I think it’s the perfect gift for the holidays.  But how will my son react when he finds out where I’ll be sending him for the next five days?

Recently I took a cold, hard look around our NYC apartment to assess the cause of its great untidiness.  I discovered that the Chief Clutter Culprits are:

1) Piles of paper – Mail we haven’t yet sorted; documents related to my work (mea culpa!)

2) Books spilling from the bookcases – Accumulated before we rediscovered the wonders of our local library

3) Toys and gadgets – Many of them broken and unused, belonging to my kids

Since the holidays are upon us, I am especially focused on limiting #3.  So, instead of toys and gadgets, I started to think about gifts that aren’t things.  In particular, I’m focused on experiences over things.

Which is how the idea came to me to give my older son the gift of a 5-day drawing class as his major holiday gift this year.

My son's self-portrait before the class

My son loves to draw but has never had lessons.  As a result, he sits for hours erasing and redrawing things he isn’t yet happy with.  Given how frustrating this can be, it’s amazing to me that he keeps on trying.

I’ve read all the research that says that being a creative person is a matter of first believing you’re a creative person and then working hard at your craft.  (If you’re interested in how to be more creative, read this great article.)

I think this will be great for him!

I’ve made my own gift card out of self-portraits I found on-line from previous students in the class.  Each student has a pair of drawings: before and after.  The befores tend to be simple, child-like line drawings that are fun but lack depth.  The afters, drawn only 5 days later, show emotion and dimension and appear to be the work of serious students who’ve been at it for a very, very long time.

I fully recognize that this gift could fail miserably.  My son, I know, wants some video games and sports paraphernalia emblazoned with the logos of his favorite teams.  A drawing class isn’t exactly something you go running to tell your friends about when you’re in middle school.  Plus it’s hard work – 35 hours that he could be jus’ chillin’.

But let’s see what happens.  Class begins this weekend, and I promise to show you one of his drawings when it’s over next week.

In the meantime, please tell me about the holiday gifts you’ll be giving!

If you want some super-creative ideas for gifts that will simplify your holiday season, check out the Center for the New American Dream’s Simplify the Holidays Challenge.

  • Give the gift of time
  • Give a handmade gift
  • Offer to teach a skill you possess
  • Consider a less gimmicky, less commercial gift
  • Create a paperless holiday letter
  • Have a white elephant party
  • Draw names in your family for gift-giving
  • Shop for used items
  • Share the gift of music
  • Give back to your community
  • Adopt a “less is more” attitude toward holiday decorating
  • Save paper with recycled wrapping
  • Prepare locally grown, organic holiday meals
  • Reduce junk mail
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