Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Last Minute Gift Idea: Pooling Resources for Getaway

Today’s guest post is from Christine Hsu, a San Francisco-based organizational consultant (more info at Organized by Christine). She gives a great last-minute (or future) gift-giving idea for families who feel overwhelmed by the idea of finding the right gift. By focusing on experiences, not stuff, Christine shows how families can save time, stress and money while forging deeper connections with one another. 

In years past, I dreaded buying Christmas gifts for my husband’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law, all of whom live nearby.

Getting gifts for my niece and nephews was a no brainer. It was the adults that posed the challenge. My husband and I never knew what to get them. They already had everything they needed!

We didn’t want anything from them either. All three households were forever trying to get rid of STUFF, not accumulate it. We all felt like we had too much stuff as it was.

Worse yet, the time we spent trying to find that perfect gift was stressful and agonizing.

Last year, I wanted to do something different, but I was hesitant. Who was I, the newest member of their family, to suggest that we stop what had been a long time family tradition?

Then I read a NY Times article entitled “But Will It Make You Happy?”  which stated:

Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness.

And that got me thinking…

Rather than six adults spending up to $100 on each person, why not pool our money together and go away during the holidays on a family retreat? We would be giving each other the gift of quality time together and great memories that will last forever. What could be better?

Not knowing how the family would react, I ran the idea by my husband first. His initial response, “I’m not sure…”, wasn’t too promising. So I decided against sending out a group email to avoid giving anyone an opportunity to shoot me down too soon. Instead, I reached out to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law first and included the link to the NY Times article to make my case. With their buy-in, I figured we could persuade the parents should they resist for whatever reason.

As it turns out, my “divide and conquer” strategy wasn’t necessary. Not only did everyone love the idea, they were as relieved as I was at the prospect of not having to look for gifts that none of us needed, thankful at not having to accumulate more stuff in our respective homes, and excited to be going away on a family trip!

We found a beach house rental on VRBO [Vacation Rentals by Owner] within driving distance that had no Internet and no TV (imagine that). We stole away for 3 days and 2 nights over the holidays. We cooked together, cleaned together, played games together, worked on puzzles together and just hung out and spent quality time like we never had before.  In fact, we had such a wonderful time that we are doing it again this year and have made it a (new!) family tradition.


The idea of forgoing Christmas gifts with the adults in my husband’s family and spending quality time together on a getaway trip instead–for the rest of our lives–just thrills me to pieces.  “No more exchanging gifts, promise?!” I asked last year, in disbelief that this was really happening.  “We promise!” they exclaimed. And so it is.

I feel so strongly about life editing that I started a home organization business in the San Francisco Bay Area to help other people lead happier and more productive lives. I’d love to share my story. 🙂

Christine-HsuIn addition to her home organization business, Christine is also the founder of ORIENTED.COM, the largest network of its kind worldwide for international professionals interested in Asian business and partnerships.