Monthly Archives: August 2014

I sold shot glasses to a second grader.

5:44 a.m.

I’m awake. One minute before my alarm. My wife is not. Headed to the bathroom.

6:05 a.m.

My wife is up and somehow already downstairs. She has not had coffee.

6:15 a.m.

We’ll call this the “before” shot. Which one is not the morning person?


6:38 a.m.

The first shopper shows up for our 7:00 start time. “Don’t let me get in your way,” he says. Don’t worry dude, I’ll just carry this table around you. Buy our stuff.

The day of our yard-sale-slash-great-purge-of-2014 came last Saturday. We had five folding tables worth of stuff, boxes on the ground, stuff on the sides, stuff stuff stuff. People were shopping for over 20 minutes and we were still pulling more and more items out of the garage.

The combination of our witty, simple, yet effective Craigslist and newspaper ads (“Come buy our stuff!”) and my wife’s penchant for fine poster skills made our yard sale the most hoppin’ place to be in the greater Moore/Duncan area. Our cul-de-sac looked like a used car parking lot and I even threatened to start selling off the cars.


Yard sales are a great opportunity to people watch. At least, I think some of them were people. Here are a few of the characters we encountered.

Brass Knuckle Tattoo: Yeah, Brass Knuckle Tattoo was a chick. The tat was very strategically placed smack in the middle of her thigh. The baby in the stroller she was pushing is going to love having friends over to her house one day. BKT hung out for a while, but didn’t buy anything. I don’t think we had much that matched her look.

All-Change Woman: I have no problem getting change. It adds up just fine. But, this one woman pulled out all her dimes on purpose. I’m not sure if she didn’t like the price, but she passed up several larger bills en route to making our cash box jingle-jangle. Thanks for always giving me something to count All-Change Woman.

Buy it Anyway Guy: The conversation went a little something like this:

“How about $5?”

“Well, this is $20 brand new and it’s still in the package. How about $15?”

“I don’t really need it.”

“OK, thanks for coming.”

“Oh, what the heck. I’ll take it anyway.”

Urine Stank Lady: Elizabeth and I both started freaking out when we caught a whiff of something. We both asked, “did the cat pee on something out here?” We sniffed around our garage, the driveway, looked in boxes and came up with nothing. But, there was one common denominator. Urine Stank Lady. I don’t know what kind of Irish Spring she was washing in, but I want no part of it. Much like Pigpen or the Pied Piper of Pee, once she was gone, the smell followed.

La Abuela Española: She will do her best to talk you down from your starting price…in another language. We usually have phases at our yard sale. The early birds, the old folks, the people with kids, but mid-morning is usually the time we see the Hispanic families. They all come together and file in with multiple vehicles. The families are as kind as can be and buy a good bit from us each time, but I’m relatively certain that the grandmother of the bunch relies on her language deficiency as a bargaining tool. I speak Español un poquito. I used my Spanish on mission trips and managed to get by pretty well. I know I answered her pricing questions efficiently in her main language. It wasn’t that hard to tell her that each pair of women’s shoes cost “dos.” Still, she cocked her head to the side, looked at her daughter and asked her for the price instead. We did this with four pairs of shoes. She paid uno.

Buys Nice Things Lady: Buys Nice Things Lady is a recurring character at our yard sales. We know three things about her. She has three kids. She has a daughter in college. She buys nice things. Anytime we have a designer brand by the time she arrives late morning, we know she will buy it. Some people will ONLY buy our really used, really crappy stuff. Like a nasty bed pillow with my head grease all over it or one utensil out of set of four. These people avoid anything name brand, even though it is in great condition and priced no differently than the rest of our stuff. But not Buys Nice Things Lady. She knows what she wants. Sometimes she wrinkles her nose almost like she doesn’t really want to buy something or doesn’t really know what it is, but she knows. That’s just her way of bargaining. But, this year, Buys Nice Things Lady wasn’t there. We were pretty let down. We had a lot of nice stuff for her that went to the thrift store. We were counting on you, Buys Nice Things Lady. You heartbreaker.

Trophy Husband: I know this because that’s what it said on his shirt.

$1-the-Next-Day-Guy: Our yard sale was Saturday. On Sunday I was trying to take a nap and heard the doorbell. A guy drove all the way back here because he remembered seeing something that he should have bought for a friend. The item was a brand new swaddling blanket for $2. He asked if we had it and we managed to pull it out of the thrift store stuff so my wife could consign it. She retrieved it from the garage and handed it to him. He gave us $1. No negotiation, just $1. He was so charming we hardly noticed. Perhaps I was caught off guard because he was wearing the shirt I sold him yesterday. It looked way better on him. Dang. 

Bought-a-Free-T-shirt-Guy: $1-the-Next-Day-Guy has an alter ego as one who pays money for things that others got for free. I’d like to thank the chiropractor in Port Orange, Florida for giving me that shirt at that festival thing that one time. I got fifty cents for it. Boo-yah. I also gave a $50 shirt to the thrift store. Whatever, I sold a free shirt.

Second-Grader-Who-Bought-Shot-Glasses: Yep, I sold two shot glasses to a second grader. What? Don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I bundled in a bottle of Jack Daniels. We haven’t consumed any alcoholic beverage in many years, but we still had beer, wine and cocktail glasses that were given to us at our wedding or accumulated in wilder times. Our neighbor’s daughter came over to shop at our yard sale and wanted to get her mom something. So she left with a set of earrings and two shot glasses. I’m guessing she thought they were small, cute cups. Hey, a buck is a buck, right? (*Side note, I also gave her a beach ball and nearly passed out from blowing it up as a way to make myself feel better about selling shot glasses to a first grader.)

At the end of the day we made $561.45 $554.29 plus two Sonic milkshakes and significant progress toward paying off the car and minimizing the amount of stuff we owned. We took a Jeepload (standard unit of measure) to a local thrift store, so we have a decent write-off coming our way. We have sold a shelf and a chair on Craigslist and have more things posted on eBay, Amazon and Facebook. 


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I hate my car payment (part II: cutting ties)

I own 52 neckties.


That’s nearly one a day for two months.

That’s enough ties for me to give one to the starting lineup for every team in the Southeast and Atlantic Divisions of the NBA’s Eastern Conference…and still have two left over.

That’s one tie for each of the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Guam.

That’s one for each of the band members in the Beatles (4), Doors (4), ‘NSYNC (5), Rolling Stones (4), Metallica (4), Polyphonic Spree (25), Cream (3), both guys from Wham! and Bob Dylan, too.

I haven’t worn a tie on consecutive days in several years. I used to wear one every day, but over time, the workplace became more relaxed and “business casual” became the norm. In fact, I have only worn a tie a handful of times since starting my new job nine months ago. I wore won last week at a wedding and I’ll wear another one in three months on October 26th when I get ordained.

So, why in the world do I own 52 ties? Because of excess.

My goal is to sell 28 neckties. I have narrowed down which one’s I’m keeping to about 30 and will rely on my wife to help me whittle down the rest. I picked the number 24 because I have a built-in tie rack in my closet that holds exactly that amount. Seems like a good place to start. How many red ties does someone actually need?


Dude, they’re ties, what’s the deal? Glad you asked. I’m attached to people who gave me the ties (my mom bought me some and a few came from my grandfather’s closet after he passed away). I’m attached to the meaning behind the ties (my Miami Dolphins tie and my first ever tie are in the “sell” pile). I’m attached to the memories of where I wore the ties (at a big presentation or job interview). I’m attached to the shallow compliments I received while wearing the ties (“That one really brings out your eyes.” or “Are those little flip-flops? Neat-o!”)

These are not legitimate reasons to stockpile things. I will have the memories. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful memory, rich with details. I don’t need a clothing accessory to help me with that. I must cut ties with my ties. And a bunch of other stuff.

We are continuing to strip down the amount of things we possess as a way to strip down the car payments we send out each month. Over the last week, my envelope has grown.

car_envelopeI started selling some of my photo prints last week. I really had no anticipation that anyone would buy them. A few years ago, on a wild hair I decided that I would be part of an art show in Lake Lure, North Carolina. I spent a few hundred dollars on matted prints, prints of various sizes, portfolios, business cards and a display in hopes of making it big. I love photography, more importantly, I love my photography. Unfortunately, others do not necessarily love it as much. Well, at least Lake Lure art goers who walk around in wet bathing suits and leave their wallets at home.

So, I was overwhelmed when orders started coming in shortly after posting my matted prints on Facebook. A couple people chimed in a bit late and were disappointed that I didn’t have any more matted prints of their favorite image, but were very happy to get an unmatted photo at a reduced price. So far, these photo sales have contributed over $100 toward paying off our car.

Selling my photography is easy. I enjoy it anytime someone wants to hang my artwork on their wall. There is not a better compliment I can receive than someone wanting to take something I created and put it in a frame (and give me money for it, of course.) <shameless plug for my portfolio website here>

Parting with the ties is the toughest item I’ve dealt with so far, which is not saying too much. I do enjoy some of the ones I plan on selling at our yard sale next weekend, but I know that I really do not need them. As I move from room to room in our house, I completely expect the decisions to get increasingly tougher. I have some collectible items that I do not intend to sell. I have some that I do not want to sell, but know that I probably should. I’m praying for wisdom and for peace as I part with some items.

As I said before, I’m a sentimental person. I keep things that mean a lot of me. I see value in everything. It’s not a gift or a curse, but something that makes me a good photographer and good pastor. I see value in items and certainly in people who may be broken or damaged. I see things for what they are worth. As I try hard to eliminate the ties to materials things, my prayer is that my desire for Christ and people to increase.

In addition to the photography sales, my eBay sales have gone over $300 so far, Elizabeth has started selling some items on Facebook and we have a huge yard sale coming up next weekend. Operation “I hate my car payment” is well underway.

I hate my car payment (part I)

In 2012, with a new daughter on the way and a big job promotion in the midst, we decided that we were going to get a bigger car. My wife had a Mazda Tribute that was completely paid for, but the room in the back seat was going to be tight with two car seats.

After nearly three months of us shopping around online and my father shopping auctions in Florida, we purchased a 2010 Ford Expedition. We traded in her Tribute, put down some money and worked out a 1.85% rate through TD Auto for a portion of the car. This worked out to a payment of $344/month. This was all within our budget and very manageable.

Here’s the challenge, that was two years ago. In late 2013, I left that big promotion, cut my salary in more than half and became a missions pastor. I wouldn’t trade that for my old salary or any bonus. I am in love with what I do every day. But, with the new salary come some adjustments. Over the last nine months, we’ve been doing just fine. Health insurance is more expensive, we don’t have dental insurance yet and we’ve picked up some life insurance. Still, we’re getting by just fine. But, I’ve grown to really hate having that car payment. It’s time to do something about it.

I’ve been all over the world this year on mission trips and visited some of my closest friends who sold nearly all their belongings and crammed the rest in a few suitcases. I’ve been in their homes and apartments and they live very simply, but comfortably. I look around my house and I see junk drawers, full shelves and excess.

My attitude is changing. I try to do all my work as paperless as possible. I despise clutter. I’m fascinated by people who can pack a suitcase efficiently and live in 180-square-foot homes (this won’t be me, but still…). I’m ready to eliminate waste, unnecessary keepsakes and stuff I haven’t used in years and put those things to good use.

A few weeks ago, we decided that we were going to finally (after 9 months back in our house) have a big yard sale. The money was initially going to go into savings, but we’ve determined that it will all go to aggressively payoff our car payment. As of this writing, we have $6765.69 left to go.


But, I have an envelope. (Dave Ramsey, eat your heart out!) That envelope, which simply says “car” in blue Sharpie, is slowly growing as we purge things from our house. I truly believe we have $6700 worth of things we do not use in our house. I believe that for the financial security and savings for my family, we can find it and sell it. That will be the topic of some upcoming blog posts on how we find, decide, struggle and sell those items in order to pay off our car.

So far, I’ve taken to eBay and Craigslist to get the ball rolling. One of the first things we listed was my grandmother’s dining room table and six chairs on Craigslist. I sat at that table for countless Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It was one of the few things physical things I held on to after my grandparents passed away. I think I liked the idea of the table more than I liked the table itself. We converted our dining room into a playroom for the kids and had no more use for it. I checked with my family to see if anyone wanted it and they declined. So, we sold it yesterday and pocketed $220.

I’ve used eBay to sell some DVD series and Blu-Rays that we were more likely to get a couple dollars from online rather than a dollar at a yard sale. Additionally, I found that I had a ton of cologne (that I rarely wear) sitting in my bathroom closet. I started selling some barely used bottles and discovered there is quite the hot market for the smelly stuff online. I sold two bottles for over $60 combined and there’s another one that is 2/3 full going for $28 right now with a couple days still left to bid. Crazy stuff.

Years ago, I ordered a DVD from Yes, I’m aware of what I just wrote. I bought the history of the Intercontinental Championship because I’m a geek. I got a set of WWE action figures for free just for ordering. Evidently, those were pretty rare and I ended up turning a free gift into $36. Not too shabby. If you’re interested in buying any of the junk high quality items from my house, you can click here. I have over $216 sitting in my PayPal account right now with more pending.

Now, this is not going to be easy. We have a lot of things in our garage that we easily recognize as items we no longer want. However, I am a sentimental person by nature. I see some things in my house and I remember where I was when I bought it, or who gave it to me, or why I bought it. I’m going to struggle to get rid of things. I’m not sure how deep we are going to have to cut in order to reach $6700, but I believe we can get there. It’s going to take some time. Sooner than later, some of the research we are doing about pricing is going to get really hard. I know I’m going to struggle with wanting to hold on to items in case they increase in value in the future (like the old-school Nintendo, Gameboy, Sega, tons of G.I. Joe and wrestling figures that are worth a ton today, but I sold long ago.)

The outcome is worth it. Decluttering is nice, but the emotional distance between me and “things” is going to be liberating as well. Knowing that we have one less payment to make will be fantastic. It means that we will be able to save again. We’ll be able to start putting some money away for retirement again. We will be able to plan for something exciting for our 10th anniversary next year. Then, we can figure out how we get rid of a house payment!

<Insert shameless plug to come to our yard sale on August 16th>

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