences have a better impact on us than things. One reason is that experiences are often shared while things are often used in isolation. Having people around to enjoy a shared experience makes us happier overall. In addition, the memories of experiences often outlast the things we buy. This is especially true when those things are children’s toys that are too often faddish, prone to breaking, and easily outgrown.
- Experiences can extend way beyond the holidays. Many of the most expensive and sought-after toys this holiday season will be unwrapped on Christmas morning and relegated to the bottom of the bedroom closet by mid-January. Experiences, however, can be doled out in small portions over several months or a whole year. Signing up for a recurring class or getting a membership to a museum is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Experiences can be free! While plenty of experiences do take a bite out of the budget, many are free! Giving “coupons” for things like a special evening out or even a favor or chore can be an inexpensive way to provide a token of appreciation and love.
- Experiences don’t take up any space! We’re not the only ones who can become overloaded by the holiday madness. Our kids, too, can become overwhelmed with all of the gifts piling up around them. Even if they’re excited on Christmas morning, they can become distraught over trying to keep their rooms clean or trying to keep track of all of the pieces of each toy later. Experiences help keep the clutter to a minimum, allowing our spaces to be more organized and our kids the room to really see, appreciate, and—above all—use the items that they do keep.
Here are some ideas for experiential gifts that would be great to give this year:
- Zoo Membership
- City Museum Membership
- Circus Classes
- Art Classes
- Cooking Classes
- Botanical Garden Membership
- Magic House Membership
- Baseball Game
- Theatrical Performances
- Movie Tickets
- Trampoline Parks