$0 white elephant gift exchange

This year, one of my friends proposed a brilliant idea for our group’s white elephant gift exchange: $0 spending limit – bring something(s) you already have in your home that’s either new or gently used.

As a sucker for any excuse to declutter, this idea got me really excited!

Here’s what I ended up bringing as my gift:

  • a white desktop file (similar to this one) with file folders
  • a perpetual calendar
  • an insulated water bottle
  • a cookbook
  • some unused black balloons

And here’s what I ended up with:

  • 2 bottles of white wine
  • several snacks including a box of Turkish delights
  • a shoe cleaner
  • sage
  • men’s deodorant

I kept one bottle of wine and the deodorant (for my husband) and gave away everything else.

This turned out to be one of the most successful gift exchanges I’ve ever participated in because 1) everyone had a good laugh seeing what kind of clutter everyone else was trying to get rid of 2) a lot of people ended up getting something they could use (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?) and 3) no one had to spend any money!

I will definitely be proposing this $0 spending limit idea for all future gift exchanges.


love letters, gone

I mentioned before that I wanted to get rid of all my “love letters” in an epic way.

This probably doesn’t count as epic, but I recently set a goal for myself: throw all my letters from old boyfriends away so that I can leave a voicemail tip on The Minimalists’ podcast and reference this process as an example.

A about a month after I set that goal, I heard this episode, and decided it was finally time to take the plunge.

I ripped up all the letters, drafted what I was going to say, rehearsed it a few times, and then called their number.  Once I heard the “beep,” I got nervous and hung up.  After rehearsing what I was going to say one more time, I called back and followed through.

Over the next few weeks, I eagerly waited to see if my voicemail would get selected and featured in one of their episodes.  (If you get selected, you get an autographed copy of one of their books!)  They didn’t play my voicemail in their next episode.  Or the one after that.  Or the one after that.  Just when I started to think that my voicemail was passed over, I heard my voice in this episode.  It was exciting and surreal.

Now all my old love letters are gone and I’ll be getting a free book I’ve been wanting to read.  Win Win :).

decluttering · personal

empty bookshelf & plastic drawers

This week my mom got pissed at me for giving away an empty bookshelf and some plastic drawers to my cousins.  She said my room (at her house) now looks empty, cold and hotel-like.  And what was once a beautiful room is now so ugly that she has to close the door cause she can’t stand the sight of it.  Oh, and that she would never forgive me for this.

I thought her reaction was kind of silly, ridiculous even, because the bookshelf was completely empty and 2 of the 3 plastic drawers were also empty.  Plus, I moved another bookshelf over to where the donated bookshelf used to be so the corner wasn’t even vacant.

At first her reaction didn’t affect me all that much.  She always complains when I donate or throw something away.  When her reaction got stronger, it started to annoy me a little bit.  I mean, how could she not see how it made a whole lot more sense to give these items to my cousins (who actually need them and will use them) rather than let these items sit neglected, collecting dust in my room?  Then, when she started getting really mad and saying all the things I mentioned above, I got mad back at her.  I mean, really?  She REALLY thinks that plastic drawers and empty bookshelves are what make a room beautiful?  What make a house a home?  REALLY?!  How unreasonable could she be?!

After a few days, I realized reason and logic weren’t going to get me anywhere on this one.  The issue really isn’t about the empty bookshelf and plastic drawers being given away.  The real issue is I got married a few months ago and she still needs time to adjust to the fact that we won’t ever be able to spend time together like we used to.  And even though she knows I have my own apartment and that I’ll eventually have my own home to fit all my stuff in one day, she wants my room at her home to always feel like my room.  One that’s personalized and filled with memories.  Since my room at her home was already pretty sparse, removing furniture made it feel even emptier.

So, I think we found a compromise: my cousins can still keep the bookshelf and plastic drawers but I will start filling my room with more pictures and clothes.



decluttering junk mail

When I checked the mail this weekend, I saw 2 magazines that I’ve been getting quite regularly for at least 6 months now.  I didn’t subscribe to either of these magazines.  After careful inspection of the mailing label, I learned that one of them was subscribed on my behalf by my car dealership (huh?) and the other one was subscribed on my behalf by a third party, or something.  Anyway, for the past 6 months or so, I’d recycle these magazines immediately since I don’t enjoy spending time reading magazines anymore.  But after reading this, I was inspired to do something different this time.  I decided to stop this nonsense once and for all and actually call the magazine companies to ask them to take me off their mailing list.  It only took about 5 minutes of my lunch break to call and cancel both subscriptions.  I regret not doing this sooner and saving more trees.

Next up on the chopping block: credit card pre-approval letters and catalogs.


blogs and their influence on me

As I continue to declutter, I’m starting to notice a number of items that were purchased (or requested and subsequently received as gifts) thanks to organizing and lifestyle bloggers who’ve successfully convinced me that my life would be so. much. better. if I had this or that item in my posession.  Here are some examples:

  • Domino: The Book of Decorating – The most popular coffee table book for organizing and lifestyle bloggers.  I put this book on my wishlist and received it as a Christmas gift one year.  I’ve never read it and I probably never will.
  • The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well – I also put this book on my wishlist and received it for my birthday one year.  Again, never read it and probably never will.
  • Label maker – I used to follow this popular organizing blogger and she uses a label maker all the time.  I received the same one she uses as a birthday gift over 2 years ago and never opened it.  Turns out, there aren’t that many folders to label when you have very little paperwork to keep track of.
  • Laminator – I used this once and will probably never use it again.  The same organizing blogger with the label maker used a laminator to make bigger labels for bigger items.  Again, not necessary when you don’t keep a lot of stuff around.
  • This “jewelry holder” – I would say almost all the lifestyle bloggers I followed had this item, which isn’t surprising because they all looooveeee Anthropologie with an intense passion.  I bought one a few years ago and it is now sitting in my room at my mom’s house holding one tiny pair of earrings.  I could’ve done without it.

As much as I want to blame these bloggers for so many of the unnecessary items in my home, I really only have myself to blame because I am responsible for what I expose myself to.  So, I’ve removed pretty much all organizing and lifestyle blogs from my WordPress Reader and have slowly replaced them with minimalism blogs.  That way, I’ll be constantly reminded of how I can live with less instead of how I should be acquiring more.


decluttering unmentionables

A category that almost never crosses my mind when I’m thinking about what to declutter is my unmentionables (read: bras and undies).  I think it’s because 1) it’s a category that isn’t talked about much.  When you’re on Apartment Therapy or Unclutterer, you’ll find a plethora of posts about decluttering your clothes, papers, books, etc. but rarely does it ever say, “throw away underwear that you haven’t worn in 2 years because you don’t think it’s pretty.”  2) unmentionables will always be useful in the technical sense.  And 3) they take up relatively little space compared to say, shoes.  So decluttering undergarments doesn’t seem like it’d make much of a difference, at least not in the physical sense.

I don’t know what got into me but a few months ago, I started decluttering them.

Underwear was the easy part.  If I see a hole or stain, into the trash it goes.  Bras, however, were much more difficult to part with.  Mainly because a lot of them were pretty expensive (the average Victoria’s Secret bra costs about $50!).  So even though a lot of my bras were uncomfortable, unflattering or just hard to wear with anything, I kept them because I couldn’t stomach “wasting” so much money tossing them.  But!  Recently, I found myself a guilt-free way to get rid of them.  During the most recent semi-annual VS sale, one of my friends went bra shopping and got her bust measured by a sales associate.  She happily discovered that she had been wearing the wrong size.  After hearing this, I decided to get my bust measured and as it turns out, I was wearing the wrong size too!

I bought my first correct-size bra that same day and started tossing my old ones.  What better excuse to get rid of them than the fact that they’re the wrong size?  I haven’t toss all of them yet because some of them I like and others, I’ll need to buy a replacement first (i.e. strapless and nude colored).

When was the last time you decluttered your unmentionables?