I spent the better part of the fall sifting through, tossing out, and boxing up the things in my life to move from one apartment in my building to another.
So — at the risk of sounding like an ungrateful brat — I'm hoping that this holiday season, my friends and relatives think before buying me the tchotchkes they believe in their generous little hearts single women need and want.
Like the mugs stamped with girlie or snarky sayings. How many mugs does one girl need? And if I actually did have an overnight guest, what man would want to drink out of a ceramic cup scripted with: "One day we all end up sounding like our mothers"?
Also on the list: wine accessories. Please, just buy me a bottle of wine. And as for the change purses, pocketbooks, blank journals, and statement jewelry? I always, always regift them.
So in the spirit of mindfulness and downsizing — and the rebooted-for-the-holidays golden rule: "Give unto others what you would want them to give to you" — I'm hitting my people up with stuff I like to do: yoga classes and wine tastings, sharing a Flat White at Starbucks, or maybe going to a cupcake-making class.
This isn't about saving money. It's that after the tree is put away and we sink into the snowy doldrums of winter, people would rather have a nice pick-me-up than one more thing to clean up.
It's looking like I'm not alone when it comes to wishing my friends a happy experiential holiday. According to Long Island, N.Y., global information company the NPD Group, nearly 40 percent of shoppers plan to buy to-do presents instead of tangible ones.
"It's become the answer to the question, 'How do you buy something for the person who has everything?' " said Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief industry analyst. Cohen told me this is the first year NPD asked shoppers: Do you want to receive, and/or are you buying, non-tangible experiential gifts this Christmas?
"We started to notice the trend two holidays ago," Cohen said. "We asked people about it last Christmas, but this year we decided to track it."
We are leaning toward giving indoor skydiving experiences rather than Fair Isle sweaters for three reasons: We are downsizing our lives; social-media posts are more about what we do than what we have; and retailers — especially those in our own backyard — offer can't-turn-down deals and packages.
"There is also the fact that people are hesitant to spend money on an everyday luxury item for themselves," said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for DealNews, a shopping comparison website in Alabama. "Some might be into the idea of taking a cooking class or traveling, but may be hesitant to spend on such a luxury for themselves."
Our move toward the experiential holiday present has its roots in the gift-card-giving frenzy of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cohen said.
"The thought back then was, 'I want to give you something that you can relate to, but I can't figure it out, so I'm going to let you choose,' " Cohen said.
But while then-tween millennials and twentysomething GenXers basked in Visa and Abercrombie & Fitch gift cards tucked into their stockings, traditional gift-givers balked. It's lazy, they argued, to let people pick out their own gifts. What about the unwrapping of presents? Gift cards take the magic out of the holiday, they said.
Slowly, however, the shopping alternative went from extra to the main event.
It also didn't help, Sakraida said, that in the last five years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have offered too-good-to-be-true discounts on big-ticket gifts like electronics and household appliances. So instead of hoping Santa will leave a tablet under the Christmas tree, we expect it to arrive on our doorstep this week. (As in: Amazon, where is my Kindle Fire?)
"The under-50 crowd sees all of this and wonders how they can make their holiday meaningful," Cohen said.
And experiences win.
We in Philadelphia are among the luckiest experience givers and receivers in the bunch. Experiences range from the totally extravagant (yet utterly to die for) Cheese Journey in Chester County, which includes three days of unlimited cheese, wine, and beer pairings for roughly $2,000. (Can you say wish list?) This year, theatergoers may want a trip to the Kimmel Center to enjoy a production of Stomp. The dandy in your life might enjoy designing and receiving a custom shirt from local clothier Henry A. Davidsen. Those of us who love adventure can go rock climbing and take helicopter rides. Making pottery is a great gift to spice up a boring spring Sunday afternoon.
Me? I'm hoping someone will gift me a few hours in a sensory deprivation tank.
Indoor Skydiving at iFly in King of Prussia. Swallow your fear and layer up in the gear that will have you suspended in midair. Packages range from $70 for two flights for one person to $300 for 10 flights shared by five people. 290 Goddard Blvd., King of Prussia; iflyworld.com
Whether we're talking craft beer, wine on tap, or whiskey, friends who like friends can't help but enjoy a little taste. I hear Dad's Hat Rye offers tastings and tours at the distillery, 925 Canal St., Bristol. A one-hour tour and tasting is $10 per person; two hours will cost you $20. I'm looking forward to tasting the Maple Cask Rye Finished Whiskey. After all, this year, maple was definitely the new pumpkin spice.
From the best pedicures in the city at Rescue to a Natura Bisse Body Cream and Scrub at the Rittenhouse Spa and Club to the detoxifying back treatment at Life Spa at Life Time Fitness in Mount Laurel or King of Prussia, a good treatment does wonders. But I'm hoping one day to get to try the Ageless Skin & Laser Center in Sewell's new salt facial. The ultrasound technology and LED light treatment help with pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and is sure to help me chill out.
Give your family or your significant other the yummiest evening possible with a five-course tasting experience from Ocean Prime executive chef Jenn Grosskruger. The $2,500 price tag includes a personalized dinner menu with cocktail and wine pairings, chef demonstration, and travel costs.
A couple of my favorite yoga studios — like Priya Hot Yoga at 18th and Callowhill and CorePower Yoga at 18th and Walnut (where you can buy a $100 gift card for $80 right now) — will let you buy the gift of yoga. If the mover and shaker in your life needs a little more intensity, buy him or her classes at Center City's SLT or Soul Cycle, where a five-pack of classes will run you $150 and $145, respectively.