Why I’m Not Buying My 1 Year-Old A Birthday Present

As the holidays draw near and we prepare to celebrate my son’s first birthday, I’ve been fighting a growing sense of dread for all the “stuff” that comes along with this time of year. Recently reading this article on increasing happiness in your home by getting rid of stuff has brought to the surface these feelings and made me even more steadfast in my belief of #momoneymoproblems.

Studies show a direct link between the amount of physical possessions in a house and the stress level of the female homeowner. One study done at UCLA found that the more stuff was in a woman’s house, the higher her level of stress hormones. This same study also found that women subconsciously relate how happy they are with their home-life and family to how they feel about their homes. So the more clutter and chaos in the home, the less happy the woman is with her family and her life.

Clutter gives me anxiety. If I can’t SEE something I own, it makes me nervous. “Storage” is a foreign concept to me, baring the clear plastic bins in my garage that I can view the contents of daily if I’d like to.

I have a feeling some of this comes from my mother’s constant need to tidy and throw out crap (she’s your best friend if you ever need to pack) and some from my father’s OCD tendencies to keep things in their place.  Whatever the origination, that’s how I live my life. CRAP FREE.

As you can imagine, this motto is in direct conflict with having little people infiltrate your household. When babies are little, you can get by with a few items. Bottles, bibs, diapers. but as they grow older, their developmental needs call for more stuff. Toys, swings, bouncers, walkers, balls, puzzles, books.

While I emphatically agree that children need to interact with objects to enhance development, as a modern society we’ve gone overboard on how much stuff that actually is. When I think about the objects that my child is drawn to playing with–Tupperware, cardboard boxes, remote controls, beans in a water bottle, the access card he waves at the daycare door–they aren’t manufactured toys. They are everyday objects that were not made for the purpose of entertaining children, yet catch his interest and intrigue him.

My constant litmus test for raising kids, as simplistic and idealistic as it may be, is to remind myself that the human race has been surviving for millions of years–hundreds of years as a modern society. And that currently, children are growing up all over the world without four different strollers. In full disclosure, I registered for four different strollers, against my own judgement, because a friend made a case for each one. We now have one and it serves us just fine.

Furthermore, our 1955 original mid-century home is cozy. Small closets, small rooms, and little storage. I’m feel like I’m constantly clearing stuff out to make room for the next few months of clothes and toys. We’ve been fortunate with lots and lots of hand-me-downs and we put those to good use!

Every few months I do a purge that includes asking the questions of most baby stuff: 1.) does he still use this? 2.) would a 2nd child use this? 3.) is this a special keepsake? If the answer to those 3 questions is no, it gets donated. We have a few bins of things saving for a 2nd child, and we have a place for special keepsake items. I can physically see everything that my son wears or plays with daily. And, damn it, that feels good.

So as his first birthday and Christmas approach, you can see why the thought of hoards of plastic and fabric is giving me hives. I know that close family will still buy gifts for our son, which we are entirely gracious for. We knew that we wanted to provide an additional way that our friends could help other kids less fortunate than we have been.

So I’d like to share our wishes with you in case you’d also like to donate to this great organization.  I’ve partnered with a Texas organization that a friend started in Austin that provides essential items to children in foster care.

Every year, more than 17,000 children are removed from their homes by CPS in the state of Texas. When they arrive at a new foster home, often on the worst night of their lives, they frequently come with nothing. If they have been allowed to bring along any items from home, they are typically shoved hastily into a trash bag. We believe these kids deserve better. Carrying Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit created by foster parents with the mission of providing Hope Packs — backpacks, diaper bags or duffel bags filled with items that children who are entering the system need most during those crucial first 24 to 48 hours — to Texas children entering the foster care system.

There are a few ways to donate:

  • If you’d like to print out a list and make a complete pack, you can find the lists (arranged by age and gender) here.
  • They have Amazon lists where you can order complete packs with just a few clicks, here.
  • For those who would prefer to donate some of their most needed items, they have an Amazon list of those as well, here.
  • For general monetary donationsgo here.

In the coming weeks I look forward to sharing more of my journey with minimalism. There’s a great Diane Rehm interview from earlier this year on on The Lure of Minimalism if you’re interested in exploring more. As well as the minimalist’s bible, Marie Kondo’s the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

3 Comments

  1. Jane November 14, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Monica, this is awesome!

    Reply
  2. Rosenda November 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    I wish it had not taken me 38 years to figure this out. Less is really more (freedom)!!

    Reply
  3. Donna November 14, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I am so proud of your mindset and actions to help others in River’s name! I am with Rosenda on this one ,what took us materialistic baby boomers so long to get it!

    Reply

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