This Aunt's journey in gift giving. Experiences vs. Stuff.

A 3-part series; experiences or stuff for kids. Blog 1/3.

I spend so much time talking about clutter and the affect it has on our lives.  I know it, you know it, we all know it. Clutter is a big deal because clutter kills chi. As a parent, it's never too early to teach your children to keep things organized and clutter- free and to introduce the principles of feng shui.  

Over the last few years I've had the great privilege of experiencing this myself by working with my nieces and nephews. In the beginning they didn't get the feng shui concept.  What they did get was the actions we took: de-cluttering and purging their rooms, re-arranging their furniture so energy flowed better, and applying feng shui cures to their rooms. Since then, we've seen successful outcomes in bed wetting, grades, social behavior, and sleeping.  

Kids are smart and responsive, but information is not always well received when it comes from mom and dad.   Occasionally an objective, trusted outsider is the best messenger. In the case of my nieces and nephews, their parents and I set the ground rules, and then the kids and I went to town.

The first time I did this, we began with some serious purging. I quickly noticed that we were spending a lot of time addressing their stuff—and there was so much stuff. It was a light-bulb moment when I realized clutter is not just an adult affliction.  Man, do we get started young: toys, stuffed animals (a category unto itself!), books, clothes, knick-knacks (knickknacks! I ask you, what kid needs knickknacks?!) and so on. Some of these items enjoyed a nice long life and were well loved. The majority were barely used and took up valuable space.  

According to Karen Kingston, author of “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
"One of the most important things to instill in a child is confidence.  When children feel loved, secure, and happy, they don't have such a reliance on 'things.'  Empower them by teaching them clutter-consciousness at an early age so they don't become the clutter-holics of the future."

I realized as we were going through these things that many of the items were given to them by me and my hubby.   I’m embarrassed to admit it; but in the beginning it was about finding the coolest presents to ensure our places as coolest (read: favorite!) aunt and uncle.   That purchasing mind-set has obviously changed as I've continued to deepen my feng shui knowledge. Unfortunately I was not aware of the reality of the short, short life-span of the stuff we'd given them and therefore, my own contribution to their clutter.

It’s an interesting dilemma each year picking out Christmas presents for our beloved nieces and nephews.  We no longer go for volume and or toys (well…maybe a few Legos).  Now we look for gifts that are functional, helpful to mom and dad’s budget and/or experiential.  Yet let’s face it. We still want them to like what we give them and live in fear that the ‘cool’ title is still at risk!

Right before the holidays I read a great post called Give Experience This Holiday Season by Trent Hamm. He wrote about giving gifts that were of an experiential nature versus just "stuff".  I loved it!  It inspired me to experiment and do something a little different with my two oldest nieces. 

The oldest has officially entered the teen years and the youngest is eight going on 21.  They share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom and each has her own sink with one cabinet underneath it.  That is it.  No drawers, no shelving, nothing for storage.  Until now they had camped out in their mom’s bathroom – after all of these years she was ready to have them and all their stuff GO. AWAY.   

With this in mind I came upon the perfect Christmas gift, if I do say so myself. We gave both of them a functional and experiential gift in the form of a certificate, “A Day of Fun with Aunt Robyn, Uncle Bob and Eliza”. Eliza is Eliza Cantlay of Simplicana; organizing extraordinaire!  Each niece gets one hour with Eliza, plus all the storage items they needed for their bathrooms—as dictated by Eliza.

What do you think? Do these young consumers feel gypped they didn't get more stuff to open or do they “get” the gift?  

Tune in next week for the gift reveal!