Apr 8 2011

garage sale for good [day 316]

While in the process of ridding my house of many unused things, I received a Facebook message about a garage sale.  This is not just any garage sale, it’s a sale to help someone in need.  Here’s the info from Facebook.

We will be holding a HUGE Charity Garage Sale at Third Monday Trade Days on Highway 380 in McKinney on Friday April 15th and Saturday April 16th. ALL proceeds will go to the Bereavement Fund to assist Tami and her children with life after the loss of her husband and the children’s Father. Medical bills are mounting and Tami is about to have her 6th child this April.

Plesae consider donating your items, volunteering to help run the sale, pricing, boxing, transporting items to the sale venue and even just sending this to ALL of your friends so we can get the word out! The more the better!

The timing on this, for me personally, is a little ironic.  I sometimes gather donations to take to the thrift store or to bring to an orphanage I love, and the first thing most people say is, “I have some old clothes I can send.”   This is sale actually a great place to send those unwanted clothes, as opposed to donating them to people that need other things.  (click here to read about situational needs)   I brought them some clothing, not because I didn’t want it, but because I didn’t need it.  I purposely downsized my wardrobe by over 50%, so this clothing isn’t out-of-style stuff, it’s good stuff with life left in it.

I gave lots of other stuff that I had slotted for the thrift store and craigslist.  I can always use the money I would get from selling stuff, but I don’t need it.  This is a way to infuse good into your stuff while blessing others.  In this process, I’m helping someone in need, I’ve met some really cool people I didn’t know, I’m blessing others with some of my unused material possessions and my life is slowly becoming less stressful, as I’m getting out of the gridlock of my belongings.

These photos were taken over a week ago.  I’m sure much more has been donated by now and this isn’t even all of the stuff.  Take a look.

Continue reading


Apr 6 2011

to buy or not to buy, that is the question [day 314]

I found myself at a thrift store about a week ago, one that I haven’t visited in a long time.  I really didn’t need anything, but since I was on that side of town, I decided to check it out.  In the past, any good must be purchased, but now I apply my new shopping skills before buying anything.  Here’s a little bit of what that looks like.

  • Browse first, pick up later. I shop without picking up anything.  I look for things I like, then once I’m done, I go back and get the things I remember.  If it didn’t stick in my head, it’s not worth buying.
  • Do I need this? This question doesn’t mean I can’t have it if I don’t need it.  What it does mean is looking at the big picture.  Why do I want it?  How long will I use it?  Will I even use it more than once of twice?  What item will I get rid of to get this with my one for one model?
  • Can I repurpose something I have, borrow or trade for this? Basically I’m asking, “Is there a better way?”  Let’s take a tool for example.  Do I have something that will do the same job?  Could I borrow or rent this item?  I look at all other options.

I did something a little different on this shopping trip.  I took photos of everything I would have put in the cart or considered buying right away.  Here’s the photos.

Things I didn’t buy.

This extremely well build patio coffee table would have come home with me.  I don’t need, I would barely have space for it, but it was a screaming deal at $29.99.  I still want it just looking at the photo of it.  I love the modern style, and the way this was built, it could serve as a storm shelter.

Awesome cap, too tight for my head.  Continue reading


Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading


Mar 8 2011

hoarders on craigslist [day 285]

My friend was garage sale-ing and ran across an estate sale from a hoarder house, listed on craigslist.  I had to work Saturday and Sunday, but decided to check it out after work on Sunday.  Unfortunately they had closed up shop but I snapped a few photos while making a few observations.

As we drove up, the obvious signs were the furniture pieces in the front yard.  The front door area was cluttered, and after several knocking attempts, I decided to peer into the window.  Yes, we were at the right house, as one of the windows was blocked with a large shelving unit and the other window being a small display of a very large mess.  I’m not sure how people walked around in there to shop for treasures, but I guess if you’re determined enough, you’ll find a way.

Thinking maybe they have something going on in the back of the house, we walked around to the alley of this corner lot home.  The house itself, probably circa 1950’s, was large and looked nice, yet unkempt.  As we got to the back, we realized they were probably done with the sale.  The driveway was completely clear of any junk or trash.

Disappointed, as we drove almost 20 miles to see this, I thought about how many people must go through this is there are indeed 3 million hoarders in the United States.  (statistic provided by the TV show Hoarders)  As we were leaving, the mailbox made me laugh.  Yes, I know, I have a weird, off-beat sense of humor.

Border – hoarder.  It rhymes.  I don’t know why that’s funny, but it just is.

I decided to look up the word “hoarder” on craigslist just to see how many different listings I could find.  I did this search in all 50 states from at least one city.  I found some interesting listings and I’ll share a few with you.  I’ve shortened these a bit, but tried to keep in all the good parts.  Some were really long.  I’ve also highlighted a few interesting things.

HOARDER SEEKS SWAP MEET AND THRIFT STORE OWNERS.

Having a garage sale in my backyard, by appointment only. I have a 32 year accumulation of personally handpicked items. The prices to the public are $1.00, $2.00 and $3.00; with other items ranging over $100.00. THERE ARE NO BURIED TREAUSURES HERE! No furniture, no gold or jewelry. The items are mostly “GUY STUFF”. I know the value of these items, same as you. However I am attempting to offer them to you, at a price where you can make a profit and come back as a repeat customer.
I am offering “YOU’S” an opportunity to cherry pick my estimated inventory of 2,000 pieces [which represents about 20% of all the items needed to be eliminated]. If you like something, you offer me a price, based upon what you think you can sell it for. This eliminates the potential of you having to buy any junk mixed in. FYI, there is no junk, just items you can or can not sell to your customers.

THIS IS NOT A FUND RAISER. I just simply do not understand the value in having such a ridiculous accumulation; causing me to store and periodically to reorganize it. Candidly, despite knowing that I have an item, I seldom can ever really find it in a timely manner.

Predictively the average swamp meeter will have no problem scooping up $500.00 worth of merchandise for their inventories.

Confessions of a potential hoarder..Big Back Yard Sale – $1

We have all seen the show, I opened my storage unit the other day and said I won’t go down that road :^)  Continue reading


Jan 26 2011

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   Continue reading


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Nov 22 2010

the person with the most toys, wins [day 179]

With my halfway point coming soon, and in efforts to do something fun and creative, I wanted to test out a couple of ideas I had.  As I was playing around, my dining room table completely covered with junk, a friend called me to see if I had a specific camera lens.  He was on vacation and just wanted to play around with a macro lens.  Turns out, I have a Sigma 70-300 lens with 200-300 macro capabilities.  I also have a set of three close up filters, a x1, x2 and x4.  These have been sitting in my camera bag doing absolutely nothing for about 10 years.    Continue reading


Oct 15 2010

"jodys", my new line of shoes [day 142]

When I was image searching yesterday, I found this version of “Bobs”.  Now here’s a shoe that has a good reason to be called Bobs.  I wonder if Spongebob has a pair of these?  That would be no different than the CEO of Skechers, Robert Greenberg, wearing a pair of Bobs, right?  No, the shoes weren’t named after Bob the admin guy, they were named after a CEO.  Unless he donated some ridiculously large sum of money to a charity, I can’t think of any good reason why their shoes would be named after him.

Purchasing shoes.

Shoes are not cheap and they’re difficult to find used in thrift stores.  Some people have issues with buying used shoes from the hygiene perspective, however the biggest problem with this has proven to be orthopedic.  People break in their shoes with their foot shape and size and the shoes sculpt to their foot.    Continue reading


Aug 19 2010

school supply update [day 83]

I was able to find a lot of supplies at thrift stores and I also pulled from the stuff we still have from last year.  Again, this was a lot of work.  I see why people just buy new stuff each year.  It’s easier.  It took several hours shop at resale places, find all of last years stuff and gather everything together.  I could have just gone to the store, spent $50 and had supplies for the kids.  No hassle.

My friend Mari, who is a school teacher, gave me the stuff I was missing.  She had some leftovers and helped me out.  I feel weird taking the supplies for free, so I told her I would do some graphic design work for her class.

Now the fun part… Friday night I get to meet the teachers and bring in all of the mostly used supplies.  Markers in baggies, crayons in baggies, folders that look like they’ve been run over by a car 1000 times, liquid glue instead of sticks, vintage spiral notebooks and the list goes on.  To not embarrass my kids, I’ll try to do this under the radar.

Here’s a cool thing.  My church (prestontrail.org) collected backpacks with school supplies for a local elementary school that had kids in need.  Our church sure rises to the occasion!!  We collected more than we needed for the school, but we were able to help kids at other schools and through Christine, our awesome compassion person, matched up these gifts to kids that would have otherwise had no supplies.  Yeah PTCC!


Jul 9 2010

the challenge: day 43 [a boutique]

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

My friend E got an amazing espresso machine for Christmas last year.  It takes little pods (they call them capsules), similar to the Keurig machines.  E needed to stop at the retail store to buy some more pods.  Now I can go into retail stores, but I can’t purchase anything.  So I went with her.

I buy my coffee beans online from wholelattelove.com, and I have no idea if they have a storefront.  (I do know that the beans I buy are fair trade)  I’ve been to a few coffee stores before, but this was a coffee boutique.  We knew that immediately when the doorman opened the door for us.  At first I thought he was a bored employee just being  gentleman and opening the door for us.  Nope, that was the dude’s job.  He looked like a bar bouncer, as he was large, sort of mean looking and had that ‘secret service’ kind of stance that says, “I can and will throw you out if I need to.”

E went to the back to get her pods.  I walked around, wanting to take some photos, but that wasn’t allowed.  Besides, Guido saw my camera and he was ready to take action if needed.  The sales guy, who I’m pretty sure takes espresso much more seriously than anyone else on the planet, was giving another guy a demonstration of one of the machines.  I stopped to watch, until the sales guy gave me the evil eye, insinuating it’s not my turn and I better no mess up his sale.  I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in the boutique, and I guess it’s fair he judged me that way, as I might actually carry that ‘thrift-store-cheap-i-have-no-money’ look, and without the rich boyfriend.  The customer guy was clearly enthralled and chatting on his iPhone to someone, giving the play by play of how cool the machines are and sucking down the espresso drinks.  Hmmm, free lattes?  😉

I joined E in the back, taking in all of the modern displays and rainbow color-coded capsules of espresso, carefully arranged to make you want to buy a box every blend.  The girl helping E was asking what model she had so she could add it to the ‘big brother’ database for future capsule-solicitation.   When she asked about the espresso button, she pronounced it ‘expresso’.  If you work in a coffee boutique, can’t you get fired for that?  Good thing Guido didn’t hear her.  E was then formally welcomed to the Nespresso club and told she can talk to a live coffee specialist anytime she wants to, just call the phone number on the receipt.  Now that sounds fun.  I would call the live specialist just for fun and ask questions like, “Where were you born?  Do you have a dog?  What kind?  Do you fold you underwear or just throw them in the drawer?”  What?  It could be fun.

I suppose this brand is geared toward rich people, but what if they didn’t have the boutique, all that overhead cost and Guido’s salary?  Maybe the machines would be a little more affordable.  Although it is not prominently displayed anywhere in the boutique, the capsules can be recycled… but not in the United States.  That doesn’t at all surprise me because the US has endless resources and a bottomless trash pit, right???  Wow.

So why am I telling this story?  Because I felt like it.  LOL, seriously, I’m a coffee addict and you can read about my machine and coffee choices here on iembracechaos.com.  Here are some tips for coffee addicts that want to support fair trade, save money and be green.

  • Do a cost analysis on your coffee drinking.  My Pasquini machine, purchased on eBay refurbished, paid for itself in 5.5 months.
  • Research your coffee beans. Do they participate in fair trade?  Do they have green practices?  In less than 5 minutes, you can research this on the internet and make choices that will impact many people and resources in our world.
  • Buy a used machine. Many people purchase these machines and then never use them, therefore making a good buyers market.  Read reviews on the machines to make a good choice, as there are many machines and many options out there.
  • Advertise. If you found a good machine, good fair trade beans or any other ‘good’ coffee thing, share it with others.

Simply taking a few minutes to research before you buy can mean a lot to a worker on a coffee plantation or make a better, cleaner world for all of us.  And don’t worry, Guido could find a job somewhere else, maybe as an enforcement official for an environmentally friendly, fair trade coffee company.  It could happen…