Tag Archives: Living with Less

Project 333: Quality Over Quantity

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Writers Note: I know things have been really quiet here lately, I’ve been slacking in the writing department big time! I hope you’ll hang in here with me though, because I’ve been working on making this a much nicer experience for you guys. I’m nearly finished redesigning my own website – www.snazzyturtle.com – and then I’ll be working on the design and branding for the new blog. I’m also building up some content so there won’t be so much downtime in between posts when life gets busy. Exciting things are coming soon!

Have I ever told you about my clearance t-shirt addiction? It used to be a bit of a problem.

Academy Sports, which is like kryptonite to my frugality, always has a clearance section. Always.  They set up rack after rack of t-shirts, running shorts, cargo pants, skorts, and other wonderfulness at deep discounts. Now, I’m not a skort lover, and I really only need the standard amount of pockets on my pants, but the t-shirts get me every time. Especially on the $4.88 or less rack. I mean, who can argue with a $2 t-shirt? Honestly for $2 I might have even bought a skort, it was that bad.

So every time we went, which at times was more frequent than it probably should have been, I would load up on cheap shirts. I might only spend $30 but I would leave with an armload of new clothes. It was a wonderful thing.

The problem was this… for every one shirt out of the bunch that I loved there were usually 5 that didn’t fit quite right. Or after a month or two they started wearing thin, because there’s usually a reason a shirt has been marked down to less than the price of a gallon of milk. Academy really doesn’t have bad clothes, they sell great stuff and I love the store, but the ones they put on the lowest priced clearance rack are probably not made by the really dedicated clothes-making elves. More like the disgruntled elf who really wanted to be a leprechaun but had overly involved parents.

But I would keep them, because who wants to get rid of a brand new shirt? I’m sure I’ll wear it sometime, my tastes will probably change and the odd cut of that neckline will be very flattering in a few months. No, not so much. And so I eventually ended up with a wardrobe that I only wore about 50% of.

That was pretty easy to ignore though… until we started decluttering. I mean really decluttering, the last round or two before we sold it all and moved. That was when I couldn’t avoid the cheap t-shirts any longer. I only had so much room in the closet of the Turtle, and I didn’t want it taken up with clothes I didn’t wear. But I still tried to sneak some of the newer not flattering shirts into the bunch, because I might take up painting or catfish noodling and need something to wear.

Shortly after that I found out about Project 333 and decided to give it a shot, so you basically know the rest of the story. I pared down to 33 articles of clothing, including shoes, purses, hats, and sunglasses, for the first 3 months we were here. Obviously there wasn’t any room for stuff I didn’t like, so all of them went to Goodwill. That in itself was freeing in an odd way.

And then a funny thing happened. I started looking at the price tags on clothes a little different. I still want a deal, but it has to be worth it at full price for me to want it at a discount. The cheapest clearance rack still gets a look through, but now I usually pass up the $2 shirts. After all, 10 $2 shirts that I don’t wear would pay for 1 really nice shirt that I’ll wear for years.

In fact I even bought a $50 hoodie the other day. It was on clearance, retail price of $75. I bought it to replace all of the hoodies that are sitting in my tote waiting for the fall swap. The reason I paid $50 for a hoodie when I obviously could have found a cheaper alternative? Quality and comfort, obviously. The neck of this one was wide and comfy (my biggest complaint usually), the cut was loose but flattering, the fabric was super soft, and it was a brand that I know and love. It’ll last me years in good shape. Because of all those things, combined with the fact that now I have fewer clothes in general, I didn’t mind spending a little extra money for one item.

Quality doesn’t have to mean more expensive, you can shop around and find brands that are well made and not quite as expensive, or you can buy as you find things on clearance, which is what I try to do. But the plain and simple truth is that if you aren’t buying as much you can afford to pay more per item, that’s just math. In the end you might even find you’ve saved a little money while getting nicer stuff, which is a pretty cool bonus.

So, I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this project so far, the lesson of quality over quantity. And once you apply it to one area of your life it’s easy to extend the thinking elsewhere… household items, time, fitness, relationships, even food. I think we can all agree that one really nice sandwich made at home trumps 5 gas station corn dogs any day. Right?

Look around, is there something you’ve been avoiding spending more money on by spending less money more often? Or something you’ve been giving a ton of time to but only halfway doing? I was guilty of it in a lot of areas, but it’s a work in progress!

On The Beauty Of Working A/C And Starting

Lest you think we melted into a puddle of goo after the air conditioner went out last week, we’re still here. In fact, we’re now the proud owners of a superbly cool tin can (fiberglass, I know I know) with two brandy dandy new air conditioners.

But I’ll get to that in a minute. There’s plenty going on in this catch up post, so I might get a bit scattered, I apologize in advance for that.

First off, I have to mention the passing of my Maw Maw this weekend. My dad’s mom. She lived a long and mostly healthy 91 years and up until the last few she was independent and strong, to a nearly comical point at times. You knew not to wander in front of the TV when the game was on for example… any game actually. That was a running joke in her house. And I’ll never forget her shaking her cane at us like a character out of a movie when we tried to decline coming to dinner after some random family event. She, like a lot of my family, was larger than life at times. She was the matriarch on my dad’s side, a position she handled gracefully.

She also marked the fourth death in my family in the last few years… preceded by my Grandmama on my mom’s side, as well my aunt and cousin from the same side. That’s a lot to lose in a short amount of time, and it was especially tough on the family due to my cousin and aunt going much too soon.

It does however have the sobering, but beneficial, effect of making you consider your own mortality. I don’t want to look back at some point and realize I wish I had done more, or played more, or loved more. I don’t want to assume that I have another 60 years and find out too late that it was really only 10. I want to enjoy now as much as I can, to avoid the regrets that come with ignoring what you’d rather be doing. So that’s what I plan to do.

Now, onto a lighter note. I’ve joined a secret society! Sort of.

I’m a big fan of Jon Acuff’s writing, he’s the author of Quitter and Start (if you haven’t read those you’re really missing out!). He’s a great writer and an even better motivator, and he keeps a blog over at jonacuff.com which I follow. Last week he posted on his blog asking people to sign up to join him on an adventure. The post was up for about 24 hours before he took it down. It was vague but intriguing, and the only commitment at the time was to email him a little information, then wait and see what happened. Considering this is already the Year of Change I figured what the heck, and shot off an email.

I had almost forgotten about the whole deal, between the air going out and my grandmother’s passing. But then yesterday I got an email from him containing the link to a private Facebook group dubbed The Start Experiment. Of course I joined immediately, to find around 700 other people already there introducing themselves. It’s already been inspiring seeing all these people who are ready to do something beyond the norm, and the experiment hasn’t even begun yet. I won’t reveal too much, but so far it looks like it will start as a personal challenge of sorts, with an accountability partner. We will be asked to push ourselves outside our comfort zones every day for 24 days in some way or another, and I can’t wait. As an added bonus, did I mention I’m part of a secret society? I think we should get a handshake or some sort of power ring.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we didn’t melt in here last week when the air conditioner started messing up. There were a few sketchy days, but we were able to limp along by turning it on and off at the breaker when we needed it. We had to keep it off at night or it would freeze up, and I kept it off as much during the day as possible, but regardless we made it.

I did remember last week that we had an extended warranty that had been thrown in with the purchase of the Turtle, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to see what they would take care of. As it turned out, it was actually a pretty good warranty. They even offered to pay for a mobile repair guy to come out and fix it so we wouldn’t have to pack everything up and find a shop that could take us in. This time of year most repair shops are two or three weeks out, so that seemed like a terrible option all the way around.

After looking for a mobile RV repair place for hours though I was beginning to think a camping trip to the parking lot of a service department would be in order, until I found a place about an hour and a half away called Southern RV. They did warranty work, were certified, and said they worked anywhere in middle Tennessee… so of course they weren’t open that day.

I did get in touch the next day though and was able to get them started dealing with our warranty. It took several phone calls between myself, the repair shop, and the Xtra Ride warranty adjustor, but we finally came up with a plan. The warranty would pay for nearly all of the service call and all of the parts and labor to repair our existing unit, and we would cover the remainder to install a second unit in the bedroom. Great!

Marty was worried though that repairing the unit would just be a band aid and other problems would keep popping up, so after a lot of talking we decided to go ahead and spend the extra money and replace the unit we had with a new Atwood A/C with a heat pump. The Atwood’s are less expensive than the Dometic we had, and the repair shop said they were impressed with the quality of their construction, plus the heat pump will help lower the propane expense this winter hopefully. I paid for both units over the phone, then spent the next two days secretly hoping I hadn’t been duped by some kid with a fake website.

They said both units would be in by Friday and they should be able to come that same day, or Saturday at the latest. Friday afternoon came and went with no word, and I was really starting to question my own judgement. But then, at 7pm on Friday night, the Southern RV repair truck pulled up out front. The parts had come in a little after 4 o’clock and they headed out then.

It took nearly three hours to install the two units and fix a light switch that wasn’t working quite right, and I was expecting the worst when it came time to settle up. He showed me both work orders, the one they would send the warranty company for the repairs and the one I would owe for the extra labor since I had already paid for parts. It came time for the grand total and I held my breath a little…

That’ll be $85.

Huh? Oh.

That’s not at all what I was expecting. One hours labor. He even waived the remainder of the service call, saying if I wanted to give his guys a little extra to grab dinner with on the way home that would be plenty. I gladly did, and gave him a bit extra too for coming out so late on a Friday. The guys were all super friendly and professional, and they did a great job, definitely a win in my book.

Then we checked out our new units, and they are awesome. I don’t have much to compare to, just our travel trailer and this fifth wheel, but both of our previous A/C’s have been so loud you couldn’t hear each other well from one room to the next. Our TV volume would go from 20 to 50 when the air kicked on. When I walked in the den to look at the new unit I had to ask if it was on yet, it’s that quiet. And the air flow is twice as much as our Dometic Duotherm was producing.

Atwood hasn’t been in the cooling business that long, although they’ve made other RV parts for years. So we took a bit of a risk on these units, not knowing their track records yet. But as of right now I’m thoroughly pleased.

They function a bit different than any I’ve seen before though, and I had to call Atwood this morning to make sure they were working right, which I was assured they were. When the fan is set to Auto most air conditioners will run until they reach the right temperature and then cut off until they need to start cooling again. In these the fan runs all the time. When the temperature is right they switch to low fan speed and the compressor turns off, and as needed they cycle back up to medium or high and kick the compressor back on to cool things down. The result is super quiet and keeps the whole place at a nice consistently cool temp. Now that I know it’s not a wiring problem I have to admit it’s a pretty interesting process. They also have some other neat things, like the Dry mode which acts as a dehumidifier if you’re happy with the temp but want to pull some of the humidity out of the air. It also has a Sleep button,  when it’s set the temperature will rise by 2 degrees over the next hour, or lower by 2 degrees if you’re using the heat pump. All in all we’re glad we spent the money, and hopefully won’t have to do that again for a long time!

This week will be crazy as well, today is my catch up day. Tonight and tomorrow are visitation and funeral a bit more than an hour away from here. Wednesday is a morning meeting and getting ready for Thursday. And then the fun begins! We’re going to pack up the truck Thursday morning, hook up the boat, and head over to tent camp at Mousetail Landing State Park. We’ll stay there a few days fishing and hanging out. I’ve looked around and found a local concert to check out on Saturday night and a few restaurants to look at. Other than that there isn’t much in the area other than lots of rivers and creeks.

It’s an exploratory mission too, we’ll be driving around looking for an inexpensive piece of land along the Tennessee river. We’ve talked a lot about what the next step is and it would be kind of dreamy to be able to go to our own little spot on the river when we feel like it, or even live there for longer periods in the future. Ideally we would find one that someone has already set up for an RV, maybe with a concrete pad and utilities already in place. But if the price were right we could buy a 1/4 acre lot with no utilities and add them as we have the money. It would give us somewhere to go if we didn’t want the expense of paying rent at a campground, because a payment on land that small would actually be less than our rent right now. And it would serve as a bit of a home base too, without the commitment of an actual home base. We don’t want something that requires a lot of maintenance, we want to be able to leave it for as long as needed without worrying about things breaking down or tearing up.

I’ve bookmarked several great looking spots on Craigslist and some local realtor websites, and we’re excited just to go ride around a new area and look at the possibilities. Even if that doesn’t turn anything up it will still be a great weekend of fishing and camping!

Are you doing any camping this weekend? Starting anything or joining a secret society? If not you should at least go right now and do one thing that scares you… it’s great for the soul. 🙂

It’s That Time Again – Project 333 Season Finale

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This will be a two post day as I try to catch up from last week. I’ll post an update on our air conditioner situation and some other things shortly!

The end of June marks the end of my first go at the Project 333 challenge.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with my clothing inventory (And why not?) I decided to try Project 333 after we made the move to the Turtle. After going through our closet to declutter and then move I started to realize I was not the minimalist I originally thought, and it looked like a fun experiment.

So in the beginning of April I laid all my clothes out in the bedroom and painstakingly narrowed them down to what I actually loved and wore. The rest was packed away in a tote and taken to storage. For the last 3 months I’ve worn only 33 items of clothing including my shoes, purse, hats, and superhero costumes.

This first three months have been full of a lot of different temperatures, and I’ve cheated a few times, but I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve spent so much less time deciding what to wear, and my closet has never been more organized. And in a bit of an unexpected turn of events I’ve actually learned a few things about myself.

I don’t actually need 33. There were several things that were barely worn this time around. I’m not sure how many, but I’d be willing to bet I actually only wore 25 items on a regular basis. That gives me a little confidence in how little I can get by with.

Choosing wrong isn’t the end of the world. I made a few mistakes when I chose my wardrobe the first time, and the weather wasn’t quite right for certain shirts and dresses. The last few weeks it’s been warm enough, but next time around I’ll save those things for the ‘summer’ cycle. But even though I’ve cheated a few times, nothing bad happened. Courtney Carver didn’t come busting out of the closet and cuff me. It’s just a challenge meant to make you look at part of your life more objectively, to reevaluate your needs. The number almost doesn’t even matter, it’s the process and intention that counts.

The second time was much easier than the first. Part of that might be the similarity in the weather between these two cycles, most of my clothes from last time were already warm weather things. Part of it also has to be that I’m a little more confident in knowing the things I actually wear now. I’ve learned what I really need on a regular basis. The first time around there was an odd amount of fear that I would choose wrong or that I would want the clothes I was putting up. This time was pretty simple… I made sure about half of my shirts were comfortable t-shirts and the other half were nicer looking. I kept out my jeans and all my shorts, and added another dress that would work for a little nicer event.

My spring/summer wardrobe is getting there. I put a few shirts that just weren’t quite right into a donate pile and the rest of my non-33 warm weather stuff went back into the tote headed for storage, but this time it was only a few things. A pair of flip flops and a few t-shirts I might like more for fall than summer, plus a pair of overall shorts I’m not quite ready to let go of yet. I’m hopeful that by next year my 33 will be my actual wardrobe for the season. That might be a bit harder to do for fall and winter, because I have lots of sweaters and boots, but at least I’m narrowing down half the year.

Having a self imposed limit is perfect for me. I tend to hold onto things that I kind of like, or that I might like later on. It really helps to put a cap on that, it makes me re-evaluate every piece I keep out. It has to fit just right, be the right color, not be uncomfortable at all, and look pretty damn good. Otherwise in the tote it goes.

Today marks the start of the next three month cycle, and it was a no brainer for me to keep going. I was actually excited to go through and reset the closet, so I pulled the tote out on Saturday afternoon and chose my next 33 a couple of days early. I’m curious to see what I actually wear out of the bunch, so this time I also turned all my hangers around as I put things up. When I wear something and put it back I’ll turn it’s hanger around the right way and at the end of 3 months it will be obvious what’s been used and what hasn’t.

Here’s what I’m starting with:

1. Aviator sunglasses
2. Brown purse
3. Under Armour visor
4. Strappy brown sandals
5. Reef flip flops (I’ll have to replace these by next year… they’re mostly just decorative at this point)
6. Sneakers
7. Jeans
8. Cutoff denim shorts
9. Regular denim shorts
10. Capris
11. Nike running shorts
12. Hangout t-shirt
13. Jack Daniels t-shirt
14. Yellow Old Navy t-shirt
15. Nike t-shirt #1
16. Nike t-shirt #2
17. Green tank
18. White shirt with leaves
19. Shirt with cool back
20. Blue tank
21. Blue strapless dress
22. Coral sundress
23. Pink dress
24. Blue plaid peasant top
25. Red t-shirt
26. Black floweredy dress
27. Grey kitten heels
28. White shirt with blue flowers
29. Lacy t-shirt
30. Nike t-shirt #3
31. Life is Good t-shirt
32. Green v-neck t-shirt
33. Grey racerback tank

Swap items:
1. White strapless shirt
2. Green flip flops (In case the others don’t make it till next year)

If you haven’t heard of Project 333 you should check it out or create your own version… it’s a neat little challenge that might help you simplify your life a little more. Or at least your closet!

Don’t You Miss Your House?

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The reactions we’ve gotten since we sold our house to move into the Turtle have been mixed. Split down the middle between those who think we are crazy or broke, and those who would love to do the same thing.

We’ve made other choices along the way that people apparently think indicate our current lack of sanity as well, like selling my paid for car.

No matter how they feel about it though there are certain things it seems everyone is curious about, because we get asked the same things regularly. Things like…

Don’t You Miss Your House?

The short answer is a simple no.

The longer answer is, yes we loved our house. We built it ourselves, it was a beautiful wood sided house on a lovely tree covered hillside. We had 5 acres of shaded land and a gravel circle driveway, a nice shop and a building for the band to practice music in. A screen porch with a hot tub and outdoor TV was the last addition we made a few years ago. Who wouldn’t have loved that?

But with a house comes a multitude of responsibilities and chores. Cleaning and resealing siding, weeding and replanting beds, new gravel for the driveway, decluttering the shop and yard, cleaning the gutters, mowing the yard, mopping the floors, keeping rooms decluttered and clean even when you aren’t using them, treating the water in the hot tub, paying for 3 satellite boxes that you don’t use all the time, planting and harvesting the garden, dusting and cleaning the things you’ve bought to fill the rooms you aren’t using… I could go on and on.

The result of all that is very little relaxation. You try to sit on your front porch and enjoy the afternoon, but instead you end up thinking of all the things that need to be done. You decide to hang around the house on a lazy Sunday to do a few things and before you realize it the entire day has been given to cleaning and taking care of things, and you haven’t even had the chance to enjoy them.

There were many days that I would have big plans for enjoying the day, but first ‘I’ll just clean the kitchen real quick’. That leads to mopping the floors because they really need it, and now Marty is mowing the yard so I should go clean out the beds so they look nice, and the next thing you know it’s 5pm and I’m tired.

It’s just a fact that with more stuff comes more responsibility. Our days are our own now. We still have to work of course, but the other stuff, the maintenance and cleaning, doesn’t take up the rest of our time anymore. We bought a small boat, and if we want to go to the lake for the morning we will. We’re planning short camping trips without thinking that we really should be doing something else. We can sit outside and relax without those nagging little voices.

So back to the simple answer. I loved our house, but not nearly as much as I love my peace of mind, my relaxed evenings, my possibilities for the future. And on top of that, I love my new house. It’s cozy and comfortable, with everything I need in it. I don’t regret the trade a little bit.

Isn’t It Hard Living In Such A Small Space Together?

This one probably varies from person to person. But for us it’s not much different than how we lived in the house.

We used around a quarter of our 1500 square feet before: the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and den. The other areas were used occasionally at best. We’ve had to change things up a bit, like coming up with new morning and night routines because we went from two sinks in the bathroom down to one, and learning how to cook in a smaller area. But after two and a half months things are flowing along pretty smoothly now.

You obviously have to both be on board with the move, but having a narrow doorway or smaller closet shouldn’t be grounds for not being able to live with someone, in my opinion anyway.

I have been surprised though how many people have the initial reaction of “Oh there’s no way we could live in that together, we’d kill each other!”. I’m seriously starting to wonder how many couples actually like each other.

Luckily we do like each other, because I wouldn’t advise living in 350 square feet with someone you don’t like. In fact I wouldn’t advise living anywhere with someone you don’t like, but that’s not a topic for this post.

What Do You Do If It Storms?

Obviously in light of Monday’s flooding the answer to this has changed a little. Before Monday my biggest worry was high wind or tornadoes, which aren’t that uncommon in Tennessee. Depending on where we’re parked though flooding is something that may come up from time to time. Most campgrounds are pretty flat, and a lot of them do have some kind of water near the sites.

What we do if it floods is the same as someone living in a stick house, we leave. The advantage we have in that situation is we can then move our house to higher ground so the same situation doesn’t happen again. In fact Saturday we’re moving, again, to the next row over (so we can face away from the evening sun), and that site has even less risk of flooding than the one we’re in right now. Had we had more notice we could have even moved before the flood ever happened, but what happened Monday was a flash flood. It came up too fast for us to do anything. If we had been parked beside a river that started to rise more slowly though we would have been able to get out of harms way.

As far as wind and tornadoes, of course it is a valid concern that a high wind or tornado could take us out, and we pay attention to the wind more now than we did in the house. If the weather warrants it we’ll leave and go to the main building, or even a friends house if we have enough time. This is no different than living in a mobile home, which so many people do. We know the limitations of the Turtle, how much wind we can take before needing to leave. We have good radar and weather alerts on our phones, we pay attention, and we take it seriously. That’s really all anyone can do.

Do You Miss Your Stuff?

This one’s a lot like the house question, and the answer is the same. Actually, I miss my stuff even less. I can’t even remember half of what we’ve sold or given away over the last few months. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate when you have the space to do so.

We didn’t go full throttle minimalist either, we kept the things we thought were most important to us. To make the cut they had to either be well used or well loved, and the result is that I now know where every single thing I own is. I appreciate the things I kept more than I ever did, and I don’t feel any nagging guilt from knowing I have so many things that I never even look at, much less use.

It does come with a few complications, like if something breaks we’re less likely to have a suitable replacement stuck in a closet somewhere. On the upside though we can usually buy a little bit better something to replace it with if we need to.

Are You Just Going To Travel Full Time?

Not yet.

Lots of people do start traveling full time when they make the move, and while that sounds awesome the rest of our lifestyle isn’t conducive to that right now. There are kids to be near and yards to cut, so for the moment at least we won’t be leaving for an extended period of time.

This part of the conversation normally includes a confused look, where the person I’m talking to is trying to figure out why I would move into a tiny moveable house without the intention of traveling… why not just stay where I was at? I refer you to question one.

Truth is, we do plan to travel and have more fun, and are already doing so more than we ever did before. In the last 9 years we have been on less than half a dozen real trips, not counting the time we spent working on the road. If we weren’t spending the weekend working on someone else’s house we were working on our own. There just wasn’t time to go.

So far this year we’ve already reserved campsites for two trips this summer and are planning two more. We’re going tent camping over the July 4th weekend and visiting a national park in August to check out a giant yard sale they have in the area. We get to go to the lake with the boat now, or take a day trip around the state to see something new. We plan on taking two or three short trips a month, because with the tent or the camper it costs us virtually nothing to stay several nights in a new place. If we even want to stay a month in a different place we can and will.

Travel doesn’t have to be a full time thing, you don’t have to leave for months at a time and move around the country. You can take lots of shorter trips, go hike or see waterfalls, explore neat little towns and find hole in the wall restaurants, find a festival that’s three hours a way and make a weekend out of it. I’m sure other parts of the country are the same way, but I feel lucky to be in an area with so many state parks, lakes, and things to see. The hardest part is deciding where to go.

We were planning a cross country trip that I had hinted at in some posts, but the circumstances around that didn’t work out. It was a bit of a ‘working’ trip to move someone out there, and now they’re staying here, so we weren’t upset. And now we can take the money we would have put into that and use it for our other adventures… and a boat, which we obviously already bought.

How Do You Get Your Mail?

Ours is quite a bit easier than someone traveling full time. We just pay for a post office box, which is a little over $20 a year. There are services available to people who aren’t in one place for an extended period of time, places that will receive your mail and then forward it to where you are, or scan it in and email it to you. We haven’t had to deal with that yet, so I can’t offer any advice there. If we have bigger packages coming or need a physical address we use the campground address for now.

What About Internet?

Ask me this one later, because this morning my internet situation isn’t the greatest.

Most campgrounds provide some sort of WiFi, but it’s not always very reliable and with multiple people using it at one time the speeds can be slow. Because I work online we use a Verizon Wireless MiFi to have broadband internet, and normally it suits my needs just fine. We do have data limits though, and this month we’ve gone over those once already and may use up the overage allowance as well. This is an abnormality, if it becomes a regular thing I’ll up our plan and avoid the usage fees. Because of the limits and slower speed we can’t stream TV, which is disappointing, but not a deal breaker… we do have satellite after all.

It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s the only one I know of that will work where we are. I’ve seen other options similar to Verizon but without data limits, but they don’t offer coverage here. For now this works fine for me most of the time, but if I find a more reliable high speed option I’ll be all over it.

I can already think of several other questions we get on a regular basis, but this post has gotten lengthy already so I’ll save those for a part deux.

If you full time or live ‘differently’ are there questions you get asked a lot? Do you get mixed reactions or are you just known as the guy that lives in a van down by the river? Don’t you miss Chris Farley? I do…

The End Of An Era…

I guess the guy working the back door at Goodwill was understandably a little overwhelmed when we let down the trailer door.

After all, he seemed to be working alone, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and who has a yard sale on Sunday anyway?

People that don’t want to load all their stuff up again, that’s who. People having their second multi-family yard/moving sale in one month.

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Dozens of empty totes

We didn’t have as much stuff this time, but it was still enough to fill seven folding tables, one 10 foot clothes rack, a piece of plywood balanced on sawhorses, two tarps on the ground, and multiple totes just opened up for your digging pleasure.

We started Thursday evening setting everything up, and ended up with a pretty good looking yard mall comprised of five pop up canopies and an improvised clothes rack. Friday morning we opened for business, and it was just a big blur of eating and selling until Sunday afternoon. We hadn’t planned on continuing into Sunday, but honestly we never do. Once you’ve unloaded everything and arranged it in the yard it’s hard to not succumb to the ease of just leaving it out one more day, hoping for a few stragglers to stop by and give you a little more money for things you don’t want anymore.

Saturday afternoon in a valiant attempt to load back up as little as possible we decided Sunday would be dirt cheap day, with everything being priced at $1 or less aside from one small tarp of things we knew could be sold online for more.

Signs were made, Facebook posts were issued, and the plan went into action. We did okay on the $1 sale… I think if we had tried it on Saturday it would have been a bigger success. You just don’t get a ton of traffic at Sunday yard sales in the south, and you do get the occasional dirty look. But I don’t think we were quite there yet Saturday.

By about 2 o’clock Sunday we were all completely worn out, so when a heavy shower popped up suddenly we decided to call it a day. We had already gone through and pulled out anything that would be worth selling online, so after one more quick walk through (I did rescue two shirts I might want for my fall 33) we boxed and bagged up the rest to donate.

That’s when I started having mixed feelings. At first I thought it was about letting go of everything, because now it would all really be gone instead of sitting in boxes in the trailer. But looking around I realized it wasn’t about the stuff, I had gotten rid of it all for a reason.

It took me a little while to realize where the mixture of relief and unsettled was coming from. But once I knew that it wasn’t regret for letting go of so much I was okay to just keep packing boxes and trying to figure it out.

Part of what I came up with might sound a bit greedy, but I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. It was a little hard to let go of the potential money we could have gotten if we kept everything for ‘just one more yard sale’ instead of giving it away.

That’s what we’ve done in the past, we’ll get through on the last day and decide that we have enough good stuff left we should just let it sit and have another sale later, in a few weeks or months. The problem with that is at a certain point your return on investment starts to shrink. With lots of $10 and $20 items there was a good return for waiting and doing it again. But when you’re down to things that might have sat dormant through all the previous sales, and you’re selling them for $1 or less, you’re spending more energy loading, unloading, packing, arranging, cleaning and storing stuff than it’s worth. It becomes as much of an energy drain as taking care of all that stuff was to begin with.

Secondly, it also feels a bit like the end of an era. The end of our big yard sales, no more hanging out and socializing all weekend with friends while we sell, no more sitting under a shade tree while people hand us money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of work and I always end the weekend exhausted, but there’s something really fun about it too. Without all the excess stuff we’ll have to find other reasons to hang out… I think a celebratory cookout might be in the near future.

But most of all it brings to an end the last five months of selling off our excess stuff. We really started in January focusing on getting rid of it all, we’ve sold tons on Craigslist and Facebook, negotiated furniture into the sale of the house, and had yard sales to sell the small stuff. It’s been a huge focus of the first part of this year, and it’s nearly over. It’s almost a bittersweet feeling.

We still have a few things left from the house to sell… our mattress is too big to fit in the Turtle so it has to go, and a leather loveseat is waiting to be re-listed on Craigslist, plus one small tote of items I pulled out of the yard sale.

But for the most part, it’s all gone. We’re down to what we really need or want, and there are no more areas where things sit unnoticed waiting to be decluttered. If it’s in the Turtle or in a tote in storage I know what it is and why it’s there.

I have my 33 clothing items here in the closet and one large tote in storage waiting for the next swap, that’s it for clothes and shoes. All the dishes and cooking stuff we own fits in our kitchen, and the same goes for the bathroom, den, and outside stuff. In storage I have long term files and business paperwork (2 small totes), one Christmas tote and one tote of fall decorations, my wrapping paper, a few odds and ends like a small desk I refinished by hand and a large antique basket that I don’t have room for but don’t want to let go of, and two totes of heirlooms and truly loved things. And oddly, that feels like a lot. Even though it’s probably less than an eighth of what we had at the house.

We looked around yesterday and realized we can now fit everything we own that isn’t in the Turtle into our 6×12 closed in trailer, maybe with room to spare.

It’s a bit of a weird feeling, as this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve had so little, but at the same time it’s exciting. It’s like starting with a clean slate. I don’t have to worry that I’ve lost or forgotten something, I have everything I need and most of it is in use at all times, and if I desperately need something in the future I just imagine I can find a store that sells it. It’s sort of like another small weight has been lifted now.

So that’s how we ended up pulling up to Goodwill on a Sunday afternoon with a trailer full of boxes and bags. We filled three of their rolling carts and piled the rest inside the door. It wasn’t all ours, I’d say it was more like 50/50. But it was still enough to make you a little sick thinking about all the money spent on stuff.

What about you? If you’ve gone through this process or are going through it now have you had similar feelings? Do you miss anything you’ve sold?

Project 333 – 2 Months In

So, I seem to be doing Project 331… or maybe 313, I’m not sure.

Tomorrow brings the end of my second month living with less clothes. And evidently I’m both better and worse at it than I thought.

I was prepared to confess how big of a cheater I have been, and I still am a bit, but after writing this post and re-writing my list to share with you I realized that during the excessive swapping this month I’ve actually shorted myself by two items. Challenge accepted.

Regardless of the amount I have though, I’ve still swapped more than the three items that were laid out in the original challenge, and I’ve cheated twice as well. So here we go… allow me to rationalize myself to you in order to excuse my terrible cheating.

It’s been one month since my last confession.

First off, there was one pair of jeans that I had originally kept for the sake of variety because I was going into an office every day. With no office in the foreseeable future I decided to nix those, and since the weather has warmed up substantially I decided to swap out my heavier North Face jacket and another jacket for two more t-shirts. Swap Numero Uno.

I’ve also found that my wardrobe changed a bit when we moved to the campground, as you might expect. I started this with one pair of denim shorts, a pair of overall shorts, and a pair of capris. That was my normal summer wardrobe, and last summer it was fine because I was inside working quite a bit, plus we lived on a shady hillside. Here, however, I’m outside a lot more. And while our actual campsite is shaded the rest of the park stays pretty sunny. I walk in the mornings and at night, carry my laundry over to the main building, take my work outside for much of the day, and most evenings we sit outside relaxing until nearly time for bed.

Over the past two months I’ve also discovered the wonder that is silky feeling running shorts. These things are awesome! I started out with just one pair that I walk in (remember workout clothes don’t count), but they’re so extremely comfortable that I wanted a black pair to wear with t-shirts, which led to also finding a pair in grey cotton. So I’ve added two pairs of shorts, and to do so I got rid of more shirts. Swap Numero Dos.

Let me preface the next part of this story by saying that I should know when we leave the house to take a change of clothes, a passport, and an overnight bag. Just sayin’.

Really though, we’re pretty spontaneous, and a short trip to the store sometimes turns into a 14 hour journey. As did our trip to Wal Mart on Saturday. We had already been out all day at yard sales and a little local festival (found a $2 duffel bag for the upcoming trip… woot!). So we came home, spent approximately an hour on an impromptu clean-out-the-basement-and-wipe-bird-crap-off-the-car session, and headed out again about 4 o’clock to pick up a few things from the Mart.

Long story short, Marty ended up playing music with some of his friends at an annual Memorial Day party until nearly 2am. In the gap between watching bands play in the park in Lewisburg and going to the party the temperature changed big time, and I had left in shorts and a tank top! So to avoid freezing to death or having to go the whole opposite direction for a pair of pants and my cardigan the decision was made to steal clothes from the stash of Non-333’s I have in a tote in storage for now. The aforementioned dark jeans and jacket made a much appreciated brief appearance, but I’m happy to say as soon as we got home I stacked them in a dining room chair to head back to storage. Cheat Numero Uno.

Last but not least, yesterday I put on the blue and coral running shorts that I usually only walk in, went for my walk, and got so busy I forgot didn’t want to change back out of them. They’re just so comfy… Cheat Numero Dos.

So, 600 words later, I’m a terrible cheater! However, I feel a little justified in the fact that my entire lifestyle changed twice in the last two months. Once when we moved to the campground (we had only been here a week when I started this challenge), and again when I left the office. I feel like future quarters will be a little easier now that I’m settled in.

I do have one problem though, and maybe you guys can help me out. Our weather here is pretty unpredictable, last year it warmed up at the beginning of March and didn’t cool down again until November, this year has been rather cool some days in May still. In April when I started this we were still having 30 degree mornings and mild days, while this month we’ve had a mix of 90 degree days and 60 degree days, some cold nights and some warm. Next month I imagine will be pretty hot.

I needed my North Face jacket when this started, but after about a month it was taking up valuable real estate that I needed for warmer weather attire. It’s probable that I won’t have to swap as much the next time around, so I could keep it as one of my three swap items, but you just never know around here.

So, if you’re doing The Project too, how do you handle the weather changes in spring and fall? Do you live somewhere that summer starts in any random month between March and June?

In case you’re really bored or just curious, I’ve added my updated list below for your perusal.

My Current 33 31

  1. Aviators

  2. Brown leather purse

  3. Reeboks

  4. Brown t-strap sandals

  5. Reef flip flops

  6. Rubber boots – White Nike tee

  7. Favorite Silver jeans

  8. Dark jeans – Black running shorts

  9. Holy capris

  10. Denim Shorts

  11. Denim overalls

  12. Coral sundress

  13. Pink dress

  14. Blue strapless sundress

  15. Dark blue tank

  16. Grey knit tank – Brown and Coral North Face tee

  17. Green racer back tank

  18. Grey racer back tank

  19. White tube top

  20. Green v-neck shirt

  21. Light blue t shirt

  22. Orange baggy T-shirt

  23. White t-shirt with cool back

  24. T-shirt with leaves

  25. Mesh t-shirt

  26. Titans t-shirt

  27. White T-shirt with blue flowers

  28. Brown 1/2 sleeve shirt – Gray running shorts

  29. Brown cardigan

  30. Grey merona pullover

  31. North Face jacket (Will swap out later)

  32. Hangout t shirt

  33. Under Armour visor

How To Have A Four Digit Yard Sale… Or Man My Feet Hurt

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After spending 14 hours on my feet Saturday I was afraid I might never walk again, but since I did I thought I would fill you in on our sale this weekend.

For those of you just tuning in we got together with some good friends of ours Saturday and Sunday, who just happened to have the best yard ever for selling things, and had the biggest yard sale in history. Or at the very least it felt like it should have been in the top five.

We’ve had several sales in their yard in the past which have always done very well, and this one was no exception. They are in such a good spot that you don’t even have to advertise, you just set it up and they will come. It’s on the corner of two well traveled roads, but neither one is so busy that you can’t slow down or find parking.

Our friends are about to move, so we’ll be losing the good sale spot, but they have now reached the ruthless de-cluttering stage known as why-the-hell-do-I-have-so-much-stuff-oh-my-god-get-it-away! This stage most commonly occurs after moving an entire household one or two times, but can also be attributed to being overwhelmed by too many commitments and the responsibility of caring for said stuff.

Symptoms frequently include the intense need to remove anything from your home that doesn’t add value. For example – the trays and little pokey things for corn on the cob that have been innocently sitting in my kitchen drawer for years… they were pulled out in a flurry of ruthlessness Saturday night and put in the yard sale on Sunday. I’m now thoroughly enjoying 16 square inches of glorious space their absence left in that drawer.

Put two families together that are both in the ruthless get-it-away phase and you have a yard sale that causes people to do U turns in the road.

We came to the sale with two closed in utility trailers packed from one end to the other… approximately 144 square feet 6.5 feet deep, adding up to a whopping 936 cubic feet of our belongings. They had a garage full too with more pulled out of the house as the day went on.

I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised myself by how much we still had. Then when I think back to everything we sold, threw away, and donated before we ever moved… well, frankly it’s shocking. Especially considering that at one point in time all of that was contained in our house and shop, which really never looked particularly overwhelming to the casual observer.

We really weren’t hoarders, I swear. I even thought we were on the opposite end of the spectrum all along, not too materialistic with minimalistic tendencies (that sounded like a professional diagnosis, didn’t it?). As it turns out, we were probably closer to normal than I ever suspected. It’s easy to miss the piles of things that are hiding in the closet, on the back of shelves, the bottoms of drawers, and under the bed. I really believe now that complacency fosters a lack of control, in all areas of life.

I think if everyone had to remove the entire contents of their house once a year and really look at what they’re hanging on to it would result in a serious shift in shopping habits and hoarding tendencies. Seeing it all in one place really leaves a weird taste in your mouth.

But, I digress!

We left the sale with approximately one half of one closed in trailer full… It might have even been less than half, but Marty had to leave early, and a professional packer I am not.

We even went so far as to sell one of the trailers at the sale too. So we pulled up with 2 trailers full, and left the next day with one trailer half empty and a bag of cash. Well, sort of… we haven’t gotten around to picking up the second trailer yet (sorry Tisha!), but when we do that’s what we’ll have.

It wasn’t quite that quick and painless though, those were two very long days, and for a short period of time Saturday night I wasn’t sure I would ever walk again. But all in all for the amount of work we put in I was really pleased with the outcome. I thought I’d share a few tips for making the most of your yard sale, since we appear to have gotten pretty good at it over the last few years.

#1 ) Set up the night before if you can

It rained all day Friday, and I couldn’t take off work anyway, so after much debate we finally decided to wait until Saturday morning to set up. Which was a wise decision, because while we were standing around talking about it Friday night it started raining so hard a duck floated past us in a kayak. Or that’s what it looked like… it could have been a canoe, it was pretty dark.

Even though we didn’t have much choice I would always advise setting up the night before if possible, especially if you have lots to set out. It’s so much easier at the crack of dawn to just raise your tents up and uncover tables. Friday afternoon we did take both trailers and our tables and tents over, but we didn’t want them sitting out in the rain overnight either.

If the weather had cooperated we would have gone over Friday night, set out our tables and unpacked all the boxes onto them, then covered the tables with pop up tents (a roll of black plastic or sheets works too). That way Saturday morning could have been spent organizing and arranging instead of hauling.

Instead we ended up setting up at 5 o’clock Saturday morning, which is a thoroughly unpleasant time to start hauling around furniture and heavy totes. We actually worried for a bit that no one was going to show up, we went from 6 to 7am with no traffic whatsoever. That might not seem unusual, but yard sale shoppers tend to be a pretty serious crowd… it’s not unusual for early birds to show up before you ever uncover your tables.

As it turned out though, the worry was for nothing, because at 8am the flood gates opened, and they didn’t close until 5pm. There was thankfully a short lull at lunchtime, without which I think we would have all starved to death.

#2 ) Don’t make it too accessible to creepers

That’s just good advice for any area of life, really.

Creepers at a yard sale though are those people that drive slowly down the road by the sale, or even go so far as to stop, but never get out of their car. They assume that they can see everything they need to see from the safety of their vehicle, without being pressured to buy a pirate hat or pre-owned Pyrex set.

Your instinct when you first set up a yard sale is to make everything visible from the road, that way someone may see something they just have to have and stop. That’s not exactly how it works though. You actually need some mystery… you need it to look like you might have some awesome stuff, if I could just get a little closer.

Make sure your sale looks big by spreading items out on tables and plastic if they’re on the ground, but don’t give away the milk for free.

#3 ) Always have a draw

At each of our yard sales over the last few years we’ve had a ‘draw’. Something that draws more people to stop and look than anything else at the sale.

It actually happened by accident, I had a nice little wicker patio set one year that I decided to sell. It was in great shape, so we set it out closer to the road and set anything else we felt was ‘patio stuff’ around it. We had so many people stop to check it out that we joked about making a drinking game out of it.

If I remember correctly that wicker set either didn’t sell at all in that sale or sold at the very end. But it turned out it didn’t matter. People stopped all day long just to ask about it, and the majority of them went on to walk around the sale, more than likely buying something when they did. Without that as our draw we might have missed out on dozens of sales.

A good draw would be something big enough to be seen from the road easily and nice enough that it looks like it shouldn’t be in a yard sale. It helps if it’s reasonably priced but fairly expensive. If you price it too low someone will buy your draw early on, and then you’ll have to go back to standing in the street whistling at cars as they drive by.

This year our draw was a metal Coke cooler… not a vintage one, but a newer one like you see in gas stations. It looked great from the road, we had people asking about it all day. It was priced reasonably, but not at dirt cheap yard sale prices, so it didn’t sell but it did the job nonetheless.

#4 ) Have fun with it…

And for Pete’s sake, talk to people as they come up! It makes me feel really awkward when I walk up to a yard sale and no one says a word. Like maybe I’ve wandered into a domestic dispute where someone is in the process of throwing someone else out of the house, but they don’t have the heart to tell me. I have a very active imagination.

I also have a tendency to get a bit silly, especially when I’ve had more coffee than sleep, and I’ll talk to just about anybody. That really comes in handy when you’re trying to sell stuff to strangers in your yard.

By having fun and talking to people I managed to sell a pirate hat and a pair of mop slippers on Saturday in the span of about 10 minutes. All I had to do was hold them up in the air and loudly ask if anybody needed them, and both sold nearly instantly. Boom.

#5 ) Don’t hold back

There are some things that aren’t usually seen as yard sale material. You’ll know them when you see them… usually really expensive collectors items, things that would cost more than a hundred or so dollars (except furniture), and oddities. And you’re probably not going to sell a ton of that at any yard sale. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

I’m guilty of this one most of the time, but I set out a complete boxed set of Monty Python Flying Circus DVDs at this sale, and even said at the time that they weren’t yard sale material. I had every intention of selling them online after the fact, but they were in the trailer so I set them out anyway. No one looked at them all day long on Saturday, except for one very sweet, fairly religious lady who asked me what they were… that was a complicated explanation.

And then, shockingly, someone came along who loved Monty Python, knew the value of the set, and promptly paid me what I was asking for them. In this area the odds are probably 1 in 10 that you’ve ever heard of John Cleese, much less can recite every line from The Holy Grail, so you can imagine my surprise. But, lesson learned. From now on I’ll at least give it a shot at the sale, because now I don’t have to worry about listing that set on Ebay.

#6 ) Have a plan for after the sale

All in all our sale was a huge success, and now that we have less stuff in storage to worry about I feel even lighter than I did before. Our town is having a community yard sale in two weeks, so we’ve opted to set back up for that one and hopefully get rid of even more. After that though I’ll focus on selling things that are worth more on either Craigslist or Ebay, and we’ll donate any smaller stuff that’s left.

#7 ) Always price a little higher than you will accept

This seems like a no brainer, but I thought I’d throw it in just in case. If you price slightly higher than the price you really want to get then people feel like they’re getting a deal when they haggle you down. But at the same time always know your bottom dollar on the expensive items. We have a very confident price on our Coke cooler, because I can sell it online after the fact if it doesn’t sell, so I won’t take any less. And you never know, all it takes is one person to know the value of an item for it to sell.

In my case all my prices were in my head this time… and I think that’s how I’ll do it in the future as well. I used to try to price every little item, or decide an arbitrary dollar amount to fit everything into such as the “Everything on this table is $1”. But that just turns into more work leading up to the sale.

This time I had a good general idea of what I was asking for the big stuff, and I priced the smaller items on the fly as people asked. This may not always be the best plan, but in this case it worked well. I think it gives you the flexibility to change prices as needed, as the sale comes closer to an end prices can go down, if the customer is particularly rude prices go up. Also, you can negotiate better that way, if someone sees a price on a sticker they think is too high they’re more than likely going to walk away, whereas if you’ve told them the price you’re already engaged in a conversation, making it easier to haggle on the price until you come to an agreement… which is the whole point.

In addition to all that, just try to treat your sale like a store, keep it neat and organized, but give people a few boxes of miscellaneous things to dig through too (it’s like a treasure hunt!). Bring lots of donuts and comfortable shoes, dress in layers and have a good chair.

Did I miss anything? Are you wearing mop slippers right now? Do you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?