Toddler BITA will be turning three soon. I got cozy on the couch with good old Amazon and started to browse through toys and books in search of a birthday gift for her. We don’t spend extravagantly on her birthday presents, but for her last two birthdays we have been in the habit of buying her gifts.
This time though, instead of relishing the power of 1-click shopping, I found myself oddly dissatisfied as I browsed through the myriad bright and shiny objects on offer.
Oh fuck, I thought. Maybe I had turned into the Grinch. Perhaps I had crossed right over the frugality border and was wandering the Land of Cheapness, begrudging spending a few $s on my three year old.
It was time to sit down and have a heart to heart with myself.
Was It About the Money?
I asked myself if a part of me was wishing that Toddler BITA didn’t need a birthday gift at all. Nope, that wasn’t it. I definitely wanted us to give her something. I wanted to watch her face light up with anticipation. I wanted to watch her open her gifts. I wanted to hear her squeals of delight. I wanted to be squeezed by toddler arms and be showered with toddler kisses.
Having established that it wasn’t the idea of the birthday gift(s) that was the cause of my dissatisfaction, I then decided to explore if it was the cost, the idea of watching my balance decrease in Mint. That didn’t quite feel right though. While we don’t frivolously spend on hookers and blow, on the celebrity scale of the FIRE frugal superstars we are definitely more Paul Dano than Johnny Depp.
And this wasn’t even a purchase that would register. I mean, we weren’t considering a Tesla. On the upper end we were talking maybe $50.
Nope, it definitely wasn’t about the money.
Was It About the Waste?
My father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and niece are coming to visit for Toddler BITA’s birthday. They will stay with us for about a week. To prepare for their visit, I had to clear out the dreaded rubbish room. We have a guest bedroom in our house. If we are hosting two house guests, we are good to go. When we are hosting more than two people at a time, we need to deploy the rubbish room. The rubbish room is our room of shame. It is unfurnished and serves as a dumping ground for anything that we aren’t currently using and haven’t yet got around to selling, throwing away or donating. We shove stuff into the rubbish room, shut the door, and then pretend that all that stuff doesn’t really exist.
When I was clearing out the rubbish room I realized that the vast majority of things in there were things that were acquired once-upon-a-time for Toddler BITA. Clothes she has outgrown, toys she no longer plays with, shoes too small for her constantly growing feet, an infant car seat, a swing, a playmat for the floor – the list goes on and on and on. When Toddler BITA was born we bought some stuff, and had a lot gifted to us, a lot of it brand new. I found myself looking at this mound of stuff, and imagining similar mounds in the houses that surround us and I felt sad.
My view of myself is of an environmentally conscious person. I used cloth diapers when Toddler BITA was little. We recycle. We conserve water and energy. But here I stood, surrounded by small hills of things that were used all too briefly and that will eventually find themselves in a landfill somewhere. What a waste.
I think it was the fact that I had just grappled with the rubbish room that made me unwilling to acquire more new stuff by going on to Amazon and going clickety-click.
Let the Universe Provide
I then decided to take the harder route of opening myself up to the possibility that the Universe would provide.
What made this the harder route?
- I had to be patient. The bounty of the universe, unlike that of Amazon, is not attainable on demand. And while I have many wonderful personality traits, patience is not my strong suit.
- I had to be adaptable. I couldn’t decide that I wanted Toddler BITA to have a particular object. Luckily Toddler BITA does not have anything specific that she is hankering after, or this would have been much harder, maybe even impossible.
How exactly was I allowing the universe to provide? I diligently logged on and checked both my local Buy Nothing group and my Nextdoor neighborhood group twice daily. I made the effort to be available to take advantage of anything the universe saw fit to bestow upon me.
My backup plan? If the universe was feeling Scrooge-like, my backup plan was to hit up my local children’s consignment store.
The Bounty of the Universe
Less than a week after I had made this decision, this gorgeous spinet made an appearance on my Nextdoor app:
I replied to Dan within 30 seconds of his making the post, and an hour later Mr. BITA picked up the piano, sneaked it into the house and secreted it away in the rubbish room. It is in stellar shape. The stool needs some work though, a couple of screws were missing. Mr. BITA has since procured the missing hardware. I can’t wait to see Toddler BITA’s face on her morning of her birthday.
Two days later, my Buy Nothing group yielded this gem:
Our cup runneth over. The dump truck lurks alongside the piano in the rubbish room. I no longer stalk the two groups. I offered up my gratitude (and gave away some items for free from our rubbish room to help balance out the karma).
The Moral of the Story
There is such abundance in the world around us. Not just in terms of material goods, though we did score mightily on that front. There is also an abundance of generosity, just waiting to be experienced.
I am so glad that I didn’t indulge in my usual Amazonian clickety click. If I had, I may have ended up with awesome gifts for the little BITA, but I would have denied myself
- The thrill of discovering the bounty of the universe
- An opportunity to practice patience, and if anyone needs practice, it is I
- The rush of gratitude I experienced at being on the receiving end of such generosity
- The happiness I felt when in turn I got to fulfill the needs of some of my neighbours (I had been planning to donate those items for a while, but had been horribly lazy about getting off my arse, taking pictures and making the posts). The guilt of receiving without then giving in return spurred me to action.
- The smug satisfaction that comes of knowing that my Toddler’s happiness was not bought at the cost of one more spot in our already overflowing landfills
Open yourself up to the largesse of the universe. There is much to receive, if one is only willing.