week twelve: crap into cash

Pre-married and pre-baby, I was a hip (sort of) single girl in San Francisco. I worked in marketing for a group of hotels smack in the middle of the city. I rode the cable car to work. I had a cute working-girl-in-city wardrobe. And I made decent cash.

While many of my friends could barely scrape together the $900 a month for their shitty room rental in the Tenderloin, I had cash to burn. Not cray cray money like buying Jimmy Choos every week, but enough to splurge on stuff here and there without worrying about how I’d afford gas that week or being forced to eat macaroni and cheese every night. (Ha. Like I have to be forced to eat macaroni and cheese.)

So what was the result of me being flush? Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t that I went on cool trips to Mexico with my girlfriends. Or that I bought front-row tickets to see amazing bands. Or even that I dined out at the city’s best restaurants.

No, I spent my money the smart way. On fucking old lady figurines.

Whaaaaaaat?!?! you say? Why would a cute 23-year-old woman with a fun marketing gig in the city buy miniature, overly detailed mouse figurines from the nice gay dudes that had the “shit old gay dudes like” shop in Union Square? The answer is: I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA. But I did. For shame.

Yes, they’re cute. But they are for old ladies. Or maybe someone who’s really, really, REALLY into mice. Or maybe a Liza Minnelli impersonator. But I don’t fit into any of those categories. So what the fuck was I doing?

Looking back, it was mindless spending. I got a little rush spending $100 (shame!!!) on some cute little tchotchke. What a nerdy way to get high.

Now I try every day to put those impulses behind me. To focus on the needs and really think hard about the wants. And I cannot imagine ever needing or wanting miniature mice dressed up in old-timey outfits poised on my mantle. So out they go.

The upside to me being a super nerdy mcnerdenstein? The figurines held some of their value, so I sold them on eBay. We’re renovating a room for baby – turning it into a playroom (in a minimalist way, of course, more on this later!) – and the extra cash from selling a bunch of dumb crap would really come in handy.

This all brings me to the second part of my post: Crap into cash.

Since week one, I have been building a pile of somewhat non-crappy crap that I didn’t want to just give away. So I’ve been having an online garage sale on eBay. In a couple of weeks I’ve made nearly $900 off junk I had in boxes in the garage. I am positive just about everyone has a few things they could let go of, make some money and do something cool. (Don’t all run out and buy mouse figurines with your proceeds.)

Here’s my top five crap-into-cash rules:

1. If you think something is worth less than $10, fucking donate it. How much time will it take you to takes photos of something, edit the pics, write a description, list an item, deal with whackjobs who ask stupidass questions, sell it, collect money and send it/have it picked up? The answer is at least a fucking hour, all told. So minus Paypal fees and eBay fees maybe you’re looking at $8 profit on a $10 item. Unless $8 an hour sounds like boss playa money to you (in which case you might want to look into online surveys and stuffing envelopes), stick with items that will result in a reasonable return for your time dicking around with selling it.

2. Use Craigslist for big shit, eBay for smaller shit. Look, eBay has a crappy user interface, costs a bit much and is full of morons. BUT they have an enormous market. Basically, you’ll be able to find someone SOMEWHERE who wants your stupid shit. Craigslist is cheap and easy to use, but your market is limited. So keep CL for furniture, swingsets and strollers. eBay is for all your crap that fits into flat rate Priority Mail boxes.

3. Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes ARE THE SHIT. Even better than the boxes is the flat rate padded envelope. Less than $5 anywhere in the States for that one. You can visit the USPS online and have the boxes and envelopes delivered straight to your door FOR FREE. Then use the Carrier Pickup feature online to alert your mailman that you’ll have a gang of shit for him to pick up the next day. Again, totally free. Fuck what y’all bitches say, the Postal Service FUCKING RULES.

4. If you have so much crap that you think a garage sale is the way to go, team up with family/neighbors/friends and have a multi-family sale. Garage sale nerds get all excited and wet their pants when you have tons of junk for them to pick through, and they bust out their coin holders and fanny packs full of one-dollar-bills with jubilation. Don’t have a fucking stale garage sale with dirty baby clothes on a blanket and six beatup paperbacks on a folding table (with a big sign taped to it that says “NOT FOR SALE DUMBASSES!) You won’t make any money and the garage sale people might eat you. Use the fucking buddy system, yo.

5. Don’t get all attached to your shit and think it’s worth big bucks. I’ve been looking on Craigslist for some gently used toys and kid stuff. Some people are reasonable: “Sun-faded Little Tikes Outdoor Slide – $25.” And some people are huffing the good shit: “Rusty Tricycle/Missing Wheels – $90.” Your used crap is used crap and if someone can buy a brand-new slide for $80, don’t try to sell your barf-covered version for $75. To get a sense of what stuff is actually selling for, do a “completed items” search for like products on eBay. Then list yours for just a bit less to move it fast and easy.

Get to it! Sell your unwanted shit and go see a cool band! Go on a family getaway! Treat your best girlfriends to margaritas and say a toast to the crap you got rid of to embrace life. Seize the fucking day, bitches!

PS: I did keep one mouse figurine – a wedding version I received after my engagement. It’s been in my nightstand for several years now. I’ll need something to remind me of my wild and crazy single girl days.


week eleven: memory lane

Sentimental stuff: before

Sentimental stuff: after

My mom held onto a lot of stuff from my childhood. A lot of stuff. Doodles I made on hotel notepads. My little league uniform. Pretty much every greeting card I received from age zero to nine. Every single report card.

I know why this is. She grew up in and out of foster care. She and her nine brothers and sisters were scattered into different short-term homes, many of which could have provided great fodder for depressing Lifetime made-for-TV movies. Her father finally rounded most of the kids back up when she was a teenager, only to succumb within a few short years to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Due to the tumultuous state of her childhood, my mom has no baby pictures of herself. No yearbooks. No greeting cards from her fifth birthday. Nothing. I have seen one photo of my mom before she met my dad. She was about fourteen, at Disneyland with a few of her brothers. The picture is somewhat blurry, but I can see it’s her, with her bell bottoms and long brown hippie hair.

So I get it. Throwing out my Outstanding Student award from the first grade would be near impossible, probably make her feel as though she was stealing something from me, from us. As though we would forget without the proof of the pictures, cards and awards.

Over time, however, as I grew up and out of my parents’ home, she gradually let things go. Many things were tossed (she always asked before throwing anything out, just in case I wanted that old bowling trophy), and many boxes came into my possession.

It seems I inherited a bit of the sentimental packrat tendencies from my mom. I held onto the boxes of my memories that they had saved, thinking that I of course wanted them, needed them. I mingled them with my own bins of nostalgia collected from my adult years.

And they all sat in my garage, collecting dust.

So this week, I took a break from my closet and decided to rummage through my “memory” boxes to see what could go. Not surprisingly, I threw away a lot of crap.

I started with five good-sized boxes. Inside was an old tutu, some cute canvas Snoopy shoes, toys and lots and lots and lots of paper. Stories I wrote in third grade, mimeographed reading awards, the certificate from my first Communion.

I remember thinking when I packed away the tutu before going off to college, “Oh, maybe my daughter will wear this some day, how cute will that be?” But really, how fucking annoying is that? I don’t have a daughter yet, but if I did, she gets her own tutu. Not the one that’s been sitting in an old box for 30 years made with some itchy-ass tulle and deteriorating sequins. And the Snoopy sneakers? Yeah, they’re totally cute, but time has hardened the canvas to a woodlike finish, rendering them less useful as footwear and more useful as a weapon. Gone, gone, gone. Down to just two tidy bins.

I kept some stuff. Some of the report cards are cute and they don’t take up very much space. Baby might think they’re funny to read in a few years. My old Barbie clothes were a must-save as well. I loved vintage Barbie fashions when I was little, so maybe my kids will, too. A sampling of the high school newspapers from my senior-year stint as editor-in-chief. And of course, the letter I wrote to my best friend when we were seven years old during a particularly acrimonious fight, where I concluded by letting her know that “I hope you get squished by a Super Shuttle bus.”

It might be difficult to overcome the sentiment when my little one starts bringing home his own macaroni art, the requisite turkey-from-my-hand Thanksgiving project and the other miscellaneous little kid trappings. But we can keep them for a while.

And then we’ll scan that shit and drop it onto a memory stick. It’s the fucking 21st century!

week ten: the panty pile

So, this week’s question is: “Just how many pairs of panties does one need, anyway?”

One for each day of the week plus an extra? One hundred? A month’s worth? Two?

My top drawer is my “intimates” (ugh that word sounds so yucky to me) drawer. Under-roos, socks, bras, all that shit. Lately it has been nearly unopenable as a growing pile of panties has become wedged in the left corner, jumping out at me when I finally wrestle the drawer open.

I have 55 pairs of panties. Whaaaaat the fuck is that about? Fifty-five? I do laundry every 36 hours – why do I need nearly two months’ worth of lady underwear? The answer, of course, is that I don’t. Totally balls-out unnecessary.

It took about 48 seconds to thin the pile down to 25 pairs. This number seems reasonable. At just over three weeks’ worth, I have enough for a long trip (Excuse me while I laugh at the thought of a week-long vacation – hahahahahahahahaha) without ransacking my collection or forcing me to do laundry if I magically can go a week without it. I kept the newish pairs that were in nice condition (duh), and no longer have any pairs that would embarrass me in front of the EMT if I was in an accident and needed my clothes cut off of me.

On a related note, could someone please please PLEASE start making 100 percent cotton panties that  DON’T look like sad “I give up” underwear? I mean, the panties above are Gap – and they’re not terrible… but I would really kill for some hot pink polka dot bikinis or lime green boy shorts. I don’t know how you sluts do it, but my sensitive hoo-ha doesn’t let anything but virgin cotton near its delicate person. And don’t even get me started on the insanity of thongs. Y’all bitches must be packing some seriously tough vaginas.

…And let’s just stop right there.

week nine: no more crappy jeans

I’ve started tackling my closet.

This won’t be a one-week job. Logistics (mainly the fact that baby naps in our bedroom) and the shear size of the project mean I’ll have to space this one out over a few weeks. This week I focused on the glaring fashion don’ts, stuff I knew was too big or too small and… my overflowing jeans drawer.

I started with nine pairs of jeans. (FUCK that seems like a lot to me now!) Two I jettisoned last week in yet another carload of shit run to the thrift store. (That makes two carloads so far!) I didn’t think about using jeans as this week’s post, so I didn’t have them for my pic – oh well.

In any event, I started with nine, got rid of two. Down to seven. I knew, however, that I needed new jeans. Have thought this for a while, as my current daily-use jeans are a mix of shoddy Old Navy denim, cute out of the dryer but then woefully big an hour later, hanging off my ass and giving me a yucky mom-who-gave-up sloppy look. Ugh, no thank you!

I wanted cute non-mom mom jeans. You know, jeans that were comfy enough to roll around on the floor with baby, affordable enough so I didn’t mind sitting in the sandbox with baby, but still sexy enough so I could be a hot mom at the park instead of a hot mess.

Wanting to avoid needless purchases, I followed the Minimalist Mom’s 30-Day Buy List suggestion, and made a mental list with new jeans at the top. After 30 days, my Old Navy jeans were still making me want to barf so I went out and bagged two new pairs of hot but comfy non-mom mom jeans. Two pairs out, two pairs in. Back to nine.

As the above diagram points out, nine pairs of jeans is about dog nose height. Too much! I edited out the too-big Calvin Kleins, the janky Old Navy jeans and an ill-fitting pair of NY&Co dark denim that I bought in a rush. Now I was down to four – the two new pairs plus my “fancy” jeans for going out (ha!)

As you can see in the above, my jeans wardrobe is now at a much more reasonable dog elbow height. No more overflowing jeans drawer – and there’s even plenty of room in there for my hoochie mama shorts. Awesome.

Related: After two carloads of donations, I am starting to see an impact in our home. My office is (slightly) less of a disaster area, the upstairs seems a bit neater, and it seems to take less time for the house to go from messy to presentable. I am liking the feeling of freedom less stuff imparts.