Virtual Decluttering Client Transformations PART 1

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Below was Deslie’s post on the Glam-O-Mamas Discussion Group, a group for mamas with thirty four thousand plus members by celebrity mom Amanda Griffin Jacob. I was very flattered when Amanda told her that she might want to get in touch with me for help. Deslie’s post really touched me, because I could so relate - the mental load for housework is still mostly on women in many countries - and I wanted the opportunity to virtually coach her to declutter, because Deslie was all the way in the USA, and I am currently based in the Philippines.

We scheduled a meeting online to discuss in detail the current state of her home and find out more about her situation so that I could help her create realistic goals and expectations for herself in the one month that we would be working together. After our initial meeting, Deslie sent us complete pictures of her home so we could study it and give our recommendations for:

  • How to do the Kon Mari Method in her home.

  • How to shift her own and her husband’s mindset so they could do this project as a team.

  • What and how to dispose of items in each category.

  • How to organize the items that remained.

  • I also guided on what products can help organize problem areas and what decor can declutter her space visually and where exactly to buy each item.

In the end she sent me some AFTER photos which truly delighted us both. There was a massive shift in her space and they were able to do it during their free time. I am sure it was tiring work, but to be able to see these results and be happier in their home was truly worth it.

THE PANTRY

Though her husband said he could paint the pantry, I give huge props to Deslie for deciding to DIY cover her shelving using marble contact paper achieving a cleaner look faster and without waiting for her husband to have time and energy to help. So empowering and Love the marble design!

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After disposing of all the expired items & using organizers with chalkboard labels to keep similar items together, the pantry went from chaotic to one that anyone can find anything they need stress-free.

After disposing of all the expired items & using organizers with chalkboard labels to keep similar items together, the pantry went from chaotic to one that anyone can find anything they need stress-free.

UTILITY ROOM

It’s so easy to dump everything in a utility room, but keep only utility items in there and use bins to segregate things according to their purpose.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

LAUNDRY AREA

One of the most important things I learned from Marie Kondo is that labels are visually cluttering, so whenever possible please remove them, or transfer products to plain containers that do not have loud noisy packaging.

BEFORE

BEFORE

Another thing that tidies a hardworking space like the laundry room is a clear sharing of the work and mental load. In places where household help is not the norm, it’s important for couples to discuss how they can share the mental load of the home. This is very different from assuming that it is all a woman’s job, then anything the husband does is to help her.

A healthy way to look at it is: this is OUR home and we all have a responsibility to keep it tidy, including children! Seeing how Marie Kondo has her toddler join her when she declutters, and how she makes it fun, instead of a chore is really very inspiring. This is such a good read for couples:

HOW TO SHARE THE MENTAL LOAD OF CHORES WITH YOUR PARTNER

AFTER

AFTER

THAT PROJECT THAT YOU NEVER DID

We all have that “project” that we had such high hopes for and didn’t end up doing. In Deslie’s husband’s case, they were these wooden floors he wanted to install, but after 3 months it was still an eye-sore in the stairs landing. Instead of keeping them out in the open, thinking it will be done sooner, it’s better to keep these things in the utility area or garage while waiting.

However if after doing the Kon Mari Method, you realize it no longer brings you joy, you have the option to sell it on Craig’s List, eBay or Facebook to get back part of the cost. But if it’s more effort than what is worth your time, it’s better to put it out in the sidewalk for someone else to use, fix, or be collected by the garbage truck.

Deslie was really happy to see these go, and it made the house and their relationship feel lighter since the weight of expectations on her husband has been lifted. Sometimes the cost of the items is less than the happiness you feel letting go.

wooden floor boards before after

Stay tuned for PART 2 tomorrow, where I will show you the transformations in their bedrooms and the dining & living area!

* I am an amazon affiliate but as always all opinions are my own.

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Jumpstart Your Decluttering: Watch Marie Kondo on Netflix

images via  condo living

images via condo living

Get inspired to declutter your life this year by watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix. You can binge watch the 8 episodes, or watch it one by one as it inspires you to make changes in the different ‘categories’ in your life.

Let me tell you a secret: Before I declutter or start tidying my home, I ALWAYS WATCH YOUTUBE VIDEOS OF THE KON MARI METHOD to:

  1. Get me pumped and excited to declutter my own stuff. It’s not easy, even for someone who does it professionally because of emotional attachment to my own stuff. It’s easier helping other people do it because I’m more objective.

  2. Get inspired by space and life transformations. This assures me that the end is worth the time and effort.

  3. Find decluttering and organizational ideas that I would like to apply in my space.

Each person has different tidying up needs, and I love how Marie Kondo’s show reflects different situations and how she applies or tailors the #MarieKondoMethod for each client’s needs.

It’s so important to feel that our unique situation is heard by our professional organizer, and that there is no one size fits all solution, because we all have unique spaces, needs, personalities and histories.

The one thing consistent with Mari Kondo’s method is this:

Does this Spark Joy?

The end result is that you keep only what Sparks Joy in your life and a space that truly makes you happy. The result usually spills over to the rest of our lives with better, less stressful relationships with homes and housemates/family members.

Please check out the trailer below. I hope that it gets you pumped to declutter your life in the new year and to learn what truly Sparks Joy. Letting go of what doesn’t Spark Joy gives space and honors the stuff that truly make us happy.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

This TV show isn’t the end all and be all, so do not expect to become an expert in the Kon Mari Method, just by watching the show.

  • The secret to the Kon Mari Method is the folding so that each item can stand on it’s own and be stored vertically to see everything in your storage at a glance. If you don’t see how to fold a certain item, it’s always just a google or youtube video away.

  • The value of hiring a professional to help you declutter in the Kon Mari Method is to teach the entire family to tidy their own stuff. It’s not about having someone come do it for you, then not knowing how to maintain it. On the contrary, YOU each need to do your own decluttering, so you each know how to maintain it. Once you do the hard work, you will want to keep it tidy forever because you know how hard it was.

  • If you have read the books below, this TV show shows you the process visually, but as always the books are more detailed in explaining stuff. So if you are into the details, I highly recommend her books. It’s good to refer to when you are stumped on a category:

Thrilled that my hubby’s KonMari-ed closet was featured on her IG

Thrilled that my hubby’s KonMari-ed closet was featured on her IG

After more than a decade of decluttering each time we moved countries as a diplomat’s wife, it felt like I was perpetually drowning in clutter, but that all changed a few years ago, when I found the Kon Mari Method. It is the only method that really works! I read her books, watched her videos and applied the Kon Mari Method to my home. Since then I have also helped numerous clients declutter their homes using the Kon Mari Method. I specialize in helping people declutter before and after moving homes, to make the move less stressful.

Some people are able to do this on their own, but if you are in need of support or coaching, the DeclutterMNL team caters exclusively to Makati-based clients, and some nearby areas like BGC and Alabang.. We also do virtual coaching for clients who aren’t in the area.

Watch out for our next post:

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Decluttering The Mind: Mentally Preparing For The New Year

The New Year is just around the corner and with the Holidays in full-swing, there’s bound to be added clutter to our already jam-packed homes. Next thing you know, New Years Day is over and it’s suddenly 2019 with confetti strewn across the floor, left-over food, and gift wrappers everywhere with nowhere to go. All this visual chaos can amount to triggered anxieties: Where do you start? Where do you put all of this? Why is there so much clutter?! It can be an extremely overwhelming experience to finally see all together how much of a mess the holidays can make, but the beauty of the coming New Year is the new rounds of resolutions that everyone takes part in; and more often than not, keeping a clean home and a mentally healthy mind is on that list.

Mental health can be a very complicated and intricate thing, and from a research done 20 years ago, it was found that there were already 36% of the Filipino population suffering from this; on top of that, there is a whopping 1 in 3 people who suffer from mental health disorders.

So why is decluttering and cleaning a recommended exercise for those under the mental health belt?

Reference: 1 in 3 Pinoys Has Mental Health Problem

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"Sometimes the feelings inside me get messy like dirt. And I like to clean things. Pretend the dirt is the feelings. This floor is my mind. That is called coping.”

  • Crazy Eyes, Orange Is The New Black

AKA you. You are loving you this year.

AKA you. You are loving you this year.

And it’s exactly that: when we physically clean, it’s almost a direct correlation to our mental process.

There is a rhythm to wiping, scrubbing, and sweeping; a kind of focused meditation that goes along with it. According to an article by Leo Babauta called “Mindful Simplicity: Decluttering and Leaving No Trace”, cleaning is a good way to practice and boost your focus and mindfulness.

Reference: Mindful Simplicity: Decluttering and Leaving No Trace

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When you begin to clean, exercise your mind and do as follows:

  • Refuse any thoughts that come through

  • Focus on the rhythm of your hands as you sweep, wipe, or scrub

  • Regulate your breathing

As you do this, watch the dirt wash away and reveal a cleaner surface underneath. When thoughts come through, be it problems you want to think about, the current stress you feel, or situations you need to think through, try your best to silence your mind and revert back to focusing on the task at hand.

Once you are able to get into the rhythm of things, the peacefulness of cleaning takes over and thus creates a sense of serenity and clarity once all is spick-and-span.

Think of your mind as the grimy and cluttered surface- There are too many distractions, too much dust that can pollute the rest of your things. When you wipe, and scrub, and clean until everything is neat and organized, it’s like you’re wiping, scrubbing, and cleaning your thoughts as well. When you’re outside world is in order, there’s more room for your mind to breathe amidst the anxieties flurrying inside. Less clutter, less things to worry over.

With the New Year coming up, it’s maybe time for a literal fresh start. Get up and kick off 2019 with a clean home. Take your time and start slowly until one newly tidied corner of your room becomes an entire house of clutter-free clean. It’s time to clear your space and your mind. Trust us, your mental health will thank you for it.

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How To Store Ribbons Tidily

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We try to avoid tape as much as possible and as we’ve show you before, using ribbons and strings is the perfect way to do Tape Free Wrapping. Combined with The Thoughtful Bow, it is the the ultimate way to make sure that the wrapping materials you used can easily be reused by the recipient of your package.

This is a super easy way to store ribbons neatly so they aren’t getting tangled up in your crafting/gifting kit. All you need are pearl/pin head pins.

Easy peasy right? Strings are a little bit different.

How to Store String Tidily

  1. Untangle Knots

  2. Wrap around 4 fingers while leaving some space at the end

  3. Remove from around your fingers & pinch in the middle

  4. Wrap excess string around the middle, then pull end through to knot

Enjoy post Christmas decluttering. Up next is

How To EcoBrick Single Use Soft Plastics That Can’t be Recycled





How To Avoid Mindless Gift Buying

Impulse buying is a phenomenon that plagues most of us - it urges us to buy items we would most likely regret purchasing after. In the midst of the hectic Christmas season, let’s be mindful of this tendency and avoid it; the best way is to

  1. Understand the phenomenon.

  2. Apply the learning to a practical everyday shopping situations.

  3. Then look for alternatives.

The occurrence is frequent and widespread, with both internal and external factors encouraging us to impulse buy.

How To Avoid Mindless Gift Buying

Influences to impulse buying include Lack of Control, Stress Reaction, and Absorption (Youn & Faber, 2000).

  • Lack of control commonly deals with “playing things by ear” and poor planning, so scheduling and organizing purchases by writing on your planner, for example, before you shop would be a good way to reflect and control.

  • When a person is stressed or experiencing negative emotions, he or she results to “quick fixes” like impulse purchases, so having a cost-free, go-to mood booster like going for a quick run, would be a better route.

  • Absorption plays a role in how people respond to environmental and sensory cues. Marketer-created environmental and product factors including colors, smells, sounds, textures, and locations can increase the likelihood of engaging in impulse buying. (Eroglu and Machleit 1993; Mitchell 1994) So don’t buy into it - even if your favorite insta-influencers looks amazing in it, or tells you that you have to have it, ask yourself if it’s something your recipients would truly love and cherish for a long time.


Here are some tips to follow to avoid mindless gift buying.

1. Stay away from stores that sell low quality products

Absorption deals with how a buyer responds to his or her environment. Some shops emotionally entice and provide stimuli (colors, sounds, promotions etc.) that make buyers feel like they have to purchase an item. Oftentimes they get away with the trickery without notice! When you enter a store that caters to a vibe or aesthetic that you are particularly drawn to, you find yourself following a feeling when you buy something instead of your own rational and practical mindfulness. Examples are when you enter a store like Daiso or Miniso and you see all the cute fun items they have for sale at super low prices.

Internal and external factors work hand in hand to give you a high when you buy something impulsively, only to make you realize later on that what you have purchased is not only impractical, but more often than not also harmful to the environment and unsustainable! When buying gifts this Christmas season, it is important to keep in mind that cute and cheap things easily sway buyers; a little self-reflection and a harder look into sustainable gift-buying can and will go a long way.

How to Avoid Mindless Gift Buying

2. It’s the thought that counts

When giving gifts to loved ones, try to picture them using the item you gave them. Think to yourself, will this person really enjoy this gift? How long will they be able to use it? And the most important question we often forget to ask, when they are done with this gift, will the materials decompose in a way that is good for the environment? It also helps if you really know the person you are giving this gift to. A tip is to make sure whatever item you’re getting them is inclined to the person’s hobbies or interests, to ensure it’s something they’ll enjoy and be able to use for a long time.

3. Giving food as gifts

Another tip to avoid mindless gift buying, is to get them food. During the Christmas season, you’ll find lots of Christmas bazaars, or boutiques in every corner of the city. In these affairs you will find stalls selling different kinds of food that are wrapped with pretty ribbons ready to be given as gifts. It can be anything from delicious pastries, to beautifully arranged fruit baskets. The beauty of giving food as gifts is there’s minimal waste, since the gift itself will be eaten! In my experience, when I receive food as gifts, it’s never disappointing because during the busy holiday season, it’s great to have little yummy treats to snack on throughout the day. But be wary of things that look or sounds delicious, but aren’t in reality. Ask for a taste test before you use your hard earned cash to buy food for your loved ones.

4. Giving eco-friendly presents

Shampoo bars, metal straws, wooden toothbrushes, reusable bags — just some of the eco friendly items that have been slowly rising in our market today. These make great gifts because not only are they useful, they’re great for the environment. This may also inspire the receiver to start a more eco-friendly life, to be more economically conscious. When I first got my first wooden toothbrush given to me by a friend, it really got me into using more products that help reduce the production of plastic. It didn’t feel that different to a regular plastic toothbrush, plus knowing that it was made of a material that would decompose a lot faster than plastic really sold me to the idea of using it. Reused wrapping materials will best fit the eco-friendly gifts!

LAST NOTE

The next time you go to a store that sells cheap items, before you buy, ask yourself: What are my reasons for this item? Will the item be useful for a long duration of time? Is it sustainable? Is it harmful to the environment? It goes without saying that things you know for a fact are sturdier or of higher quality cost more than promo items. If the quality stuff prove to be way over your budget, however, you do not need to turn to impulse buying when in promo stores, because you always have the option to make gifts yourself! It will not only cost less, but the human aspect in what you are giving will be more prevalent; that way, your emotions are more in line with rational and heartfelt work and not wasted on impulse buying.

Sources: Impulse buying: its relation to personality traits and cues

images: hautestock


How to avoid mindless gift buying

The Thoughtful Bow

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Have you ever tried to open a present and the bow was tied so tightly that you gave up and just snipped it off with scissors? The result are ribbon scraps that you have no use for, get thrown away and end up in the landfill.

Yes you can also donate these ribbon scraps for recycling here, but it’s even better if you can reuse the ribbon for future gifts or DIY projects. If only you didn’t have to cut it right?

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What if I told you that there is a way to tie a bow so that when the recipient of your gift opens it, it just falls open gracefully and with no effort at all.

The best part is that these ribbons can be reused by the recipient because they weren’t cut off. Here’s a video tutorial on how to wrap your gift using The Thoughtful Bow:

Here is how it’s done with a bigger wider ribbon:

With Christmas is fast approaching, have you finished wrapping your gifts yet? I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial on how to make gift wrapping a little more thoughtful!

Remember when you reuse ribbons, you aren’t only saving money, but you are also saving them from the landfill.

More sustainable gift wrapping tips below

How to Wrap a Gift With Only 3 Pieces of Tape

Tape FREE Gift Wrapping With Rused Brown Paperbags

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White Christmas in the Tropics

WHITE CHRISTMAS TREE

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After seeing an insanely gorgeous white and pastel Christmas Tree on Instagram two years ago, I had an AHA moment, thinking “Christmas Trees don’t have to be green. I can have a White Christmas Tree!” I then checked Lazada (the Philippine’s local version of Amazon) for one and found a 5 foot small tree. It’s small, and I would even say, “sparse” if not decorated properly, but it totally works for my all-white space.

TIP: When buying online, make sure to have a measuring stick or tape and visually check how big an item is. Lazada is not as transparent as Amazon when it comes to size and many buyers are often confused when they receive an item that is much smaller than what they imagine based on the photos.

See the DMNL Team putting up the tree and decorations!

HANGING ORNAMENTS

TIP: If you have a a toddler (whose self-control part of the brain is not yet fully formed) I recommend having the breakable glass ornaments in the higher parts of the tree. I have the metal and wooden ornaments in the bottom.

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Because the tree was quite spares with hallow interiors (no leaves!), it was perfect for my heavy glass and Philippine-made mother-of-pearl balls. We hung them inside the hallow tree because

  1. The thicker metal branches inside could carry the heavier balls

  2. The fragile and expensive balls are protected from my son

  3. It gives depth and makes the tree look more magical with hidden treasures inside

Doesn’t it look magical peeking inside?

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CHRISTMAS CAROUSEL

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Small golden Christmas decor with some fairy lights make a big impact on my white shelves. I got my small Christmas Carousel here, but my friend go hers from Kikki K a few years ago. It’s called a KerzenKarussell in German, and it spins around when you put a tealight candle underneath. You can also order online here or here.

NUTCRACKER

GERMAN NUTCRACKER + PHILIPPINE MADE TREES USING LANSONES PEELINGS

GERMAN NUTCRACKER + PHILIPPINE MADE TREES USING LANSONES PEELINGS

Germany is home to the finest Nutcrackers on earth and though you will find a lot of cheap China-made ones everywhere for only about $10, the real handmade ones from Germany are a world apart. Each detail is lovingly handcrafted. They are symbols of good luck, according to German tradition, frightening away evil spirits. Learn more about Nutcrackers.

I visited many Christmas Markets in Germany before I found a gold and white one by Christian Ulbricht. It was a splurge, but it really makes me happy every single time I take it out for Christmas and every time I see it. I also know that it is something that can be passed down for generations and it goes with my “few but better” ethos. So when I saw this Nutcracker in Dresden (Founded in 1434, it is one of Germany's oldest documented Christmas markets), I knew it was for me. And a great keepsake for visiting such a historical Christmas Market.

VIGNETTES

Creating vignettes throughout our home, makes each corner interesting to look at. I remember the time that we could only afford a bucket of these tiny little stars, gifts and pinecones, and now we just use them to sprinkle some Christmas cheer on to our existing Scandi shelves.

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Our snowglobes also come out during Christmas time, and believe me it took several years before I found a gold and white snowglobe, but these days with Amazon and online shopping, there are so many more options! Snow globes aren’t exclusive to Chrismtas but finding ones that we can proudly display during this season adds to the Christmas Magic. And seeing the twinkle in our son’s eyes when he looks at it, is priceless!

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Christmas balls don’t exclusively have to be hung on the tree. Here we Christmas balls from Crate and Barrel to add a snowy element to our vignettes. We used hooks that don’t cause any surface damage to hang it in the shelves. The hooks can then be easily be removed after Christmas or we can use them to hang something else.

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PICK A THEME THAT’S ‘YOU’

When choosing Christmas Ornaments, think of a theme that you love. You can use Pinterest to create an inspiration board, like this. Decide on a color theme that you will love for a while - not based on trends, but truly your own personal taste or style - because following trends is expensive and not really part of the MinimaLuxe lifestyle that encourages sustainable, well-made investments.

I’ve always loved gold, as you can see from how our decor has changed over the years from our little starter tree in Jakarta, to Berlin and then Manila. So I’ve stuck to it. Variety is over-rated.

  1. Our first Christmas as a married couple in our first home, Jakarta

  2. Another Gold Christmas in Jakarta

  3. Gold Christmas Decor in Our Berlin Apartment

ENTRYWAY

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Nothing says welcome, than well-executed entryway decor. I personally designed my modular teakwood furniture, so that it would look built in wherever we move. It’s really the best decision ever, because we look settled, no matter where we go. See our entryway in Jakarta and Germany look.

We aren’t allowed to put any nails or hooks in our condo exterior, but since we are using damage free hooks, I felt it was okay to hang a mini glittery wreath to finish of this vignette. Love the Philippine-made sinamay tree and balls. Just add a little tinsel and some led lights inside the balls and it’s totally festive!

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The gold lamps and tealight holder house are everyday decor, so we spruced it up with a Christmas lantern from S&R last year. And again, a little tinsel goes a long way.

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LED LIGHTS

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I have a funny story about these beautiful lights that adorn our door interiors every year. Shopping in Germany wasn’t as simple as it seems, because everything is in a foreign language. Add that with the crowds, then it can be quite a challenge, despite our trusty Google Translate app.

Because our Christmas Tree in Jakarta was tiny, we needed more lights for our 6 foot Nordic Fir Tree in Berlin. We needed a much bigger tree because our AltBau (100 year old apartments) had really high 5foot ceilings. So my husband went off into the cold winter day with the assignment to buy a longer string of lights. After leaving BauHaus disappointed (many Germans still use real candles to light up their tree) he went to Karstad and KaDeWe, more luxurious department stores in Ku’damm and decided to splurge on a box of Christmas Lights with 300 LED bulbs. He did not think to test or check them before he paid, and arrived home proudly announcing he found a string with 300 lights and that must be enough to cover the rest of the tree!

The one thing he forgot to ask is how long the string was, because it was super short, and all the bulbs were concentrated on a few feet. Poor guy spent 4 hours going back and fourth to different stores and he was super tired and hungry by the time he got home and realized it. But we totally made it work. You an see the picture of our first real Christmas Tree here.

Life abroad is never as easy as it looks through the lens of Instagram or Pinterest, and simple chores like this can take many more hours just because of the language and culture barrier. placed the clustered lights on the trunk on top to make up for it being a bit bare.

TABLE TOP

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I used to place Christmas decor on our table top, only to realize that it really wasn’t my style. I like to have a clean table, with maybe a few low tea light candle holders, because we eat family style with all the food in the middle. I find it tedious to remove the decor each time we eat. So instead of decor, I make our table more festive by changing up the cutlery and using some servingware that has some gold in it. Will take a picture and update this post tomorrow.

The gold cutlery was a Christmas gift from my husband on our last Christmas in Berlin. I kept on eyeing the gold set in my favorite Scandinavian shop in our neighborhood. So he surprised me with it for Christmas. I’m really happy that he did because it changes the look of our table during the holidays, and it’s something that we can keep and use for years to come.

NATIVITY SCENE

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A Christmas home for Filipinos is never complete without a belen. I sold my first belen before leaving Germany, because I decided to invest in a toy belen that my son would be able to play with for years to come. I thought long and hard because they were not cheap - the whole set cost me about 100 Euros but I’m glad I did. It’s an amazing keepsake of Germany.

These handmade wooden toys of the Nativity Scene from Ostheimer. They have been making the highest quality toys for children, entirely made by hand, for decades. From the wood to the paints, I can be sure that everything is safe for my child to play with, without any toxic finishes or wood that has been treated by pesticides.

It was a splurge no doubt, but it brings so much joy to our family every year and our son learns about the baby Jesus - the entire reason for all the Chrismtas festivities - through imaginative play.

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TIP: The secret to a happy toddler is to have his own Christmas section on our shelves. This way he doesn’t try to climb to get the decor on the higher shelves, and he feels totally involved with his own mini Nutcracker and a little pail to bring around his belen. I bought a cheaper Nutcracker on Amazon because he was touching the German nutcracker so much that the beard was turning dark. LOL!

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We may not have snow, and the sun may beat down like it’s summer, but we can still have a White Christmas in the tropics! Hoping that this post inspires you to have a more MinimaLUXE #CrapFreeChristmas! Happy Holidays everyone!

* I am an Amazon affiliate, but all opinions are my own

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Easy Last Minute Minimaluxe Gifts

It’s Christmas time, that time of the year when you see your closest friends and catch up with people you haven’t seen in ages. It’s also known to be one of the most stressful times of the year - from surviving holiday traffic aka “carmaggedon”, to braving packed malls and supermarkets, and of course indulging relatives you don’t get along with. It’s doubly stressful for procrastinators like me, who put off holiday shopping until the last few days - or worst yet, completely forget people that should be on my gift list and then end up scrambling to find something a day or even hours before seeing them.

In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are twelve mindful tips for last minute gift giving. And yes, I’m fully aware it’s difficult to be minimaluxe and mindful as Christmas bears down on you!

I’ve liberally borrowed some concepts from one of my son’s favorite book series: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, specifically “Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas.”

One Week to Go - Panic Level: Green

Symptoms may include sweatiness, headache, and lightheadedness

At the one week mark, creeping panic may begin to rear its ugly head. But fear not, modern technology is here to the rescue.

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1. Do your Naughty and Nice list. Good Christmas planners like my wife probably completed this task in August and they’ve wrapped everything up by the end of November at the latest. But for us procrastinators, it’s time to quickly type your Christmas presents list on Numbers, Excel or Google Spreadsheets..

Jot down any ideas that immediately pop into your head about each person i.e. for bookworms: bestsellers, for diehard partygoers: booze, or for stressed out types: a spa gift certificate.

2. Avoid the crowds and open your favorite shopping app or website. We love Amazon Prime’s free 2 day shipping. In the United States, Amazon now has same day shipping. There are other online stores that guarantee delivery before Christmas, but you may just pay a slightly higher fee. And the best part is some stores will gift wrap and deliver the presents directly to your recipients!

In the Philippines, e-commerce might not be as established as Amazon, but there are many same day delivery services like Lalamove and Transportify, which you can ask the vendor about to be sure items are delivered ASAP.

Last year we did last minute gifts for the staff of our condominium building by ordering gift baskets on Honestbee which came already wrapped. Easy peasy.

3. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Re-gifting has a negative connotation - the classic example being fruit cake, which they say in the Philippines is the gift that keeps on giving. The fact is that everyone has been gifted something that doesn’t suit their taste or lifestyle.

I’d like to propose a change in mindset here: What was given to you is a gift, and whether that item is useful to you as it is, turned into cash or re-gifted is up to you. Think of re-gifting as giving an unused gift a new lease on life, instead of languishing in your cupboard. Remember when something is stored for too long, it falls apart and ends up in the landfill, so it’s better to find a new owner immediately who will use and love it.

The unused gift might not be your style, but can perfectly suit a loved one. After all taste is relative. Just make sure that the recycled gift won’t be seen by the original sender!

4. If you’re really stumped and don’t know what to give, ask your intended recipient for help. This is a recurring problem faced by my dad when he’s looking for a gift for my mom, but it could also apply to friends who seem to have everything, or are decluttering. If you let the person know you’re getting stressed about their gift, it shows that you find them important so they’re likely to be helpful in giving some tips or at least share their wishlist with you.

The Weekend Before Christmas - Panic Level Orange

Symptoms may include a racing heart, feeling weak, and/or dizziness

5. It’s time to brave the crowds - but simplify your purchases. It’s crunch time. You don’t have enough time to order online, but don’t aimlessly wander around malls, instead go to stores which are familiar so you are in and out quickly:

  • Specialty Bookstores like Fully Booked have a lot of gift ideas

  • If you want to splurge then plan a trip to the jewelry store, or Apple Store

Wake up early and try to get to the mall before the lunch and post-lunch crowds descend.

6. Go for quality over size or quantity. Nice gifts don’t have to be branded or expensive, but neither should they be the cheapest available “made in China” option, that will soon go to the landfill after one use. Something small but well-made is better than big junk. Personally, I would appreciate the smallest well-made and -wrapped chocolate praline than useless, cheap clutter.

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The objective is to get a gift that will be valued, used and consumed. My favorite stores that have a cross-section of price points include Uniqlo, H&M, Muji, Kultura, and Fully Booked.

7. Go Local. You can also try to go local - from houseware, jewelry, stationery, to food - they all tell a unique story and help support local communities. For example, we love getting baby products and even coffee from HumanHeartNature, an affordable brand in most retailers which uses 100% natural materials and employs people from underprivileged communities. You can find them in Echo Store with many other sustainable gift options. Natural baskets make for great boxes that are reusable. Tie a bow around it and it’s ready for gifting.

Check out Christmas bazaars and Markets in your area for a range of local brands in one convenient location.

8. Since time is of the essence, buy multiples of the same item. At this stage, you can’t be too picky especially if you have to get a lot of gifts. Go to your favorite stores and identify gifts (see above) that you think an average man, woman or child would find appealing and buy multiples. Give a family gift instead of individual gifts to each person.

You can also visit a garden store, get multiple plants, tie a bow and pop on a card. Even the tiniest plant or succulent is a gift of happiness and health that can change the mood of anyone’s space.

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9. Go, Go for Food. I love the gift of food because this doesn’t add to the recipient’s clutter and is always useful in the season of entertaining. Food can range from food baskets from delicatessens or a small box of sweets, to a bottle of wine. Be sure to note properly, how it must be stored so they don’t end up with ants under the tree.

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If you don’t have time to go yourself, then a shopping concierge service like Honestbee is perfect because you have many stores to choose from and they can deliver within a few hours.

A Couple of Hours Before Your Party - Panic Level Red

Symptoms may include breathing difficulties, loss of vision, and chest pains

10. Give a digital subscription. With only hours left, you can back to where we started and visit some popular websites and apps. You can give “digital” gifts, from premium subscriptions to Spotify or the New York Times, to Audible books. This gifting can be done in a few minutes - and it can prove to be an easy match for a lot of people, who are either book worms, audiophiles, or couch potatoes.

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11. The Flower Shop and Liquor Store. This sort of goes back to an earlier tip. But if you’re pressed for time, flowers, a box of chocolate truffles, or a bottle of quality wine are decent gifts for any occasion.

12. Give Cash. This can strike a cultural nerve in places like the United States but in Asia, giving cash is well received, especially for kids, because of the practice of giving Ampao. This QZ.com article makes a good case for giving cash instead of a gift card. Give equal the amount that you’re willing to give in gift card form. Place it in a nice envelope with a handwritten note.

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If all else fails…

It might be worthwhile to think about “playing dead” in Scaredy Squirrel’s terms. Skip that office or school party and simplify your social engagements.

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Tape-free Gift Wrapping with Brown Paperbags

image: hautestock.co

image: hautestock.co

Last Christmas I started reusing brown paperbags and even shopping bags for gift wrapping, because I realized that the holiday season creates a lot of waste, and I would love to be part of a movement that I reduces the waste we create during Christmas.

How can I wrap in a more sustainable, less wasteful manner?

  1. By gift wrapping in ways that reuse materials I already have in my home, so I don’t have to buy more. Hello upcycled brown paperbags and shopping bags!

  2. Avoid using staplers. They are tiny, but don’t get recycled and reused.

  3. By wrapping in such a way that enables the recipients of the gift to reuse all the materials:

    • #TapeFreeGiftwrapping - so papers don’t get torn when opening, and can be reused as packaging for pouches that I send in the future

    • By using the #ThoughtfulBow when wrapping so that the string doesn’t get knotted and need to be cut up. This way recipients can also reuse the string!

  4. And if I really must use tape, then I have this #3TapeGiftwrapping method, to limit the amount of plastic tape used because tape is not recyclable. Of course whenever possible I still encourage using paper tape or washi tape for wrapping.

  5. Remind recipients that they can reuse the paper for packing things in the future.

I will do separate posts on the The Thoughtful Bow and the 3-Tape Giftwrapping Method, but today I’d like to show you a super simple way to reuse brown paperbags and wrap TAPE-FREE!

TAPE-FREE BROWN PAPERBAG WRAPPING 1

MATERIALS:

  1. Brown paper bag with base that is about as large as what you are wrapping

  2. Any ribbon or string that you already have at home. You can reuse old ribbons, or in my case I still have Twine that I’m finishing off.

  3. Scissors

  4. Gift Card or, in this case I am using extra flaglets from this diaper cake I made for a friend a while ago.

  5. And your gift of course

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STEP 1: Place the gift flat in the very bottom of the bag

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STEP 2: Follow the old folds of the bag to flatten the portion above the gift.

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STEP 3: Roll the paper around the gift (this protects if if you plan to send via courier) and fold in the ends, to have a clean edge.

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STEP 4: Flip to the clean side, and then cut a piece of string/ribbon so it’s enough to tie off with a bow.

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STEP 5: String the gift card or flaglet. Be sure to write a heartfelt message first.

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STEP 6: Finish off with a bow!

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This year is really really tight for us, because we are still have to paying off loans for my hubby’s cancer operation. But in my mind, even the simplest of gifts, if mindfully chosen (these are my favorite essential oil-based, super gentle hand soaps from here), then lovingly and sustainably wrapped, will surely be appreciated by loved ones.

I like to send my gifts via courier in November, so that the gifts are safely under my loved ones trees. This way I don’t have to bring a lot of things during our December meet up. This way of wrapping, helps give it a little bit of cushion, to protect the package.

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TAPE-FREE BROWN PAPERBAG WRAPPING 2

Another way to wrap tape free is by using a puncher and ribbon/bows to close your gift.

MATERIALS:

1. Brown paper bag Take out bag with sticker removed carefully
2. Twill From Pottery barn, too pretty not to reuse
3. Puncher
4. Gift tag I love fancy all-occasion tags
5. Pre-made bow
6. Paper Doily You can do without, if you have a big fat bow

Press > to see the next steps

MINIMALUXE TIPS FOR LESS STRESSFUL HOLIDAYS:

  • Shop all year round, to take adavantage of good deals, and finish gift-wrapping by September or October.

  • Wrap the gifts in a away that they can easily be stacked and stored in a box after they are all wrapped, so they don’t get dusty.

  • Ship out gifts by November so that you can go to parties without bringing all your gifts. This prevents you from forgetting a gift, and it keeps your hands free for your baby/toddler or to help hubby get around.

  • Always remember, there is NO NEED TO OVERWRAP presents. A pretty bow and handwritten note goes a long way.

  • Upcycle or reuse what you already have. I haven’t bought wrappers for years and can barely finish whatever I have left over from Berlin, just because of my love for reused/upcycled wrapping. It has saved me so much money!

LAST NOTE:

It's not how perfectly the gift is wrapped that counts, so don't fret about imperfections. the recipients wont even notice them. Instead enjoy the process of creating and styling. The receiver will feel the time and care you spent wrapping the gift, that you so carefully chose. 

UP NEXT

I hope you liked our Three Tape Gift-wrapping Method, and please stay tuned for another sustainable gift-wrapping posts:

  • How To Do The Thoughtful Bow

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3 Tape Gift-wrapping

image: hautestock.co

image: hautestock.co

If you really must use tape with your gift wrapping, then I recommend using the minimum amount possible, which is my experience is THREE! I recommend using paper or washi tape over plastic tape, because washi is quite cool, because it’s easily removable without damaging the paper (for easy reuse), unlike plastic tape that totally destroys the paper. I even reuse the washi tape myself.

I personally like to reuse wrapping paper to wrap things that I send via mail. When done right, paper is much better at protecting our things than bubble wrap. It is what movers use to wrap my crystal glasses with each move. So if it’s good enough for professionals, then it’s good enough for me. Besides bubble wrap is not recyclable, so I’m happy that paper does the job better.

STEP 1: After cutting paper to size, fold once around your gift and tape. Be sure to create crisp folds, so the paper is snug around the gift.

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STEP 2.: Fold down the top and sides with crisp fold, then fold up and put tape number 2.

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STEP 3: Repeat the process in the other side.

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The result is a gift wrapped with only 3 pieces of tape!

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STEP 4: Flip over the to clean side and write a sweet Christmas greeting directly on the gift, or use do The Thoughtful Bow, to make it extra festive.

UP NEXT:

Stay tuned for more sustainable gift-wrapping pposts that will help you save money, while gift-wrapping TAPE FREE and allowing your gift recipients to reuse all the wrapping materials of your gifts:

  • Gift-wrapping with Reused Brown Paperbags

  • How to Do The Thoughtful Bow

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