Organic Housekeepers, cleaning with a conscience, saving the earth one tub at a time.Cassie rides on to Greener Pastures

Give the gift of experience
And help clear the stuff clutter from your life

By Cassie Pence

As warm and fuzzy gifts under the tree make me feel, my husband and I have sworn off giving each other the kind of presents that are wrapped neatly in bright foil paper and tied with a bow.

Part of the reason is that we own our own business in a resort community. It’s “hay season” during the holidays, and with work filling our days (and even some nights), it leaves very little time to shop. What usually happens is a stressful, haphazardly shopping excursion on Christmas Eve to buy something — anything — for each other so the bottom of the tree doesn’t look so vacant.

So instead, this year we’re gifting each other an experience: A ski weekend in Crested Butte where we can play tourists in the mountains. When the craziness has subsided, we can escape and enjoy each other in new surroundings doing what we love to do — ski.

Greener PasturesGiving a gift of experience is an alternative to buying stuff. Stuff that our society has become so obsessed with. Stuff that we fill our closets, cabinets and drawers with. Stuff that eventually piles up in the landfill. How many pairs of jeans does a girl need? Looking at my closet ­— a lot. Jeans are my stuff obsession.

But as we gaze at the world with a more sustainable eye, giving gifts of experience is one way to help clear the stuff clutter from our lives. I’m not saying these experiences are waste free, they’re just stuff free. Plus, if you choose an experience that plays out in Eagle County, you’re supporting the local economy. This is a boon no matter what your intention.

Following are some of my favorite local experience gifts. As the holiday clock ticks, another bonus is gifts of experience are usually a phone call or Web page away.

Tickets to the Vilar Center
We are truly blessed to have the Vilar Performing Arts Center at our backdoor. Shows are not only quality but also diverse. There’s a show to match every kind of love for the arts. I hear most people complain about ticket price, so maybe the holidays are the perfect time to shell out a little extra cash for a first class experience. For the Elvis lover: “Blue Suede Shoes” on Dec. 27. For a new honey pie: Parsons Dance in “Remember Me” on March 19, because dance is erotic and this particular show is contemporary with wide appeal. For the jam bander: Keller William on Jan. 13 or Medeski Martin and Wood on March 2. For the whole family: Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats on March 5. For the foodie in your life: Master Chef Challenge on Jan. 28.

Teach a man to fish
The brief head draws on the famous saying “teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime,” and giving lessons is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Have a young wanna be rocker in your household, how about guitar lessons? Does your mother-in-law have a stiff back, how about yoga? Going to Europe this off-season with you wife, how about language lessons? Alpine Arts Center hosts a wide range of art classes for every age, including adults, like ceramics. Colorado Mountain College has a sleuth of fun non-credit classes that would make excellent gifts, and spring registration is now open. From Belly Dancing to Tai Chi to cooking classes, there’s a class for someone on your list. And, what about fly fishing lessons?

Guide to the great outdoors
We all love the great outdoors, that’s why we live where we live, but there are guides out there that can enhance our great outdoors experience. Paragon Guides offers several winter adventures including hut-to-hut backcountry skiing as well as day snowshoeing tour. For those interested in learning about the local wildlife, winter offers a unique time to find animal tracks, and TrailWise guides offer backcountry wildlife tours, perfect for the whole family.

Make a personal pledge
For Christmas, I ask my husband for the same thing each year: that he does yoga with me just one day a week. I’m still waiting for that gift, but it brings me to my final experience gift idea. Make a personal pledge to someone. Maybe you know how to sew and your girlfriend has always wanted to. Teach her how. Or as the matriarch of the family, you’ve been canning for years. Pledge to teach the younger generation how. Or maybe you’ve been promising to take your youngest to backcountry ski in East Vail, but have yet to fulfill your promise. Pledge to do it. These pledges can be as simple as making time for a sit-down dinner once a week to extravagant as pledging foot rubs every night for a year. It’s about meaning and keeping your promise, not letting any “stuff” get in the way.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Contact her at


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