I realized I have a weakness for thrift stores. It's more of a love/hate relationship. I love that I can take almost anything that I want to get rid of to a thrift store and donate it. They resell it and make money. I get clutter out of my house and someone else gets cheap stuff. Win-win-win. High-fives all around.
Yet, I hate the temptation of buying the cheap stuff. I can rationalize it by telling myself that's how the thrift store makes money. I prefer thrift stores for local non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Kiwanis. I know (or at least hope) that if I buy something, they will use the money to help someone local who is in need.
With the baby on the way, we are moving our youngest son into his older brother's bedroom. This presents a lot of challenges. One of them is that they need at least one dresser for their room, so we headed to the two thrift stores mentioned above. At the first, we found a couple of dressers that were possibilities but nothing jumped out at us. But, I can never stay on track when I go in those stores. I had to wander around until I saw the whole place. I checked out the sports equipment, the kitchen supplies, furniture, and everything else. We finally decided to check the other thrift store and then decide.
The second store was much bigger but the dressers were terrible. They were beat up and in some cases outright damaged but still priced at $40 to $50. We knew none of them would do. Again though, I had to wander through the whole place but this one had more variety. I almost bought a Foosball table and saw a pile of used speakers that I'm sure I could use somewhere. I managed to hold back. In hindsight, I think the only reason I didn't buy anything was because my wife was with me and I expected she would give me a hard time. "Mr. declutter can't resist a bargain at a thrift store" I kept hearing in my head.
In the end, we managed to walk out of both thrift stores that day without buying anything. Instead we purchased two of those two-drawer organizers that you have to assemble. The fun part of that was that the boys put them together without any help. I answered a couple questions but that was it.
I'm not saying you should stay out of thrift stores, but the way to declutter your house is to gather up what you want to donate, take it to a thrift store and then leave. Don't go inside unless you have a very specific thing you are looking for. If you have trouble resisting the bargains and keep wandering off course, then bring moral support with you. My wife probably wouldn't have said anything to me if I bought something at the thrift stores. Thinking she might, though, helped keep me from buying things I don't need.
I have been reading more about happiness lately. This is because I think happiness is important and because this year, like many years, I often feel pretty unhappy as Christmas rolls around.
Christmas should be something to look forward to but instead I find myself getting angry about the commercialization and greed surrounding the holiday. I also think about the year's end approaching and all the things I meant to accomplish but didn't. Finally, my birthday squeezes right in between those two just to add another number to my age.
This is why I have been reading up on happiness. I started reading Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin and also started reading her blog at https://gretchenrubin.com/blog/. Two things I have learned I need to focus on are to enjoy those small but important moments as they are happening and to think more about the positives.
Instead of getting upset about the things I HAVEN'T accomplished this year I'm trying to list the things I DID accomplish.
Instead of thinking about the commercialization of Christmas and the end of the year, I think about how fortunate I am to have all the things I need while being surrounded by friends and family. I also remind myself that we are in the middle of Advent in the Church, which is actually the beginning of the liturgical year, not the end.
Finally, I'm looking forward to our fourth child on the way very soon. I feel way too old for this but it will be fun. I'm always up for a challenge. I hope that I can continue to learn more about happiness and enjoy every small moment that I probably was too busy or stressed out to even think about with my other kids.
This morning I am hanging out at O'Hare airport in Chicago on a four hour layover to visit my family. I had only a few hours of sleep and am missing out on some activities with my wife and kids. But, I enjoyed an amazing sunrise (photo above) and get to spend some quiet time alone. It's nice to occasionally not be responsible for anyone but yourself. I am enjoying the moment.
I guess I can stop saying bah humbug for a little while.
Do musical instruments count as clutter? I’m asking for a friend.
One of my sisters can’t seem to stop bringing home animals while we can’t seem to stop turning our house into a musical instrument sanctuary. Some of them get used regularly and some rarely get touched. I’m just as guilty as anyone for bringing them in.
I have an electric guitar and amplifier that I haven’t touched in months. It turns out the guitar is much harder to learn than I ever imagined.
I’m also the one who spotted the 1950’s Hammond Organ on the curb and suggested we bring it home. That turned out to be much heavier than I ever imagined.
After some oil it worked beautifully for our kids to practice their piano lessons. Eventually though, their teacher suggested they get a real piano to practice on so now we have a full size upright piano as well. I’m not allowed to get rid of the organ because my son insists that he plays it. I think he just moves the bench occasionally to make it look like someone has used it.
Did I mention that he also plays the viola? We have two of those. He plays percussion in the high school band so we have the standard percussion kit of bells and drum pad. We even broke down and bought a full drum set since I did all that work to clear out the family room.
Now that my daughter is in middle school, she started playing saxophone in the school band. Occasionally, she even breaks out her old recorder from 4th grade too.
Honestly, I don’t mind all of these instruments, as long as they get used. Similar to wasted talent, a musical instrument is a terrible thing to waste by having it sit around collecting dust. All musical instruments require at least some maintenance, even if it’s just dusting. The organ requires occasional oiling, the piano requires tuning a couple times a year, the drum set needs to be cleaned and tuned, the saxophone needs reeds, and the viola needs rosin and strings.
But are they clutter? I guess I would say NO - as long as they are being enjoyed and properly cared for. In my case, I would like to get rid of the organ because it takes a lot of space and collects dust. I also should just get rid of my guitar because I never play it. It’s left-handed so no one else in the family is going to either.
I love hearing my kids play the piano, viola, saxophone, and even the drum set. I hope that my kids continue to play for the rest of their lives but at the same time I know that we should reduce the number of musical instruments we have sitting around. I know it will save us space and money but they’re proving as difficult to part with as books. That guitar I’ve been meaning to learn how to play is a lot like those books I’m going to read someday.
I found a good quote about someday by author Jacqueline Woodson:
Somewhere there is another person who would like to read that book or play that old Hammond organ. So whether it’s a musical instrument, a book, or whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do SOMEDAY, I think NOW is the time to either start taking it seriously and do it, or just pass it along to someone else.
As I just wrote that, another quote came to mind that I think sums it up nicely. It’s one of my favorites that I heard many times growing up:
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2017