A few weeks ago, I wrote about consignment shopping. This week, I’ve decided to delve into another way parents can score stuff for their kids on a tight budget – dumpster diving.
Well, sort of …
It’s not something I’ve ever really done. But my parents did it a few times when I was a kid.
I remember riding a yellow-and-green Kermit the Frog Big Wheel when I was 4 years old. My parents snagged the Big Wheel from a neighbor’s trash while we were on a family walk. I think it had a small hole in the plastic, but other than that, it rode great – and it lasted for years. In fact, both my younger siblings enjoyed riding it after me.
That Big Wheel might have been something small, but it was a big deal to me. I’ve decided that part of becoming a better mom is opening my eyes to blessings I’d miss if I weren’t looking.
One of those blessings came a few weeks ago at the local dump. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was unloading my bi-monthly recycling pile. I was standing between the clear glass and mixed paper dumpsters when I saw it: the playhouse of my daughters’ dreams.
At first, I couldn’t believe it. Why would someone be throwing away or recycling such a great playhouse? I blinked, rubbed my eyes and started getting excited. Could this be real?
I had seen this playhouse before. It’s the same model found at a local park. It retails for around $500. It has windows with shutters, a sunroof, a fold-out table and even a sink and cabinet. I knew my 2-year-old would love it, and before long, her 5-month-old sister would enjoy playing in it, too.
Hmmmm. An inward battle ensued. Should I approach the man? Is that tacky? He was there to trash the house. I didn’t know why else it would be riding on a trailer attached to the back of his truck. We were at the dump, after all.
I walked up to the man’s window.
“Is that your playhouse, sir?”
“Yes, it belonged to my daughter. She’s outgrown it. Just needs a little cleaning up, and the door hinge is loose.”
I looked over at my minivan and wondered how we’d make this work. This man didn’t have a clue who I was, so I pushed my pride aside and plunged ahead with the next question.
“My little girls would love that house. Can I have it?”
My stomach flip-flopped, but his smile eased me. “I’d much rather give it away than throw it away, but I couldn’t find anyone to take it.”
Seeing there was no way the house would fit inside our minivan, the man offered to deliver it – and a toy slide I hadn’t even noticed – to our house.
I asked if he’d mind going a few extra miles to my parents’ house. They live in the country and have a much bigger yard. Plus, I knew my two nephews would be able to enjoy there.
“I’d be happy to drop it off,” the man said. “I’m just glad someone can use it.”
That man’s trash was this mama’s treasure.
When you see something someone’s throwing away that you think you could use, I’ve learned it never hurts to ask.
I’m glad I asked about the house instead of watching it get tossed into the plastics section of the recycling station.
To the man who gave us the playhouse: I didn’t even get your name. But thank you. You’ve made two little girls and their mama very happy.
This column first appeared in the Mooresville Weekly on March 25, 2011.