Collect moments, not things

On March 30th, 2016

collect momentsWhen I was little, there were collections in my house. There were matchbox cars, Smurfs and Disney figurines. At sleep-away camp, I collected sea glass – blue was my absolute favourite. There were memories and happiness in those collections, but what I realized, was the happiness came from the experience of actually finding those things and sharing the moments with loved ones. It was a reminder of family trips to Disneyworld® and summers spent with friends while wandering along the beach. It was the act of collecting, far more than the stuff that made the biggest impression. By capturing those memories in minds, stories and photographs, the experience is relived countless times. What if we all spent more time collecting moments, memories and experiences in lieu of things? How would we (and our society) be different?

’The journal Psychological Science … expanded on the current understanding that spending money on experiences “provide[s] more enduring happiness.’  -James Hamblin, MD: Buy Experiences, Not Things

In the last few years, studies designed for small groups have made it into the mainstream media. The New York Times and The Atlantic have both run articles regarding happiness studies and experiences vs. materialism. All day long, social media explodes with jpegs and memes enticing bloggers, Instagrammers, followers and Twitter® fanatics to embrace the moment, follow their dreams and seek experiences to bring out their happy.

When I graduated from high school, two different people gave me two different books. One, Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go, and the other, Barbara Ann Kipfer’s 14,000 Things to be Happy About. While one used the ever-popular classic rhyme to showcase life’s endless climbs, possibilities, experiences and motivational moments, the other took bullet points to new heights. If I remember correctly, I spent hours highlighting and starring experiences I knew which already made me happy and others I longed to try in the future. Both books are still in my possession today (along with my sea glass finds).

’Though it seems counterintuitive, it is physically permanent stuff that evaporates from our minds. It is memories in the ether of our consciousness that last a lifetime, there for us to enjoy again and again. ’ – Arthur C. Brooks: Abundance without Attachment

My husband and I would probably fall into a category of ‘experience junkies’. For birthdays, milestones and the ‘every day’ we choose experiences over things. Sometimes it’s a large-scale travel adventure while other times it’s a local beach picnic. It could be an ‘at home’ movie night, s’mores on the terrace, star-gazing, a hike, live theater, a sporting event, a memorable evening of laughter with friends and family or something as simple as reading together on the couch. Experiences are like those gifts you made your parents as kids…often they’re free, created with love, come from the heart and are recalled for a lifetime. Maybe it’s a tradition you build, a travel adventure, dessert night with your friends’ kids, an afternoon at the beach with your nephew, a day spent outside with a family member or date night with your love – these are the ‘things’ you take with you.

’You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences. We consume experiences directly with other people, (says Gilovich). And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.’ -Jay Cassano The Science of why you should spend your money on experiences, not things

You don’t need suitcases to carry memories. Moments and photos never go over a luggage allowance, nor do they require an expensive storage unit. There are no taxes levied on memories of experiences past or on ones you’re dreaming of in the future. There’s no age limit on fun, no height requirements on laughter and no 401k plan need be drained for the afternoon or weekend you spend creating lifetime memories. It doesn’t have to be large in size or price to hold in your heart. No government entity or individual can ever take them away from you. You’ll relive them over and over again. You’ll smile each time you remember. You’ll feel as if you were standing in that magical moment more times than the original budget required. Collect moments – they’ll stay with you for a lifetime.