Are Experiences Better Than Things?

Memories, stories, historiesMillennials may be onto something. They prefer experiences over things. Why? Experiences not only are fun but they’re meant to be shared on social media.

Science supports their point of view. To do or to own. Material v. experiential purchases. The paradox of possessions assumes, wrongly, that happiness we gain from buying new things will last as long as the items. A 20-year study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor at Cornell University, concluded that we should not spend money on things. “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

He further posited that experiences are an ingrained part of us. They become stories to share. Experiences don’t last as long as things but they make us happier. Things lose their novelty. Memories last a lifetime.

The major gift-giving holidays will be here soon. The conundrum? What do we get for people on our gift lists if we don’t want to add to their stuff? We need to think differently.

Channel your inner millennial and gift experiences! To jump-start your creativity, here are some ideas.

  • Movie tickets
  • Theater tickets
  • Concert tickets
  • Sporting event
  • Restaurant gift card
  • Hire a personal chef
  • Overnight or weekend getaway
  • Zoo, aquarium or museum pass
  • Day trip
  • Adventure (white-water rafting)
  • Dinner cruise
  • DIY class (cooking, painting)
  • Travel
  • Gift of the month club (flowers, wine, fruit and more)
  • Bucket-list item
  • Round of golf
  • Spa treatment
  • Activity (snow- or water-skiing, tubing)

Options are only limited by your imagination. Be sure to post photos on social media to show others what you’ve done lately.

Despite Dr. Gilovich’s theory, if things do bring you happiness and you can’t quite make that leap, compromise: spend some money on experiences and some money on things.

As an organizing consultant, I think most of us older than millennials (myself included) have Too Much Stuff and we should consider limiting what comes into our homes. I have space for all my things but, over the years, I’ve realized that I no longer use, need or want a lot of it. If you can relate, it’s time to downsize.

 

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