The Gift of Time

I have been in a sort of minimizing mindset over the last year, and that has made me reconsider my gifting habits. I think a lot longer about what I might want when gift-giving holidays come around, trying to be wise about my choices and not ask for anything that I won't really use, and I spend a lot more time carefully planning and choosing gifts for others. We all likely have things in our homes that we don't use, like, want, or need. Gifts from others sometimes can contribute to that. Although we know the gift-givers always mean well, we so often end up throwing unwanted gifts away or donating them after the holiday season passes (or during spring cleaning years later, depending on your style). This year, I wanted to personally challenge myself to rethink gifting and inspire others to also consider choosing gifts more wisely.

As the holiday season approached this time around, I endeavored to create presents that felt more personal than just things decided upon and picked out quickly and without much thought put into them. I wanted each gift to be specially chosen for its recipient, and I chose to give some people experiential gifts instead of just tangible things.

My extended family decided a few years ago to stop exchanging gifts and instead give of our time. We began an annual tradition of packing meals at Feed My Starving Children around the holidays, and we spend our Christmas day playing games together and eating too much delicious food.

Our focus is no longer on how to pack all the presents in the car to take them home, figuring out what things we need to hold onto the receipts for, or thinking of where we're possibly going to put everything. Instead, we get to turn our attention to enjoying one another's company free from the stress of gifts. We do exchange white elephant gifts as part of our new tradition, but it's more about playing games together and getting a good laugh out of the kinds of things we find to wrap up than it is about the gifts themselves.

As much as we all have loved getting tons of presents every year, my family and I have agreed that the most special ones are the ones we've been able to share-- things like our trip to Walt Disney World last year, or our tickets for Joyful Noise Family Fest. As our schedules become more and more hectic and difficult to align, we have begun to really cherish our time together. Because of this, I wanted to give some of my nearest and dearest the gift of time spent together.

For instance, I gave my dad popcorn, an assortment of boxed candy, a movie, and four customized tickets for the rest of us to join him for a movie night whenever he wants. We've been giving him movies for a long time, of course, but I thought it would be a fun twist to incorporate the movie into a night spent together as a family.

For my best friend and fellow winter weather sufferer, I put together a coupon book of adventuring ideas, themed after winter activities and Christmas carols. The book included things like roasting chestnuts on an open fire, decking the halls with boughs of holly, walking in a winter wonderland, and building a Parson Brown snowman. I hope that with some ideas to get us started, we can come up with ways to enjoy the season despite our aversion to the cold weather.

For my mom's birthday in early January, I put together a jar full of mother-daughter date ideas. I looked up some lists online for inspiration, choosing things I thought she would enjoy. I included vouchers for a movie date, spa date, shopping date, lunch date, crafting date, and sort of a wild card-- a "you choose" date. I look forward to seeing what she chooses to redeem first, and I think we're going to have a blast getting together to try some new things and pursue some old favorite hobbies together.

I was really excited to give each of these gifts to their recipients because I had put so much more thought and energy into each and every one of them. It was as if more of my affection and appreciation was being communicated by these gifts than ones I could have more easily picked up off the store shelves, like a part of my heart was given to them as well. Feeling that pride and excitement was all the reward I needed for my efforts.

How do you feel about giving the gift of time and experiences instead of tangible things? Do you have other ideas about giving others the gift of time spent together?