How I’ve Shifted to Buy Experiences Not Things and I’m So Much Happier

A few years ago, our family decided not to go all out on Christmas gifts, instead focusing on creating experiences and memories together. And let me tell you, it’s been incredible. I rarely remember gifts from past years, but I always remember taking a trip, traveling together, and doing things as a family. And to top it off, this time of year is no longer filled with the added stress of holiday shopping the way it used to be.

What I love most about this tradition is that the philosophy around buying has slowly transitioned to my life as well, especially during Covid.

While I’ve been spending time at home, I’ve had plenty of time to overanalyze everything about my place from my closet, interior decorating, random things I’ve hung onto, things I’ve misplaced, all the way down to spending hours on design sites trying to find a new couch and understand just what my aesthetic actually is—things I would’ve never given much time or attention to before.

Thankfully, a change in scenery helped put everything back into perspective. I’ve been going to Colorado since I was young, and when I’m there I always feel a shift, energetically and physically. I’m reminded of what is most important to me, and it’s not the things I own, it’s being outdoors in nature, pushing my body (which always keeps me grounded), and having fun. Aside from gear and what it takes to get to the mountains, being outdoors costs virtually nothing.

As my friend and I were riding bikes through the mountains one afternoon, I thought about how happy I was in that moment, outside, experiencing a new way to enjoy Aspen, and doing such a simple thing: riding my bike. Thoughts of shopping, spending money on yet another black dress I don’t need, and a closet full of clothes I barely wear came rushing through my mind. None of those bring the same kind of happiness that pushing my body into the great outdoors does.

Then images of @Pattiegonia’s Instagram feed came through my mind. If you follow them, you know they are huge advocates and supporters of making sustainable choices and not over-consuming. I started to do the math and think about how many “Aspen trips” I was sitting on in my closet.

When I came back home, I went through my closet and filled up three large ThredUp bags for donation. I took inventory on everything I had, noting, aside from anything super specific or things that need to be replaced over time, I don’t need to own anything immediately. But what I do need is more adventure in my life. More time outdoors where I truly feel the happiest. More time pushing my body, stepping away from screens and online carts, and creating new experiences and memories with friends (when it’s safe to do so.)

I also started asking myself these questions before buying:

  1. Do you have something similar already that you could use?
  2. Will you be able to upcycle, recycle, or donate the item after its use?
  3. Where else could you use that money? (When I ask this, it’s typically on larger purchases and because I’m considering home buying/children, I need to weigh up the priority)
  4. Do you actually like it or need it, or are you trying to fill a void? (I definitely treat myself, but I also know I’ve purchased things because I felt a lack in other areas, so I check myself)
  5. How would you feel if you didn’t purchase it?
  6. Can you find a similar item and support a small business instead?

As I head into a new year, I’m excited to see how this shift in spending truly morphs into experiencing more new adventures outdoors, pushing my body, discovering more of the world, and more about myself. I’m operating from a place of feeling in control of where I want to prioritize not just my funds, but my energy in this life.

Do you value experiences over things? How has covid changed your perspective and reframed your thinking? Share them with us below.

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