Tag Archives: stuff

Kicking the Heels off (and Other Lessons from Purging)

homemade jewelry holder
My homemade jewelry holder is looking a little bare. Maybe I’ll downsize to a smaller one at some point.

I’ve been very slowly continuing through the zones I’ve identified using Marie Kondo’s decluttering method. Most recently, I used my Memorial Day holiday to attack 4 areas:

– Toiletries
– Makeup
– Accessories/shoes
– Jewelry

I was surprised at how purging these items affected me emotionally. While I’m definitely a below average American woman in the amount of time and money I put in these categories, there were times that some of these things meant to me more than they do now.

The most difficult thing to part with was my nail polish. Up until a year ago, I painted my fingernails weekly. Since then, I’ve only done it once. I’m not ready to say that I’ve given it up for good, but I also know that I won’t get back to that weekly habit. I had spent a lot of money on that nail polish and it has given me a lot of joy…but it’s not currently giving me joy. I decided to keep 8 colors that I can most likely see myself still using, and gave the rest to a family that would use them.

Most of my shoes fit in the closet, but these are the ones I wear more regularly.

I felt similar emotions cleaning out my jewelry. I simply don’t wear it anymore, apart from a special occasion. Some of the pairs of earrings that I got rid of had been some of my favorites to wear…in the past. I did keep a few pieces that I still really like and can see myself wearing.

One area where I really enjoyed cleaning out was my high heel collection. Why did I still own them? I always opt for a pair of flats when flip flops (or going barefoot!) is not appropriate. I had been holding on to them “just in case”, but all they have been doing since I moved them 2 years ago is gather dust. I now own 17 pairs of shoes…which still sounds like way too many (flip flops add up). I’ll continue to pare that down as most that wear out will not be replaced.

What things have been unexpectedly hard for you to get rid of?

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.


I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

Free of “Free”

For the month of February, I decided to keep track of everything that I brought into or out of my apartment. I had hoped to get a sense of the things that tend to become clutter.

To be honest, this project wasn’t eye-opening, like I hoped. There just weren’t any revelations or areas of improvement identified. Still, I think it was good to do this exercise as it is always good to take some time to focus on a specific area.

Though the results didn’t yield much, I was on the right track: after all, everything that is currently in my apartment got there because someone brought it in. Instead of keeping a formal list, I think the best thing is to mindfully consider each piece as I consider accepting it or buying it.

Obviously, buying less will limit what you bring in, but I think “free” things are more of a problem. Somehow, we think that if we don’t pay for it monetarily, there is no downside.

People look at you funny when you turn down free things. My dental hygienist keeps trying to force a bag of goodies into my hand upon each dental visit, but I have to say no.

As a general rule, I say “no” to free items, just as I do to items that I could buy. I don’t mind saying “yes” if:

  1. It is something that I need.Bose speaker
  2. It is something that I have already identified a home for in my apartment.
  3. It will meet a want or need, at least for right now.

For example, I recently got a lot of swag for work. A lot of it was completely worthless to me and ended up in the give away pile. But I did decide to keep a wireless Bluetooth speaker because it could be more useful than the Bluetooth stereo I already had. While it wasn’t something that I would spend money on, I can still benefit from it and the money I can get by selling my stereo (now I just need to take the time to do it!).

I don’t always follow my own rules, but it has helped me not feel guilty about saying “no” to free.

Where do you stand when it comes to “free” things?

Child Christmas Gifts for $6 Each

Every year one of the presents I give my niece is nephew is my reading them a book, recorded on CD. I’ve been reading Chronicles of Narnia for my niece, and Roald Dahl books for my nephew.

This year I decided to supplement those gifts with another homemade gift: personalized “Find Its.” This is the finished product:

Homemade Find Its

I used a couple of sites for information and inspiration: for the Find It and for dying rice. I’ve included the steps I used and my observations below.

1. Find and prepare a clear, plastic container. I used peanut jars, and removed the sticky residue after I removed their labels by rubbing them down with oil, then dish soap.

2. Gather the items to include. I was all about using existing material, but I really didn’t have enough small items that would be fun for almost-4-year-old Bean and 2-year-old Peanut. I asked my friends with kids to supplement the items, which they did very helpfully.

The smaller the item, the better. I initially had a few larger items (2″ or so) in them, but it kept everything else from being able to move around.

Here’s what I included:

Find It itemsFind It objectsThe only thing I bought was the foam letters.

3. Dye the rice. The rice will take a day or two to dry, so make sure you give yourself enough time. I included 10-20 drops of food coloring with a few tablespoons of vinegar, then mixed it in yogurt containers with the rice. I didn’t like the color of the purple, so I ended up replacing that rice with rice I dyed yellow.

Dyed rice in yogurt containers

To help them dry, I spread the rice out on paper plates.

dyed rice drying

4. Take a picture of the objects you’re including, if desired. I’m printing out the above pictures and laminating them.

5. Once the rice is fully dry and you’ve taken a picture of your items, combine the rice and items in your container. I used 2 different colors of rice in each container. It mixes together as shown above very quickly.

6. Super glue or hot glue the lid onto the container, so that nothing escapes.

For this project I spent:

$7.98 on rice and peanuts (I’m saving the peanuts for future trail mix, and just used the containers)
$1.52 on printing and laminating the pictures
$1.93 on foam letters
$11.46 total

At $5.73 a Find It, that’s 1/3 the price they would be at Walmart, plus you can personalize them to the kid’s interests.

Birthday Thoughts

33Today is my 33rd birthday. I hope never to be embarrassed to tell others how old I am…why should I be?

Officially being a year older makes me consider how I’ve grown in the last year…and where I still have work to do.

Probably my greatest area of growth in the last year was financially. Which makes sense, as it was an area of emphasis. In the past year I’ve doubled my retirement and emergency savings as well as paid off $9,000 in student loan debt. I’ve tried to track what I’ve spent this year so I have a baseline for future years as well (more about that in January). Instituting my first “Buy Little” months this year were helpful to show myself that I can indeed live on less. It’s a habit I will continue.

As far simplifying, I’ve done better than previously, but not as well as I wish. I still have too much clutter in my life, though I’ve taken a lot less in than I ever have. I want to keep working through the Marie Kondo zones to tackle the clutter. I think I need to really work on reestablishing my habit of cleaning for 10-15 minutes every day to get a handle on things better. Inevitably, if I’m able to continue to get rid of things faster than I get new things, I’ll get there.

There are other areas, too, that I’m evaluating my life, but I won’t discuss them here as they are outside the scope of this blog.

What milestones have you accomplished this year? What do you wish to work on in the next year?

Photo by Stephan Mosel

Joint Book Review: Stuffocation by James Wallman

51Y2TcWSzPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In Stuffocation:  Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More Than Ever, James Wallman discusses something we at Striving Stewardess have talked about before:  the value of experiences over more stuff (and all that “stuff” entails–money, storage, cleaning, etc.).

Amanda’s Take

Let me start my portion of this review by saying I loved this book.  While a great deal of this book was “preaching to the choir” as it were, I found myself being challenged as well.

For example, Wallman points out the flaws of the voluntary simplicity movement, a movement which I myself ascribe to.  He raises good questions regarding this and other methods of “downsizing”:  Do they go far enough?  What way is the best way to demonstrate balance (versus going all out as with, say, the tiny house movement)?

One aspect of the book that I still find myself contemplating is the idea of a “medium chill,” wherein Wallman discusses one individual who tries to strike a balance between extreme simple living/experientialism and a more consumerist lifestyle.  I am reminded more and more that a simplified lifestyle–and experientialist lifestyle–are all about balance, and this  concept–and the book–really struck a chord with me.

Ronnica’s Take

I absolutely believe that Wallman is asking the right questions, but I’m not convinced he’s providing the right answers.

Let’s first discuss the things that I affirm. We absolutely must turn away from the materialism of our society if we want to find happiness for ourselves and others. I think the author is very wise to recognize the downfalls of voluntary simplicity: you can’t just remove something from your life, it will be replaced with something.

I just don’t believe that experientialism is the right answer to fill it.

I think any focus on our own happiness is bound to fail in the long run. It’s just not how happiness works. Even with experiences, you will continue to require bigger and better ones to fill the same amount of satisfaction.

I believe that we’ll only have lasting happiness if we focus outside ourselves.

That said, I do generally try to focus more on experiences than possessions, and try to take that into consideration when I consider my own budget and considering gifts for others. And I do think that was Wallman’s point: he wants to encourage people to find a balance, as Amanda states above.

Avoiding Ads

zillions cover
Yes, it was a very 90s magazine.

As a kid, my favorite magazine was Zillions. This was a magazine produced by the makers of Consumer Reports designed to mold kids into being savvy consumers. My favorite part were the cartoon-like illustrations of the hows and whys of advertising.

We all know (if we stop to think about it), that advertisements are designed to make us act in a specific way: buy a product, watch a show or desire to be associated with a specific brand.

Globally, companies pay $500 billion a year on advertising. These companies are smart: they use advertising because they know it will help them sell more product.

I have nothing against advertising necessarily, but I want to choose for myself what I buy (or simply choose not to buy). Whether I acknowledge it or not, advertising has a strong pull on me, particularly ads designed to evoke an emotional response. I’m not especially gullible, but ads often dig in deep to accomplish their goals.

Advertisements are everywhere. In almost no practical context would it be reasonable to avoid them altogether. Still, I can take action to limit my exposure wherever possible.

For example, I do not watch television advertising. If I can’t fast forward through it, I mute the television and turn my attention elsewhere until they’re over. No, I don’t even watch the ads during the Superbowl.

When I do experience an ad, I often pick it apart to weaken its grip. How does this ad want me to feel? What does it want me to do? What cultural lie does it depend on (or what truth does it distort)?

These questions are good for other forms of media. If we’re going to fight our culture’s over-consumerism and me-first attitudes, we’re going to have to question what messages we take in.

Lesson of the Lunchbox

A few weeks ago I tried doing mason jar salads for the first time. As someone who loves mason jars and making my weekday meals ahead of time, it seemed like a logical thing for me to try.

It turned out really well. I highly recommend this page as a tutorial for how to organize your salad layers, as that is the most important thing for fresh mason jar salads. When it’s time to eat, I simply dump the contents of the mason jar onto a plate and have a healthy, delicious meal.

But this post isn’t about mason jar salads.

One day a couple of weeks ago I unexpectedly had my work meal provided for so I didn’t need my mason jar salad that day. I left it, my plate and fork (the real stuff) in my lunch box in the fridge for the next day.

The problem is, it was a Thursday.  I left those items in the fridge that gets cleaned out on Thursday nights (when they decide to do so). When I went in the next day, there was no sign of my lunch box.

Or my mason jar, plate or fork.

I was, understandably, upset. After all, I strive to be a good steward of my belongings (hello, blog title) and losing these items was not being a good steward. To make it worse, most likely those still-wanted items were on their way to a landfill.

It was really easy to get mad: at the cleaning crew and at myself. But then I realized that I couldn’t change what happened by stewing on it further (I had already checked with the cleaning crew and they no longer had it). So I had to give myself grace.

I do want to  be a good steward of my possessions, and there is certainly room to improve in that. But I also need to recognize that the goal is not to be perfect in my stewardship. No one is saved by my frugality or eco-friendliness. While I do hope that there are positive consequences for others by my actions, that is my secondary motivation.

My primary motivation is to be faithful to the God who was first faithful to me. If I beat myself up about not doing this or that, I’m not honoring God who already did all the work for my salvation.

I hope that every time I look at my new lunch box or at my 7-plate dinnerware set I will think of God’s grace for me.

lunch box
My new lunch box is a little bit bigger, as it also doubles as my cooler.

How it Works: Selling Stuff

I once had an English teacher who said one of the worst words a writer could use was the word “stuff.”  (The other one, in case you were wondering, was “things.”)

That said, “stuff” is going to be discussed at length in this post, because one of the easiest ways to live out minimalist values and make a little extra money (to build up an emergency fund or pay off that pesky debt) is to sell “stuff.”

Of course, one could always sell body “things”, such as plasma, but since I have no experience in that arena, let’s talk instead about something I have actual experience with:  clearing out clutter and getting cash for it.

Three of the more lucrative household items I have found to clear the most room AND give the most money are clothing, books and paper products, and “dust collectors”–also known as knick knacks, tchotchkes, and trinkets.

 20150301_2222531.  Clothing.  One of the biggest things to remember about selling clothing is that if you wouldn’t buy it, then neither will a secondhand clothing store.  Typically stores that buy clothing want on-trend, good quality clothing; depending on where you are selling, brand names will matter.  My experience has been they will pay based on what is in their current stock; if they have a glut of shirts, for example, then they won’t pay top dollar for yours, if they take them at all.  Selling a few clothes at Plato’s Closet yielded us around $50, but again, this can vary.  Some stores will also offer you store credit in lieu of cash.

2.  Books and Paper Products.  My first experience selling books was in college, where I hoped I would get a little money back for textbooks that may (or may not) have seen a great deal of use during the semester.  I have continued to sell books and other items periodically, especially if I happen to have duplicates of a book, puzzle, or calendar.  Selling books is similar to selling clothing, as far as requirements are concerned.  Quality books, puzzles, and the like can be sold online or in a traditional used book store, with cash back varying widely.  I confess I never make huge amounts of money doing this, but it’s nice to clear off my bookshelves and get a bit of money for a special treat!

unnamed (33)
An example of the tschotskes that made the cut.

3.  Knick-knacks.  In my mind this is the trickiest of the three:  how do you know what is best to donate to a thrift store and what is worth the time to try and sell?  I’ve found that if an item is rare or a collectible, it is obviously worth the time to try to sell (usually an online venue is best), but so too is the item that would appeal to a certain population.  I used to collect dog figurines before I realized what a chore dusting them really was.  I sold them online to people (typically fans of the dog breed depicted in the statue) who would enjoy and appreciate them more than I was.  Depending on the item, this can yield a good chunk of change.

What “stuff” have you sold?  What was your experience like?

Minimum Clothes Count

I’ve seen a lot lately about how to create more outfits with fewer items of clothing. I love the idea of minimizing any area of “stuff,” but I’m concerned that this is shaping minimalism to look more like the rest of our culture. Why not proudly wear the same outfit over and over again?

I will readily admit that I have more clothes than I need. I don’t mind getting rid of what I don’t like, doesn’t fit or is unusable. But I struggle with getting rid of extras of things that are perfectly good.

[Sidenote: When I actually took the time to count my clothes, I do think I could get rid of some things. I will be working on that soon.]

Of course, it’d be better not to have accumulated extras in the first place.

I finally wore this skirt out after an estimated 600 wears.
I finally wore this skirt out after an estimated 600 wears.

So instead of getting rid of usable clothes (or worse, buying more duplicate items), I’ve decided to come up with a list of the minimum amount of clothing items I can make do with.

While I’m sharing my list below, I think everyone’s will look different. Because I like to have a full load before I use the washer, I used 2 loads of laundry (one light, one dark) every 2 weeks as my baseline. While I can get by between laundry days on my current level of unmentionables, I will start washing them by hand once a week when I get my pile whittled down closer than my goal minimum.

As my clothing preferences and circumstances change, I’ll revisit this list. For example, when I buy a home, I’m considering buying an electric-free washer which in addition to other benefits, will also allow me to get buy with fewer items as the loads are smaller.

For now, here’s my list:

Item (current) – goal minimum
Sweaters (14) – 4
Sweatshirts (3) – 1
Long-sleeved shirts (9) – 4
3/4-sleeved shirts (10) – 8
Short-sleeved shirts (15) – 10
No-sleeved shirts (3) – 0
T-shirts (14) – 6
Dresses (5) – 2
Skirts (5) – 3
Pants (4) – 2
Jeans (1) – 1
Exercise pants (6) – 2
Exercise shorts (4) – 2
Undershirts (black) (2) – 2
Undershirts (white) (12) – 2
Undershirts (other colors) (2) – 0
Tights (10) – 5
Hose (1) – 0
Bras (8) – 3
Exercise bras (7) – 3
Underwear (23) – 8
Socks (18) – 4
Exercise socks  (9) – 5
Slipper socks  (2) – 0
Sleep shirts (14) – 4
Summer sleep pants (8) – 4
Winter sleep pants (8) – 4
House jacket (1) – 1
Cardigans (2) – 1
Jackets (2)- 1
Coat (2) – 1
Gloves (5) – 1
Scarf (1) – 1
Swimsuits (2) – 2

What’s the minimum that you can get by with?