Gifts

Don't Buy Random Crap for Your Loved Ones

You’ve heard of The Five Love Languages, right? If not, the basic premise is that people tend to prefer to give and receive love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, and quality time. Once you and your loved ones figure out your individual love languages, it can help you show love to each other more effectively. In fact, if you’re not sure what you prefer, there’s an online quiz you can take to find out!

Recently, I’ve watched my clients struggle with the gift giving love language. Specifically, they have family that lives very far away and misses them very much, and shows their love by sending them inexpensive gifts regularly. While I haven’t met the gift givers in person, it’s clear to me that these gifts are sent out of an abundance of love, with absolutely no ill intent.

However, there are serious side effects to a regular gift giving routine.

  1. Those gifts add up fast. In thinking of one client in particular, her mom likes to send her costume jewelry, cloth bags, cute glasses and dishware, and general tchotchkes. My client, like many of us here in San Francisco, lives with her boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment. It’s plenty of space for them and their cats, but there just isn’t enough storage to accommodate the constant inflow of gifts. 
  2. Those gifts cause serious guilt. My clients tell me that they don’t want to donate these gifts because they know that if the giver found out, they would be hurt. The gifts, in effect, become an emotional burden and an extension of the guilt my clients already feel over living so far away from their loved ones.
  3. Those gifts can cause relationship strife. I have a couple of clients who deal with continuous gift giving from both of their moms. They are each uncomfortable with dealing with so much stuff from their own mothers, but end up taking that frustration out on each other and the other’s mom. While this is so common for all of us as humans - we redirect anger at a person we can’t confront to the people who see us every day - it’s completely avoidable in this case.
This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

People whose love language is gift giving (and I am one of them, so I know of what I speak!) sometimes struggle with the idea that a gift could be a bad thing, and they often don’t know how to communicate their love in other ways that feel just as effective. So, I have a few suggestions!

  1. Take a picture of the cute tchotchke, send it to your loved one, and tell them why it made you think of them. How fun is a random loving message in the middle of the day? You get all the benefits of gift giving, like reminding someone that you love them and showing that you understand what’s special about them, without any of the downside. This also gives you the opportunity to see whether or not your loved one actually wants that item! If they text back “hahaha, love that, I miss you too!” then the thought was enough. But a text that says “OMG I need this!” means you have the green light to send a gift!
  2. Give experiences rather than objects. This is something my family has wholeheartedly embraced as part of our gift giving tradition and we all absolutely love it.  You get the gift giving experience - opening something, the surprise, the feeling of being special to the giver - and then you get to extend it by talking about the upcoming event, planning for it, then doing it and reminiscing about it after the fact. My sister gave me a trip to Jackson Hole for Christmas a couple years ago and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten!
  3. Direct your gift giving energy to people who are in need. Every holiday season, my husband and I adopt a family through Compass Family Services, and take great joy in making their Christmas magical. I love giving to friends and family, but it's even more rewarding to give to people who truly need and appreciate the gifts.
  4. Save your gift giving effort (and budget) for select occasions. Often, people send many cheaper gifts because they feel that the number of gift giving occasions should be maximized but they don’t have the funds to purchase high quality gifts that often. When it comes to gifts, like many other things in life, I recommend going for quality over quantity. Two high quality, beautiful gifts per year will give your loved one all the surprise and delight you crave, and because you have the extra time and money to spend on selecting it, chances are much higher that they will use and love the gift.
  5. When in doubt, just pick up the phone and say “I love you.” Because that’s what we’re all really trying to do with gift giving, right?
This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

I, personally, will never stop loving the process of opening a present that someone has selected just for me, and then watching them open something I know they’re going to love. But I love it even more when it’s a truly special moment and not just a regular thing.

LMW

Thoughts On Wearing Things Out

When was the last time you had to get rid of something because it was just too worn out to continue using?

I have an example from just last month. My sister gave me a pair of super cute booties from Kate Spade for Christmas a few years ago. In soft, tumbled black leather with a flat stacked heel and a bow on the back, they were cute, comfy, and went with everything. Like, if I had drawn the Platonic ideal of a bootie, these were it. I wore them CONSTANTLY.

Sporting The Booties at Catherine's Palace outside St. Petersburg...

Sporting The Booties at Catherine's Palace outside St. Petersburg...

...and again on a normal work day at home in San Francisco.

...and again on a normal work day at home in San Francisco.

And then… I picked them up one day to put back on my shoe rack and realized that the sides of the stacked heel were starting to peel off the plastic foundation of the heel. I am all about maintaining and repairing the things I love to get maximum use out of them, and if it had been possible I would have taken them to my favorite shoe guy in Cow Hollow stat. However, this was just not fixable. It was time for them to go. 

There’s something a little sad about wearing out something you love, because that means it no longer gets to be part of your life. I have a lot of good memories in those booties: they came with on me on trips to Europe, wine tasting weekends, errand days running around SF, and even client consultations. And they worked so well for me - if they had continued to hold up, I would have kept on wearing them!

However, you can also view wearing things out with a sense of accomplishment and pride. You know on a very deep level that the thing was extremely useful to you, an excellent purchase, and a good value, because you literally used it so often that you used it right up. There was no purchase regret or gift receivers’ guilt with these booties! They were just right and I got every last cent of value (that my sister paid…) out of them.

And here’s the thing about using something up: it provides you pretty much the only guilt-free opportunity there is in this life to go shopping. If you used something so often and so happily that you wore it out, that means that you do in fact need a replacement.

My weakness for bows is legendary.

My weakness for bows is legendary.

In my case, I mentioned the sad passing of the booties to my parents, since my birthday is coming up. Last week, a box arrived in the mail from Bally with, well… basically the grown up version of the pair I had loved so well!  In smooth, gorgeous black leather with a flat heel and laces up the front to tie in a bow, AND in wide width for my virtually square fee to boot, they are cute, comfy, and go with everything. I’m going to wear them CONSTANTLY.

This process of selecting something that perfectly fits your needs, loving and using it frequently, and then carefully choosing its replacement, is so much more fulfilling than buying a lot of things that only get used a few times. When I look at my closet, the things that bring me joy are those that I feel great in and wear all the time. The things I don’t really wear much only bring me guilt: guilt that I made a frivolous purchase, am not getting the value out of the money I paid, and took up space that could be better filled by something else.

This is the reason I continually edit my closet: because a wardrobe entirely composed of things that bring me joy is simple and satisfying on a very deep level. If this idea is resonating with you, give me a call and I'll help you edit your closet so that everything in it brings you joy!

LMW

My Favorite Mountain

I love Jackson Hole, you guys. For the second year in a row, my husband and I made the trek for a ski weekend, and this time we convinced my entire family to come along, as well as a few friends.  And I do believe we've made converts of them, too!

Most of my ski days happen at Alpine Meadows for one simple reason: that's where I work as a volunteer patroller, so I have a pass.  Pretty hard to pass up unlimited days, especially on a mountain that offers a wide variety of steep, interesting terrain - especially if you're willing to hike for it!

However, Jackson Hole has won my heart and I know we'll be returning again and again. Why?

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski  Corbet's Coulouir .

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski Corbet's Coulouir.

The terrain: it's unbeatable. Vertical for miles, plenty of steeps, lots of varied aspects, tree skiing, that great dry snow... it's really got everything you could want. Plus, there's a pretty impressive amount of beginner and intermediate terrain so a group with varied skill levels like ours can be happy.

Long steep blue runs for days.

Long steep blue runs for days.

The views: I mean, just look.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

The village: lots of hotel options (we absolutely adored the Four Seasons - even the smallest rooms are big and comfy with plenty of places to unpack your ski gear, the service in the boot/ski room is next level, and there's a fully staffed bar at the hot tub/pool after 3pm with tasty warm beverages), good restaurants, and an excellent apres scene (don't miss beers at the Alpenhof or roll the dice for a potentially disastrous shot/back/beer combo at the Handle Bar).

The simplicity: United has direct flights from San Francisco, making Jackson Hole more accessible than pretty much all the great Colorado mountains. And this year, no cancellations!

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

The bonus: you can do a day heli-skiing trip! My husband gave me heli-skiing for my birthday last year and made good by sending my sister and me for an epic powder day unlike anything to be had inside resort boundaries. It was total hero snow: 6 inches of light high mountain fluff on hard pack, and fresh tracks all day. And we completely geeked out climbing out of a helicopter on the actual top of a mountain!

Usually at this point in the year I'm pretty excited about the end of winter, but if I could I'd go back to Jackson this weekend. It's that good. That said, I'm always willing to try something new! Where else should we look at for next year's ski trip?

LMW

What I'm Organizing - Everyday Sparkle

I'm into fashion, but to be totally honest with you, I’m not very good at accessories.  Conventional wisdom says that accessories complete an outfit, but somehow when I try to incorporate them creatively I feel like I leap over the line into trying-too-hard territory.

I think part of the issue is that my taste in jewelry runs to the small and simple.  Not TOO small, because I am not a particularly delicately proportioned person, but I’ve just never been a fan of gaudier, bulkier styles.  For example, anything with pavé diamonds is my personal kryptonite.

So, instead of trying to keep up with the latest trends in jewelry on a daily basis, I usually wear a tightly edited set of simple, meaningful pieces.  It's only when I have more time to think things through that I bust into my small collection of inherited treasures and costume jewelry.   

I keep my jewelry in an undisclosed location, and it was becoming a serious pain  to pull out my standby pieces at the beginning and end of every day - because, of course, I am an organizer and I hate leaving things just laying around.  I started keeping them out on the bathroom counter, but that made me nervous - one false move and they'd go sliding down the sink drain, never to be heard from again.  I am, it must be said, a clumsy person.

Fortunately, the right answer arrived in the form of a stocking stuffer this past Christmas: a fun little china dish my mom found.  It's just the right size to keep my daily essentials, and looks cute out on my bathroom counter.  After a couple of months of incorporating this jewelry dish into my daily routine, I definitely think it strikes the right balance between a strategy that works and a decorative addition to my space.

Clockwise from top left: pink sapphire and diamond engagement and wedding rings, picked out by my husband; Cartier trinity bracelet, a gift from my husband; diamond solitaire necklace, a gift from my husband; Cartier trinity ring, a gift from my husband; diamond stud earrings, a gift from my parents; Omega Lady Seamaster watch, a gift from my parents

Clockwise from top left: pink sapphire and diamond engagement and wedding rings, picked out by my husband; Cartier trinity bracelet, a gift from my husband; diamond solitaire necklace, a gift from my husband; Cartier trinity ring, a gift from my husband; diamond stud earrings, a gift from my parents; Omega Lady Seamaster watch, a gift from my parents

You can see the theme here: my daily jewelry has been picked for me by the people who love me most, and so these pieces mean even more to me than their aesthetic contribution to an outfit.  When I put them on every morning, I'm reminded that I'm loved and cared for.  Of course, I do love the look of these simple, classic pieces, otherwise I wouldn't be so happy wearing them all the time!

For me, having my skin care, hair care, makeup, and jewelry routines dialed in exactly where I want them means I have more space in my brain to put together the things I have fun with varying, like clothes and shoes.  We all have those things we love doing and the things that stress us out - I recommend making a routine out of the latter so you can fully enjoy the former!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

Deep breath in, deep breath out: we're into the home stretch of the holiday season!

There are two major hurdles for my holiday season every year: planning our holiday party, and Christmas shopping.  Said party went off without a hitch on Saturday night, and I just placed the final present order this morning (turns out it's hard to find a Sophie the Giraffe that will ship before Christmas...).  So now, I'm taking a breath, and savoring this last week of the festive season.

Oh yes, and there's the matter of wrapping those presents!  I generally sit down to do them all in one fell swoop.  I make an event of it: gather all the presents and all my wrapping materials, blast my ever so cheesy Christmas song playlist that I originally put together circa 2002 (so there are some amazingly bad boy band numbers on there), and perhaps sip a glass of spiked eggnog (Clover makes the best in my opinion, and Maker's Mark bourbon fits right in on a chilly evening).  

I approach present wrapping in much the same way I approach everything else: keep it simple, keep it classic.  I bought the wrapping paper and ribbon you see here at Costco 2 and 3 years ago, and it's still going strong!  There are definitely more flamboyant options, but they usually carry some good classics like this silver stripe and the white ribbon - which can do double duty for various events other than Christmas as well.  Then I just slap on a sticky gift tag and call it good!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

The time has come: it's the Christmas season!  And like many people, I'm starting to get serious about my Christmas shopping.  I do believe that it's truly better to give then receive, and I get a total charge out of pairing the perfect present with a person I love.  However, it's still a challenge to get everything bought, wrapped, and shipped in time!

Enter my three saving graces of Christmas shopping: Evernote, Costco, and free shipping.  I used to be a notebook-and-pen kind of girl but made the total switch to Evernote this year and it really works for me.  I can write down my present ideas and then check them off as I buy them so I don't miss anything, whether it's on my phone or laptop.  As for Costco, I don't buy wrapping paper or ribbon anywhere else because the quality is amazing (love the grid print on the back of the wrapping paper for easy measuring and cutting!) and the rolls are huge.  I haven't bought wrapping paper for Christmas in 2 years!  Free shipping, I think, is self-explanatory... I usually know what I'm looking for so I can do most of my shopping online.

Each year, we adopt a family through Christmas through Compass Family Services.  It is SO much fun to shop for these kids and families, and if you're in San Francisco, I cannot recommend this program highly enough!  In a world of myriad donation options, this one is really well organized, with clear shopping guidelines and drop off procedures.  

Other than that, I don't buy for that many people.  Lest I sound like a Grinch, let me clarify: our families are relatively small, and we prefer to celebrate the season with friends by hosting a big old party every year.  So, I'll be shopping for my husband, my niece and honorary nephews, and my person in my family's annual Secret Santa, while he takes care of his family.  Plus I'm always on the hunt for the most fun part: stocking stuffers!  

Enjoy the season!

LMW

 

 

Doing, Not Buying

There are a zillion organizing tips out there in the universe (at least 97% of which originated on Pinterest according to my very unscientific calculations), but there are very few that truly work, and even fewer that don’t require purchasing or making much if anything.  That’s why, even though I’ve never heard of Pure Wow before, their article on the 8 Secrets of People Who Don’t Have Clutter caught my eye.

Photo courtesy of purewow.com

I stand by each and every one of these tips.  Read them for yourself, and then come back here to find out why:

  1.  I don’t keep gifts I don’t like, and I promise you I don’t feel any guilt.  I’m always grateful for any gift I receive, and make sure to tell the giver so (preferably via thank you note!).  And I can always see how the giver was thinking of me when they selected the gift, even if I don’t love it, and that touches me just as much as The Perfect Gift would. 
  2. Eeeeek… I’m still working on this one.  But I can tell you this: I have things I don’t love in my closet right now, and they’re driving me nuts!
  3. I have to admit, it’s easier to have an all season wardrobe living in a place like San Francisco, where the temperature is pretty much always between 50 and 70 Fahrenheit.  Still, pieces that I own for travel or special activities (think: heavy winter coat, riding boots, fancy hat for teas/lunches) still live in my closet rather than packed away.  It’s always easier to live in the closet you have (with minor feature adjustments like shelves and hooks) than to try to create additional closet space.
  4. Still working on this one too, but together my husband and I have just two small file cabinets that contain things that aren’t easily digitized or should be kept in paper format (home documents, taxes, old photos and letters).
  5. It’s not sexy but it’s true: a good garbage can makes ALL the difference.  In our old house, we used this Simple Human can.  I love it because it has space for both trash and recycling, and it’s sleek enough to leave out.  Plus, it’s easy to clean and contains smells surprisingly well.  In our current home, we’re really enjoying the slide-out bins the previous owners installed under the sink, much like the picture in the article. 
  6. Ok, real talk, I don’t actually wipe down all the surfaces in my home daily.  I’m not particular about a little dust.  But I do declutter said surfaces nearly daily, and my husband wipes down the kitchen counter every time he cooks.  The concept remains sound!
  7. My makeup collection and my closet are both at the one in, one out point, and I’m grappling with when to call it on my shoe collection.  This sounds limiting, I know.  But consider this: ten perfect lipsticks are way better than a jumble of 30 and feeling like you never have quite the right one.
  8. We do not have a junk drawer.  I know, it sounds crazy.  But there’s a logical place for the things that live in junk drawers.  Phone chargers?  Put all cords together in a drawer or basket near where you charge your devices.  Pens?  Put them in jar on your desk and maybe another with a notepad by your land line if you have one.  Coupons?  Create a file folder for those, or perhaps a small envelope bag you keep in your purse.

Photo courtesy of simplehuman.com

As ever, this article proves that truly getting organized is about doing rather than buying, and about simplifying rather than complicating.  Be wary of any tips that tell you otherwise – especially if they come from Pinterest!

LMW