The One Way to Value Experiences Over Stuff This Holiday Season

Everyone talks about it, but hardly anyone is able to stick to it. We all want to make this holiday season more about love than about gifts. Why is actually doing it so much harder than we thought?

Gift-giving has been part of our society from the time we were born. Most of us grew up with the anticipation of a mountain of gifts arriving near the end of the year. Whether we behaved well or flunked a few grades, the gifts were a comfortable and exciting respite from the rest of the year.

I’m 26 years old, and I don’t live at home anymore — but, early Christmas morning, my mother still wakes up in the middle of the night to put out gifts in hopes of a morning surprise. I wake up in my house down the street and rush over as soon as I open my eyes, joining my siblings and parents in all out gift-unwrapping extravaganza.

When I look back at all the holiday moments I’ve spent this way, I started thinking…

Why do we express love through material goods?

About a year ago, I discovered the phenomenon of showing love through food. I had fallen victim to this my entire life, but I had never become aware of the situation. Why do we bake cakes for friends or bring home some chocolate for mom? I’ve been guilty of this so many times, but I never realized it was a habit that isn’t healthy for anyone!

Why build a habit of equating food with love? 

After I became aware of what was happening, I was able to more closely identify when it was happening and stop it in its tracks. I don’t want to equate giving love with giving a dangerous sugar-high, so I started removing food-related gift-giving and started giving more books, instead.

This got me thinking, though… If it’s not food, why books or other material goods?

The running shoes my husband gifts me don’t make me love him any stronger. Kind words and support in the important moments are much more meaningful to me.

The new iPhone case my dad picked out for me is beautiful and thoughtful, but it’s his advice and fortitude that I cherish most.

I know I’d rather have a hug than shoes, so why have I always shrieked with glee when opening gifts?

Give that which will last forever.

They say that the last few moments before we leave this life, a person’s existence flashes before their eyes. We’ve heard this in stories, movies, and more. What’s amazing is that we never stop to think that these flashes of memories never include scenes of material goods and stuff.

In general, the human being values experiences more than material goods — we’ve just forgotten this somehow.

Through the mainstream media, we’ve been taught to follow a consumerist culture. We’re not onl sold iPhones and luxury handbags. We’re sold the happiness that comes along with owning them.

In reality, human relationships thrive on experiences more than goods. 

I cherish the feeling of hitting a home run and running around the bases — not the baseball bat I held in my hand.

I cherish the feeling of finishing my first book — not the laptop I used to write it.

I cherish the feeling of gaining a lifetime partner — not the ring my husband put on my finger.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The value of any experience is measured, of course, not by the amount of money, but the amount of development we get out of it.”

Gift experiences this holiday season.

Give memories. Gift the things that enrich the soul. Give that which will incite happiness and love.

If we choose to change things up this holiday season, who could we make happier?

Bio: When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live every day as if it’s a vacation, she turned her attention to creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting. Now (as an author, entrepreneur & speaker based in Nicaragua), Marcella guides those who want to quit their jobs, live their dreams, and live a vacation that never ends at The Perpetual Vacation.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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