week eighteen: add water before turn on it!

Nothing says quality electronic goods like a superfluous home appliance with a poorly translated instruction-ish label stuck to the top. With an exclamation point, no less.

I bought this “sonic wave” jewelry cleaner thingie on eBay from some random Chinese importer. It was after I got my engagement ring, and I apparently convinced myself that – for the ONE piece of non-New York and Company jewelry I owned – I needed some weaksauce Sharper Image knockoff to address the ring’s complex cleaning requirements.

When it arrived I wasn’t too impressed. I think I might have even been slightly shocked when I used it for the first time and it didn’t catch on fire. Every once in a while I’ll drop my ring in there, and it seems cleaner when it comes out. I think?

From now on, I’ll use 30 seconds of elbow grease to clean my ring. I’m sure Pinterest has a DIY ring cleaning reference with an adorably illustrated step-by-step manual using reclaimed toothbrushes and a solution made from Windex and cornmeal or something.

Related but separate – took my FIFTH carload of junk to the thrift store today. I was proudest of the giant light blue terry bathrobe husband finally gave up. It took up about 72% of our closet space. Husband kept it because (he thought) it looked like “something Hugh Hefner would wear.” Which makes me think “how does husband NOT realize the difference between a puffy bath towel robe and some slick red satin smoking jacket?!”

I mean COME ON! Hugh Hefner wouldn’t be caught dead in that.

Really, husband. I’m disappointed.

week seventeen: I really, really suck at snowboarding

High up on the list of things I would have once thought impossible: Giving yourself a black eye with a snowboard.

Now wait – I don’t mean RIDING a snowboard. Of course that’s possible. Wipe out trying a gnarly jump or cut an edge too close to a tree, totally possible. Nor am I talking about some sort of Three Stooges-esque accident where you roll up on a snowboard chilling on the floor without noticing it there, step on it and launch the other side up at your face in a hilarious vaudeville salute.

No, I mean giving yourself a black eye WITH the board while said snowboard is bolted to your feet. Exactly. Just how the fuck does that happen, anyways?

In my early twenties, while being a superhip San Francisco city girl (ha), my then-boyfriend now ex-boyfriend and I decided to take up snowboarding. All the techy Bay Area types were jumping on the boarding bandwagon in the early 2000s, and, being a surprisingly OK athlete for a petite blond girl who owned a Hello Kitty toaster, I thought it sounded like great fun.

A tiny bit of backstory: I grew up in SoCal, about five miles from Mexico and eight miles from the beach. I saw snow for the first time when I was 19. I think I may have slid on a trash can lid down a hill sprinkled with hail once. But again, I can throw a baseball without embarrassing myself. Golf in mixed company without eliciting impatient eyerolls from boys. (I fucking hate it when they do that, by the way. Assholes.) Shit, I even have an aight backhand.

So I wasn’t worried. I’d fall down a bit, pick it up and be swooshing down the mountain shortly, looking all cute and snowboardy and getting hit on left and right.

HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Instead of that, I discovered I was the worst snowboarder ever. Awful. Spent the whole day falling on my ass. Mean teenagers laughed at me. I ate shit for about five hours and took my last ride up the lift to the doofus beginner area for a final attempt. I think ex-boyfriend told me I couldn’t go have a cocktail until I gave it one more try. Damn ex-boyfriend!

I hadn’t really mastered the lift. And this time, instead of gracefully tumbling off and dragging myself on my elbows (the fucking indignity!) out of the flow of traffic as I had been doing, I tripped and fell face first into the hard-packed snow. It sort of took me by surprise and I just laid there for a little bit, until the mean teenagers began shouting and I noticed I was smack in the middle of the steady stream of jerkoffs coming off the lift.

In my haste to scramble out of the way, I – to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I did this – managed to flip the free side of the board (when you ride the lift, you only secure one boot to the board, the other is free so you can kinda walk) 180 degrees and spin it around¬† so it smacked the shit out of my face.

What a fucking pathetic sight. First I skid on my face trying to get off the lift, then start waving my arms all crazy, hurrying out of the way of oncoming traffic, probably making some wimpy scared girl noise, and then I just about knock myself out with the board. I think I ended up in a heap just to the side of the lift, while five-year-olds jumped off and poked me with sticks.

Next thing I knew, some cute medic guy was wiping a cut just beneath my eye while the snowboard police or whoever were asking me what happened. No one could understand how I hit myself with the board. They kept asking me how I did it over and over again.

Later on, when the shiner started to appear over dinner in town, I got approving looks from snowboardy types and I realized everyone thought that I earned that black eye in a super cool way, like trying some badass trick in the pipe or something. Haha! Joke’s on them! I’m just some loser who couldn’t get off the lift.

After my first snowboarding adventure, I tried really hard to be a big girl and keep at it. I think I went about four or five more times, even buying a board and boots. I refused to believe I could suck at it so hard. But every trip I came back with a bruised tailbone and ego. I just couldn’t get it together. I think my last trip I kept screaming “FUCK YOU!!!” really loud into the snow while pounding it. Then I realized I had to give up the cute snowboarder girl dream. Ah well.

Anyways, that was the long version of why my best friend can have the snowboard that’s been sitting in my garage for eight or so years.

week sixteen: big stupid pillows

No, those aren’t pillows from the psych ward. They’re the “decorative” pillows I bought for our bed – you know, extra pillows that go behind our “real” Tempur-Pedic (boss playa) pillows. The extra pillows we don’t actually sleep on, but rather remove from the bed prior to sleeping and then… I don’t know… throw on the floor? What the fuck else do you do with decorative pillows? Then in the morning, if I don’t make the bed (IF! HAHA!), they just stay there, giant cushy wrinkly hazards to step over and trip on. Fun times. I especially love the misshapen, lumpy, thrift-store-chic look they’re working, too. WTF?!

I tried using these on the bed for oh… four days. Then husband started bitching about how dumb and pointless they were so I put them in the closet. For two years. Then I started cleaning out the closet and told husband to get on it, as his side was all messy. Then he was all, “Damn ho, there be bigass ugly pillows on my side of the closet SO THERE,” and I was all I HATE IT WHEN YOU’RE RIGHT.

So now they’re in the donation pile – wheeee! I can’t believe the space they cleared up in the closet. I also can’t believe that I didn’t SEE them for like two fucking years. And finally, I can’t believe I had to admit husband was right. ARRRTGHGHGHGHGHHHH!

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 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!