Lifestyle

50 Clutter Free Gifts Ideas For The Holiday Season

“That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what it’s always been about. Gifts, gifts… gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I’m saying? In your garbage. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice. The avarice never ends! ‘I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue.’ Look, I don’t wanna make waves, but this whole Christmas season is…stupid , stupid stupid.” – The Grinch

I don’t know about you – but the Grinch has a point. Over the years, I’ve realized the art of gift giving needs reevaluated. I’d much rather find something that is useful & won’t go to waste. Not only do people run into spending hundreds of dollars during the holiday season, but our homes become bombarded with items that may or may not be useful to us. As I’m learning more about intentional living, I’ve been understanding my priorities & what holds more value. For me, I find so much joy in gifting experiences & spending time with others. Material possessions although are appreciated – tend to find themselves at donation centers more often than not. So, with that realization – I wanted to put together a list of Clutter Free Gift Options for this year.

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Feel free to comment down below any clutter free gift ideas that aren’t listed above. The more ideas the better! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season & new year!

-B

Lifestyle

I Read 11 Books in October | Monthly Wrap Up

Anyone else feel like October just flew by?! I can’t believe it. To those who participated in Blogtober, I hope it was a successful & fun month! I’m so happy I decided not to post daily this time around. Life has became too hectic for daily posting. On the other hand, I did manage to read 11 books this month! Like – how?! 10 physical books & one audiobook! And I also surpassed my yearly reading goal of 50 books! Before I begin this wrap up, I wanted to answer a frequently asked book related question – “how do I find the time to read so many books? I’m lucky to say I’m a relatively fast reader [ and the more i read – the faster i become ]. Also, I have revamped my routines to make reading more of a priority. My husband & I both have been reading pretty much every evening for the past 6 months. We find it relaxing & our way to unwind. Lately, we’ve been adding a bit of ambience by playing rain sounds with fall scenery on the TV. Highly recommend if you are trying to romanticize the autumn season. Regardless how many books you read a month, just picking up a book & finding something that helps you escape reality / expand your thoughts is something to be proud of. And I hope these wrap ups have sparked your interest in reading & inspired you to add a few to your TBR [ to be read ] lists. Let’s get into the wrap up…

Dark Age by Pierce Brown

I actually started this book at the end of September but completed it the first week of October. My husband actually recommended this series to me a few months back & I was pretty hesitant about it. Sci-fi / dystopian novels aren’t usually my thing. But he bated me by saying the series was like a combination of Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Star Wars & Lord of the Flies all wrapped up in one – & so I read the first book back in May. And next thing you know, in the span of a few months I read the entire trilogy as well as the two books of his latest installment [ which takes place 10 years after the first 3 books ]. Dark Age in particular is the darkest & most gruesome of Pierce Brown’s books [ hence the title] . But don’t let that deter you away. These books are filled with so much action, a little bit of slow burn romance & very fast paced. Another thing I appreciate with this entire series is the shock value. I usually see twists from a mile away. But PB writes in such a way that made me so surprised! Be sure to check out my bookstagram reel on this series! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

I told myself I wanted to read more Colleen Hoover books before I make a final cohesive rating of her as an author. And Reminders of Him has been on my bookshelf for months. And a lot of people considered this one their favorites. For me, I was very enticed by the plot – a mother released from prison who dreams of rekindling her relationship with her 5 year old daughter. It’s a small town “second chance romance” if the second chance is your deceased boyfriend’s best friend. There was a lot of potential with this one but the “twist” fell flat & the entire book although it had beautiful quotes, felt like a lifetime movie [ which isn’t my favorite ] . When it got to the ending, I was kind of expecting more of a dramatic & life altering conclusion. And for me, it was very predicable. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Of course, I had to read a spooky novel this month for Halloween. This was my first Riley Sager book [ & it certainly won’t be my last ]. This was the perfect haunted house / ghost story trope. And the premise was so interesting with the past & present POV’s. I was very much entertained the entire time & a little spooked out at parts [ not going to lie]. This tells the story of Maggie – who’s father [ who recently passed ] wrote a book about their experience in this victorian home. 25 years later, Maggie has returned to the home to find out the truth & whether her father’s book was all fiction or perhaps a bit more. This screams very much Amittyville Horror vibes if you’ve seen that movie. I can’t wait to read more of his books in the future. Be sure to check out my bookstagram for an even deeper inside look of this novel. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

So, last month I finally started the first book of the Throne of Glass series – & I of course had to continue this month with the second installment. Once I finished the ACOTAR [ A Court of Thorns & Roses] series over the summer, I was craving another one of SLM’s books. Once again, I was thoroughly entertained & was immersed back into the world of fantasy with this read. I think I got a better understanding of the main character, Celeana. And we are introduced to a few new characters while also adding a hint of romance. Check out my bookstagram for more details about this read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

This is where things went a little downhill. But you can’t always read an amazing book, right? I bought this book because a few booktubers recommended it & I thought it would be the perfect short [ under 300 pages] thriller I needed in between those thick fantasies. I almost DNFed [ did not finish ] this book because it was just simply- boring. I saw the twists from a mile away & I find the amnesia tropes to be so overdone within the thriller/ mystery genres. Be sure to check out my full unhinged review on my bookstagram. ⭐️⭐️

Love in The Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

This is a perfect example of “don’t trust a book by a pretty cover.” What I thought was going to be a lighthearted spooky / true crime rom com ended up being a fairly deep story about a girl who returns to sell her deceased father’s home. She is a PhD student writing her dissertation on true crime / serial killers & quickly becomes convinced her neighbor is a serial killer himself. I found this story to be all over the place. Although it touched on many tough topics of grief, divorce, family dynamics, suicide, broken friendships & mental health – it also felt like a cringe spicy fan fiction. Phoebe & Sam’s romance was spicy but also very cringe. Some of the dialogue made me go 😬. And like most cheesy rom coms, the story was very predictable. Overall, I feel like some people would enjoy this for the lighthearted smut & see it as a good filler read – which is why I give it a solid 3 stars. Check out my bookstagram review.⭐️⭐️⭐️

Confess by Colleen Hoover

I warned you this was going to be a CoHo month – & so I decided to listen to the audiobook for this one. And once again, like Reminders of Him – this one felt the same. I will say, I find the premise of painting a person’s confessions so interesting. And the fact CoHo shared true confessions from fellow readers bumped up the rating for me. In general, I felt the romance between Auburn & Owen was good [ a mysterious artist with a bit of spice ]. I just felt like the twists weren’t that surprising & I’m personally not the hugest fan of the insta love trope. I want a romance that is a little more believable than that, you know? I also watched the tv series which made it slightly better but also kind of cringe. Have you read this one? ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Circe by Madeline Miller

I was excited to read Circe because I absolutely adored her other greek mythology novel, The Song of Achilles that I read back in May. I felt this book was perfect for spooky season because of her magical witchy tendencies. While some aspects of the story was rather dry, I think Madeline Miller writes these retellings so beautifully where you can feel all the emotions. For a literary fiction, I think her’s are worth reading because you learn something but also get the taste of a meaningful story. From her relationship with her sister, to finding love – I thought this was another well done read & I give it a solid four stars. If I were to compare the two though, I still think Song of Achilles is her best novel. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

This was probably my favorite book of the Throne of Glass series so far! This is the 3rd installment of the series. The story is finally growing more & more. And I absolutely loved the multiple POV’s & getting a glimpse of more characters. This was such a wild ride – especially towards the last few chapters. Rowan, ( one of the newest characters) is chef’s kiss. I knew this character was going to be in the books [ thanks to booktok spoilers] but people are so right to be obsessed with this character. And introducing more of the witch clans made it the perfect read for spooky season. It felt very much like Game of Thrones in some parts with witches riding on wyverns [ dragons] & I became enthralled with the world – per usual. SJM seriously knows how to write a fantasy story. Here’s my bookstragram take on the book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️👏🏻

Assassins Blade by Sarah J. Maas

I finally finished this novella since I DNFed it last month. The thing about this book was determining when was the right time to read this & fully appreciate the story since it’s a prequel / novella. You can read it before Throne of Glass , after Crown of Midnight or after Heir of Fire. So many decisions! I decided to choose the romantic reading order [ after Heir of Fire] , I pretty much knew what was going to happen. But I’m happy that I can move onto the rest of the series knowing Caleana’s backstory. Overall, this story – especially the ending, was heartbreaking. IYKYK. I may re – read this once I’m finished with the entire series just to see if I appreciate it even more. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover

Let me just say, this was a highly anticipated read this month [ for a lot of us it seems ] . And although CoHo sheds light on domestic violence & the struggles of leaving a situation / relationship such as this one – this book made me so angry & frustrated. Yes, I love Atlas & Lily. A childhood friends to lovers / second chance romance is my cup of tea. But so many aspects of the story just pissed me off. And you would think if a book made me this emotionally charged, I would give it a higher rating. No. Lily deserves all the happiness in the world & to live the life she wishes. She should be with whoever she wants. No man ( especially a man who is violent towards her) should have a say. Period. Along with this, I just felt like the book was choppy & the ending seemed rushed. A lot of people pin this as a drawn out epilogue – & I fully agree. CoHo never really intended to make a second installment after It Ends With Us & so this was merely for the fans [ as she states in the thank you in the beginning of the book ]. I was discussing this book with a few bookstagrammers & I totally agree the twist with Atlas was very profound – especially the part where they state the title “it starts with us” IYKYK. Check out this bookstagram reel of me receiving the book on release day! Also, I did a mini review on there here. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s hard to say if I’ll read this many books or more in the future – but we shall see! Reading has became my favorite activity & I just love immersing myself into the community. I’ve created a Good Reads account where you can keep up with my reading challenge & what I’m reading in real time. And again, if you aren’t already – be sure to follow me on my Bookstagram. I’ve been loving connecting with other book lovers on there, making fun reels & sharing reviews. I hope you’ve been enjoying my book content on the blog. I still plan to share tons of decluttering posts & intentional living discussions especially with the holiday season approaching. In the comments, let me know what your favorite books were this month!

-B

Lifestyle

August WrapUp: Birthdays, Books & Getting My Life Together

I can’t believe we are wrapping up another month. I’m another year older, having turned 31 on the 9th & I’ve been trying my best to live more in the moment & enjoy the simpler things. This summer has been a time of healing & rest due to the sudden burst of grief after my wedding. Planning a wedding right after my dad passed away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. They say not to do anything huge the first year of grief, but I went a head & went full force into wedding planning mode. So, now I’ve been playing catch up & focusing on my own wellbeing these last few months. But I’ve also managed to incorporate tons of fun before the summer comes to a close. I want to thank LifeWithDeanna for inspiring me to write this blog post & start my own version of monthly wrap ups. If you haven’t checked out her content / blog please give her posts a read! She’s been one of my favorite bloggers at the moment!

What’s Been Fun This Month…

Towards the end of July, Todd & I went to a lantern festival in the city. Although it’s not an August highlight – I wanted to mention it because it was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend. When you arrive – you are given your own lantern to decorate. You are encouraged to draw any future wishes, past remembrances or anything that defines you. Once the sun went down – hundreds of us let our lit lanterns go into the water & watch them float. Be sure to check out my reel on the lantern festival here for a more in-depth look.

For my birthday, Todd & I ventured to St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore the weekend before & ate lunch by the water. It was a rather hot one thanks to the continuous heat wave, but we cooled down by walking through some of the town shops & I took a slice of Smith Island cake to go.

And on my actual birthday, we met up with my mom & brother for dinner at Glory Days [ they have the best burger sliders ] & I got a free ice cream sundae. It was a much needed low key celebration & I was so glad we could all celebrate together as a family. Although, I’ve been spending lots of “me time” this summer for healing – I’ve chosen to lean on these two for most of my support along with my husband of course. I’ve learned it’s better to have a small group of supporters instead of tons.

On a separate note, if you are interested – I can share my thoughts on grief & how the process has been from my personal experience in a blog post.

My favorite birthday gift hands down were these custom book jackets from the brand Nerdy Ink. We all know how much I love the A Court of Thorns & Roses series! And these new covers are so beautiful on my new bookshelf.

For those who aren’t familiar with the state of Maryland – we are known for our steamed crabs [ especially during the summer ]. We enjoyed a weekend pool party / crab feast. It was fun because we literally knew one person [ but were able to meet tons of new people ]. We all sat around a long table, picked crabs & told the funniest stories. We ended the evening with a bonfire & roasting marshmallows.

Towards the end of the month, we celebrated my brother’s birthday in Annapolis. I surprised him with a Better Call Saul law school sweatshirt. All three of us – my husband, my brother & I are huge fans of that show & are so sad season 6 was their final season. Have you watched it?

find this on etsy

What I’ve Been Loving…

It’s been a long time coming but my books are no longer stored on the floor of my office. I finally have a proper bookshelf & I’m obsessed with it! Here it is >> my bookshelf . It’s already filled with tons of books [ many that still need to be read ]. I’m especially looking forward to starting the Throne of Glass series soon! * update – I have started Throne of Glass & am 20 chapters in! – fantasy is officially my favorite genre *

I’ve been creating more of a capsule wardrobe & decluttering / replacing a few clothing pieces. I updated my shorts with a few pairs of Levi 501’s & they are the best fitting shorts I’ve ever owned. I bought two pairs of blue denim as well as a white pair. If you are interested in seeing my fall capsule wardrobe in a blog post, let me know in the comments.

What I’ve Been Reading…

After finishing ACOTAR at the end of July – I was in a bit of a reading slump until I discovered a series my husband recommended which is the Red Rising trilogy. I talked about the first book in my July reading wrap up.

This month I read:

Golden Son by Pierce Brown: the second book to the Red Rising trilogy. This one is my favorite because of the epic ending! Wow – I couldn’t stop reading this fast paced sci fi action novel. Highly recommend.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown: the final book to the Red Rising trilogy. Epic action just like the other two, great character building & a shocking ending.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry: I have a bit of an unpopular opinion about this book. I don’t think I’m the biggest fan of this author. Although I did enjoy People We Meet on Vacation as a lighthearted summer read – I just don’t enjoy her writing & find the story lines to be a bit cheesy. Sorry not sorry.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid: if she writes it, I’m going to read it. I loved this summer read based in one of my favorite places – Malibu, California. It tells the story of the Riva Family & the past POV of their parents. I loved following the character growth between each kid, their backstories & how the past & present can repeat itself. This has gotten me excited to read TJR’s newest release, Carrie Soto Is Back which is dropping this month.
Flock by Kate Stewart: I’ve seen the Ravenhood series all over social media & I basically went in blind. I had no idea what this story even was about & quite honestly – I’m still a little confused. But I’ve heard the second book Exodus is way better. This is a nice summer filler read with tons of spice. 🌶🌶🌶🌶 So, I’m not mad about that at all. If you are into morally grey love triangles, this book is for you.
The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: I’ve had this book on my shelves for months & I was in the mood for a thriller since fall is approaching. And honestly, this was an extreme let down for me. It started out strong but immediately became anticlimactic & predictable. And the ending just fell flat. I’m wondering if some of their other books are better?

What I’ve Been Watching…

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin: I’ve actually never seen Pretty Little Liars before this spin off [ don’t come for me ]. But I’m loving this spooky mystery that airs every Thursday on HBO Max.

Love Island UK: My husband & I loved watching the newest season of Love Island UK. I was a huge Ekin Su fan. The US has their own version, but the accents and “banter” of this version drew us in. So entertaining! Hulu has all the seasons available. Which past season should we watch next? Because after following these couples for 60 episodes, I’m missing them like crazy!

A Discovery of Witches: I believe this series is based on a book trilogy. We decided to watch this after doing a bit of research on Reddit & I’m obsessed with it! Any show that has witches, vampires & demons- I’m all for it! And I felt like it would be perfect with spooky season approaching.

What I’ve Accomplished…

Mind Beauty Simplicity’s views have skyrocketed this month after publishing a collaboration with a few other minimalist creators in the community. If you haven’t checked out that post yet, click here. In this collaboration, content creators who live the less is more lifestyle shared their reason for living this way. It’s a fascinating read & hope it inspires more people to downsize their lives a little more. I’m excited to announce this post was mentioned in Courtney Carver’s weekend favorites series on her blog. Be sure to check that post out here.

I’ve also been into creating reels on Instagram. As we know, the algorithm on this platform is rather finicky at times. But I’ve managed to reach almost 50k views on some of them! I’ve been trying to change up my mindset with this platform & just having fun with it connecting with other creators. All in all, I don’t expect tons of growth with this platform, but it’s something I want to maintain to built friendships with other minimalists & creative souls in the community.

What I Want To Work On…

I want to work on being more present & limit my screen time even more than I already do. I’ve been reading a lot more to combat that screen time which I share in this blog post here. My husband & I both will spend a few hours every evening reading together. We turn on a vibey screen saver on Youtube [ like rain or a cozy cabin ] & just enjoy each other’s company. I also hope to read a few more books in the months ahead with the weather getting colder.

I also want to practice having more gratitude & not let other people’s opinions affect my behavior. I’ve been embracing the power of my alone time & enjoying my own company. It’s been the best form of healing during this phase in my life. Although I enjoy time with others – I also need time to recharge & prioritize myself. In the past – I would always put other people’s needs before my own & I want to change that some moving forward.

What I’m Looking Forward To…

I’m obviously looking forward to the Halloween season & honestly – the cooler weather! I’m so tired of this heat. I’ve purchased a few fall decor items already & can’t wait to decorate our house soon!

We do plan to go to the beach for one more weekend [ Labor Day weekend ] before the summer ends to celebrate our 8 year dating anniversary. We’ve only been to our local beach town once this summer [ which is quite different for us ]. And with this heat, the only place to really go to cool off is the beach in my opinion!

We also have a few weddings to attend this fall which is exciting – one in Virginia & another in Pennsylvania. 2022 has been the year for weddings! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my wedding series.

I hope you had an amazing month in August. Feel free to share what you’ve been up to & what you’ve been loving lately in the comments. Here’s to a new month of possibilities! Let me know if you enjoyed this style of blog post & if I should continue it.

-B