Tag Archives: Simplify

Five Things You Should Quit Doing Today

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There hasn’t been much excitement around the Turtle lately. We’re in between trips, it’s rained nearly constantly this summer, and we’re both working hard to build our businesses. So I don’t have any great camper mishaps to share with you on this (hopefully not for you) rainy Friday.

As I sit here with my cup of coffee and watch water trickle down the windows in my tiny corner office though I do have some advice. You’re welcome to take it with a grain of salt or two Ibuprofen, it’s your choice. Here it goes…

Sometimes you have to quit before you can start.

There are things that we all do every day that can really get in the way of making life changes and doing big things.

There’s the obvious stuff, quit spending so much time on Facebook and go do something important instead. Quit eating so many miniature Kit Kat bars and go for a walk. Both of those were directed at me today by the way.

Then there’s the not so obvious stuff, stuff you may not even know you’re doing. You may have to really pay attention to realize what you need to quit.

If none of the things on this list apply to you then congratulations, you’re a robot.

Quit Doubting Yourself

You’re not too old, or too overweight, or too busy. Those are excuses your mind dreams up because you’re really too scared.

There’s a boy in our town with only one arm. I’m not sure if he lost the other one as a baby or was born without it, but now he’s around eleven years old and just as capable as any other little boy, and some grown men.

He’s also one of the best baseball players I’ve ever seen. He can catch a ball in his glove, throw it up in the air while simultaneously dropping his glove on the ground, catch the ball back in his bare hand, and throw someone out at second before some of the other kids even realize what’s happening. It’s pretty awesome to watch.

Kind of makes all our excuses invalid, doesn’t it?

Quit Procrastinating

I thought I would write about this later, but I guess I’ll get it out of the way. Badda bing.

Seriously though, 90% of the time when I put something off there’s a deeper reason for it. It’s not that I just don’t want to do it. Usually what it means is that there’s a step in the process I don’t fully understand or am afraid to do.

And nearly every time that I finally make myself sit down and tackle the issue it takes such a minimal amount of time that I can’t believe I put it off that long.  Especially when putting it off resulted in a late charge, missed deadline, or some other equally yucky thing. That just irks me.

Quit Trying To Make It Perfect

Most of the time done trumps perfect. I think the only exceptions are brain surgery and rocket science, and you should skip this if one of those applies to you. I’m flattered, but you probably have better things to do anyway.

Get it done, get it out there, and then work on making the next thing you do better than the last.

Quit Building Things In Central Park

In his book Start Jon Acuff talks about the concept of what Central Park does for New York City. It’s this huge patch of green land in the middle of a bustling city, kind of out of place really. Obviously they could find a thousand things to build in that space, there could be more offices and apartments and probably a great pizza joint. But they don’t. Because they need Central Park to keep the city working properly. Central Park is a break in the middle of the crazy. Not to be confused with Central Perk, which is what formed my opinion of Jennifer Aniston and all coffee shops.

Jon goes on to say that everyone needs their own Central Park. A space to rest, time to think and breathe. If you’re constantly rushing from one task to the next without spending a minute in your happy place you’ll quickly wear yourself down. Just like good design your mind requires white space to be effective.

Quit Forcing It

I’m talking to myself here. I worked hard yesterday… I stared at my design program tweaking pixels for nearly 10 hours with very few breaks. I wrote and did chores and caught up on lots of things.

And I’m feeling it today. I’ve had writers block all morning, I’m having trouble focusing and I just feeling scattered. And now I really just want to eat mini Kit Kats and watch Friends.

I know that pushing myself to do great things today won’t work. I’ll get frustrated and instead of getting in the ‘flow’ of work I’ll have trouble making my thoughts show up right on the screen.

So instead I’ll focus on small tasks. Things that have to be done – emptying my inbox, doing the dishes, website updates for a client, maybe just one tiny Kit Kat. These things don’t require a huge amount of thought on my part, but I can get them done and out of the way so tomorrow I can do big things again.

What have you quit in the name of simplifying or doing big things? Are you looking forward to relaxing this weekend or is that when you get things done? I’ll be catching up on Season 4 of Breaking Bad before the premiere Sunday night… if the rain will let the satellite stay on!

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!

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?

How To Get A Little Better Every Day

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Sometimes it takes just the smallest shift in perspective to change how you go about your day and help jump start real change.

Everyone has something they would love to make happen, but most never take the steps to get there. They sit there day after day, unhappy with the situation but unsure if they could ever change it, so they do nothing. Maybe it’s because of fear, or not knowing where to start, or maybe it just feels like real change is too hard. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re working towards a goal, no matter what it is.

Maybe you want to be debt free or a size 4 and you feel like it’ll take you forever to get there. Maybe you want to declutter your house, simplify your life, or build a business but you don’t know how to even begin. All you can see is the huge gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you don’t see the thousands of steps that will help get you there.

You start to think one decision won’t matter in the long run because the task you’re looking at is so big. Today doesn’t feel very powerful when it could take years to get where you’re going. That’s when you start making bad choices, because if today doesn’t matter then the choices you make today are miniscule compared to the huge goal in front of you.

But what if instead today is all that matters?

Unless you’re in the waiting room about to have liposuction or have just won the lottery you’re probably not going to drop 3 sizes or be debt free by the end of today, but you can be in a little better shape than you were when you woke up.

You can choose to go for a walk, no matter how short, or to not spend $4 on a coffee, or to take one small bag of unused stuff off to donate. You can choose to do things that cause you to make just a little forward progress. Even if it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference at the time, it will.

All those little choices add up, and winning is almost always the result of being born Charlie Sheen making small intentional choices every day. You don’t have to make the right choice every single time, that could cripple anyone with indecision. All you have to do is make sure that the net of your choices at the end of today has made you a little bit better in some way.

Your life is the sum total of your days, which are the sum total of your decisions, and those days are going to pass regardless of how you spend them. You can either sit idly by and wish things were different, or you can use the time you’ve been given to change for the better.

You could…

  • Get out and go for a walk around the block. It may be a short walk, but it’s a lot farther than you would have gotten if you’d stayed on the couch.
  • Eat a little something before you leave the house if you’ll be gone for several hours, that way you won’t spend money eating out.
  • Put a $5 bill in a jar. Next time you have a $5 bill, put it in the jar too. Only put fives in the jar and see how fast it adds up.
  • Take everything out of one drawer, separate it and decide what goes back in the drawer. Get rid of the rest.
  • Read an article on something related to your dream. Google is a wonderful thing.
  • Want to start a business? Decide to do one thing every day to get started – read articles, find your domain name, set up a price structure.
  • When you run up on something in your closet that you don’t love or don’t wear much, take 3 seconds to take it off the hanger and put it in a donate/sell box.
  • Start planning a trip if your goal is to travel, even if you don’t have the resources to go yet. Doing the research will make it more real in your mind and give you a good idea of what you’ll need.
  • If you want to be a writer, start writing. Sit down for 20 minutes and just write the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Clean up. If you’re anything like me you’ll be more motivated and feel better at the end of the day if your space is clean.
  • Say no thanks to a commitment you don’t want to take on. Just one for now.
  • Say yes to something that scares you. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone and see what happens.
  • Set up a budget so you know how much money you really have.
  • Take a class. One class on something you want to learn how to do. Or even smaller, just research and find that one class so you know what’s out there.
  • Do something totally unique to your dream or goal.

Incidentally, the majority of this post was written in my head while taking a short walk this cool quiet morning. More often than not I think you’ll find that one good choice leads to other things falling into place. I always feel more productive when I walk in the morning, I have more energy to make better choices, and I nearly always clear my mind enough to be much more creative the rest of the day. It’s worth far more than the few minutes out of my day that it takes.

All you really need to focus on right now, at this moment, is making one decision that will ensure that tonight you are just a little better than you were this morning. Not perfect, just a little better. Don’t worry about getting it all right, one day your choices will have become habits and you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

You don’t have to sell your house, run a marathon or win the lottery to get started, you just have to start. One day, one hour, one choice at a time.

Thoughts From The Campground – 2 Months In

View From Across The Road

View From Across The Road

Tomorrow marks two months from the day that we left our house on the hill and spent our first night at the campground.

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The View From My Corner Office

I wanted to commemorate it with a post. I’ve been thinking for two days about the last two months, how things have changed, the adjustment we’ve gone through, how life is different now then it was then. I wish I had some deep insights or a great story of transition, but honestly it’s just not there.

The main thing people say when they see our new place is ‘I bet this was a big adjustment’. But it hasn’t been. It feels like this is where we’ve always been… maybe that’s due to my terrible short term memory, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that we made the right decision.

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Our New Site

Things have changed, nearly everything actually. We relax more, clean less, sit outside enjoying the view more (especially since the site move!), watch a little less TV, stress less, and enjoy our weekends a whole lot more with less to do around the house.

We’ve talked about it a few times, and neither one of us can think of anything we miss from the house or the stuff we’ve sold. That might seem harsh, considering the new owners kept one of our dogs, but we’ve been back over several times and he seems so happy over there that it makes it okay.

I loved my house, but I think all in all I love the Turtle just as much, if not more. We don’t have any unused space, except for a few cabinets and drawers we haven’t filled with anything… there’s no upstairs to clean even though we only use it a few times a month, the refrigerator can be cleaned in a matter of minutes, and the den is just damn cozy.

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Pretty Little Mobile Rose

For a few minutes the other day I missed my four rose bushes, we moved so fast I didn’t even think about them until a friend mentioned hers was starting to bloom. That was an easy fix though, we went to Lowes and bought a little knockout rose and a pretty yellow pot to put it in… problem solved. Now I have a mobile rose.

This last week has been a bit of an adjustment for me, not having to go into an office for 8 hours every day. It’s been a good adjustment though, I had forgotten how much can be done before lunch when you aren’t tied to one spot. I’ve been working on websites, catching up on paperwork, getting back into using coupons, and sleeping an extra 30 minutes every morning.

I’m excited about the future and the opportunities that start opening up when you start making changes. I have a lot of plans for this summer, so many things I want to do to the Etsy shop and the blog now that I have time. And we’re still not positive about the big trip I’ve teased about, but if it goes through it should happen in the next couple of weeks… I’ll share the details of that when I know for sure.

But for now I’m going to take the next three days off… I’m going to go to yard sales, eat a lot of grilled goodies, and enjoy a long weekend with my husband. I hope you all have a great weekend too, rest, spend time with your family, eat a lot, and have a Happy Memorial Day!

The Importance Of Not Knowing

Last Friday my schedule changed substantially. Through a series of events I gained 40 hours a week in which I can do anything I want for the time being. I can work on building up my freelance business, I can write, walk, and take care of the nagging things that pile up when you don’t have time to do them. I also lost a substantial amount of stress at the same time.

I’m excited about what’s to come, but I’ve spent the last few days decompressing and figuring out what my days will look like now. In a happy coincidence this was also the first weekend in a long time that we haven’t had too much to do, so we were able to really enjoy it. We went to yard sales and a birthday party on Saturday and did a whole lot of relaxing between that afternoon and Sunday. There was even some fun hanging out with friends and family, which was really nice.

We also moved to the other side of the campground on Friday, to a corner spot with a bigger yard and a few trees, pictures coming soon. My office windows now look out over a creek, a gravel road, and a big open field… it’s awesome. Which is particularly nice because it looks like I’ll be spending a lot more time at this desk now. All in all it’s been a really exciting few days, and now I’m ready to get down to work.

I’m a planner. I like to plan out my day, my week, my trips, things to do on the weekend, the next 5 years, and well, you get the point. I can think of a million possible endings to anything.

The funny thing is, since we started this adventure, we really don’t know what’s going to happen next. We’re not entirely sure where we’re going to end up or what will change along the way. We know what we’re doing today, and I have some loose goals for the future, but there’s no definitive five or ten year plan. We may end up in a house again in that time, or we may stay in the Turtle for years to come. We may travel full time or we may end up taking lots of smaller trips. I don’t know what will happen with my freelance gigs, or this blog, or what other opportunities will come up along the way.

I’m starting to realize that there’s something really important about not having it all planned out. That realization solidified this morning when I read this short post by Jon Acuff about the unknown. He says that journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they’re errands. And he’s exactly right.

Intentional change is important, and I think it’s something everyone should make a point of doing. Deciding where and who you want to be and taking the steps every day to get there. But at the same time I think it can be easy to become too focused on the life you’ve decided to create and miss opportunities to possibly create something even better.

We have a tendency to only dream so big. Even when the dream feels like it’s at the farthest reaches of your imagination it’s always possible that there’s something you couldn’t begin to imagine right outside the life you’re planning. It may be better or it may just be different, or it may be the same end result but the path you take to get there ends up being more scenic.

Not knowing allows you to say yes to opportunities you might have turned down because they aren’t part of the plan, it lets you veer off course and learn new things, correct your course when you realize something isn’t working. Not to mention there’s just something fun about now knowing what’s coming next.

It’s not an excuse to not do anything at all though, you can’t just float along hoping to end up somewhere great. Do things that energize you, things you love, every day. Always keep moving, but don’t worry so much about the destination.

Right now I have very little idea how things will look in a year, or between now and then, but the possibilities are really exciting. To get there I’ll keep designing, keep writing, keep trying to replace bad habits with good ones.

If you know exactly where you’re going and the steps it takes to get there that’s great, but leave some room for getting lost and ending up somewhere you could never have imagined.

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?