It’s that time of year where we all turn our minds to the holidays. It is a time we’re supposed to spend cherishing loved ones, family, and friends. A time we are supposed to sit back and relax, to take a break from the stress of everyday life. Unfortunately, most people don’t feel that way about the holidays anymore – it has become a time where we feel obligated to meet all sorts of expectations, like finding the perfect gift for everyone, traveling far to see relatives, and spending time with extended family. A 2016 study indicates that 84% of consumers feel stressed out gift giving during the holidays.1
And what’s the point? Americans are accumulating more and more stuff, while facing the mental health issues that living in clutter can cause. Only 3.1% of the world’s children live in the United States, yet we buy 40% of toys produced globally.2 But we’re not just buying for our kids! Only 12% of the world’s population lives in North America and Western Europe, yet these regions account for 60% of private consumption spending.3 The $100 billion Americans spend on shoes, jewelry, and watches is more than we spend on higher education. Where does all this get us? Homes that have tripled in size in the last 50 years (which cause stress due to maintenance and upkeep), 62% of people with two-car garages can’t use one or more of the stalls, and 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage.4 Unfortunately, the amount of stress we experience at home is directly proportional to the amount of stuff we have accumulated. Clutter overloads our senses, robs us of mental energy, and leads us to feeling anxious, tired, and overwhelmed.5
So where do we begin to break the cycle? The holidays are a great place to start! First of all, don’t give in to Black Friday. Join the #OptOutside campaign and pledge to spend some quality time with family and friends in the great outdoors the day after Thanksgiving. Your mental health will thank you for skipping the stress that is Black Friday! We’re lucky to have #FreeParkFriday in our state, meaning everyone gets FREE access to Minnesota State Parks on Black Friday! Once you’ve had time to clear your mind, think about being a conscious consumer this holiday season.
One of the most important parts of the Holidays, especially as we age into a reflective time of life, is the experiences we have with friends and family. This time is one of the best and biggest gifts we can give to ourselves and others. As you begin to put some gift ideas to the names on your list, consider some ways to give a gift beyond “stuff”.
A great experience to share with friends or family members is taking a class together. Local Community Education offerings often include cooking and/or crafting classes or specialty classes like photography. Check out your local winery to see if they offer any classes on wine-making, or better yet, wine-tasting! Arboretums and nature centers may have snowshoeing or cross-country skiing classes so you can spend time together outdoors.
Gift certificates and memberships make wonderful gifts as well. Give a family with small children a membership to a children’s museum or science museum. A night of baby-sitting services for those families would be much appreciated, as well! For the teens in your life, movie gift cards are always well received. Or, find out when their favorite singer/band is coming to town and buy tickets for them and you to attend.
Most of us can recall very few of the actual gifts we were given, but quality time spent with friends and family makes memories that last a lifetime. This holiday season, think about ways to spend time instead or in addition to “spending money”. Share you favorite experience or activity gifts below!