Sunday, May 5, 2013

'Tisn't the season for giving

My dad can't turn down anything free, whether he needs it or not. Apparently, neither can I.

The apartment building that the Chief Engineer and I used to live in had a "free" space in the basement where people could leave things they didn't want, and other people could pick up things they did want. One day, I found this huge bag of empty gift bags. I hate wrapping things. I will never have a room in my home solely for wrapping gifts. Thus, I love gift bags and I was on cloud nine when I found them. I then added in leftover wrapping paper and some store bags of my own.

But whoever left them must've spent a fortune on them! Some bags were duplicates and they're all in pristine condition, which is how I know they were purchased and not simply reused. I've probably used about six of the bags since I got them two years ago. But of the ones that are left, the price markings on them range from $2.49 and $5.49. Let's average that out and say $4 a piece. That's $72 for 18 bags. Suddenly wrapping presents in newspaper like my sister-in-law does sounds like a brilliant idea.

Anyways, this gigantic bag of bags was my decluttering task for a lazy Sunday afternoon. I wanted to use the big bag itself for a craft project and I wanted to store everything in a smaller space.

But alas, I had an emotionally hard time getting rid of some things.

OMG, gift bag from my honeymoon in Williamsburg! Gift bag from a world-famous hotel and cake bakery that friends brought us from Austria! (we ate the cake). I can't get rid of it, it's nostalgic! It might be useful one day! Argh, back in the bag they go.

In the game of hoarding, Joanna: 0, Evil Disordered Hoarding Alter Ego: 1

Okay, crumpled up paper that would look shameful if I wrapped something with it. Out it goes.

In the game of hoarding, Joanna: 1: Evil Disordered Hoarding Alter Ego: 1

I got rid of some old tissue paper too, pulled out a couple bags to use for the craft project, and then stuffed pretty much everything right back in the bags. Albeit a little more neatly than before. And I can't get rid of the box, it's a souvenir from my Hawaii trip! Argh. This is ridiculous. A box from Hawaii and a bag from Brooks Brothers. My dad supported the four of us on $50,000 a year growing up. How did I get to be such a snob? No wonder my monthly expenditures are ridiculous. More to the point, what do I do about it?
In the game of hoarding, Joanna: 1: Evil Disordered Hoarding Alter Ego: 2

So I didn't come out evenly matched against my evil disordered hoarding habits today, but I made a little progress. The bags are more organized before and everything takes up a little less space. Now I just have to convince myself to use more of the bags. At least I'm not being attacked by gift bags every time I open the closet now.

There's just one little problem remaining: In the process of trying to become a relative minimalist I've stopped giving others physical gifts. I've done this partially in hope that they'll get the hint that I don't want physical gifts myself, and partially because I'd rather be eco-friendly and give meaningful experiences. Now there's much less to wrap at the holidays, and yet I have all of these gift bags! I hope to try to come up with other uses for them.


  1. You know, it's funny because I'm the SAME way when it comes to wrapping paraphernalia. I have a big bag full of stuff...but in reality I usually wrap with butcher paper or packing paper that the boys then decorate since it's recyclable. Plus, we don't give a lot of physical I think you've convinced me to purge a bit. Thanks for that!

    1. I really like the idea of the kids being able to decorate re-purposed paper. Must remember that when I have little ones! I've gotta give you a lot of credit, Megyn. You're incredibly creative and effective for a mama who has so much to handle! How's the hubs enjoying the new job?

  2. "'Tisn't " is a great word! Kudos on your progress, even if it wasn't as much as hoped.

    1. lol, thank you! I'm still getting back in the deculttering groove. You guys are great inspiration so thanks for commenting!

  3. I'm in the same boat. I have a TON of wrapping paper and stuff... as in several boxes full of it. But these days I generally don't give things that need to be wrapped, and when I do, I tend to opt for something easy and "green" - as in it's sooo much easier to pull something colorful out of the recycle bin than it is to trudge down to the basement and lug out the wrapping paper!

    1. I've almost given up on wrapping gifts completely, because I don't give "stuff" anymore. Oh, the problems of being a minimalist! Now there's nothing to wrap.

  4. Hi! I usually have a few cards (3 or 4), duct tape and maybe two wrapping paper rolls at home. It´s a small amount and it doesn´t take up to much space.

    Sometimes when i read north american blogs i get a little surprised at how much stuff you have. That´s a generalization that may not be fair, but it´s the overall impression i get. I just read the article on wrapping rooms and i initially thought it was fake and meant to be a joke... then i realized it was real! I couldn´t believe what i was reading! Going through your post I was constantly thinking "why does she need to keep old gift bags?". Sorry if i sound rude, but it´s so different from my culture that it took me by surprise the fact that you keep so much stuff and that you have such a hard time parting with it. I know you grew up in a hoarder´s home and i also get that stuff may have emotional meaning to people (myself included), but it seems that you are making excuses to keep it. You live in a country so rich that people can get all the furniture to their houses just looking for it on the garbage. That´s richness, alright! In our trashes you would only find real trash (old tomatoes, used toilet paper, etc.) and maybe old pieces of toys or broken stuff.

    When you write "I've almost given up on wrapping gifts completely, because I don't give "stuff" anymore. Oh, the problems of being a minimalist! Now there's nothing to wrap." it is just so offensive to people who live outside this reality...! Having a lot of gift wrapping and nothing to wrap is not a problem at all, at least on my opinion.

    I do understand that this is a valid point of view for you, but that doesn´t sound minimalistic at all to me.

    Sorry if i upset you, but i´m only trying to add a new depth to the discussion.

    1. Marina,
      Thank you for your comment, but if there is only one thing that you learn from this blog, I want it to be that hoarding is not a normal behavior, it is a mental health problem that manifests itself as a completely *irrational* attachment to useless stuff. As a child of hoarders and someone who is working through anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder, I have many of the irrational attachments to stuff that are the hallmarks of the hoarding disorder.

      For me, being minimalist is relative, so perhaps I wasn't clear on that. Yes, I am making excuses to keep things, and that is part of an irrational behavior that I recognize and am trying to fix. The whole reason I have this blog and post about things like this -- to highlight how irrational the attachment is.

      Perhaps to put this another way -- asking me to wake up and stop being attached to stuff is like asking someone with bulimia to just stop bingeing on food because there are kids in China who are starving. I am trying to appreciate the environment you live in, but please understand that rationality is not enough to solve the problem here.

      I hope that makes the experience of these disorders a little easier for you to understand.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. ps. thank you for calling me on irrational behavior, it's part of the reason I have the blog! I've added "relative" to the minimalist phrase to make it a little more clear what I was getting at.


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