Why Experiences Trump Things and Bring Us Closer

Friends Dancing

“Every experience, good or bad, is a priceless collector’s item.” ~Isaac Marion

Last year was a thrilling one for my sweet boys, ages eight and eleven. Thanks to birthdays, Diwali, and Christmas, they were fortunate enough to receive most of the things they’d been begging for throughout the year.

As we sat on our couch on New Year’s day, I asked them what their best memories were from 2014. Surely, I thought, they would rattle off the highly anticipated iPod touch or the Giants jersey that topped their wish lists.

But much to my surprise (and my joy), my younger one said, “my birthday party.” Really? Your birthday party?

He was referring to the “baseball party” in our backyard with his friends. The one where an hour before it started, the skies opened wide with torrential downpour, forcing seven active boys to play in our tiny playroom until the storm turned into a small drizzle. That one? Oh. Cool.

Surely my older son, our tech freak, would have a tough time deciding between his Nexus tablet and favorite Wii game to top his best memory. So I was even more taken aback by his follow up. “Our trip to New York.”

Now, keep in mind that we’re originally from New York, so a trip home is not about Broadway shows and FAO Schwartz. It’s about hanging out with our family, specifically their cousins, in Westchester. It’s where we barbeque, meet friends, hang out at the pool, and watch movies. Pretty much what we do in our home, but with family we don’t get to see very often.

Their responses were so unexpected. Hadn’t they just received everything they ever wanted a week earlier? I guess not.

It’s no surprise to hear that experiences mean more than things. Material items bring us immediate yet fleeting joy. But it’s the memories and the feelings that stay with us forever. Then why was I so shocked?

For some unexplainable reason, I thought my kids were different. But even at a young age, they, like their parents, proved that it’s their experiences that mean the most to them.

And it doesn’t have to be week in Disneyworld or a cruise to Hawaii. It can be a fine homemade meal or even your crockpot dinner, served on your fine china.

It could be something others use to create their own experiences, like a gratitude journal or conversation jar.

It could be a shoulder massage on your couch or a wine tasting in your kitchen.

It could be as long as year’s worth of dishwashing or as short as a scavenger hunt in your backyard.

It could be as a grand as a meditation getaway or as simple as meditative app.

Because when you think of a specific person in your life, your first thought isn’t, what did they give me? But, how did they make me feel? That sense and impression is what stays with us.

Emotions, whether good, bad, or indifferent, are immediately brought to the surface when something reminds you of someone. Most “experience” gifts evoke a distinct feeling of love, care, and thoughtfulness—and stay with you long after a physical item has been worn out or forgotten.

And if the gift is an event you can both participate in, it becomes a shared memory, something far beyond what a physical gift can offer.

In our world of instant gratification and everything at our fingertips, it’s not difficult to get what you need. But in our hectic pace of life and in the frenzy of consumption, our experiences can fall short. We can add to peoples’ possessions or we can choose to add to memories they’ll hold onto forever.

So, as occasions arise through the year for gifts, awards, and other reasons for gratitude or celebration, I’m thinking about how I can swap out more stuff with more experiences.

How I can put my time, energy, and money toward a thoughtful event and create a recollection instead of another physical item in their life.

I want to give memories, knowledge, and skills to help my friends and family explore or re-discover pleasures in life.

I want to help someone overcome a fear, and join them in a ski lesson, or check off an item from their bucket list, like a pole dancing class.

I want to make their ordinary day extraordinary by whisking them away with a bottle of wine and picnic blanket.

I want to cast a ray of unexpectedness in their workday by delivering a gourmet meal to their office.

I want to stop cluttering lives with more stuff and start expanding minds with more memories.

I want my kids to always remember experiences as their best time of the year.

I want to make friends and family feel. I want to know I helped them experience life.

What experience can you create for someone this year?

Friends dancing image via Shutterstock

About Mridu Parikh

Mridu is an Organization and Simplicity Expert for people who are tired of feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. And when she’s not simplifying lives, bringing calm to chaos, and streamlining time and tasks, you can find her indulging in wine, zumba, pre-adolescent laughter and scheming her next video “punchline.” Prepare to get uber motivated and take action with Mridu’s FREE 5-day organizing series.

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