I'm the first to admit that I tend to go a little bit out of control at Christmas time and buy them all kinds of new stuff. Unfortunately, most of that stuff gets forgotten within a few weeks and only serves to contribute to the clutter in the house. I've seen it happen time and time again, yet I never seemed to learn my lesson.
Last October, I did a decluttering challenge. It felt so good to get rid of things and start clearing some breathing room in the house. I noticed that many of the things I was getting rid of were gifts I had given the girls that weren't used much, if at all. This made me a little bit sad, but it also really opened my eyes.
Giving my kids gifts was contributing to the clutter problem.
And the clutter problem was contributing to my overwhelm. There was simply too much stuff to manage all the time. There is STILL too much stuff to manage all the time, if I'm being honest. I still have a lot of decluttering to do.
But I finally realized what a disservice I was doing to my children by giving them things. And I realized I had two choices—both good ones:
1. Downsize the gift giving
2. Start giving experiences instead
We had already planned a trip to Hawaii for Christmas last year, but I fear that if I had not done this decluttering challenge I would still have gone overboard with stuff-type gifts. Instead, I decided that we would have a very small Christmas materially and Hawaii was going to be the big gift.
It was difficult for me—I love Christmas shopping—but I did it! And I learned a lot in the process. This year, I have bought less stuff for the kids and for myself. I'd much rather plan experiences for them, anyway. Planning for a mini-vacation is way better than Christmas shopping! Who knew?
5 reasons experiences are superior to stuff:
Memories outlast stuff. I do not remember many of the gifts I received as a child. But I do remember the time my mom took me to see "Annie" on the big screen. We went with several other mothers and their daughters, we dressed up, and we even ate at a nice restaurant before the movie.
Experiences educate us. My children have had the opportunity to see many parts of the country, and have learned so much in the process. Visiting a national park and participating in some of the Junior Ranger programs is far superior than learning about the same park in school or out of a book. I find my kids remember more about the places they've been to and seen with their own eyes than they have the ones they only learn about in books or at school.
Stuff causes clutter. I don't think I really need to say much about this. I hate clutter. I can't stand devoting so much of my time to managing a bunch of stuff we really don't need. I am still working to rid myself of a lot of it, but I am determined to stop bringing it into the house.
Experiences teach our children to be less self-centered. Gifts of stuff can engender selfishness or entitlement. When they are gifted an experience instead, they are usually required to share that experience with siblings and/or parents. It helps them to start thinking of each other and how they can enjoy time together instead of having an item that only belongs to them.
Stuff bogs us down, experiences lift us up. Studies have shown that people who spend their money on experiences instead of more things are actually happier. The excitement of having the latest and greatest gadget wears off quickly compared to the high we get from a new experience.
Experiences encourage us to be more active. In general, the stuff my children receive are things that encourage them to sit a lot as they use it. This is totally my fault, but so many of the prime items on kids' wish lists today are technological gadgets that don't exactly inspire exercise. Experiences, on the other hand, help us to get out and see the world. It can be locally or on an extended vacation, but we are much more likely to be active while redeeming an experience gift!
I love how the experiences we have provided our children—whether they be vacations, special dates with parents, seeing a play or a concert, visiting a museum, paying for lessons, or going on a hike—have improved our family relationships, taught them new things, and made unforgettable memories that will be with them forever.
One experience gift that kids will always love is a vacation—to Disney, for instance! Book your Southern California package through Get Away Today and get an extra $10 off with the promocode "Overstuffed"
This post is part of my 31 Days to a Happier Home series.
To see all the posts in this series, click here: 31 Days to a Happier Home
See the linky parties I link up to here.