Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Why Sustainability Needs Minimalists

The direct correlation between sustainability and minimalism is pretty clear ― if we consume less stuff, we can sustain more resources and lessen the negative impact on our environment.

Americans are fantastic consumers, and it’s in our nature as humans to covet what we see. Advertisements are inescapable in our digital world. We’re now bombarded around the clock. And social media isn’t helping either, as we’re constantly comparing, judging, and coveting the lives and stuff our “friends” have.


It begs the question, how much is too much? And more importantly, what is the true cost of this stuff we can’t seem to get enough of? As most Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, living a more minimalist lifestyle can help decrease economic hardship.

That new, expensive dining room table your neighbor just purchased to replace another (that did its job just fine and didn’t deserve to be fired) may not have come directly from Borneo — but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t contribute to the pillaging of their forests and the displacement of native people indirectly. After all, that wood has to come from somewhere.

The problem is that it’s not about the table’s functionality. We could use four cinder blocks and a piece of plywood as a table. The problem is that we (privileged) humans use things, like that shiny new table, to temporarily fill holes in ourselves that can’t be filled in the long term. It’s like eating Chinese food and being hungry 30 minutes later. That table isn’t going to satisfy for long. Round and round we go.

This is why living minimally has less to do with sustainability and more to do with the roots of consumerism, the nature of a real community, and building social connections that can help close the inequality gap, and thus reduce our innate desire for stuff.

Minimalism as a Social Justice Issue

While privileged humans purchase and consume to quench their unsatiated hunger, the less fortunate are the ones getting hurt in the process. It’s always the poor who are most vulnerable. It’s always the most vulnerable who are most harmed by materialism and consumerism.

The native people losing their forest in Borneo have no voice. They have no power because money is the true source of power, and they’re on the wrong end of the consumerism paradigm. But according to Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College, this issue is more complex than materialism vs. minimalism.

“The cycle of acquisition and discard is getting faster and faster,” says Schor. And the reason behind it, or what’s really driving consumerism, is inequality.

There is always going to be someone who is wealthier, who is happier, and who has more than we do. And according to Schor, we’re using our purchasing powers to close these gaps and feel like we belong.

Schor says that Americans are wired for consumerism, thanks in part to our immigrant beginnings and racial inequality. However, anyone who has ever been abroad, particularly cities like Seoul, Korea, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, knows very well that consumerism isn’t just an American disease.

However, Schor is spot-on when it comes to humans passing the buck on the issue of consumerism by speaking in generalities ― WE are too materialistic as a society. WE need to consume less. “It’s the other person’s disease,” says Schor. Not our own.

Schor uses the example of neighbors sharing one lawn mower, rather than each having his own. It’s less about the impact of fewer lawn mowers being produced and more about building deeper social connections. Connections that can close this inequality gap and eventually reduce our desire for more stuff.

The deeper sociological issue revolves around finding true sources of happiness. According to Schor, this can and should be done through community-building. And as our desire for more stuff subsides, we’ll naturally become more minimalistic and more sustainable.

Consumption as a Personal Problem

According to Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard, one big reason for income and social inequality is that most people live in a bubble and are unable to see just how wide the inequality gap has become.

Since the majority of people only associate with others that are like themselves ― economically, racially, ethnically ― Norton recommends getting out of our comfort zones and creating relationships with others that span those divides.

At a minimum, doing this should result in creating more empathy and adding some much-needed perspective.

In 2001 I spent several months in India as part of a longer backpacking trip around the world. I’ll never forget how I found it odd that an Indian acquaintance, who served as my guide on occasion, always wore the same pair of pants. It didn’t dawn on me until later that he probably couldn’t afford a second pair. It also didn’t occur to me until much later how he didn’t really need more than one pair of pants. And how, for the most part, we wear clothes to look good for others, rather than out of necessity.

Having profound experiences like this, that take you from your comfort zone and place you into worlds much different from your own, is exactly what I needed and what Norton is talking about. It’s one thing to read about or talk about how others around the world live with less. It’s another thing entirely to see it and live it with them.

Happiness isn’t dependent on things. People who choose to live with less will often say how much happier and unencumbered they feel as a result. In the movie Fight Club, Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, says, “The things you own, end up owning you.”

It’s an amazing gift to truly see the difference between necessity and luxury. If you go down the rabbit hole deep enough, nearly everything becomes luxury. There isn’t much that we truly need. And when our desire for things lessens, we’re often able to find truer sources of happiness.

On a personal scale, this can produce magnificent changes within. On a societal scale, we reduce the cyclical and destructive game of seeing more and wanting more, which is always more destructive to those on the wrong side of the inequality gap — whether it results in losing a forest you called home for hundreds of years or losing even an ounce of self-worth because you cannot afford the things you see and want.

If you can get used to the idea of wearing the same pair of pants every day, you shouldn’t have any trouble bearing the idea of a community lawnmower. And from there, who knows what else you’ll be capable of?

Becoming more sustainable has never been easier than it is today, thanks in large part to technological advances in sustainable energy sources. But until we take more personal responsibility for the inequality issues that plague our world, and evolve to live more minimalist lives as a result, our desire for stuff will continue to oppose our sustainability efforts. Not to mention the immense harm it contributes to others, whether we choose to recognize it or not.

Hello from the Heartland!

Hi, and welcome to my first post at Mother Earth Living! I’m so thrilled to be able to join the other bloggers here and I hope you’ll come back and visit often. Since I'm new, I'll start by telling you a bit about myself.

I was born and raised in the Midwest. Over the years we moved often; however, the fond memories I had of my grandmother's home in the country always stayed with me. Her home was set on a grassy hillside bordered by a long row of fragrant lilacs and a creek running nearby. The woods on the hill provided endless chances for me to explore and each evening the songs of the whippoorwills would sing us to sleep. Even though I spent most of my growing up years in the suburbs, her country home always held a special place in my heart.

icy branch with red berries
Photo by Mary Murray

Fast forward a few years, and I'm off to college. I traveled to the Rocky Mountains for five years, returned home after graduation, married my sweetheart, and we settled into our first home. It wasn't long, though, before our apartment felt small...we needed to stretch our legs! That was the beginning of many Saturday mornings we'd pack a map, along with a picnic, and head out looking for a few acres of our own. My husband had grown up on a 100-acre farm, and I still had those warm memories of my grandmother's home, so it was decided that a farmhouse outside of a small, Mayberry-like town was what we wanted.

We finally found that home...an 1864 farmhouse on 10 acres. Although it needed quite a bit of renovation, the mahogany, chestnut, and red oak woodwork sold us. It was filled with craftsmanship from another time—a hand-carved banister, floor-to-ceiling windows, and 9-foot arched front doors with wavy glass.

So, we dug in our heels and began making changes. Carpet came up, flocked wallpaper came down, and plaster was repaired. As we continued to make this farmhouse our own, we named it Windy Meadows Farm, and welcomed a sweet girl and boy to our family…now that boy and girl are teenagers, oh how the time has flown!

Our farm is what's commonly called a hobby farm, and our 10 acres were originally part of a 1000-acre land grant for Revolutionary War service. We're so fortunate to be surrounded by family-owned farms that have been handed down from generation-to-generation. With room to roam, space for gardens and animals, it's now our turn to be caretakers of this home.

Along the way I've worked in the corporate world and had my own business. Once our children came along, I was fortunate enough to be able to work from home as a cookbook editor. These days I'm home full-time, chauffeuring kids, tending gardens, learning to spin and weave, and teaching myself to fiddle. I’m putting a retro spin on a 1963 Yellowstone camper named Maizy, and I usually have a camera in one hand and a cookbook in the other. On our farm you'll find a flock of chatty hens, friendly Nubian and Lamancha goats, a handful of barn cats, buzzing honeybees, and a trusty farm dog.

snowy frozen pine cones on tree
Photo by Mary Murray

I love old houses, wooden barns, and simple, old-fashioned ways. It's the country pleasures that mean the most to me: tying on an apron for Sunday dinner, barn sales & auctions, farmers' markets, county fairs, porch swings, and slow train rides. Add to these things the laughter of children, and I couldn't be happier.
And so, on this snowy winter day, I welcome you to my farm. I'm so lucky to be doing what I love each day. I'm happy you're here and I hope you'll visit often. When you do stop by, you'll read my thoughts on country living and get a peek at what we're doing. I'll also share some of our favorite recipes, family traditions, and show you the changes we're making to our farm along the way. 

Welcome to our farmhouse...life is good.

Mary is a Midwest farm girl who will tell you, “I love simple, old-fashioned ways. For me, it’s the country pleasures that mean the most ... tying on an apron for Sunday dinner, barn sales & auctions, farmers' markets, county fairs, porch swings, and slow train rides. Add to these the laughter of children, and I couldn't be happier!” You can visit Windy Meadows Farm here, Windy Meadows Farm.

Green Options For Gift-Giving This Holiday Season

The holidays are a busy time, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget about being environmentally conscious. There are dozens of ways you can incorporate eco-friendly decorating, travel, and gifts into the mix to make your holiday season festive, joyful, and better for our planet.

holiday decor on white table top
Photo by Sweta Meininger on Unsplash

Eco-Friendly Travel Around the Holidays or Anytime

Holidays are a time of travel. Some families choose to vacation instead of staying home for the holidays. Not all travel, however, is kind to the environment. Thankfully, more hotels and resorts are appealing to the eco-traveler with lots of friendly options.

When researching green travel destinations, be sure to ask some questions about how far their “green standards” go and if they have any certifications from an organization like the International Ecotourism Society. Preserving water by not washing linens each day is a start, but it’s not enough to satisfy most green travelers.

Africa, South America, and Australia offer some fantastic eco-lodges with low-impact tourism. These locales are unique because they were built from the ground up with eco-friendly practices in mind. If you plan on traveling stateside, Alaska, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Montana offer locally grown food in their restaurants, cotton linens, and recycles products throughout.

Environmentally-Conscious Decorating Ideas

This year forget about that fake tree. Artificial trees damage the environment, and more than 80 percent of them are made in China burning coal and then shipped to the U.S. on diesel ships. Fake trees are non-biodegradable and will sit in landfills for years. A better solution is a real tree which is all natural, fully biodegradable, and smells great. Another option is a live tree that you can bring in each winter, wasting nothing and enjoying year after year.

Instead of using traditional holiday lights, opt for LED lights which use less electricity (33 percent); they burn cooler, so less risk of fire; and they last a long time. When decorating your house, use sprigs of real garland and pine instead of plastic. A few added bows here and there go a long way.

Green Gift-Giving

For a unique gift-giving idea for teens and young adults, consider a metal detector under the tree this year. Go treasure hunting even in winter for recyclables under the snow and cleaning up trash around neighboring lakes and ponds. A metal detector is a gift that will get used year round, while also honoring an eco-friendly mindset.

Some other great eco-friendly gift ideas are a Nalu Reusable Sun Bottle that keeps plastic away from your water, smoothie or tea. Essential oils are all natural, and a gift set of toiletries infused with scented oils is a nice present many will enjoy. For the chef in your family, consider an organic bamboo cutting board or recycled melamine bowls in festive colors.

Hand-crafted gifts are the nicest to give and receive. The EPA suggests a great eco-friendly gift such as homemade edibles as they are thoughtful and offer an opportunity to utilize locally grown foods and recyclable materials. Additionally, if you are crafty and skilled in photography, painting, knitting or jewelry-making, you can give special customized gifts to everyone on your list.

Other Tips for Eco-Friendly Holidays

Remember when cooking, not to keep opening the oven door. It uses a lot of extra energy to reheat every time you do. Instead, use the oven light to peek through the window to see if your holiday feast is ready.

Winter can be cold, and it might be tempting just to turn up the heat. Instead, wear a winter sweater or use that nice throw you got for your birthday to stay warm. Your guests may enjoy it a little cooler also. When cooking and running around with gifts and kids, houses tend to warm up naturally anyway.

By implementing a few of these small changes, your holidays can be a wonderful time to be with family, share laughs and still help to save our planet.

Your Holiday Hosting Guide: 4 Tips for Prepping Your Home for Christmas

As the holiday season is upon us, your home will be filled with friends and family to celebrate this special time of year. Hospitality is so important in this fast-paced world, and there are some super easy ways to take your home to the next level of comfort for your guests.

1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Let’s be honest. As much as we love decorating and hosting for the holidays, it is a full-time job. From a million trips to the grocery store to making sure everyone feels at home, prep for company can be exhausting. That’s why the first tip in this guide is to chip away at your to-dos little by little rather than waiting 24 hours before they get to town.


A couple weeks before their arrival, carve out a weekend to get your house in order. Get your Christmas decorations up, hang the wreaths, and get your cleaning done. Next, think through easy meals to fix for your guests—things like chili and soup you can cook and freeze ahead of time. Head to the store a few days before your guests arrive and meal prep anything you can. Opt for paper and plastic so there is less to clean! The goal here is to plan ahead so hosting is as low-maintenance as possible and you can enjoy your guest’s company over their stay (rather than feeling like a slave).

2. Get Your Guest Bedroom in Order

Speaking of your guests, you are probably panicking a little thinking about the current state of your guest bedroom—aka the never complete house project. If you are like most people, your guest bedroom has become a dumping ground for all the items in your home you no longer have a place for. But considering you’ll have plenty of guests coming through over the holidays, you may want to give this space a little TLC.


Spending the holidays away from home isn’t always easy. So while you are working on your guest room, think of the people who will be sleeping there. Find a balance between hotel-like order and a welcoming, cozy ambiance. Make sure the bed has crisp, clean sheets, the bathroom is stocked with toiletries (and a couple of Christmas tree scented candles), and there are a plethora of clean towels in the linen closet. And although you may be tempted to focus on cosmetic touch-ups, focus on the bed. After all, that’s where your guests will be spending most of their time.

Let’s face it: no one likes sleeping on the 20-year old mattress that’s been passed down in the family for decades. And there is nothing worse than getting bad sleep consistently while on the road. Not to mention, sleep deprivation and in-laws is not a good combo.

The best way to ensure fun holiday memories with guests in your home is to make sure they get a good night’s sleep consistently. If it’s time for the mattress in the guest room to be upgraded, you are in luck! With the launch of online mattress companies like Leesa, Saatva, Nectar, and Casper, you can get a quality mattress for a very reasonable price! If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to begin your search, try reading reviews from real customers or side-by-side comparisons of different brands to see which suits your space the best.

3. Make Your Space Conducive For Company

If you have company coming for the holidays, your home is probably already an ideal space for hosting, but that doesn’t mean 40 family members won’t feel cramped in the living room trying to get in on the conversation.


When hosting for the holidays, taking a few small steps to create a welcoming environment goes a long way. Even the smallest spaces can be transformed into great hangout rooms for family and friends. Don’t be afraid to move around some larger pieces of furniture to make room for some extra seating. One way to create more than one hangout space is by placing extra chairs in different rooms so people will naturally congregate in those areas. It’s amazing how putting a little extra thought into the flow of your space can create a much more enjoyable experience.

4. Remember, It’s the Small Things That Make All the Difference

Keep in mind that it’s tough to be on the road for the holidays. Being a great host means thinking of all the little things your guests may have forgotten—extra toothbrushes, washcloths, deodorant, extra twin sheets for the air mattress.


It also means keeping things fun, especially if you have kids coming to stay with you! Keep board games easily accessible, make reminders for local holiday events around your town, and don’t be afraid of a little mess (whether it’s a million puzzle pieces on the floor or flour all over the counter from baking)! And always remember, the best way to a kid’s heart is WiFi! Create a small sign on your fridge with the WiFi password and network name. They will text you “thx 4 the pswrd” with at least four emojis.

Prepping your home for the holidays may take a lot of work on the front-end, but it will be worth the pay-off. You and your guests will both enjoy the company much more!

4 Thoughtful (and Unexpected) Gifts to Give this Year

Shopping for gifts is nothing less than frustrating and overwhelming. The recipient, whoever they may be, already has everything or doesn’t want anything. Talk about a pickle!

Forget giving them something they like, what about the pressure of giving something both creative and thoughtful? You probably already have a headache. That’s why we have done the brainstorming for you by coming up with four thoughtful, creative, and original gifts you should consider giving this year:


1. The Gift of an Experience: A Weekend Getaway

If there is one thing our culture is obsessed with, it’s experiences. So why not give on for Christmas? Since the launch of companies like Airbnb, weekend getaways are now more affordable than ever.

From mother-daughter trips to romantic getaways with your significant other, Airbnb has locations all over the country (and world for that matter) for just about any occasion. Not to mention, the prices outperform most hotels and create a more personal and private experience.


Pick a weekend and place and surprise your loved ones with a trip. Here is a list of some of the top Airbnbs in the U.S. Did you know you can even stay in a treehouse? How cool is that?!

2. The Gift of Sleep: A New Mattress

Did you know, your sleep is most likely to suffer around the holidays? That’s a scary thought considering proper rest is what gives us the strength we need to face the shopping center parking lot, our children’s ever-changing Christmas list, and god-knows, the in-laws.

Yet, lack of sleep is an epidemic taking the country by storm—research shows 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. And lack of sleep comes with slew of health issues, like an increased risk of high blood pressure, immunodeficiency, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.


Your mattress has a huge impact on sleep quality. You might say it’s the performance tool for getting your best sleep. But if your bed is over 10 years old, it’s likely hurting your sleep more than helping it. Although a mattress is a more expensive gift, the good news is the launch of online companies like Leesa, Nectar, Casper, and many more give you access to quality mattress for under $1,000. The best part is it’s shipped right to your door!

Don’t know where to start in your search? Here’s an awesome quiz to help you find the perfect mattress for yourself or the person you are shopping for! (P.S. there are some KILLER holiday deals going on right now.)

3. The Gift of One Less Thing to Do: A Meal Subscription Service

If you have a friend who works full-time, a mom, or a neighbor with children that’s close to you, this next gift might just be their saving grace.

After a long day at work, shuttling the kids around, or even running errands, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. By the time you go to the store, cook the meal, eat, and clean up, your evening is shot. Giving the gift of a meal subscription service might just be the best gift your love ones have ever received. Why? Because it gives them more than food—it gives them time back in their day.


A gift like this is made possible through companies like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Although you have to assemble the meal, there is no prep work or grocery store runs involved. You’ll have everything you need ready to throw in the pan! Subscriptions are customizable to how many mouths there are that need feeding and how many meals a week you’d like to order. Prices range anywhere from $48 to $119 depending on the frequency and size of your meals.

Even two meals a week for four weeks could be a wonderful gift and a huge blessing to friends and family.

4. The Gift of Quality Time: Date Night

The last one is for all you lovebirds out there.

Date night is important in any relationship, especially if you are married or in a serious relationship. Research shows going on dates frequently improves commitment, relationship satisfaction, communication, and parental stability. Yet, date night can often feel like a chore.

Can you imagine going on an amazing date that is affordable, creative, and requires little planning? You are probably such a thing doesn’t exist. Well, believe it or not, it does!

Date Night in a Box is a company that brings fun and affordable dates right to your door each month. No planning required. All you need is your significant other and the contents that come in the box. Amazing!

The average date night out costs around $100. Compared to a single date night in provided by Date Night in a Box which only costs $40. You can purchase anywhere from one date ($40) to a 12-month subscription ($464). Date night for 2019: check!

Hopefully you now have a good place to start on your holiday shopping! If now of these gift ideas fit the bill, hopefully they at least got your creative juices flowing. Happy shopping!

Conner Hats: Helpful Headgear for Your Outdoor Adventures

Nature just seems closer to your doorstep when you live in Kansas. And whether it’s a sunny, warm day or a gray-sky winter afternoon, there’s nothing like taking an outdoor adventure across the prairie, up a flinty hill, or in the creek bottoms. But before you take a step, it’s important to travel prepared. This includes packing a hat, an overlooked essential that many of us forget.

Conner Hats, an Australia-based eco-friendly company, knows the importance of a well-made outdoor hat. They’ve crafted numerous ones that keep your noggin protected and looking good for any adventure you may take, whether you’re at the beach or up in the mountains. We had the chance to experience Conner Hats’ well-made products for ourselves: on a rainy day in the woods, day-to-day work on the farm, and a blustery afternoon on the wetlands. conner-hat

Why Wear a Hat

Before jumping into our Conner Hats experience, here are a couple reminders on why it’s important to bring some headgear on your next trip:

Prevents heat from escaping: It is important to keep your body heat, and a hat does just that for your head. Conner Hats are made of high-quality materials made for the outdoors, and are able to keep your head warm during those cold days.

  • Protects skin from sun: Protecting your face from sun exposure is very important; aside from wearing sunscreen, a hat can prevent sun damage during a long hike. Conner Hats are designed for the outdoors and provide a good amount of shade.
  • Protects from bugs and debris: Hats have the very practical advantage of protecting your hair and head from any tumbling branches while outdoors, or from the curious insect who wants to say hello.
  • Extra storage space: Some hats come with small pockets built into the material, as you’ll read later about one of our Conner Hats, in which you can keep small belongings while outdoors. When you’re traveling, a hat is an additional storage space, too. You can tuck gloves, scarves, or other traveling objects into the hat when you're not wearing it.
  • Preserves visibility: Whether it’s your hair dangling in your eyes, rain splashing in your face, or the sun keeping you from seeing the trail, a hat helps with all of that. You can tuck hairs up to keep them from escaping; a brimmed hat will act like an umbrella and shield your face from rain; and just like if you were to hold a hand up to block the sun, a hat brim will do the same thing-- without the added strain on your arm.
  • Fun style: It might sound like the least important point, but feeling comfortable while hiking is important, and wearing a hat can look great and provide that overall hiking look.

Rainy Days on the Job

If you’ve watched our video, Hiking for Beginners, you probably noticed all the rain we had to battle while filming. Yes, we were cold and wet, but we were also pleased by how well our Conner Hats did in the rain! To give you an idea, the rainfall began almost immediately into our filming project and didn’t stop until after we left, which was about three hours in total. And throughout that whole time, we kept our hats tightly on our heads, letting the rain roll off the brims instead of soaking our hair. Despite it being a difficult day for outdoor filming, we had such a fun time delivering content to our viewers, and also appreciating how well our hats shielded our heads and faces.


Life on the Kansas Prairie

Living out in the Kansas prairie requires a lot of time outdoors, and having the right type of hat is an essential part of my routine. I find myself hiking, gardening, and doing other outdoor chores, exposing me to the elements. Finding the right hat-wear that could be versatile for all of the activities I enjoy was accomplished with Conner Hats. The Country Wool Outdoor Hat, made  from 100 percent Australian waterproof wool, is UPF 50+, and it was made responsibly with our planet in mind.

My country hat is a fun wardrobe piece that I have worn out in the rain and during our Thanksgiving gatherings. I am certain this is a classic piece made to last and ready for the many adventures I have coming up. Conner Hats has thought about everything, including a secret pocket inside the hat, where you can hide a key or an important small item you might need to keep dry and out of your hands.

I have worn my hat for several weeks now, and I can trust the handmade quality of Conner Hats. From the leather hat band and chin chords, to the warmth it provided during our hiking video for Mother Earth Living. I’m looking forward to the use of my hat on my next hiking adventure!

Successful Hike on the Windy Wetlands

A wide expanse of wetlands exist south of my home in Kansas, and on days when I need to spend some time in nature by myself, I’ll drive out there and hike the trails. Recently, I brought my Conner Hat along to test it out in the elements. The Bounty Hunter Water Resistant Cotton Hat definitely looks the part: a wide-brimmed, durable hat made to look weather-worn with its faded brown surface. I can just picture someone effortlessly slipping it onto their head with one hand and walking off into the sunset. It’s a hat that screams “adventure.” Additionally, it’s responsibly made, thanks to Conner Hats’ deep belief in planet-friendly production.

This bounty hunter hat came with me on the wetland trails. With all the pictures I took that day, it’s hard to forget how cold and cloudy it was, especially with the wind whipping around and changing directions. Not long after I started walking, I found the cold air making things difficult for my ears and neck especially, but this hat provided the solution. With its adjustable brim, the bounty hunter hat could bend its back brim over my exposed neck area and fold its sides down over my ears to keep both areas protected. Even when the wind picked up, I didn’t feel a threat of losing my hat, thanks to its snug hold on my head and the added assurance of the adjustable chin cord.

After spending a great afternoon hiking the wetlands, I was pleased to find that my Conner Hat kept my head warm and protected on that blustery day — and it’s definitely coming with me on my next outdoor adventure!

We want to send Conner Hats a huge thank-you for making this experience possible. We have enjoyed our hat adventures and hope you can take our hiking tips out on your next outing! We encourage beginners to plan accordingly and remember to have fun. Even if you are surprised by a little bit of rain! We made the most of our time, and our proper gear made our experience that much better. Until next time!

Make Memories Not Waste

Studies show that experiences bring more happiness to people than stuff. Anticipating an experience—a trip, an upcoming concert, dinner with friends—makes us happy before the actual event. In other words, we benefit from the experience before we actually experience the experience. Afterward, we have fond memories. And even if the experience goes badly, we still have a good story to tell, which also brings happiness when we regale people with it later: “Remember the time I caught poison oak on our camping trip because I made out in the bushes with that Richard guy?”

With the holidays—and holiday shopping—kicking off, here’s a list of experiences that some of your loved ones may appreciate. No wrapping required.

Entertainment and Leisure

Yosemite getaway
A weekend getaway in Yosemite

Sports: Tickets to a sporting event, lift tickets, skating rink passes, yoga class passes, gym memberships

Cultural: Tickets to the symphony, ballet, opera, museum

TLC: Spa day, massage, haircut and style

Travel: Weekend getaway, campsite fees, train tickets

Online subscriptions: Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, the New York Times


You can never really go wrong with a food gift:

  • Give homemade anything: cookies, cookie mix, candy, cake, kombucha
  • Create “coupons” for favorite dishes that the recipient can redeem at a future date
  • Invite friends out for dinner and pick up the tab
  • Throw a dinner party as your gift
  • Make a reservation at your dream restaurant. Friends of mine ate at The French Laundry this summer to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The Gift of Learning

kimchi workshop
Fermentation workshop

I came up with lots of ideas for this section and want to do most of them now:

  • Dance lessons: tango, salsa, ballet, jazz
  • Music lessons: piano, violin, voice, drums, guitar
  • Photography lessons
  • Knitting classes
  • Sewing classes
  • Weaving classes
  • Pottery classes
  • Painting and drawing classes
  • Meditation classes
  • Cooking classes, including fermentation classes
  • Horseback riding lessons
  • Skating lessons
  • Surfing lessons
  • Flying lessons
  • Skydiving lessons (okay I have zero desire to do this but my brother used to enjoy it)
  • Scuba diving lessons
  • Sailing lessons
  • Lecture series

hockey skates
Skating lessons for a new skater or a rusty skater

Gifts ONLY for Someone You Know Extremely Well

Personal trainer. I wouldn’t suggest you spring this on a friend or family member out of the blue, but if you know someone who would like to get started with a personal trainer and perhaps can’t afford it, consider setting this up for them.

Session with a dietician. I would love this as a gift. Also, it may help me convince the people close to me to eat better. The advice would come from the dietician, not me, so they may actually listen.

Session with a financial advisor. As with most of the suggestions in this section, know the recipient well. If someone close to you has said, “My financial life is a mess. What shall I do?” or “I can’t get out of debt, for the love of God please help me,” you could help.

Session with a business planner. Know someone who wants to start a business and needs help getting started? Pay for a meeting with a business planner.

Personal organizer. Whether they have piles of papers everywhere that need to be filed away, or haven’t had time to arrange for a handyman to fix the broken shower drain or simply need someone to go grocery shopping for them, the overwhelmed, overworked and harried person on your list may love this one.

House cleaners. You don’t want to insult your messy hoarder brother but his apartment is filthy. Hire housecleaners for the day to clean it up. Try to find independents rather than use a service that pimps out housecleaners, pays them next to nothing and keeps all the profits. If you’re a better person than I, clean your brother’s bathroom yourself.

Therapist. Reading this suggestion, you may think I need therapy for suggesting it but please hear me out. A lot of people are worried about losing their healthcare coverage. If you know someone who can no longer afford therapy and wants to continue, you could pay for a session or two if you can afford it (therapy isn’t cheap).

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