Stop Buying Stuff and Start Doing Stuff.
It had been years since I’d seen my South African family. As we sat around my parent’s dinner table, we took our usual stroll down memory lane—more like a hike of the entire province. Later that night, a thought struck me. On those rare and precious occasions when we were together, we always talked about shared experiences. No one ever reminisced about the beautiful swimming pool, or garden, or what car our dad drove, or well, anything like that. We talked about the time we broke down in Mozambique, or the time when I cried because the Trafalgar Square pigeons kept landing on my head. I vowed when I had children, I would fill their lives with memories that they could then recount in years to come. My lofty vow became a reality when we moved to the US and we had to make hard choices. A trip to Disney World or a new kitchen? Replace the hideous wallpaper or see the Broadway show. There wasn’t money for both, and the experiences won every time!
My family’s approach is not our unique idea, but in this Amazon age, I think we all need to embrace it with urgent enthusiasm. For the first time in the history of man, we can order almost anything from virtually anywhere—the curse of the One-Click button. Without leaving our sofa’s, we get an alert a relative’s birthday is coming up. Next, we flip to a website, qualify our search and exactly 5 minutes later, we have chosen an item, requested gift wrap, added a card, and voila, off it goes. Any thoughts of that special person were lost in the process. Christmas gifts become a list-filling exercise, executed while cooking the evening meal.
As the years passed, and my own little family grew up, our choices became less restrictive—we could do both. We were able to buy nice things and do fun stuff. But what do we take pix of? What stories do we dine out on? Certainly not how elegant the new silver-grey dining room scheme looked. No, we pore over pix of us zip-lining, hiking, trying strange foods, and bob-sledding. Years later, we still laugh about the time the Dune Buggy broke and the rest of the tour group went off without us. To this day, we laugh at the memory of taking the wrong bus and ending up in a teeny town in the middle of Tuscany.
Look around at those you love, and I’ll bet the greatest gift you can give them is spending time together doing stuff, making memories. So, when you next wrack your brain for a gift idea, stop! Does your best friend need yet another scarf or would she rather you two visited a flower show or a comedy club? Does Grandpa really need another fishing-themed gift from the grandkids, or would he rather they spent a day together at his favorite fishing spot? The joy of a new sweater, candle, or coffee mug will fade, but the memory of an early morning hike lasts forever.
We all have too much stuff, and the world is drowning in the garbage produced when we get tired of the stuff. Flip that mental switch from acquiring things to making memories. I guarantee we will all be happier.