week fifteen: gift wrap “station”

This is one of those stupid things I purchased after getting married that I thought was required for our house. A hanging-on-the-door gift wrap organizer. You know, for all of those presents I wrap constantly. Look! Four rolls of paper from Big Lots! Plus a spool of ribbon! They need a home. And not just boxed up with the Christmas stuff – that would be too logical. They need a special wrapping-paper-designated organizer. Perhaps one I hang on a doorknob – because that’s just what I need on my office door, a fucking plastic garment bag with cheap wrapping paper tumbling out of it whenever I enter the room. WTF is wrong with me?

This has had a few homes over the years. Hanging off my office door. Hanging off the door in the guest room. Hanging off a hook in the garage. Hanging off a ladder in the garage. Hanging off the door in the soon-to-be-baby playroom. I kept moving it when husband ran into it or the dogs sniffed at it to see if it was something they should pee on.

Over the weekend it was hanging in the garage (This time off some plywood! What a great spot for my gift wrap organizer!) and baby kept grabbing at it when we went outside. He knocked it on the ground twice, then I was all like “Fuck this shit! I don’t need no gift wrappin station no more!” (I said it in my head, lest you worry about me cursing in front of baby.)

I decided to forgo Christmasy wrapping paper from now on. I have a bigass roll of kraft butcher paper in my office I use for packaging up some products I sell. Last year I wrapped a few gifts in it, using cute stamps to decorate the paper. It’s one of the few craft projects I can actually do, as it’s quick, fun and easy with very limited set up and clean up. This Christmas maybe baby can even help, if he stops trying to eat everything he gets his grubby little mitts on.

So this Christmas, we’ll be a little more like this under the tree:

You know, sans the stupid top hat as a star (???). Also, I’ll go out on a limb here and say we will probably NOT put a fucking tumbleweed in our fireplace either. But you get the gist. Butcher paper plus some cute ribbon and maybe some stamping fun. Much better than the garment bag clotting up my doorways. Hurray!

week fourteen: the birthday party

My little baby is almost one. I won’t bore you with the requisite “Oh my gawd how time flies,” or the “I can’t believe it’s been a year!” shit. You know that when you get old time goes fast. Add a baby into the mix and it whooshes by at breakneck pace. He’s a year. It went quickly. Yep.

I’m excited for baby’s first birthday. Celebrating this milestone with friends and family sounds fun. The in-laws are flying in from Texas for the event. Husband’s business partner is bringing his family. About 28 people from my side are coming. It’s kinda the hip place to be this June.

And when I started planning this party, all I could think of was the ridiculous pile of shit I was bound to be saddled with after this event.

I’m hosting somewhere around 40 people. I didn’t invite them to get stuff for baby – I invited them because we’re having a picnic in the summertime, and the more the fuckin merrier, amiright? I just want a fun get-together, play pass the baby a bit and eat a chocolate cupcake. I don’t want the “gift table.”

Any time you throw a kid’s birthday party, there’s always the gift table, overflowing with toys, clothes and little kid shit all wrapped up in shiny paper and glossy bags. At some point during the party, people start getting all present itchy and then it’s time to sit baby down and have him open a bunch of stuff. This tradition, particularly with such a young child, seems really fucking strange to me.

Don’t get me wrong – of course I think it’s sweet and nice and thoughtful to give a child a gift for their birthday. But does my baby need 40 new things? Do I want him sitting in a sea of shiny new stuff, learning that getting shit is what his birthday is all about? Is it vital to his happiness that he receives more toys in one day than some children ever see in a lifetime?

No. No he doesn’t. No I don’t. No it isn’t.

Baby is going to be fighting against commercialism and stuff acquisition for decades to come. Right now – in these early years – is the time for simplicity. To try and instill as much as possible an appreciation for the things we have, and a contentedness in knowing that what we have is enough.

So I figured out that I didn’t want stuff. But how to pass that along to all of the invitees without sounding like a:

1. Holier than thou beeyatch (“although your plebeian son may enjoy childish toys, my son shan’t be accepting your low-brow gifts!”)

2. Annoying controlling mom (“only four of you pay attention to my Amazon wishlist and the rest of you jerks will bring age-inappropriate toys that baby will choke on so fuck off!”)

3. Dirty hippie idiot (“the man is controlling baby’s mind via Elmo, so we’ll only be accepting natural gifts, like leaves and Trader Joe’s granola bars.”)

Well, I wasn’t sure – but a post I read on the Minimalist Mom’s blog on minimalist birthday parties for kids gave me an idea. She detailed a “Toonie” party, a Canadian trend in kids’ parties. The basic idea is that party guests, in lieu of gifts, bring the kid one or two “toonies.” (BTW – A toonie is a $2 coin in Canada.) After the party, the kid can go pick out something he’d like with his pocket full of coins. How cool is that?!

I decided that was the strategy for us. Of course, we don’t have any cool coins here in the States – I mean I guess we have that damn Sacagawea $1 coin but I never see them out in circulation and when you try and spend them at the 7-11 the clerk gets all confused like you handed him Monopoly money. A one-dollar bill seemed lame, so I went with a five-dollar bill.

I had also read online about some toonie parties being a split pot of sorts. Each guest would bring two toonies, and the kid donated half and kept half. I liked that idea, and I like the thought of baby picking a charity each year to support. You know, teaching him the world is bigger than himself, that sort of shit. So that’s the plan. This year, husband and I will pick the charity, I’m thinking Heifer or Toys for Tots.

I’m sure some people will ignore our request, and that’s cool. But if their gift gets donated after the party I won’t feel too bad about it. It’ll probably be the same people who never read their emails all the way through and also forget to RSVP. But that’s why you bring extra sandwiches, you know? Because even though those people annoy the shit out of you, you still have to invite them. Haha! Just kidding.

Not really.

week thirteen: diffusion

“you know how these things start… One guy tells another guy something, then he tells two friends, and they tell two friends, and they tell their friends, and so on, and so on…”

This minimalism thing is catching on.

I recently showed my blog to a few friends and family. And, in turn, they have started to rethink their stuff. Donating the things they no longer want or use. Tossing the old magazines they never have time to read through. Avoiding impulse purchases and taking the time to decide if a product is something they’ll love, or just something that will take up space in their home and life.

It’s often the best ideas that spread so quickly, so easily. Even so, it’s awesome to see the small changes I have been making (that were influenced by others) start affecting those close to me as well. It’s like a minimalism version of pay it forward.

And just so you don’t think I fell off the wagon this week, here’s a list of all the shit I’ve done over the past several days. Lots of smaller things, but they add up!

1. Washed and put away “the towel.” What is this, you ask? Well, when I went into labor (don’t worry, this doesn’t get gross), husband and I stayed home as long as possible. One thing we tried was a bath. In movies and TV shows, laboring mamas always look so serene in bathtubs. They breathe slowly and rub their bellies and are all “ooohhh this bath feels sooo good.” Huh. The bath didn’t really work too well for me. It turns out all I wanted was husband to knead my back as hard as possible, to the point where his hands stopped working. In any event, I had left the post-bath towel hanging in the guest shower. For eleven months. I’m not sure what my attachment to it has been – I guess it just reminded me of that night. I probably would have left it hanging there for a while longer, but the fat dog got stuck outside in the sprinklers and froze up, not knowing where to run and ended up soaked. “The towel” was the only thing I had handy to dry him off with. And once it smelled like dirty fat poodle… well, the magic was gone.

2. Donated about 50 old records. We listen to records almost exclusively (I know, how fucking annoying are we?) and buy up dollar vinyl at estate sales. Unfortunately when we started we knew next to nothing about what we were buying and ended up with lots of records that suck (Tijuana Taxi, a promotional album put out by Weinerschnitzel in the late sixties, comes to mind) or moldy slabs with old people dust all over them. Husband got into the mix and edited a bunch out of our collection. Saweet.

3. Sold more shit. Cloth diapers that baby never liked too much, more old lady figurines and the Wacom tablet I purchased ($350!!!)  but never, ever used. Moron! At least I got some decent cash for my idiocy.

4. Found a taker for some ginormous baby gear we no longer need. The bonus? It’s a friend of mine, so I’ll be able to borrow it back if/when baby #2 arrives in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

Whatchoo bitches been doin?! Have you noticed minimalism spreading n your little corner of the world, too?

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.