This year my birthday falls on Thanksgiving day. How cool is that? 🦃 I will be back home then, spending Thanksgiving Day with my dad, sister, brother in law and my three nieces. We will sing ‘Happy Birthday’, maybe, if anyone remebers! It is just not that much of a big deal in Poland. I grew up not realizing there are cakes, gifts and candles involved. When I came to the US first I was surprised how much of a production birthdays are. Birthday surprise parties, birthday brunches, dinners, birthday drinks and birthday spa treatments. Not just birthdays but birthday-weeks. I have watched (and participated in) celebrations such as dinners, drinks, home parties etc starting on a Friday and ending on a Sunday a week later!
Throughout my childhood up until being a grown up, my parents would always give my sister and me a bar of chocolate for our birthdays. Yes, a bar of chocolate. I do believe it rooted from the times when chocolate (or anything in that matter) was not available for purchase, and getting it was close to a miracle. In the early and mid 80s, during the communism, getting chocolate, oranges, bananas, or any sort of treats was not within an easy reach for a working class family, such as mine. Getting anything beyond vinegar and mustard was almost impossible (true story). I don’t think one can even imagine what a store with just vinegar and mustard looks like. Well, it looks very sad. And yes, while with absolutely zero in stock, all those stores had a line forming starting at 4am (and that included us kids, as well) awaiting for a shipment of sugar, the above mentioned oranges, or toilet paper. All goods were rationed and sold in amounts per person thus requiring everyone in the family to be a part of the process.
After I came to the US I was overwhelmed with ‘easiness’ to ‘get stuff’ and throughout the last 13 years I surely caught up. Sales, clearance, dollar & deal stores, freecycle, garage sales, gift bags, and other sources enabled me to fill my closets and cabinets full and beyond. I do admit, I have ‘Polish’ mentality, mentality that most of my work colleagues do not have. If something is free and I know it is going to go to waste, I will take it. Even when I know that myself and my family cannot use it, I would still take it and try to re-gift it, donate it or sell it. I am just having a really hard time watching how much is being wasted around me.
Saying that, at the same time, I have been feeling the need to minimize, to declutter, to get rid of things. I have been making a conscious effort to focus on non materialistic things that make me happy. I really feel I am breathing easier and ‘cleaner’ when I own less. I am continuing to purge my apartment and enjoying the process. More things is really the last ‘thing’ I need. I don’t need more ‘stuff’ and I don’t want more ‘stuff’.
My dear friends, with my birthday just a couple of weeks away (and Christmas just a month later), please kindly take it seriously when I am asking you not not buy me anything. I really, truly do mean it. And if you really, really do still need to bring a gift, please make it something that I can use, instead of just putting it away with other things I will not look at for another year.
Things I Don’t Want for my Birthday (and things I would love instead):
1. No more mugs, pretty please
Considering there are only 2 people in my household and we have around 20 mugs, I trust we all set for decades. I think it is safe to say that all our mugs were gifts (thus all of them are different and very special), but at the same time please keep in mind that there is a limit on everything (especially in a NYC tiny apartment). I don’t think I can handle another mug, no matter how cute!
Instead, I would love a tin or a small box of my favorite tea. Or a totally new kind that I never tried that could become my favorite.
2. Another toy?
Regardless of being a grown up, I still have my favorite ‘toys’ such as an ‘Ugly Doll’ or ‘Dominic’ – a plush elephant. For the time being I am fine with just these two 😉 Any extras are just a burden. I mean, I cannot just sit them all on my desk and look at them. As much as I loved getting these even a few years ago, I do not any more. Please keep that in mind before getting me another Teddy.
Instead, I will be thrilled to get a nice notebook (such as a moleskin) which I can use for months and get some real use out of it (and think of you every time I use it)
3. Gift Card
to a store that you know I don’t shop at. Or to a store where everything is so expensive that the balance on the card would not even cover 1/3 of the cheapest item. I will not shop there and the entire amount will just go to waste. No, thank you.
Instead, I will happily take a gift card to a health food store (such as Whole Foods). Regardless of the amount.
4. Expensive $6+ Birthday card
You know I am frugal and even a thought of getting or receiving $6 birthday cards is literally killing me!
I would love to receive (an imperfect) handmade card. I would actually keep it in my ‘keepsake’ box instead of throwing it away just a week or two after you give it to me.
5. Make up set
that is not in my skin tone, the scent I like least and is totally doubling up on what I already have. I mean, I will still try to use it but what I would much rather prefer is a tin of a nice hand cream that I will use in the next few cold, winter months.
6. Big gifts
just make me uncomfortable. No matter how much of a good friend is giving them, I still feel I need to reciprocate to make her gift at least as big and expensive. Let’s keep it simple, shall we? I love you but the financial freedom I am trying to achieve will not achieve itself. I simply cannot spend hundreds of dollars out of guilt after receiving a big gift from you.
Instead, I’d rather we spend an entire day together picnicking in a park and seeing a movie.
What are the gifts YOU no longer have interest in receiving? What would you like to get instead?