recap of my clutter-busting summer!

Happy Friday, friends!

This summer — inspired by the Clutter-Busting Challenge hosted this past May by Crystal at Money-Saving Mom, and the amazing Victoria at Snail-Paced Transformations who is continuing to give away, get rid of, or sell 3 things from her home every week this year — I have been on a mission.

My goal: get things out of my house that I no longer need or use, and get them into the hands of people who do need or could use them.

It’s amazing how much STUFF we accumulate, right?? I am not even the biggest shopper, and still I am just floored by the amount of THINGS I manage to bring into my life and into my space. Books, clothes, magazines, papers, flyers, do-dads, mementos, knick-knacks … where do they even come from??

In regards to clutter, this summer has been a perfect storm of sorts. I moved back home into my childhood bedroom, which was still crammed with stuff from high school and from the year I lived at home after graduating college. Plus, I brought home boxes of new stuff I’d accumulated while living in Indiana.

I was determined to slowly sort through everything through the course of the summer and get rid of as much as possible before moving up the Bay Area to begin my Steinbeck Fellowship. Also, as longtime blog readers know, I really don’t like to waste things, not even uber-ribe bananas. So if an item was useful, I didn’t want to just throw it away — my goal was to repurpose or donate as many items as possible!

clutter busting

Three months later, I’m happy to report my room is much cleaner and less cluttered, and I’m feeling more energized as a result! Here is a list of all the things I got rid of this summer, including how I repurposed some items:

  • 3 boxes of books: donated to the local library and the Boys & Girls Club
  • approx. 40 back issues of various magazines: donated to local senior centers and hospitals {just make sure to tear off the address label and any other personal info before donating!}
  • 2 large bags of clothing, including my heavy winter coat and a bunch of scarves: donated to Goodwill
  • 3 lovely little girls dresses, still in great condition, from when I was a little girl: also donated to Goodwill
  • 4 pairs of shoes I never wear: donated to Goodwill
  • 2 large fleece Snuggies that were not being used: repurposed into two handmade no-sew baby blankets for two friends of mine who each welcomed beautiful babies into their families recently
  • 2 outgrown T-shirts: transformed into diy pillows
  • 10 small hotel shampoos and soaps: donated to a local homeless shelter
  • 1 no-longer-used cellphone: donated to a soldier through Cell Phones for Soldiers.
  • 3 large trash bags full of old papers no longer needed: recycled

WOO-HOO! It feels so wonderful to de-clutter! Not only did I physically get rid of a ton of items, I feel like the act of clearing and sorting and donating was emotionally cleansing as well.

mur sleepy

This task was an amazing reminder of what a difference you can make little by little, day by day … I never imagined at the beginning of the summer that I would be able to get rid of so much unnecessary stuff, but slowly and surely I did!

What goals have you been working on this summer? Any fellow clutter-busters out there? I’d love to hear your tips for STAYING de-cluttered — my next task! 🙂

some related posts you might enjoy:

cleaning out my closet clutter
tips for selling things on craigslist
year of kindness challenge: donating clothes
year of kindness challenge: donating books
year of kindness challenge: donating toiletries

clutter-busting challenge

clutter-busting-challenge1

Crystal at Money-Saving Mom is hosting a Clutter-Busting Challenge in which she is getting rid of {throwing away, selling or donating} at least 7 items for every single day of May. She is inspiring loads of others to do the same, including me! 

I already did a lot of clutter-busting last month when graduated from Purdue and moved from Indiana to California … the move was the fire-under-my-butt motivation to sort through my various papers, knick-knacks, books, clothes, kitchen supplies, etc. and decide what was worth taking with me. I ended up donating and selling everything except for the clothes, blankets, books, and important papers that fit within five suitcases and a few big shipping boxes. 

When I arrived home, I had another opportunity to clutter-bust: my bedroom at home {which my parents have been sweet enough to leave as-is during my time away… it hasn’t been converted to a home office, at least not yet!} There were books and papers and random STUFF that had accumulated during winter breaks and summers at home and that I hadn’t gone through in years. 

After a few days of sorting, I am proud to share with you the big pile of stuff that I am getting rid of! 

clutter busting

I took the clothes/shoes/purses to Goodwill and donated the books to my local library. Not only does it feel good to purge your life of unnecessary items, I also love imagining the person who will enjoy each item in its next life! 

Are any of you doing spring/early summer cleaning and organizing? I’d love to hear your success stories and tips!

You can follow along the entire Clutter-Busting series at Money-Saving Mom here: https://moneysavingmom.com/series/clutter-busting-challenge

the pantry challenge + white chicken chili with corn muffins recipe

Confession: my pantry is a bit of a jumbled mess.

I’ve tried organizing it multiple times, but no matter how I sort through all of the cans, jars and boxes, it always looks messy. I finally realized the problem is that I simply have too much stuff crammed in there! So many cans and boxes and mixes that it’s impossible to even know everything that I have. So when I go to the store, I inevitably buy new cans and jars of stuff that is already buried in the back of my pantry. What a waste!

So, inspired by this post by Jill at the lovely blog Reini Days, I’ve made a resolution to use up all the food in my pantry that I already have. I’m not going quite so hardcore as Jill and her family did — I am still giving myself permission to buy new food and ingredients that I don’t currently have if necessary. But I will make an effort each week when doing my meal-planning to make recipes centered around ingredients that already live in my pantry before I go out and buy new things at the store.

The other night, I got my new pantry challenge off to a great start when I made a big batch of chili! I had friends over for Labor Day dinner and I made two big pots of chili. Look at all the cans & boxes from my pantry that I used in this single night:

Count ’em! That’s eight cans and two boxes for a total of ten items that were languishing in my overstuffed pantry! Perfect way to kick off the challenge I’ve set for myself.

Since I had seven friends over, I made two big pots of chili. In one pot, I made a tomato chili recipe from my mom that I am looking forward to sharing with you in the near future. In the other pot, I made a white chicken chili that was delicious and is perfect for anyone who is sensitive to high-acid foods such as tomatoes or suffers from heartburn because this chili is tomato-free! This is the recipe I’m going to share today. I call it “California-style” because I think it’s best served with sliced avocado on top!

california-style white chicken chili

– 1 package chicken breasts or chicken breast tenderloins
– 1 green bell pepper
– 1 orange or yellow bell pepper
– 1 tsp mixed garlic
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 can white beans {I used organic great northern beans}
– 1 can corn
– 1 package white chili seasoning
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 medium avocado

1. Pour the olive oil and garlic into the bottom of a large pot. Turn heat on low. Dice the bell peppers and pour into the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until pepper begins to soften.

2. While pepper is cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

3. Drain the can of beans and corn and pour both into the pot.

4. Add the chicken, water and white chili spice packet and bring chili to a boil.

5. Turn heat down a little and simmer the chili for 20-30 minutes {or longer if you have the time … the chili gets more and more flavorful the longer you cook it. YUM!}

6. Before serving, top chili with diced avocado if desired.

My friend Xun who came over for dinner absolutely loves cornbread, so I served the chili with corn muffins, which were super easy to make. I just used a Jiffy boxed cornbread mix and poured the batter into muffin tins instead of a bread pan.

jiffy corn muffins

– 1 package jiffy cornbread mix
– 1 small can corn
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup milk or buttermilk

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees.

2. Combine cornbread mix, egg and milk.

3. Drain can of corn and add to the batter. Mix thoroughly.

4. Pour batter into paper-lined muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Each box of mix yields about six muffins. For our get-together, I used two boxes and doubled the ingredients.

These were fantastic! We had a bit of each kind of chili left-over, but the corn muffins were all gobbled up by the night’s end!

It was a really fun night, and chili is such a relaxing meal to cook — all you really need to do is plop all the ingredients in the pot and let it simmer until you’re ready to eat. Perfect for having people over and wanting to spend your time visiting rather than slaving away in a hot kitchen.

So, does anyone else want to join the challenge with me? I’m excited to update you on my progress as I try out new recipes to clear out my pantry!

Have a great day–
Dallas

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-Time spent: 1 hour {including cook time}
-Cost: about $10 {though I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry already, hooray!}

MPM-Winter
This post is linked up to Menu-Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie!

tips for selling things on craigslist

When I first moved to Indiana for graduate school, all I brought with me was what I could fit in my Ford Taurus — mostly clothes, books, small kitchen items, and pictures/special trinkets/mementos. Which means … almost all of my furniture I bought on Craigslist. I had not used Craigslist much before, but I decided to give it a shot because 1) I was on a tight budget; and 2) I try to be as eco-friendly as possible — I love the idea of buying something that might otherwise end up in a landfill and giving it a new home.

All in all, I have been so happy with my purchases! Since then, I have even sold a couple things on Craigslist myself and helped Mike sell some things he no longer needs or uses.

In my experience, often the best first step to organization is getting rid of stuff! Is there any unneeded, unused stuff cluttering up your life? One of my favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify!” He continued, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Go through your closets, kitchen, dresser, etc. and see if there is anything you no longer need or want. Have you used it or worn it in the past three or four months? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to let it go! And if the item is in good condition, you might be able to make a little money by putting it up on Craigslist.

Now, the cons to Craigslist is it does take a little time to get things posted up there. If your items are not very expensive or in-demand, it might be more worthwhile to donate them to Goodwill instead of spending time putting them up on Craiglist. That said {especially as a grad student on a tight budget} every little bit helps!

Here are some tips from my double-perspective: a savvy Craigslist scourer in the days when I was first furnishing my apartment, and a busy sometimes-Craigslist seller of items I no longer need.

How to Use Craigslist to Simplify your Surroundings & Make a Little Extra Moohlah:

1. Include a photo of the item you are selling! When I was looking for furniture for my apartment, I pretty much only contacted people who posted photos of the item. I wanted to be able to “see” what was being sold before I decided if I was going to drive out and look at it in person!

2. Make your title straight and to the point. What are you selling and for how much? Titles that are too long or have a ton of capital letters and exclamation marks scream desperation, which can attract people who want to bargain you down to the bare bones. On the other hand, as a Craigslist buyer wary of being scammed, long titles that seemed too “sales-pitch-y” often turned me off; they made me feel like the seller was trying to pull one over on me. Let your item speak for itself.

3. Use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you come across professionally {even in relatively informal settings like Craigslist} people will see you as more trustworthy and reliable. And people want to do business with trustworthy, reliable people!

4. Don’t list your items for too much. Don’t expect to get back what you paid for the item. Think garage-sale prices. Think about how great it will feel to get this item out from cluttering up your space. When I sell items, I often take my first-thought price and knock it down by $5 or $10. I would much rather sell the item for $5 less than I originally thought and get it out of my house and at least get something for it, rather than ask $5 more for it and not sell it at all. At the same time, however…

5. Don’t list your items for too little. Expect people to bargain down a little with you. If you list your item for $10, and that is as absolutely as low as you are willing to go, people will likely want to only pay $5 for it. But if you had listed it for $15 originally, someone might be happy bargaining you down to $10. If you list your item for a certain price and it doesn’t sell for a week or two, you can always knock the price down. I think it’s better to start too high and bargain down than it is to start too low, because if you’re too low you’re stuck there.

6. Show you have done your research. I think the most successful Craigslist post I did was when I sold an ice-cream maker that Mike had never even used. It was still in its original box, just collecting dust in his closet. Before I posted an ad on Craigslist, I went onto Amazon and found how much it was selling for there. Then, I was able to reference this in my post: I listed the original price, the reduced price Amazon was selling it for, and the further-reduced price Mike was asking for it. I received an email within a couple hours and the next day a super nice lady came by and bought it to use with her kids. She paid the price we asked, no questions, and I could tell she was thrilled about it. She got a great deal, Mike got a great deal — everybody wins!

Hope those tips help you make the most out of Craigslist — and organize your space and make some extra moohlah in the process! I would love to hear what other tips you would add. Does anyone have a great success story, or lessons learned, about selling or buying items on sites like Craigslist?

Have a great day!
-Dallas