This weekend, we celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday with a party at my niece’s house. My siblings and in-laws who live nearby did a beautiful job orchestrating the day to be just what Mom wanted — a house filled with her family and close friends, beautiful flower arrangements, delicious food, yummy wine, and plenty of space in the day to allow her to visit with everyone.
Leading up to the big day, I was contemplating what gift I wanted to give my Mom. I’m not one to add clutter to someone’s life so I do my best to be very thoughtful in my gift giving. In fact, I prefer to give time or experiences over things.
My sister, Michelle, must have been on the same wavelength because she shared a fantastic idea: for each of Mom’s children to arrange an outing for the two to do together. Since there are so many of us, we were able to set up a special experience for Mom for each month of the year!
Here are some of her adventures to come:
- a day at the New England aquarium (Mom LOVES animals of all kinds)
- afternoon tea at the Four Seasons in Boston
- a visit to a local wildlife sanctuary to learn about the amazing work they do in rehabilitating injured animals
- a paint night (www.paintnite.com)
- cruising down to Newport, RI with my brother in his convertible and having lunch by the water
- a weekend at my other brother’s lake house
- a movie in a lux theater where you can drink and dine while enjoying the film
- broadway shows
- dinner and drinks at her favorite restaurant
This gift has so many layers of joy rolled into it — special time together, the opportunity to experience new things, and created memories that will last a lifetime. And no clutter piled up in her house!
We often hear about how time spent together is so much more valuable than things. That’s because experiences stay with you longer than the initial rush of receiving or buying an item. That rush subsides and then we’re looking for the next fix (hence the excessive amount of consumerism resulting in excessive amounts of clutter).
A great example of this is when a new iPhone is released. Prior to the announcement of a new model, chances are your current model was just fine. But now that there’s a new one, your current one seems like a relic and causes you frustration instead of the convenience it provided just yesterday. That is the fleeting satisfaction of an object.
Whenever my mother-in-law is asked what she’d like for her birthday, Mother’s Day, or Christmas, her answer is always the same: “The gift of time.” Her favorite gift is when her family is all together, even if just for dinner. She always prefers that over things.
Now think back to some of your favorite memories and I’ll bet you think of fun days with loved ones, new places you visited, or performances you saw. I doubt purchasing that dress or camera made the list.
When we focus our energy on experiences instead of things, we nurture an important part of ourselves that longs for connection, engagement, and growth. As a result, we feel more plugged into life, open to opportunities, and willing to take chances. And what happens next? You begin to Live Out Loud: manifesting your dreams, feeling more joy, and spending less time on struggle and more time in the flow.
So the next time you’re jonesing for some retail therapy or there’s a gift-giving occasion, think about how you can give yourself or your loved one the gift of time. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
What kind of experiences would you give to a loved one? Or to yourself? Let’s chat in the comments below.