Purses, junk drawers, and too much stuff

Most Americans own a lot more material possessions than they need. According to professional organizer, Regina Lark, “The average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.” (Los Angeles Times)  Although, sometimes I feel like all this stuff is in my purse.

My personal obsession with minimalizing began when my husband and I downsized about four years ago. When you have a designated amount of space, you have to learn how to use that space wisely. Besides, watching the TV show, “Hoarders,” is a pretty frightening reality check about what can happen if one accumulates massive amounts of unnecessary items.

Taking walks in my neighborhood is also beneficial, because there are countless homes I pass with open garages overflowing with who-knows-what. Apparently, “25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle.” (U.S. Department of Energy) I thought I was keeping my own admiration for knick-knacks in check, until a first-time visit from a family member recently. I had scrubbed and dusted for days, and was proud of my sparkling clean home when the first thing out of my relative’s mouth was, “There are a lot of tchotchkes in here.” Believe me, the statement wasn’t meant to be rude, it was merely an observation. I didn’t know what a “tchotchke” was, but I could tell it wasn’t good.

“What’s a tchotchke,” I asked nervously.

The answer, “knick-knacks,” confirmed my worst fear. I am still a collector of too much stuff. There was no truer validation of this than the junk drawer in my kitchen. When it was opened, often it had to be forced shut. In my defense, I’m pleased to report that many individuals have an unorganized junk drawer in their home. I ascertained this interesting fact through another one of my unscientific Facebook surveys. Dozens of respondents shared about their junk drawers, while some did qualify that they organized their junk drawers. Others commenting protested that a junk drawer would not be a junk drawer, if it was organized. Still, I had to do something about mine, because whenever I searched for a bread tie, magic marker, roll of tape, etc., it was an indictment of my disorganized housekeeping. Like some other folks in the informal survey, I bought various-sized plastic trays to place inside the drawer and filled each tray with specific-like items. I learned this tip from professional organizer, Olive Wagar. Now, the drawer is perfectly arranged, but I’m wondering how long this will last.

That said, I also wonder if there is any hope for my purse, because I don’t think dollar store trays will help. Unfortunately, I’m one of those women who keeps you waiting in the checkout line, while I dig at the bottom of my purse for loose change. After all, everything is in there somewhere.  The purse situation called for another survey, so I asked my Facebook friends if their purses are neatly arranged or chaotic like mine, even though I diligently try to keep it tidy. One honest lady used the words, “hot mess” to describe the inside of her purse, while another used the term, “black whole.” Yet, the majority of the 71 comments either expressed their opinion that they had very organized handbags, or “overall” their purses had everything in its perfect place.

This survey might have been tragically flawed. Most women who have untidy purses are probably not too willing to share that when they stick their hand inside of it, they are unsure what will come out. A junk drawer is one thing, but a purse negatively reflects its owner, and in our brand-conscious society maybe the outside label, even more than the disorganized inside. For instance, the other day I was in a retail store buying a pair of “Grandma” slippers. An attractive young woman with an impressive designer shoulder bag stood in line behind me. I clutched my worn pleather (fake leather) bag close to my body, trying not to envy or feel diminished by this youthful style setter.

Therein lies the problem with the purse. Sometimes, women judge other women or even themselves by their handbag. This war of the purses has to stop. And it will in my little world, as soon as I get my hands on a designer handbag exactly like trendy fashionista. Just kidding, it’s me and my messy, faithful, pleather purse to the end.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning  freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. She is also a two-time Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, who has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

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Tips for having a Great Garage Sale!

Garage Sale signHow many garage sale enthusiasts do we have out there? Spring, summer, and early fall, signs advertise them everywhere. Like a lot of folks, I enjoy finding a useful bargain among another individual’s discarded treasures. Take the morning when I snagged a really good deal on a Black & Decker hedge trimmer. No more 20-year-old manual clippers for me.

The friendly gray-haired gentlemen who sold me the bright orange trimmers even gave me a brief tutorial on how to not dismember my digits (cut my fingers off) before I handed him my $10 bill. Honestly though, I thought the electric cord came with them so I was a little dismayed when he unplugged the trimmers and detached the cord after my lesson. I mildly protested but no way was he throwing it in.

As for electrical items, as a buyer, it’s always the best policy to test them before you purchase. I know as a seller, you are probably being impeccably honest when you say you just used your toaster, blow dryer, or TV set lately, and that it works great. Yet sadly, there are unscrupulous people who deceive naïve shoppers everyday. Once this happens, you usually learn to ask to see the electrical item at work. After all, there are no return policies on second-hand bargains.

As for having a garage sale, you can host a successful sale which requires a bit of work, or you can just muddle through. For example, most of us yard sale fanatics really appreciate order and stated prices. When we enter a garage filled with stuff haphazardly heaped on tables or strewn all over the floor without price tags, often we leave without buying much.garage-sale-clip-art-ir5kuc9o

Tip #1  It’s too much work to dig through a pile of junk when one has no idea what’s in that pile or how much the stuff costs. Now, if you make everything one price and group clothing in somewhat of a semblance of size and gender that really helps. Although quality apparel needs to be hung with specific price tags, which will garner a higher price. Even though it takes a lot of time, pricing really is the ticket (pun intended) if you want to sell your discarded treasures. That is unless your prices are too high. No matter how much you paid for something, remember it’s used, and you no longer want it. Depreciation can be well over 90 percent or more, especially on clothing articles.

Tip #2 Some garage sale enthusiasts like to barter a bit. Don’t get angry with them for trying to get the best deal, that’s all part of the game. Other individuals might be too timid to ask if you are willing to take less. So, if you see someone who seems interested in something, you might want to casually say, “We are willing to take offers.” Of course, everyone at your sale at that moment will no longer want to pay full price either, so be prepared.

Tip #3 Then there is the importance of advertising. Since I am a freelance newspaper columnist, it might sound like a self-promoting plug to suggest spending a few bucks on a classified ad in your local newspaper. But without marketing your sale will have little chance of success. Those signs that you see posted on street corners are of paramount importance, too. Place as many out there as possible leading to your sale, especially if your address is difficult to find. Listing on Craigslist is a really good idea, but no substitute for a newspaper ad, since many newspapers advertise sales online and with geographic maps.

My subdivision had a community sale this past May, and I enjoyed being part of it even though the temperatures were unseasonably chilly. I didn’t have a lot of items, which is usually best for having a profitable event, but I did have some nice stuff that needed a new home. During those long hours in my garage, it was fun meeting new people who are yard sale fans like me.

GoodwillTip #4 After it was all over, there were still some great items left behind by the numerous pickers. These overlooked possessions can make worthwhile contributions to the community non-profit of your choice. There are local organizations like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or local church clothing ministries, etc. who really appreciate donations. But a word of caution, if you think an item may be junk, it probably is, and needs to be pitched, not donated. At the end, I was a couple hundred dollars richer. Not a bad way, to clean out the closets.

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