53+ Ways to Give Experience Gifts Instead of Stuff This Year

In the midst of holiday gift-giving, I can’t help but think how well-intentioned gifts can lead to more stress, for both the giver and the receiver. My family has really embraced a minimal lifestyle, so we decided to give experience gifts instead of material ones as often as we could. After a few years of trial and error, this is now the norm… and the results are amazing!

An experience gift can be easy to arrange and thoughtful, even if it’s last minute. They’re also rewarding to both the giver and receiver. Going to the movies as a family, taking a painting class, or learning to scuba dive are priceless memories or skills that last a lifetime.

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Do We Have Too Much Stuff?

Joshua Becker is my favorite expert on the topic of clutter and minimalism (see my interview with him here). He shares some sobering trends on his Becoming Minimalist blog.

Consider this:

  • The average American home has over 300,000 items in it.
  • There are over 50,000 storage facilities nationwide. This is the fastest-growing real estate segment!
  • At least 4 in 10 of us have a storage unit to store our excess stuff.
  • There are three times more storage facilities in the U.S. than the number of Starbucks!
  • There’s enough physical space for every man, woman, and child in America to stand in U.S. storage facilities—all at the same time!

Why Give Experiences and Not Stuff?

Those staggering statistics wouldn’t worry me if it seemed the excess stuff improved our lives in some way. But that isn’t the case. Statistically, we’re not happy. Over 54% of us report being overwhelmed with clutter, and 78% of us have no idea how to overcome it! There are tons of topics on organizing and decluttering out there to help us deal with all of our stuff and the stress it causes us.

Thomas Gilovich, a researcher at Cornell University, spent more than a decade on the subject. He explored why experiences contribute more to happiness than stuff. He found that experiences are a uniting factor. You’re more likely to bond with someone who enjoys the same hobby or has traveled to the same places as you.

Even the anticipation leading up to a family trip, event, or experience has the potential to give happiness. This makes it the gift that keeps on giving! Happiness in anticipation, during the experience, and in the memories. Beats the heck out of a pile of toys you trip over while tucking the kids in at night!

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