Of Generosity and Gratitude

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:

bounty of the universe


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.


22 thoughts on “Of Generosity and Gratitude”

  1. Those are some great finds! Very nice that you were able to get some gifts and help other people avoid putting those things in the landfill. I totally hear you on the “rubbish room.” For the last six months in our apartment, we basically had a giant pile of crap all over the dining area that I was working my way through listing on Craigslist, donating, etc. Even in a small place, it’s amazing how the things add up.

    1. One of my goals for this year is to declutter, and the rubbish room is first in line. I’ve tidied up for now – but that mostly meant moving things out of rubbish room and into the closet, attic and garage. Oh well, baby steps.

  2. The hardest part of downsizing for me was having to eliminate my rubbish room…. I don’t have a room like that anymore because I don’t have any rooms! It forced me to throw a bunch of junk away, give some away, and sell the rest! Good on you for exploring alternative options to Amazon!

    1. Haha I feel you. My old house was stacked with stuff: shelves of books that I hadn’t touched in years, old laptops and desktops that I didn’t use anymore, and a whole bunch of other stuff. One year around xmas I had it, so I tossed out like 20 garbage bags worth of stuff

    2. Sometimes a forcing function is what is most required. I am a little bit jealous of your downsized lifestyle. I feel the weight of my clutter every day. I need to eliminate it soon.

  3. What do you know, we have a rubbish room too! All of our possessions that are on the verge of the purge hang out in there.

    Costs aside, we definitely consider the space in our house or a junkyard that new possessions will occupy if we buy them. If you need something the best thing to do is patiently keep an eye out. In time the possessions that will fit perfectly into our lives will come along cheap, and often even free! Nice score on the toys, I want to jam on a mini piano now 🙂

    1. I wish I could jam effectively. For three years of my childhood I went to the home of a very elderly lady in our neighborhood to learn how to play the piano. She was not shy about smacking our wrists and over those three years I grew pretty proficient at playing. Nearly three decades have gone by and I find myself stumbling now on simply playing scales with both hands simultaneously – I just can’t seem to get the finger positioning right.

  4. Excellent story full of good points. Yes, there is already e ought stuff in the world. Reuse rather than throw away is a good thing. And then offering the joy of a free gift to some else to keep the week in motion…!

    We have put a limit on the toys they can have access to in the living room. It makes them think from time to time. And we tell them about giving to babies when they outgrow an item.

    1. Limits and restrictions on toys certainly seem to work. I keep a subset of her toys in a closet – one that she isn’t allowed to access. I then rotate the set of toys that are accessible to her, using the closet as a resting place for toys that are not currently in play. It works great – she greets toys coming off of their closet rotation as long lost friends, and plays with them with renewed vigour.

  5. Wonderful! I too have a rubbish room. It’s the garage. It currently contains six (seven? eight maybe?) bikes, a mattress, a small bank of computer servers, a workbench, a weight bench and about 40kg of weights, old roller skaters, an old helmet, some drying herbs a wash basket, a printer, a couple of game consoles….

    Okay, I honestly don’t know if it’s a rubbish room or a storage room. Would you believe that all but 2 of the bikes get used regularly?

    1. Why the variety of bikes? Are they all yours? Are they optimized for terrain and weather?

      And are your small bank of servers all hooked up, quietly whirring away, mining bitcoin or up to something more nefarious perhaps?

      I’d trade your ‘rubbish’ for mine any day of the week.

      1. The servers – no idea! I don’t even know if that’s what they really are :p Mr. FIRE is really into home automation and wants to set up fancy things that will close the roller shutters when it’s hot, and open the windows when it’s cooler outside than in… I think it’s a big waste of time but he enjoys it.

        And the bikes… Mr. FIRE has 1 downhill bike, 1 trail bike, 2 dirt jumpers (one is broken, one is new – it’s been a couple of weeks so no complaining yet) and 1 road bike. I have a low-grade mountain bike I use for commuting. We’re also storing a bike for a friend, and I have another friends bike I borrowed when mine was stolen that hasn’t been returned yet. So umm, somehow that’s 8 bikes… wow

  6. I’m terrified of having a rubbish room. The small blessing of having little to no space has been that we can’t have more than a rubbish drawer which is really a drawer for fliers and odd office supplies, so it’s not even that anymore. But when we have more space, my horror is that entropy will take over and spawn piles and piles of things we don’t need to keep. It’s what’s happened with every friend and family member who moved into a larger space and I’m determined to fight it with every bit of me.

    That said … what lovely finds you happened across! I hope she adores them and has so much fun banging away on the keys. I miss doing that myself. And how nice to have a place to conceal them 🙂 happy upcoming birthday to Toddler BITA.

    1. Oh your fear is well founded my friend. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment before we moved here, and everything that we owned when we lived there was essential. I have no idea how we have ended up with a rubbish room. The only sane explanation is that the stuff in there is procreating at a rate that would put rabbits to shame and inviting friends and relatives over to stay.

      Thank you for the birthday wishes. She loves the little piano. The dump truck was less of a roaring success.

  7. That’s pretty awesome, and thanks for the links to those groups. I’ll have to look for some around here because those ideas are great! We too feel those same pangs of “No, the kids don’t need more toys!” Not from a grinch standpoint but from a standpoint that they don’t even play with the toys they have now. Last week I cleaned up all the toys that they didn’t and tucked them away in a closet, and it was whole basket and a half that I confiscated and sadly, they don’t even know that toys are missing. Which makes me think we need to donate a LOT of stuff of theirs…

    Or, I could put it on one of those sites to balance out the karma for all the free stuff we’ve gotten over the years. I was able to pass along a lot of things to a co-worker who ahd their first baby and it was great. He got to use my “manly” diaper bag – yeah it looks like a messenger bag but is a bad-ass macgyver designed diaper bag. It rocked and even after using it for over 2 years it still looked brand new. He’s loving using it now too! Freecycling stuff is great even if it’s driven by a need to assuage some of my guilt for getting/having so much or to pass things along because we got so much free, it stills erves a good purpose.

    1. How nice for your co-worker who inherited your macho diaper bag and other stuff. I grew up in the tradition of hand-me-downs and I love it. I always want to do more of it in my life now.

      That is both hilarious and sad that they didn’t even notice that their stuff had gone missing. Truth be told though, you could easily steal a basket or two from my clothes and the crime would probably remain undetected. I _really_ need to declutter.

      1. Well, they noticed when it happened – imagine loads of crying and wailing and you’d think they found out one of us just died. Fast forward a few days and I’d bet $500 they couldn’t name 3 toys that are in the bag of stuff that was taken. It is sad.

        Ironically, that drove home the point that we need to start moving on with their toys and things and we’ve sold a fair amount of kids toys and items over the weekend. Some donations too, but it’s pretty easy to post something for $10-$20 and boom, it’s gone in under 24 hrs. 🙂

  8. So glad you scored some terrific birthday gifts for her! I’m always torn about gifts for my kids. I love the excitement on their faces, the hugs and smiles. I do not love the multitude of toys and books littering our house while my kids end up raiding our closets and playing with our shoes and computer cords instead 😉. I’ve got to decide on birthday gifts for our soon-to-be 4yo. He’s old enough to expect gifts, but we don’t want to go overboard.

    1. The way you put it is exactly right – I want the best of both worlds too. _And_ I also simultaneously want to nurture her imagination and teach her not to be too enamored of material things. Should be easy-peasy right? Sigh.

      I hope you hit on the perfect gift for your kid.

  9. My birthday is coming up and I want so little, but I suspect people will get me stuff. My mom’s present arrived, I asked for a wallet to display my squished pennies, the souvenir things they have at different places. I asked my sister for something small. I hope my friends get me wine, then I only have to store it until it’s time to recycle the bottle. 🙂

    1. Ah the well meant gift that we don’t really want. I am familiar with those. Here is hoping you get more wine than you expect!

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