donating, home life, reading

Little by Little

I wish I had a before picture to show you, or a factual number, or anything. And I do have before pictures I’ll have to find, hidden on my external hard drive from years ago. Pictures of the backpack I lived out of for six months, pictures of my 450 sq ft apartment, pictures of the vast emptiness of my two bedroom house when I first moved in. Pictures of all the clutter when my husband moved his storage shed from Oklahoma into our back room (even though I would hate to see those – talk about anxiety!). Pictures of moving in another kid and struggling to keep the house clean while hating my day job.

I am working on the house little by little, but I get on these kicks. I can donate half of my wardrobe in twenty minutes on a good day. Doesn’t fit? Gone. Hate that color now? Gone. Doesn’t feel comfy? Gone. Thankfully, my clothes are mostly from thrift stores anyway (don’t buy new!) so it’s never a huge loss, trying to argue that I spent so much on it, I at least have to keep it and try to wear it again.

Truthfully, I can sever ties to my belongings in a snap. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s there. And when I get in the mood, I want to get rid of everything.

I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelves lately. There are some hardcore favorites I want to keep copies of. But some I remember fondly but hazily, and those are the ones I’m re-reading. Do I really want to keep them? So far, we’re 3 for 3 – donations are winning! They were nice to re-read and I will still remember them fondly, but they don’t pack a punch or blow me away. They’re just… nice, so I don’t feel the need to keep them.

This is a pretty big shift in how I used to think about books. I wanted to own all the books. I would buy dozens at used book sales and keep them, whether I had read them or not! I figured I’d get to them someday. Now I just use my Goodreads “Want To Read” list and keep my shelves a little more sparse.

It helps me to think of that sometimes – how my attitude in owning books has changed. Because I’ve never been stylish or into clothes, so getting rid of those is no problem. But books are special to me, and if I can be strict with what I keep in that aspect, I know the rest of my house and life will come together, too. Little by little.

donating, money

Selling Your Stuff

I used to sell a lot online; this was when I was an undergrad and needed all the pennies I could collect. I would sell old textbooks on half.com (RIP – that was the BEST site to sell on), and I sold a few things on eBay that took off in the last few minutes of the auction, much to my broke-student relief!

Since then, I haven’t sold much online. I used to list a lot of books on PaperbackSwap, but that’s a fair trade, not selling. When it comes to getting rid of things, I would rather get rid of them immediately instead of have them lurking around a week in hopes they sell. I try to match my items with the best donation center, like taking books to the library and baby clothes to Catholic Charities, who gives them to families for free.

I had a few days with no projects on the task list, so I decided to take time to list a bunch of items I had around the house. I had planned on donating them, but I thought they might be worth something to someone. A Squirrel Girl figurine, for example – just donating that might be a waste because they might not know what it is. Why not list it for a couple of bucks?

I ended up listing 31 items over 2 days. It took about 15 minutes to list each item, from photographing it and measuring it, to writing about it. I tried to write funny, engaging descriptions because I’ve seen auctions go well because of the writing. I wasn’t trying to go viral – I just wanted someone to want one of my things and bid on it because they liked the overall tone and wanted to buy from me over someone else.

Three items sold from my first day of auctions. Three out of thirteen. Not great.

Three more sold the next day. Three out of eighteen. Even worse.

I thought it was better than nothing – I wasn’t working those days, so at least it was something. You could say that I made about $70 on those days, for about 10 hours of work (listing, packing, shipping).

Then… the post office. I don’t know if I got ripped off, or if ebay shipping estimates are just totally off, or what. But I spend almost $45 on shipping! This majorly cut into my profits. I still made about $30 on junk I was going to get rid of anyway, so I’m trying to see it as free money. But I put so much work into it… just not worth it.

For me, it’s just easier to donate what I don’t want anymore. I know I paid money for it, but I got my use out of the item and don’t need it anymore, so what little I actually lose on it is fine, because I get peace of mind. I know the item is not cluttering up my house anymore, and hopefully it goes to someone who wants it. I will probably list a few more specific things, like camera accessories, but otherwise I’ll just donate the bulk of my unwanted items.

Have you had good luck selling things online? Is it worth the time and effort you put in?

home life

Using What We Have

It seems like a simple solution, but it took awhile for me to think of it.

Use what we have.

I’ve always stocked up on things. Keep extra toilet paper in the cabinet. Extra toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, right next to the extra toothbrushes, because of course you can never buy just one toothbrush, right? (Oh trust me, we will talk about toothbrushes.)

When I lived in a 450 sq ft apartment, I stopped stocking up on everything. (Except toilet paper. ALWAYS have extra toilet paper.) I didn’t have much room for storage, so I started living smarter. I bought groceries weekly, because I didn’t have a standard fridge in my small kitchen. I kept just one of everything I needed on hand, and when I ran out, I added it to the list and picked it up on my weekly store visit.

It’s pretty easy to live this way when you’re single. You know what you use, what you need, and you can drop by the store on your way home from work to grab one thing.

When you have a family, though, it’s harder. You have multiple people using things, and you might not even get to it until it’s already rolled up with every drop squeezed out (I’m looking at you, toothpaste). At the risk of sounding like a martyr, it’s usually women who keep stock of household goods. Sometimes another member of the household will alert me that we’re low on something. “Add it to the list,” I say, because I don’t want to have to remember one more thing, even if I just need to remember it long enough to add to the list myself. If you notice it, say it out loud, fine – but it’s your responsibility to add it to the list.

The downside of this is that I am the one who buys the goods, and I am the one who puts them away, and I am the one who restocks them from our supply. It’s not that no one else knows where I store stuff – I show and tell them – it’s just that… I do it. So sometimes a product is added to the shopping list, when actually we have two more in the storage basket in the bathroom. Which means we just buy more at the store.

This most often happens in the kitchen, but that will have to be its own separate post. Our kitchen problem is one I’m already trying to solve, so I’ll have a lot to say on that.

The point is, we have stuff. We have plenty of stuff. And even though we’re technically out of toothpaste right now, we have those little travel tubes that work just fine. Yes, they were stored away for when we travel, but let’s be honest – that hasn’t happened in quite some time, so they next time we’re packing, we can just pick up some tubes if we need them. Better yet, we’ll just take our own big ol’ tube and save the hassle and the waste.

I have been using all my old shampoos and body sprays. When I was younger, I frequented Bath and Body Works and would always fall for the “Buy 2, Get 1” body sprays. So many scents, so much left over. It takes a long time to use a bottle of body spray. But I’m using them now, and it’s something I don’t have to buy, and it makes me feel productive to be using them up. We’re doing that all over the house with various products. It’s a small step, for sure, but it’s something we can do while we make big changes, too.