As our days before we depart on our Round the World trip dwindle down, we have been busy packing up all of our belongings in an attempt to fit our two bedroom apartment into a 10×12 storage unit. This is a perfect opportunity to get rid of the stuff that we no longer use, need, or aren’t valuable enough to be worth storing.
A few weeks ago, we went out to dinner with our friends Jessica and Mike and were telling them about the purging process, which has been challenging since we’ve lived in our current place for three years (a record for me). Jessica suggested that we play a White Elephant game with the stuff we were planning to donate at our upcoming Going Away Party. Brilliant!
Generally speaking, with a White Elephant game each participant brings their own gift to contribute. But in order to play our purging version of the game, you provide all the goodies.
Here’s how you can throw a White Elephant party to purge your possessions:
- Send a party invite to your friends and family, which forces you to do the hard part, #2
- Go through your belongings to identify things you would like to donate
- I’m well-versed in getting rid of my stuff after going through 7 moves in 7 years in Chicago (surprisingly, that even includes living in one place for two years). With each move, I evaluated my possessions and donated or sold items I didn’t need or want anymore.
- My rule of thumb is simple – if you haven’t used it or worn it in the past year – get rid of it! Just Say No to your urge to keep things “just in case” or because “it still works” or “maybe it will fit again someday.” Chances are, if you get rid of something that meets the rule above, you won’t miss it or even notice it’s gone!
- Of course, it’s much easier said than done and I do make a few small exceptions. For example, I have one pair of skinny jeans I don’t fit into (yet), a couple kitchen appliances we haven’t used but really like, and travel books that I like to keep because it reminds me of all the fun trips I’ve taken. Everyone has their reasons to hold on to some things, which is ok, but just make sure you’re not giving into your hoarder tendencies for everything you own!
- If you have more items than the number of guests who are coming to the party, group the items together into packages
- The packages can make sense (e.g. a pack of kitchen utensils or sports-related items) or be a totally random assortment of things. Since we were SO good at purging our stuff, the majority of our packages were grouped items.
- Wrap items
- It doesn’t have to be pretty. Especially if you are doing this because you are moving, your guests know you have better things to do than to make the items Martha Stewart catalog-worthy. We opted for reusing old shopping bags that we’ve accumulated over the years and taped and stapled them shut. In retrospect, we should have done more taping/stuffing with tissue paper and less stapling. Although it was a fast and efficient way to close packages, it creates sharp edges when opened. Don’t repeat our mistake!
- At the party, lay out all of the packages along with a donation box for when the game is over
- Considering we were going to donate all of the items we wrapped up for the game, we set out the donation box so our guests didn’t feel obligated to take home something they really didn’t want!
- Enjoy your guests’ reaction to your discarded possessions!
In case you haven’t played a White Elephant game, here are the rules:
- Before the game starts, have guests choose a number from a hat or some container
- The numbers have to be sequential from 1 to however many guests there are. You can either write numbers on small pieces of paper or take a tip from us – just cut numbers out from a calendar!
- The person who picked #1 selects the first item and opens it
- #2 goes next and has the option to either take a package from the unopened item pile or steal the item #1 selected
- An item can be stolen up to three times
- If an item gets stolen from you by another player, you get to either steal it back (as long as it hasn’t been stolen 3 times yet!) or pick another unopened item.
- Some people don’t limit stealing or limit it to a different number of times or have different steal-back rules. We don’t think it matters as long as everyone is clear what rules you choose to play by.
- Continue this process until all guests have had a turn.
- Based on a guest’s suggestion, we added the rule that the very first person who went gets to the option to steal an item from someone else or keep what they have.
The game was a huge success. Our friends enjoyed laughing at the things we’ve accumulated over time. What we didn’t realize before the game is that the majority of packages contained Jan’s stuff. He’s a self-proclaimed pack rat, so I’m very proud of him for parting with so many possessions he’s held onto for years!
After the game ended, we were happy to see several exchanges between friends and some rummaging of the donation bin. By the end of the night, about 75% of the items in the game were taken home by our friends. We were very pleasantly surprised that so many items found new homes. The remaining things fit into two shopping bags, which will make it much easier to donate.
We definitely proved the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Thanks to all of our friends for coming out and sending us off with plenty of laughs! We’ll miss you!