Choose Experiences Over Things

by Nov 20, 20214 comments

There is nothing that can equal the treasure of so many shared memories.


Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Share Experiences

Learn. Discover. Challenge.

Today we are to-thirds of the way through our 30 day Minimalism challenge and we have covered a lot of material related to making intentional choices. Thoughtful considered decisions do so much to improve quality of life and increase happiness. Being clearer about what you want to have in your life often changes how you want to spend your money and your time. When was the last time that you had fond memories directly because of an item you purchased? Things might give you pleasure but memories come from experiences. That is why spending money on experiences can be a more satisfying experience.

Better Memories

You undoubtedly have things in your home that make you happy but material possessions rarely bring lasting memories by themselves. You might reflect fondly on a special gift but your attachment often comes from the source of the gift because of your connection with that person or place, often because the giver knew you well and the gift reflected your values and priorities. Carefully chosen material things bring happiness are a good investment and help us live in a calm and comfortable environment but they rarely what we remember about shared moments. Experiences can be more satisfying and prove the source of stories and laughter for many years. It is rare that stuff offers such lasting pleasure and entertainment value. Any enduring stories about things tend to relate to the interactions with the people in your life. For example, a chair might be a source of family entertainment because of the time that two brothers tried to claim it at the same time and it tipped over backwards with both competitors, who somehow managed to topple without spilling their beer.

Instead of a new decor item consider investing in a trip or show to share with people you enjoy. Experiences also make great gift ideas – and the best part is you don’t need to worry about getting the right size or fighting crowds of shoppers.

Less Clutter

This is a recurring theme in discussions around minimalism and simplifying. As we have been seeing during this blog series, physical things end up taking space in your life and home, often without bringing you any benefits. As you become more intentional about your choices, you probably discover even less need for new things due to an increased desire to be more selective about what things you do want to bring into your life. Experiences like travel, outdoor challenge, and learning activities add variety and discovery without creating physical clutter around the house.

More Mindfulness

Mindfulness relates to being present in the moment, taking the time to appreciate what is happening as it happens.  Objects can make you feel good but rarely bring true happiness in the long run.  On the other hand, new and shared experiences tend to help you be present and engaged.  It is hard to go through the motions when you are involved in activity and connecting with others and, therefore, you are more inclined to appreciate and remember those experiences.

More Gratitude

Chances are that any gratitude you might find from finding a great sale or a unique clothing item will be short-lived. Sure, you will be glad to have those items and the ability to buy them or take advantage of good prices. However, it will rarely lead to long and lasting gratitude. By contrast, experiences create connections, memories, and other benefits which contribute to more positive energy and a deeper sense of gratitude. Unique and day-to-day experiences help us to build the life we want and, with that, more opportunity for gratitude. And gratitude and abundance are closely linked, as you can read in this recent collaborative post from some talented guest writers Thoughts on Gratitude, Abundance and Mindset.

Great Gift Ideas

Experiences make great gifts.  Many people are realizing a desire to simplify their lives and focus on time with friends and families. More people are choosing to bring less into their homes. As we approach the holiday season and thinking about gift-giving, we want to get people gifts that have meaning and create memories, maybe combined with a chance to connect with friends. Gift cards for experiences or special wish list items can be welcome. Taking the time to choose ones that are related to personal interests are always best. A thoughtful gift is an expression of care that recognizes your receiver’s values and priorities. Experience gifts can serve that purpose and give people something to look forward to in the future

Here are some ideas for where to get experience gifts. Some of these examples are specific to but chances are that you can find very similar listings for any area. I especially invite you to support local businesses and organizations because it is a way to build your community and encourage people to be visitors in their own neighbourhood.

Unique Local Experiences

Finding special experiences that even locals might not know about is really fun for givers and receivers.  A good place to look for these is through local tourism, like this list from Nova Scotia Tourism Unique Experiences in Nova Scotia, which is helpfully sorted by category.

Club or Society Memberships

Special interest group memberships are always welcomed by hobbyists – annual memberships to artist guilds or special interest societies offer a network of like-minded people and usually a collection of resources to build skills and knowledge, all while supporting causes that are important to the receiver. 

Local Craft Markets

26 Christmas Markets & Holiday Craft Fairs in Halifax – 2021

In addition to unique and quality gifts, vendors offer many items to contribute to an experience package that you assemble yourself. You can typically buy many custom food gifts or beverages to support a festive gathering or to accompany related gift certificates. Warm toques or mittens are a bonus for a planned winter outing. Wooden charcuterie boards can be a practical and meaningful part of family gatherings.

Create a Bucket List

Try planning a fun travel itinerary for friends. It could be a long journey or a series of day trips and you can start them off with a gift card for a recommended area. A bucket list of local suggestions can be fun for families to build on each year. Start with a listing like this one  20 Things To Do in Nova Scotia from, where you will find lots more bucket list suggestions.

Whether you are looking for a gift for someone who likes adventure or someone who prefers more gentle pursuits, you can find unique experiences that they will remember for a long time. Much longer than a trinket or another pair of jeans.

Take Action

Experiences have the potential to bring much greater joy and happiness than material possessions.  They can be customized for any individual interest. And investing in experiences complements a minimalist lifestyle. 

Challenge Questions for Day 20

What type of experiences do you most enjoy?  Do you usually do this on your own or with friends and family?

Do you like giving experiences as gifts?  Why or why not?  Will you be giving experience gifts this holiday season?  If so, what type?

What is your favourite type of experience to give (or to receive)?  Why? 

Declutter Challenge for Day 20

Shoes, bags and other accessories

Organize, reduce, donate or recycle.

Collect from bedroom closets, drawers, entryway areas and any other places these things might be dropped or stored

Photo by Cliford Mervil from Pexels

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


  1. Dr.Amrita Basu

    Less clutter helps me too .I agree about gifting experiences. They are the best.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I’m with you – I love giving – and getting – experience gifts. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Paul Taubman

    So true, Mary Elizabeth! My birthday is coming up and wife asked me what I wanted. She said, “Rather than get you something, let’s do something – I want to get you an experience this year.”

    We have been clearing out the space, clearing the clutter, and giving away great “stuff” just to clear it out.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      Thanks for your comment, Paul. That sounds like a good birthday idea. Did you pick something or are you getting a surprise? My birthday is in December and I have been sending my husbands links to classes that I would love to take. Hopefully, he will take the hint.
      We’re also busy trying to reduce and get stuff to a good home. It is a process for sure and our holiday gift-giving plans this year are keeping with that strategy.

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