Category Archives: Re-Gift


Why is Getting Simple So Hard? The Joys of Selling on Craigslist.

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Where have you been you ask???  You made such a big deal proclaiming 2011 as The Year of Less, and we haven’t heard anything from you since.  Did you minimalize yourself into nothingness? I’ve heard the questions about my lack … Continue reading

The Stuff You Need For the Stuff You Got

Blu-ray Discs

Image by William Hook via Flickr

The week after Christmas brings almost as many customers to the big retail stores as the week before Christmas.  Shoppers flood the stores to exchange clothes for different sizes, spend their gift cards and refund items so they can buy what no one got the hint to buy them.  Customers are also looking for accessories to go along with the presents they received.  You need batteries for all the new toys and electronic items and new shoes and a purse to match the new outfit.  One of the retailers I worked for had an ad campaign that started after Christmas based on the theme “the stuff you need for the stuff you got”.

It seems that stuff just leads to more and more stuff.  A new TV leads to a new TV stand, a Blu-Ray player and home theater system.  You’ll need someplace to keep all your new Blu-Ray discs and someplace to store all those old DVDs you just replaced.  New clothes lead to matching clothes and accessories.  Stuff grows exponentially.

Every general merchandise store has every kind of storage crate you can imagine advertised.  They know that you need at least one more crate to store the new decorations you bought this year.   Old toys need to be packed up to make room for the new toys.  You’ll need a closet organizing system to fit in the new clothes and accessories.  Where are all the new storage totes going?   Even with the new organizers, the closets are packed.  Last year you started parking one of your cars outside so you could use half of the garage to store your barely used exercise equipment.  Space is getting tight.  It’s time to check the budget and see if you can afford a bigger house or if it would make more sense to just put an addition on the current house.

You can get so caught up in stuff that you never notice when the line is crossed and the stuff starts owning you instead of you owning it.  Take this time to resolve to make 2011 the year you return to the right side of the line.  Instead of buying the closet organizer, go through your closet and remove the items you haven’t worn in the last year.  Donate them to a local shelter.  Don’t buy totes to store old toys.  You know the toys that the kids never play with anymore.  Teach your children about giving and let them come with you when you give their old toys to a Children’s Home.  Sell the unused exercise equipment and use the money to pay down debt.  Resolve to make 2011 the year you evaluate everything you own and simplify your life by clearing out your clutter.

I got my start in minimizing my possessions through the writings of Tammy StrobelEverett Bogue, and Leo Babauta.  The books “The Art of Being Minimalist”  and “The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life” are great resources that can help you begin and complete the process of simplifying your life.  If you follow their advice, you can empty your storage totes, park your car in the garage again and move to a smaller house.

A common Christmas wish is for Peace on Earth.  You won’t be able to grant that wish, but you can bring some peace to yourself and your family.  When you choose to take control of your stuff, when you remove the clutter surrounding you, when you cut the unnecessary expenses out of your life, you free yourself from the responsibilities and the financial burden associated with them.  This freedom leads to peace.

If you already bought those new storage totes and organizers, TAKE THEM BACK!  Get a refund and use the money for something practical, like one on the resources on my recommended reading page.

Will you resolve to make 2011 the year of less stuff?  Please leave a comment and let the world know that this year, stuff is not going to win!

Clear Away Clutter – 4 Steps to Get Started

A wall closet in a residential house in the Un...

Image via Wikipedia

Maybe you tripped over something in the garage, or a box fell off the shelf of a stuffed closet and bonked you on the head, or maybe you’re just tired of all the stuff getting in your way, but you have made the decision to clear away some clutter from your home.  Good for you!  Here’s how to get started:

1. Pick a place to start.

You might want to start with a small area rather than tackle the garage or basement right away.  Pick a closet in one of the bedrooms, or some cabinets in the kitchen, or even the drawers in a dresser for your first project.  Pick a start time and an end time for your project and completely focus on the task during that time.

2. Keep, trash, donate, or sell?

A good way to start is to completely empty the area you are working on.   As an example, let’s say you decide to start with the hall closet.  Take everything out of the closet line it up down the hall.  Next, evaluate each item and make a decision whether you are going to keep that item, throw it away, donate or give it away, or sell it.  Set up boxes to put in the items that you decide to sell, trash or give away.   A coat your child has outgrown would be a great item to donate.  That broken tennis racket just needs to be thrown away.  Remember, the goal is to reduce clutter, so only allow the things that you really use to be placed back in the closet.

3.  Follow through

After you put the items you decided to keep away neatly, you must deal with your boxes.  Take the trash to the dumpster.  Make a run to Goodwill with your items to donate.  Bless friends or family with items you didn’t need, but they could use and enjoy.  Post sale items on Craigslist or EBay.  Plan a yard sale for spring with clutter you can sell. Once you have decided that you no longer need an item, you need to deal with it quickly or else it just becomes clutter in a different location.

4. Plan your next projects

Once you have successfully completed a project, immediately plan the next area where you are going to clear clutter.  Schedule a start and end time for the next area.  As you complete more projects, it becomes easier and faster to decide whether to keep, toss, donate, or sell an item.  If you have a basement, garage, or shed that is very cluttered, you might split up the area into smaller pieces such as one corner or one workbench to clear at a time.  You might also want to make sure that you have plenty of help for big projects, so pick a time when the whole family can help or friends might be willing to help.

There are many good resources to assist you in clearing the clutter from your home.  One that really helps me is Leo Babauta’s eBook, “The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life”. Another great book I recommend is “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

Any comments about this post would be greatly appreciated.

Black Friday Equals Red for You

Wal-Mart location in Moncton

Image via Wikipedia

For the first time in over 25 years, I will not be working in a retail store on Black Friday.  I also will not be shopping in any stores on that day.  As every good American consumer knows, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is so named because the Christmas season is when many retail businesses begin to show a profit (be in the black) for the year.

I have to admit that there was a time that I enjoyed  working on Black Friday.  It was amazing to me how packed with customers the Walmart I worked at would get, and how quickly the sales dollars would add up.  One Black Friday we had a desktop computer as a door buster item.  We received 90 of them to sell and we placed each one in a separate cart.  When opening time came, we had 7-8 associates available to distribute the carts with the computers to the customers that were interested.  It took less than 10 minutes to run out of these computers.

Then Black Friday became a competition among retailers not just for having the most ridiculous loss-leader deals, but also who could open the earliest.  6am?, 4am?, 3am?  You’re too late!  Some stores opened at midnight last year.  And, in the interest in getting first shot at customers’ dollars it was only a matter of time that someone would open on Thanksgiving Day for Black Friday.  Toys R Us is opening at 10pm Thursday.

Of course, the stores wouldn’t do these things if the customers didn’t encourage it.  “If you open, they will come.”  People line up outside stores hours in advance, all for a chance to buy a GPS for $59.99 or to grab some high-quality $3 appliances.  Every year we hear the news stories of injuries, fights, and even deaths occurring  during these door buster sales.  Stress levels are high for shoppers and employees who often take the brunt of shopper’s frustrations and anger.

While we hear plenty of stories about stores moving into the black for the year, we rarely hear stories about customers who put themselves in the red for the entire next year.  Here are some facts from the Family Life Radio website about Christmas spending.  On average, Americans spend the first six months of every year paying off the holiday debt from the previous year. In many cases, the bills far outlast the gifts.  The average American has 13 cards, including credit cards, debit cards and store cards.  Americans carry, on average, $5800 in credit card debt from month to month.  If one were to make only the minimum payment on their debt every month, it would take 30 years to pay off – and include an additional $15,000 in interest.  The federal reserve reports that 40% of Americans spend more than they earn.

The internet has 100s of websites with tools and advice to help you prevent overspending on Black Friday and for Christmas.  Setting a firm budget and  paying  cash instead of using a credit card are some great ideas, but here are some better ideas:

  • Give homemade gifts, baked goods, family photos or craft items
  • Offer services such as babysitting, snow removal, or some handyman work
  • Re-gift an item you purchased or received and couldn’t use.
  • Make a gift basket of inexpensive items, such as a movie night basket with a DVD, microwave popcorn, etc.

Stay home this Black Friday and spend some relaxed, quality time with family and friends. You don’t have to spend 2011 paying for Christmas 2010.  Don’t get caught up in the advertisers’ and stores’ game.

I’m not playing this year.