I tossed 496 things in 1 month. Here’s how.

The Minimalism Game

Ever since I was a kid I felt overwhelmed by my own clutter. I held onto everything at risk of needing it again. But at 28 years old, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and something finally clicked. It kind of gave me permission to let go of the things I didn’t need or want, but kept out of guilt. Ever since watching the documentary on Netflix, MPR and I have been regularly cleaning out, making trips to Goodwill, and buying more consciously.

But in prep for our move, I wanted to kick it up a notch and really force myself to go through every drawer and cabinet. Enter The Minimalism Game, or #MinsGame for short. The way it works is on the first day you get rid of one thing, on the second day you get rid of two things, and so on for an entire month. You’re technically supposed to compete with a friend or significant other, but I posed it as a challenge to myself.

In the end, I got rid of 496 items this past month. Here are some things I learned about myself in the process, and the full list of items I got rid of.

  1. A lot of my clutter is just things I forgot to throw away.
    In my list you’ll see a lot of old toiletries, makeup, receipts, and packaging. I tend to use items until there’s only one or two squirts left, start a new bottle, and just leave the old one there. Why? I have no idea, but I’m making a conscious effort to stop that going forward. I also tend to hold onto receipts and packaging in case I want to return something. Good plan, but then months and years go by and I still have them, taking up space. I need to set up a system where I clear out these items at the end of every month.
  2. Another chunk of my clutter is things I’m holding onto “just in case.”
    One example is five pairs of prescription glasses (in varying prescriptions). FIVE. I wear contact lenses 95% of my days, but my mother always told me to keep extra glasses pairs around in case something happens to my current pair. But they’re not doing me any good and I’ve never touched them, so I sent them off to Goodwill where they’ll be donated to people who need them. Another example is stacks of extra envelopes from my wedding stationery and Christmas cards over the years. Guess what? A normal letter doesn’t fit in those size envelopes, so I’ve never found another use for them. In the trash they went. And the worst offender? Beauty samples and hotel room toiletries. I take them, but I don’t use them.
  3. I don’t reread books.
    I just don’t. So I got rid of all physical books, either by making trips to my local Little Free Library, bringing them to the lending library in my office, or donating them to Goodwill. I’ve also stopped buying new books and instead borrow them from the library to cut down on clutter and spending.
  4. I really need to channel Marie Kondo and clean out my purse.
    Days 11-13 were completed just by cleaning out my purse. I don’t think I need to go to Kondo’s extreme of completely emptying my purse every night, but I could aim for cleaning it out once a week. After all, why carry around stuff I don’t need?
  5. I held onto things because I didn’t know how to get rid of them properly.
    For example, old checkbooks from an account I don’t have anymore. That graphing calculator from high school math class. Bras that never fit right. The hard drive from my college computer. While it may seem overwhelming at first, I promise you all of your answers are just one Google search away. In the process, I stumbled upon this great article, 9 things you didn’t know you could donate to Goodwill.

So there you have it. After one month I am 496 items lighter, and I’ve never felt more organized. I’m getting to the point where I truly believe everything I own is something I love and use regularly. And when you think about it, if it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, why let it take up precious space – physically or mentally?

The Minimalism Game:
Day 1: necklace from 8th grade graduation
Day 2: two shauna niequist books
Day 3: one cookbook, one YA novel, one coffee table book
Day 4: two magazines, two empty toiletry bottles
Day 5: one well-loved bra, extra spatula, extra potholder, spiralizer, wine stopper
Day 6: 6 DVDs
Day 7: 2 calculators, 3 post-It pads, Hollywood boot straps, Rufio’s old name tag
Day 8: stack of old business cards, old postcard, left over envelopes from Christmas cards, stack of old receipts, junk mail, post-it notes, old notes about a doctors appt, Vera Bradley iPad case
Day 9: old mouth guard, 3 post-it pads, 5 old makeup samples
Day 10: 10 envelopes from old Christmas cards/wedding stationery
Day 11: 6 gum wrappers and 5 old light rail tickets
Day 12: 6 expired coupons, shopping list, Charlotte hounds ticket, old movie tickets, regal crown club receipt, parking pass, petco grooming receipt
Day 13: 11 receipts, appointment reminder card, twist tie
Day 14: One Lesportsac duffle bag, one lesportsac tote bag, one Victoria’s Secret tote bag, that curling wand I never quite got the hang of, a body wash that makes my skin itchy, 2 pieces of junk mail, 2 old lip glosses, 1 sample mascara, 1 old blush, 2 expired nasal sprays, 1 old prescription information sheet
Day 15: 8 skincare samples I never used, 1 shampoo and 1 heat protectant spray with only a tiny bit left, 1 hotel body lotion, 1 nail polish color I don’t like, 2 face moisturizers i don’t like, 1 almost empty perfume bottle
Day 16: Sock bun I ever use, 1 body lotion with only a squirt left, 1 face serum with only a squirt left, 1 makeup brush shampoo, 1 electric razor, 8 empty boxes/packages of stuff, 3 zip lock gallon bags I used for travel for my toiletries
Day 17: 17 old CD cases
Day 18: 18 old CD cases
Day 19: 3 old CD cases, 1 DVD, 15 old sauce/dressing packets
Day 20: 5 wet naps, 2 old cookie icing packs, 1 broken hanger, 1 hat, 1 pair of gloves, 7 text books from college/grad school, 2 license plate covers, my epic wedding planning binder
Day 21: 2 picture frames, 1 card game, 3 coasters, 2 champagne flutes, 6 mugs, 7 bras
Day 22: 5 pairs of shoes, 4 skirts, 1 bathing suit coverup, 7 shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 4 pairs of socks
Day 23: 15 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks, 1 pair of tights
Day 24: 7 shirts, 3 expired antiseptic wipes, 2 tote bags, 1 wristlet, 1 pair of gloves, 4 belts, 1 pair of sweatpants, 3 sweaters, 1 Islander jersey, 1 bracelet
Day 25: 1 lap top case, 7 receipts, 1 map of Detroit, 3 lip glosses, 1 box plastic cutlery, 1 puppy blanket, 3 puppy poop bags, 1 runner, 1 set of sheets, 2 pillowcases, 3 hoodies, 1 wallet
Day 26: 2 purses, 1 wallet, 2 pairs of pants, 1 piggybank, 17 coins of foreign currency, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of glasses, 1 hair comb
Day 27: 19 necklaces, 6 rings, 2 watches
Day 28: 24 pairs of earrings, 4 bracelets
Day 29: 15 pendants, 14 pins
Day 30: 1 locket, 8 bracelets, 5 old CCs/IDs, 2 packs of old envelopes, 1 embosser with old address and maiden name, 1 pack of photo thank you cards, 4 pairs of glasses, 8 receipts from old prescriptions
Day 31: 3 receipts from our wedding, 2 shopping receipts, 4 old check books, 1 bag of extra buttons, 2 business cards, 1 old perfume bottle, 1 old compact mirror, 2 old lip glosses, 2 old foundations, 3 old eye shadows, 1 old eyeliner, 1 bronzer, 1 old mascara, 1 makeup brush, 1 old cuticle softener, 1 old pair of tanning goggles, 4 nail polishes

Everything in transit

Something Corporate North

I vividly remember riding in my family’s mini van to Coconuts to pick up Something Corporate’s “North” on release day. It was a typical October evening in upstate New York – dark, damp, and chilly. As soon as I got home I ran up to my room, put it in my Walkman, sank down to my pink carpeted floor, and devoured it from start to finish while following along in the lyric book.

That album was a constant companion during my early morning bus rides that fall. I remember scrawling on ripped loose leaf corners and passing notes in Spanish class that read, “give me just one inch I swear that’s all I need.” On Friday nights I talked to my friends about my big plans, places I was going, places that they hadn’t been. It was 2003, and no one understood me like Andrew McMahon.

And that’s why it was so hard to get rid of all of my CD cases and inserts while playing the Minimalism Game. Do I need them anymore? No. To be honest I hadn’t touched them in years, but it made me long for that ritual of picking up a new album and instantly sitting down to memorize every word and riff. Streaming music on Spotify just isn’t the same. But after a fun night of nostalgia (complete with a Fall Out Boy DVD), I went through each book, thanked them for the memories, and tossed them in the trash.

I saved just one lyric book that I couldn’t bear to part with: “Everything in Transit” by Jack’s Mannequin. The artwork alone evokes memories of high school heartbreak, turning 18, and my last summer at home. It was what my friends and I scream-sang in the car when we felt alone in a crowded room. It’s the lyrics I still recite every time I need caffeine in the bloodstream (AKA Starbucks). It was the soundtrack to my own personal coming of age story, and it was the perfect closure when I met my future husband on the first night of college, almost one year to its release date.

You can breathe now. We were made for each other.

Jack's Mannequin Everything in Transit

PR Girl Travels: Cuba

In prep for our trip to Cuba, MPR and I watched Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, on Netflix. It’s a movie about a young journalist who finds a father figure in legendary author Ernest Hemingway during the Cuban Revolution. What we didn’t know is that this movie was filmed entirely in Cuba, even at Ernest Hemingway’s real house, and we ended up following the footsteps of the film crew as we visited all of Hemingway’s favorite spots on our excursion that detailed his life there.

Our first stop was the old fishing village, Cojímar. Hemingway docked his fishing boat here and interviewed fishermen at La Terraza de Cojímar as research for his book, The Old Man and the Sea.

La Terraza de CojímarLa Terraza de CojímarCojímar, CubaCojímar, Cuba

The next stop on our tour was his house, which was donated as a museum and kept true to the time period. The walls were covered with hunting kills and the house had multiple grand writing desks. The most haunting discovery was the scribbles on the walls in his bathroom where he obsessively kept track of his weight. But the backdrop of his estate was absolutely gorgeous.

Ernest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, Cuba

Lastly, we headed down to Havana to see the hotels and bars where he drank with the locals, including the Floridita.

Havana, CubaHavana, Cuba

Cuba is a special place and it was definitely an eye-opening trip. I highly recommend it for history buffs and literature buffs, and for those who want to experience the Cuban culture. We only visited for one day, but we definitely squeezed a lot out of our time there 🇨🇺

2 Years in Charlotte

IMG_9466

A better place, indeed 💕

This past weekend I binge-watched the first three episodes of the new Freeform show, The Bold Type. I had been anticipating it for months and it completely delivered, tugging at my heartstrings a bit. When I dreamed about my future in high school and college, I saw exactly what the show’s three main characters were living out: writing for a women’s magazine, attending rooftop parties, and living in swanky apartment buildings. It was everything I worked for from the time I was 15 (well, as much as a girl in upstate New York could).

But then a funny thing happened.

The recession hit and the economy tanked in 2008. Print newspapers and magazines were declared a dying field. When I graduated in 2010, the job market was bleak, to say the least. And I didn’t exactly have the type of parents who would float me in NYC until I found a job. So I dragged my sorry ass back home and developed a Plan B.

Fast forward to now, having just hit my two-year anniversary of living in Charlotte, North Carolina as a PR girl, a provisional member of The Junior League, and someone who, when in doubt, puts a monogram on it. If future-me had tried to tell college-me that I would end up living in the South, I’d have said, “Betch, go home. You’re drunk.” (Remember, this was 2007.)

But if you allow yourself to let go of previous versions of how your life was supposed to be, you’re able to become your best self. Say yes to new opportunities, even if they weren’t in your original 5-year plan. Give yourself room to grow. While I never saw the southeastern United States in my future (other than for vacation), I recently told a friend, “I feel like this is who I was always meant to be.” And I truly believe that.

I created my own Park Avenue.

I look out my office window at skyscrapers (that are reaching towards a much bluer sky) and I’m genuinely happy, perhaps for the first time. When I walk Rufio at night I glance through the windows of the row homes here in South End and wonder who lives there, much like I once yearned for a Brooklyn brownstone where I could raise city kids of my own. I know that in reality you can’t even compare the two, but in my heart, it feels pretty darn close.

2017 PRSA Charlotte Communications Symposium

The Communications Symposium is my favorite PRSA Charlotte event of the year! Maybe I’m biased, since this year I served on the committee and helped with the communications for the event, but I just love geeking out with like-minded PR pros in the Queen City.

This year, our keynote speaker was Oscar Suris, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo & Company, who discussed communications efforts undertaken by the company to facilitate recovery from a national scandal involving consumer banking practices.

After, I attended a breakout session on localizing #GivingTuesday. Amy Jacobs of Share Charlotte discussed how the organization localized an international giving effort, #GivingTuesday, and created a local fundraising campaign called #GivingTuesdayCLT that encourages Charlotteans to give back to hundreds of local nonprofits. Did you know that in 2016 Share Charlotte raised $7.2 million and became the largest community-wide #GivingTuesday campaign in the country? Go Charlotte! 👑

Lastly, I attended a panel session on how to reach millennials with: Garrett Tichy, Founder and Owner of Hygge Coworking and Creator of @WeLoveCLT; Corey Inscoe, Editor of CharlotteFive and Co-Host of CharlotteFive Podcast; and Paul Chabai, Associate Campus Pastor at Elevation Church. They all agreed that the biggest mistake businesses make when trying to reach millennials is being inauthentic, and this is caused by either not putting young professionals in positions of power, or not listening to them. Another key takeaway came from Paul Chabai, who said that a lack of diversity is always the symptom of a deeper problem. He suggests to figure out what about your culture says, “you’re not welcome,” and fix that – don’t just focus on filling seats.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

PR Girl Travels: Des Moines Part 2

The first Hardest Working Cities event of 2017 for our #client Freightliner Trucks is in the books! We started with a 4:30 AM wake-up call to provide workers with a hearty breakfast before their shift (and before the sunrise!), followed by an award presentation at the APWA 2017 Snow Conference, where Mayor Frank Cownie gave a speech that got right to the heart of the Hardest Working Cities program. The next day we were back at it for two more job site visits and squeezed in some more Des Moines eats, including a pork tenderloin sandwich (when in Rome…) and amazing Mediterranean dishes from Eatery A.

Thanks for the hospitality, Des Moines!

PR Girl Travels: Des Moines Part 1

It’s safe to say I ate my way through Des Moines this past week while scouting work sites and caterers for an upcoming client event. Along with my team member from our Buffalo office, we tried cheese curds, gourmet doughnuts, endless pasta bowls, ramen, Kimchi tater tots, and a cheeseburger that had a grilled cheese sandwich as its bun. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in desperate need of some leafy greens! 🌱

The lovely establishments we visited in Des Moines:

Thanks for the hospitality!