Have you noticed a trend to “live with less”? The holidays can be challenging if you're someone who wants to live with less. You want to minimize what you're bringing into your life and home. Also, you don't want to contribute to others' clutter. If you have a “minimalist” on your list, they probably haven't told you what they want for Christmas. Other than practical gifts like boring socks and underwear. That's why we decided to give adventure gifts this year! Better than shopping mall gift cards or piles of tchotchkes! By gifting an adventure you can help someone make memories, try something new, and maybe even have an adventure. What's more precious than giving of your time or a memory? Here's why we're giving adventure gifts this year:
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Why Adventure Gifts?
A few years ago, I went through some life-changing events that rocked my perspective on things in my life. You know, the house, the clutter, the scrapbooks and all the things inside. I wrote several posts about how I stopped being a craft hoarder and the process of purging, while being more purposeful in what I bring into my home. The thing is, this idea isn't new. It's actually a trend among millenials to have fewer possessions and instead focus on having relationships and experiences in life. From the tiny house movement to traveling lighter. There have been a plethora of news stories, blogs, TV shows and books on how to live with less. Just look at the success of the KonMari method and Marie Kondo's “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Book!
Even my own home decor style has gotten more minimal. I just want things to be clean and easy. Less mess/maintenance/clutter/stifling/difficult. A few years ago this mantel would have been covered with things. This year for Christmas, I went really minimal with our Christmas mantel decor. By re-purposing non-Christmas items to round out the look, I didn't have to buy or pack away much:
If you're trying to live a life with less, you know not everyone in your life is on the same page. This can make receiving gifts pretty challenging, but it can also make giving gifts difficult. You don't want to fill up a pretty gift bag with a bunch of stuff that someone is going to toss out, bring to the thrift shop, or sell at a yard sale in six months. On some level I don't want to continue to toss money into the giant retail monster… but that's a story for another day!
Also, I don't want to receive a bunch of stuff I don't need, want and love. It's hard to graciously accept a bag of stuff I don't want to deal with. No matter how nice, thoughtful, amazing and expensive it was. The STUFF, the big pile of things I need to move around and store. The stuff I feel guilty about never using and hold onto because Aunt Ethel gave it to me. The weight of those feelings, baggage, and physical items are something I no longer want in my life. But the people who care about you want to give AMAZING gift you'll love! So rather than tell them “no, I don't need anything”, I had to come up with something that allowed them to give me a gift I'd love and allowed me to graciously accept it.
Even if you are not a minimalist yourself, we all have that “person with everything” on our list. For me, it's my dad. Not only does he have everything he'd ever want or need, he has the means to buy whatever he wants or needs. His wishlist is usually filled with extremely expensive items. There's no middle ground for those of us on a budget. We usually end up getting him a box of chocolate covered cherries and a cheese and meat log from Hickory Farms. It's not very exciting to open these gifts for either of us anymore. There's got to be something between buying a $1000 iPad Pro and giving him the same lame Queen Anne cherries, that frankly, are bad for his health anyways.
This is where giving the gift of an experience of an adventure gift comes in.
Getting The Family On Board – Adventure Gifts vs. Traditional Christmas Gift Ideas
One Christmas my husband and I looked at the piles of gifts under the tree and realized we were totally out of control.
There's no reason to bring this much stuff into our home. We are only four people! Most of these items ended up in yard sales, thrift shops, or even in the trash within a year. It was such a waste and there was so much we could have done with that money instead of getting STUFF. We vowed never to let that happen again.
This year, we decided to go a different direction with our holiday wishlists. Sure, we still had THINGS on the lists. But we also asked the kids to think about experiences they wanted to have and add those to the list too. We told them to think about places they wanted to go, events or shows they wanted to see, and any kind of activity that wanted to do. It's taken a few years to get to this point and get buy-in from everyone in the family. It's a work in progress.
The ultimate phoning-it-in-for-the-holidays is to just give gift cards. Because it's too hard to get a gift they'll love, so I'll just give them money to spend at a store. This is really true when buying for teens. We all know we'll royally eff it up and buy the wrong color, style, and size. Or totally miss it by buying from the wrong store. “Oh, Abercrombie & Fitch is so 2013. Okay, noted. Thanks. Yes, your Auntie is a total failure. Got it.” Or you don't put ENOUGH money on the card for them to get the one thing… you know, I just can't win with these things!
Giving a gift card is just one step above handing over a wad of cash and gift cards aren't even fun to give. That's why a couple years ago, I wrote a whole post about ways to make giving gift cards more exciting. Because, well, it's not very exciting to get a gift card as a gift.
When I first brought the idea of adventure gifts up to my extended family, I got resistance. A LOT of resistance. Then for a few years we all decided to stop buying for the adults and just get gifts for the kids. It wasn't a decision I really liked but I accepted it. The reason for this was the same reason why I want to give the gift of adventure. Because we all can buy what we want and whatever gifts we do get just adds to the clutter. It's taken a while to convince my family, but this past Father's Day something amazing happened.
For Father's Day Xaver said he wanted to go on an adventure up Highway 395 here in Southern California. We all piled in the cars and drove up to Manzanar and Lone Pine, CA. We decided to try to stop at ghost towns and attractions along the way, go as far as we could, and then come home. When my dad heard about the trip, he wanted to go too. We had already gifted him a bottle of cologne he wanted, so we figured with the trip we were good on the gifting side of things.
It was the most fun! We stopped in a few sleepy ghost towns and went to the Wild West Film Museum in Lone Pine. We toured Manzanar and stopped at a National Parks gateway to Death Valley, hiked among the obsidian, and saw the ruins of old charcoal ovens from the early 20th Century. Finally, we ate lunch at a great barbecue place in Lone Pine and headed back home. That trip will be remembered for years and years. But I can't remember any of the other Father's Day gifts I've gotten for my husband or my dad. And that's something I can say for most Christmases and birthdays as well.
If your family doesn't want to give up things in favor of adventure gifts, start by mixing physical gifts with adventure gifts. Start with a holiday that isn't as intense as Christmas, maybe Father's Day. Go on an adventure with the family instead of buying a gift. You don't have to stop giving physical presents because you've decided to give adventures. After talking with my family, this was the biggest fear: a let-down under the Christmas tree. Because of that, we decided to mix things up. You can also make receiving the adventure gift exciting by sending the kids on a scavenger hunt to find it. Or wrapping the adventure gift inside of a physical gift. For example, tickets to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World could be wrapped in a Harry Potter boo, or pair of Harry Potter socks (I love those practical yet fun gifts *wink wink*).
Making An “Adventure Gifts” Christmas List
After the family is on board, it's time to make a Christmas list. We tell the kids to write out everything they want, even the most crazy dream idea. Then we tell them to write out all the things they wish we could do. We tell them money is no object, time is no issue, and these can be things they do on their own, with friends, or with family. Really let them go wild with the ideas they want!
The adventure gifts our kids asked for this year were really surprising. Who knew they wanted to do so many cool things? And get this – all of these are more affordable than buying that huge pile of stuff we had under our tree 5 years ago. We started doing research on the adventure gifts our kids want and you know what? This is going to be the best Christmas ever. I have 3 gifts wrapped under the tree and haven't set foot in a shopping mall this entire month. I feel relaxed and excited about Christmas. It's the most wonderful feeling this time of year! Oh yeah, and my bank account has money in it and my credit cards are not maxed out. Who would've thought?
We've lost a lot of the meaning and impact of giving gifts with all of the consumerism in our lives. Xaver and I saw it a few years ago. We still give gifts and want to get physical gifts. I already have gifts for under the tree. But we're buying more meaningful and useful gifts and putting our focus on giving adventures over things. Next week, I'll be posting a gift guide for giving adventure gifts or experience gifts that we found in our research for the best adventure gifts this year.
What are you giving this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!