Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The present experiment

As a person who is trying to escape from the overwhelming and crushing weight of her Stuff, I view the holidays with a certain level of trepidation.  It is the time of year when people buy my kids Stuff (it has a life and energy of it's own, so I'm treating it as an entity). Each year, they get piles of things that get played with a bit, then end up cluttering up the place until it goes away (either to a charity or to the garbage).

Heather, of all people, who has as much Stuff as me, offered an interesting alternative to holiday Stuff.  Since her mom has Alzheimer's she has had to reprogram her behavior in many ways to deal with her mom's illness.  One thing experts suggest to families of Alzheimer's patients is to avoid focusing on objects and present opportunities for experiences.  Heather is now giving experiences rather than gifts.  Not only does this prevent more Stuff from entering the collection, it also builds memories, something which has become even more precious to us in recent years.  My husband and I were immediately intrigued and began discussing how to implement this idea.

I've convinced my mom to try this idea.  rather than giving toys that the kids will outgrow, she's giving a membership to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (Shh! The kids don't know).  Not only does this provide us with opportunity for family time and something fascinating and fun to do, it is also giving the kids a piece of my past.  Our family trip to the Aquarium was one of my favorite family vacations.  My brothers still remember the manta rays and jellyfish.  That experience left a impression on us as kids, and now, my kids get to build their own memories there.

Last night, I placed my order for the kids' gifts.  All of them are experience based: books (which I consider experiences  in spite of the fact that it involves an object), experiment kits, and a trip to see "Rise of the Guardians" at the movie theater.  I'm spending less (especially on stuff that won't last long), not bringing tons of stuff into the house, and I feel more positive about my holiday gift giving.

What would your holidays look like if you found a way to give experiences to your loved ones?  Would they appreciate the idea?  I feel very strongly that people need to move away from mindless consumerism, and this has, so far, been a really positive move away from that.  I'm including a list of experience ideas in this post.  The possibilities are really endless, and almost anyone's lifestyle could be accommodated.  Happy Holidays!

  • Concert or convention tickets
  • Museum, zoo or aquarium passes
  • Contributions to a dream vacation
  • Tuition for continuing education or enrichment classes (My city, and the ones nearby offer a wonderful array of classes and workshops at pretty reasonable prices)
  • Gym membership
  • Craft supplies (I have a friend who knits, and in lieu of paying her cash for knitting my kids hats, I bought her more yarn, so she could make a few hats to sell at a local craft fair. It also keeps her from being bored)
  • A day at a spa (or a basket full of things to do an at home spa day)
  • Movie, opera or theater tickets
  • Gift cards or certificates for meals, especially family owned restaurants
  • A donation to a favorite charity in the recipient's name
  • Books


  1. OMG! That is a great idea!! This is the first year I have had all of my holiday shopping done insanely early and I was thrilled with that.... until now. Hahaha. I have missed your posts. I am HOPEFULLY going to get back to blogging regularly and reading again. The semester is finally almost over and I think I am caught up with everything. fingers crossed. I hope you had a wonderful Samhain and Thanksgiving :)

  2. Sandi! We've missed you. Didn't mean to deflate anyone's pride, just thought I'd share an idea that seems to be working. Happy Holidays and good luck with the end of the semester, I certainly don't miss that drama.


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