Day 296 SWAG

Cindy has been kind enough to produce another couple of posts to keep things going here at 365less things while I watch my baby sleep. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all your good wishes and notes of comfort. Thank you again to Cindy for helping me out at such short notice.

SWAG a guest post by Cindy Bogard

I only recently learned this term – swag. According to the Urban Dictionary it stands for Stuff We All Get, aka everything from the trinkets you get at trade shows to the really fancy gift bags that celebrities get when they attend swanky events. However you cut it, it’s goodie bags for adults.

My husband recently returned from a conference that is famous (at least in our household) for its swag. Some of it is really good (i.e. welcome) stuff, and none of it is cheap. My husband is on board with decluttering, yet he could not resist all this temptation when it was dangled (free!) in front of him. He came home with a really nice cowboy hat (we do live in Texas) and small boxes of three different gourmet foods. These I welcomed, and as far as I’m concerned, this is where the good stuff ended and the cluttering began.

There was also a realistically sized plastic dill pickle that yodels (what in the world??), a very handsome box embossed with the name of the conference and filled with poker chips, dice, and cards (useful, but not to us), a handsome gold-tone pin engraved with his name that commemorates the 15th anniversary of this conference (useless), a belt buckle commemorating this conference from a previous year (useless again, and why did he take it?),  a t-shirt commemorating the conference (he has eight of these now but does wear them to work) and a t-shirt with electronics built into it in that can be played like a decent-sounding electronic guitar (truly horrible, but he loves it). In previous years, he’s brought home stuffed animals and sea monkey kits for the girls, a large lap blanket emblazoned with the name of the conference, another cowboy hat, a BBQ tool set, an engraved flask, and more food treats.

When I raised my eyebrows nearly to my hairline and asked what he was going to do with some of this stuff, specifically the yodeling pickle, the pin and the belt buckle, here’s what he said, “The pickle will make a great white elephant gift, but unless I want to make a shrine to commemorate BBQ (the name of the conference), I don’t know what I’ll do with the other stuff.” Hmmm. It’s sitting in a neat pile on his worktable, I see, and I predict it will sit for the remainder of this year, at least.

While I’m being grumpy about my husband bringing home obviously useless things (at least in my eyes), in post 188 Colleen lamented accepting free items that are useful, but that you really don’t need or want. These, too, are abundant in my life. Free reusable tote bags, which Colleen calls enviro bags, are the new rage, as well as t-shirts commemorating practically any event. (My husband owns 50 t-shirts, but that’s a story for another post.) Pens, letter openers, even business cards and literature pressed upon you when you know you don’t want them are all swag, or trash, depending on your point of view.

While I’m feeling very negative about this worthless stuff, I decided to take a 5 minute stroll around my house and see what I could find that was a freebie but is being actively used in our daily life. Surely there would be something. Here’s what I found:

  • A chip clip
  • A grippy jar opener
  • Two mousepads
  • Numerous pens and pencils
  • A tube of lip balm
  • The light on my husband’s key chain
  • Address labels and note pads from charities hoping for a donation (although I have so many of these that they’re boarding on being junk)
  • A small screwdriver set that’s useful for battery cases and eye glasses
  • A coffee mug from my husband’s business (although I’m hoping this will experience “natural decluttering” someday soon)

Although the production of unwanted goods is an environmental concern, in terms of clutter, the problem isn’t businesses offering us this stuff.  The problem is that we accept it. My girlfriend DeeDee recently moved to a new neighborhood. She reported, “I declined the Welcome Wagon bag of junk (coupons, brochures, phone book), and they thought that I was so mean!” I reminded her that you’re never mean when you politely decline what you do not want. Heck, it leaves them with more for the next person who might love a sack full of coupons and such.

Next time you’re entering a trade show, going to an open house, or attending a store grand opening, look at what they hand you, and hand it right back if you know it’s not for useful to you.


Another useless item that will never be used by me because it can’t even fit a toothbrush in.

Toiletries Bag

5 Things I am grateful for today

  1. That my house is neat and tidy and I don’t have to worry about it at this trying time.
  2. Family who surprised us with a visit and helping keep our spirits up.
  3. The wonderful staff in the ICU look out our my boy
  4. The nice people we have met who are sadly in a similar situation to ours. It is nice to have someone to talk to who knows what we are going through.
  5. Any progress our son makes sometime it is one step forward two steps back but he is holding his own while we just keep our fingers crossed.
Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • From the archives ~ Key #6 to simple decluttering in 100 words or less key #6 – Don’t over think it Sometimes when we are faced with what seems like a mammoth task we tend to over think the situation. For my decluttering effort each day I just walk into […]
  • The problem is acquiring Clutter is very much about being keener to acquire than to let go. We acquire things we need, or more likely just want, but once their usefulness to, or novelty for, us has expired we […]
  • My clutter categories ~ By Sanna I have been visiting family members in the past week. Being there and coming back I realized that my home still feels more cluttered than theirs although it isn't. How's that you might […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Hi All, As Colleen hinted at in her introduction, she has asked me to try and hold down the fort while she is busy at the hospital. I will try and write a post a day, as she does, and I will be responding to comments. I do not have access to the actual site, so I email Colleen and when she or her husband has time, they download the posts.

    Yesterday a couple of you lovingly suggested that she forget the blog for now and focus on her family, but the blog is important to her, and she wants it to continue during her hopefully short absence.

    I wish I had more information about her son’s situation. I know we are all worried, but I don’t know any more than any of the rest of you. Please send your positive thoughts and prayers toward her and her family. You can send her private messages of encouragement at the “contact Colleen” link at the top of the page. Also, if you feel inclined to write a guest post, you would use that method of contact, too.

    Just so we’re not strangers, my name is Cindy and I live in the U.S. in Austin, Texas. I have two daughters, 8 and 10, who attend an all-girls school. My eldest daughter has Type 1 diabetes, which was diagnosed at her 10 year check up last December. I have been married to Dan for 13 years. I am a stay-at-home mom (formerly both an editor and a children’s psychotherapist), and Dan is an electrical engineer in the computer business.

    We bought a pretty derelict house just before the birth of my second child and improving it has been our main source of “fun” for the past 8 years. We are inches from being completely finished – the outside needs to be painted, as does one room, which is still bare sheetrock. (I know that doesn’t sound like inches, but we’ve come a really, really long ways.) Having a beautiful, fully remodeled house is what interested me in decluttering. I didn’t want to uglify it with all our junk!

    In addition, I enjoy reading fiction, socializing, gardening with native plants, learning new things (recently diabetes and decluttering) and I am a natural born people organizer; if I’d have been a dog, I surely would have been a herding dog!

    Enough about me – back to decluttering!

    • Hi Cindy,
      thank you for introducing yourself and thank you so much for your help. I will be in contact when I can and let you and all my readers know what’s happening.

      Our son Liam is holding his own at the moment. Unfortunately he took most of the force of impact to his head and things need time to heal in there and there is no telling how long that will take. He is responding to stimuli but not responding to commands although I am almost convinced he wriggled his toes for me yesterday. We are just playing the waiting game now and hopefully he we come back to us soon.

      I will try to check in as often as I can but thank you so much for helping me out. Don’t feel pressured to post every day I know how hard that can be at time and you have you own commitments. I would never expect that from you.

  2. Thank you for holding down the fort, Cindy, and it’s nice to meet you. I’ve been enjoying your guest posts-you have a wonderful sense of humor.

    I didn’t know the real definition of “SWAG” either, so I just learned something.

    My husband is one who finds it nearly impossible to turn down free things that are offered to him, no matter what they are. Example: when we buy birthday cards and Hallmark offers a “free stuffed animal” with purchase of five cards. When I get to the counter and the clerk offers me the stuffed animal, I say, “No thanks.”

    My husband always takes the thing, and I always ask him what he’s going to do with it. Our children are grown, and our grandchildren are too old for stuffed animals. We don’t even know anybody at church that would want more clutter/stuffed animals, so why even bother to accept it at the store in the first place?

    The first time my husband said, “No thanks” to one of these deals at the store, I was amazed.

    He’s getting better. 🙂

  3. Cindy,
    Great guest post–this is something I struggle with–especially the bags–you can always use another bag, can’t you? 🙂

    Sending positive thoughts your way.

  4. Colleen, I am still praying for Liam and your family. I know this is a horrible time.

    Cindy, this is a good guest post. I know what you mean about the freebies you can get especially at conferences and other big events. Even though I am a scrapbooker I don’t take the freebies unless there is something I really can use and don’t have. I’m sure the landfills are full of all of those little dodads.

  5. Colleen, I am praying for your family and especially for your son, Liam, and his nursing & medical care. God give you all strength and courage. XX

  6. Cindy, I enjoyed your post, especially the yodelling pickle part. 🙂 Great topic.

  7. Cindy, Thanks for the introduction. Great to get to know you! A yodeling pickle?? Even in the years my hubby worked for he never got a yodeling pickle! (Should I be jealous?)

    Colleen, I will continue to pray for Liam!


  8. Praying for you son. It must be heart breaking to see him like that.

    On today’s post.. Urhg I hate freebies with only very few exceptions… My husband’s work place gives out bunch, and some of it is really fancy and actually useful, like a trendy bike (gave it to my brother) and a brand name back bag (husband uses it all the time) and some is just logoed junk but husband has gotten really good at not taking any of that. Just say no. That way you don’t have to agonize over whether to donate or trash or what.

  9. The yodeling pickle …. why something like this even exists is a mystery to me.

  10. I’ve been thinking about one other thing that we often get offered at store events or grand openings or even at office parties – free cake or other goodies that I for one do not need. It was hard at first, but I now say no thanks to these while I try to declutter my waistline.

    • Check back here on, I believe, Monday. The topic of that blog is Does This Clutter Make my Butt Look Fat? Because it sure can.

  11. I run races. Lots of them. I get swag in forms of t-shirts (thankfully, for ultra-trail running they are technical fabric), some munchies for runs (always welcome) and a bunch of useless stuff (always politely declined). I had been declining shirts as well lately, but when I don’t – I take it straight to Goodwill once home. I am not sure what thye race organisers would do, so prefer to take it home and find it another home. There is talk in our (trail-running) circle that race prganisers shall start offering lower price for those entrants who don’t want swag. I am all for that:)

    • All the stuff they load you up with at races is ridiculous, although I have to admit that when 3M sponsored the Austin Marathon, there was a lot of great give aways – all sorts of tape, post-it notes, etc. However, my husband no longer runs, and 3M no longer sponsors the marathon.

  12. I did not know it was called SWAG; I just call it freebies. I cleared some off my refrigerator yesterday and got rid of some around the house as well. I try not to bring these items home unless it’s something I definitely know I will use, but don’t you think the word FREE is so hypnotic?!