This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

November 12, 2013

Operation Yard Sale Complete! (And Some Advice for You!)

We had our annual purging yard sale this past weekend.  I love the idea of having someone pay you to take away your stuff!  It is a shit TON of work but worth it in the end when you rid your house of items that you no longer need and get to make a bit of money in the process! I also love GOING to yard sales and I have my pet peeves so I try to be a mindful seller as well.  Yard sales are for bargain hunting for sure. (I decorated the entry way of our house in garage sale chic with the help of a few cans of spray paint and some imagination for under $30.) 

My BFF, Leah, is my yard sale companion, in addition to my begrudging hubby we usually make a good tag team. You will want more than one person to (as in you plus one or two!) at your sale.  It will get CROWDED at times- usually between 8 and 9:30.

So my first tip is preparation in the signage and in the merchandising.  You can't expect to put up signs scribbled on notebook paper in BIC pen (or paper plates with SALE and an itty bitty arrow on them) and drive traffic to your sale.  Furthermore, throwing out everything on the driveway in one pile is a no-no.  

Another note about signs....  Please, please, take the time to take down your signs. It’s not only inconsiderate to your ‘customers’ that try to find you, but it’s also good for Mother Nature. 

One thing that I hear regularly hear at our sales is “Great Signs!” They are large (18 x 24)  DOUBLE sided signs, on ground stakes with very large red print that says YARD SALE with an equally impressive arrow directing the way. I make them on the computer (four sheets of paper per sign) and tape them onto what I’ll call campaign signs (you know the ones that you see along the road during election season?)- and then they can be shoved into the ground. I've had these for years and they are reused and even borrowed for acquaintance's sales.

Remember, you have about three seconds to catch a passers-by attention and make them turn the car in your direction. It’s not necessary to put the time and date, as long as you put them up and take them down (appoint a family member to help) when your sale is going on; nor should you try to list items in 8-pt font. (If you want to list items, try craigslist- that’s another good way to advertise or find yard sales!)  I can guarantee that if you take the care into making good, attention catching signs, you will actually make more money. Our sale this year netted a fair amount for our efforts, we average about $500 with the highest price point was about $50. 

My other 'expert' advice? 
  • Take a few weeks to plan your sale to give you time to clean, mark and sort your items- and to make the signs too. Clean and Marking are operable words here.  Although I didn't mark 2/3 of the stuff due to time constraints, I marked the items I wasn't flexible on the price about $5 to $10 more than I wanted.  The rest I had an idea somewhere between $1 and up.
  • Let your friends 'shop' the night before!  This is a great 'excuse' to get some last minute help, but also give them a good deal on things that are perfect for them.  My friend Michelle walked away with two huge bags of clothes for $30!
  • Make good signs- yes, this is the third time I've said it, but.... at least get the poster board from the dollar store and make large letters on it! You can affix it to a box weighted with rocks to keep it standing!
  • Post your Sale on Craigslist earlier in the week with highlights and then edit it again the night before to appear for the sale day.  Don't forget to remove the ad once your sale is over.
  • People will shoplift at your sale.  It's a sad fact but it will happen.  We post a person at each end of the driveway to deter that and they have to pay to get to their car. 
  • If you want to get really organized, while "spring" (or winter/ fall, etc) cleaning, and you come across an item that you don't want, after inspecting it for defects- slap a price sticker on it and throw it in the Garage Sale box tucked away in a hiding spot!
  • Ask your neighbors, friends or family if they would like to participate. The more wares at your sale, the better. Also, they can bring tables (see below).  Multi-family sales always draw a crowd.
  • They will come, and they will buy, especially if they don’t have to bend down to look! Borrow as many portable tables and shelves as you can. I attribute the success of our sales to the fact that nearly everything was on a table, clean (if you pick it up and say, ewwwww, so will someone else!) and (most) clearly marked. The fact that people didn't have to rummage and bend down will make them look longer!
  • Don’t forget to get change- I usually go with $70 to start, with $1's, $5's and $10's and a bunch of quarters.   You will have many people that will give you a $20 for $3 worth of stuff!  Carry your change in a purse and put larger bills in the house when you can.  A Cash drop for those of you that have ever worked retail)
  • Make a sign at check-out that says " CASH ONLY" and “All Sales Final”
  • Have paper and plastic grocery bags on hand to wrap fragile items and to bag peoples purchases. Offer them bags and they will fill them- more money for you and less to haul away later.
  • Purchase the little priced dot stickers at the dollar store and use them in a very visible spot on the item.  It will save you from having to answer “How Much?” 500 times in one day. If you priced it higher than someone wants to pay, they’ll generally ask if you’ll take X amount. Masking Tape and sharpies work well too.  (I skipped this cardinal rule and although I may have suffered from sales from it, I was crazy busy with life to do pricing justice.)  I just knew in general what I wanted for an item in ADVANCE.
  • See above? If the time has to be picked up with two hands, a good rule of thumb is to use a larger sticker or affix a piece of paper. Also, be aware of where you stick pricing stickers- make sure you won't ruin the item
  • Sell in multiples for better value- books, CD’s, clothing. I love sales where I can find three paperback books for $1 or fill a bag with clothes for $5.  Get creative with your marketing to attract a sale- group items together- like "new parent's must haves," "college student's dorm room"
  • Mark items in multiples of 25 cents- it will be easier to make change.
  • Have an extension cord handy to test out electrical appliances and hook up your radio for musical ambiance
  • If you think you can get more for an item individually, either consign or Craigslist it by itself. People go to sales wanting a deal and expect to pay about 20% at most to retail value.
  • Be prepared to haggle and deal.  It's an art form.  People will also low-ball you and you need to decide in advance what your strategy is.  I have had buyers offer me $3 for an item marked $20- that's a stretch.... I'll take $17.... you'll get the idea once your sale begins
  • What to price items:
    • Shoes- $2 to $5 depending on wear and brand
    • Baby Clothing- name brand (Gymboree, GAP, etc.) $1 to $3 depending on quality.  I did $1 for each piece and it went flying off the tables.  
    • Adult Clothing- .50c to $3, Denim $5- it's a crap shoot-  I did fill a bag for $5 and sold quite a bit
    • Baby Equipment- check to ensure it's not recalled, has all the parts and sell for about 30% of retail. (Play Yards $20, Blankets $2, Strollers- $20, etc.)  
    • Toys- $2- $5 depending on items, Board games and puzzles should be closer to $1- they are a hard sell but will if priced right (people are afraid of missing pieces)
    • Books- Hardbacks for $1 each, Soft, 3/$1, Kids books .75c
    • CD's/DVDs- $1 to $2
    • Home Decor- under $10
    • Kitchen Stuff- under $5
    • Appliances- check retail prices and CL and price accordingly
      • people don't care what the sentimental value is to you, if you can't bear to part with it, don't put it in the sale.
      • if you think you can get more elsewhere, sell it there but the whole point of the sale is to watch it walk away.
  • Don't put the shit back in your house once you are done! 
    • I was pressed for time this sale and paid someone to clean and haul away the items at the end.  BEST. MONEY. SPENT.  I'd already spent enough time getting ready for it, and it prevented me from thinking I needed to keep the items.  They have already been setting out of view for months, no need to bring it back inside!
  • Be respectful of your neighbors and post no parking signs- I posted no parking signs in front of my two closest neighbors to avoid having cars stop in the middle of my sale blocking the view of 'driver's-by' and also for noise.  Starting your sale at dawn is mean for your neighbors.  It's their weekend too!
  • Check your HOA and city rules for sign posting and sale-hosting laws.  Some cities don't allow sign posting on their landmarks or more than one sale per year, etc.
Phew! It's a lot of advice but I hope it will help you have an incredibly successful sale!

August 18, 2013

To My Heart on your Fourth Birthday

I remember the day that I found out that we were going to have you like it was yesterday; and the day that you were born was the very best day of my life hands down. Your Daddy and I tried for nearly five years to have you- it was not an easy road to travel, but oh so worth it since you were the end result. I can’t even begin to tell you how you have changed my life and it is all for the better.  Being a Mom makes me want to be a better person and being YOUR Mom is the most fulfilling and rewarding job ever. I wake up to your precious smiling face and thank God for you. I can't ever put into words how much you mean to us.  But please know that it is A LOT when serving you your milk in your favorite princess sippy trumps pressing the brew button on the Keurig.

The past year has held quite a few challenges but so many wonderful moments and memories with you outshine the bad.  You make a great day amazing and a bad day better, especially when you wrap your little arms around my neck and tell me that you missed me.  How blessed am I?

Although a healthy growing girl, we've still had our share of doctors visits this year- I wish to not repeat them, especially not your spinal tap when you had a weird virus. Worst Mom moment so far- but you were charming and brave and only cried a bit and had the ENTIRE staff trying to hunt you down princess stickers after the procedure. You may not have any idea that you can have perfect strangers eating out of the palm of your hand, but after watching you blossom, I completely understand.  Might I add that you are an amazing dose of medicine- both Daddy and I ended up in the hospital at different times and you were the bright spot that helped us feel better.  How so much empathy can come out of a little person is beyond me.  You tell us not to be sad when you see us cry and to be brave when you think something is going to hurt us and although we know it to be, hearing your angelic little voice saying those things is simultaneously heart wrenching and comforting.  You are so amazingly smart and resilient, flexible and easy going and empathetic and a light to any darkness. 

You started PreK (and Vacation Bible School) this year and are well on your way to being Valedictorian and Homecoming Queen, I’m sure. You waltz into the place like you own it (with the tuition we pay, we should….) and I love to hear about your day when I pick you up. The things that you learn (both good and bad) are impressive. I know I am biased but how can I not be proud of you when you point out an octagon or write your name (you’re a lefty, by the way- you can thank your BopPop and Grandma Helen for that) in better handwriting than Daddy.  Your teacher’s name is Ms. Miriam and she too has fallen in love with you.  I really can’t blame her.

You will find out one day that a Mommy loves her child unconditionally but you my dear, are something special.  You almost glow.  You are amazing but not perfect, and you shouldn't be- make mistakes, its how we learn and grow- but please, please,please stay out of my nail polish; play dough goes back into the container with lids ON (ask me some day how you convinced your Grandma K to eat it like a cookie) and stickers and permanent marker is meant for paper and only paper. (Stickers have shown up mysteriously in some crazy places…. Must be the dogs)

I’m not the perfect mom but will be the BEST mom that I can be to you and help guide you in the BEST life that we can provide for you. I will make mistakes, and I will lose my patience and even growl at you when I know that I shouldn't and I will always remind you that I do love you and apologize when I am truly in the wrong. Never be afraid to say you’re sorry and really mean it.  Don’t ever be afraid to give an honest compliment (and continue to give them with reckless abandon like you already do- you probably really made the lady in the grocery store with the pretty dress’ day) and don’t be afraid to love and tell someone you love them.  Tell your best girl friends, your boyfriend (gasp, but I know its coming- you will be a heart breaker), your dog and cat and your family.  Love is free and freeing.  Love also hurts, but it teaches us to be better, stronger and to even love harder.

I hope your passion never fades. Today it is for your Princess collection (of all sizes, materials and conditions (please forgive the dogs for altering Aurora’s dress) pizza and girly-girl dresses, someday it will be shoes and purses (Your dad will roll his eyes and complain when you own 30 pairs of flip flops but it will be out of love- just trust me on this one.) But if you happen to find a zest for something that is completely off the wall- so be it- just make sure that your favorite ‘things’ are yours and not something that you are trying to do or like to impress someone. (As much as I love your Daddy, I will never be a Laker fan, but he knew that going in…. in fact we spent our first day of wedded bliss at a basketball game of both of our favorite teams…. That was over 11 years ago) Your hobbies, likes and dislikes will make you interesting and uniquely YOU.

Speaking of fervor and zest, you've been planning your birthday party since the day after you turned three- it will be your dream Ariel the Mermaid party although scaled down a bit. You get the love of entertaining from me (I’m Sorry and You’re Welcome)- just remember to always be a gracious host and take time away from making the food and cleaning up the mess to enjoy the moment with the people that are there- you never know when they won’t be.  I hope the memories of your fourth birthday will be wonderful. I’m going to fill up your playroom with balloons and decorate the house even though your party isn’t until next week (and not even here, might I add)- balloons in your room will be our birthday tradition.  I am even going to see if Avery the Elf can make a visit from the North Pole to pop in and say hello.

Thank you for making the last 1,461 days the best in my life- I look forward to experiencing the memories that Year Four has in store for us.  We love you so very much Baby Girl.  Happy Birthday.

February 6, 2013

So, I Got a New "Job"......

Today is day three of my new job. Like most employees experience at their first week of work, it’s hard to decide what to wear, it’s anxiety-ridden, stressful and I don’t really get to talk to my boss or co-workers until the end of the day. My new job, for the time being, is Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM).
      If you do the math, the time on “the job” might not be adding up; after all MiniMe is actually 3-1/2. It’s just that last Friday was the final day at a job that I’ve held for a quarter of my life. I started there just a few days after graduating from college and have worked there for the past 11 years; and now here I am. This change wasn’t a decision that I made on my own, I’ve joined the ranks of many Americans who have been downsized- my position was eliminated.
      I am terribly sad about that chapter of my life ending. When you hear people talk about loving their jobs, well, I was one of them. I mean I really, really, really LOVED my job, it was a huge part of who I was. I put every ounce of effort into it and my reward was…. Well, this and it truly is bittersweet.
Before I actually had MiniMe, we didn’t even discuss me staying home with her- I wanted to work, in fact I needed to work- not just for the money, but for the self-fulfillment and personal enrichment. I felt like a well-rounded person working AND being a mom (yet, I always tried to find better work/life balance- go figure?!!!?) We also were blessed that our arrangements for daycare were not only free, but with Anti-Latte’s mom, so Mini was in the loving care of her grandma every day. And this, is why I didn’t feel guilty for working- well, once or twice when she was sick… but how lucky were we?
      She will still spend many days at her grandma’s house for several reasons- she gets to see her cousins every other day, I still have some other commitments that will necessitate daycare as well as the fact that Grandma K is a recent widow and MiniMe is a great diversion and excellent therapy. I also don’t want to completely interrupt her schedule should I be fortunate enough to find my next wonderful job sooner rather than later. Also, we will be enrolling her into pre-school this Spring. Yeah, you’re thinking, “She’s not a real SAHM.” You’re right; I have no clue what I am. I’m stuck in emotional limbo of being completely devastated about being laid off to feeling some excitement to getting to spend more time with my family. How cool is it that for the first time since I was 12, I don’t have a work commitment? How sad is it that I don’t have a work commitment? How awesome is it that I can stay at home with my child? How freaked out am I about staying home with my child? Will I get bored? Will we all still like each other at the end of the day? (Oh, c’mon- you’ve experienced those weekends where you couldn’t wait to get back to the office!) What will I wear? No, seriously. I walked into my closet over the weekend and broke into hysterics upon seeing my work wardrobe. I think I have more pajamas than I do casual clothes (and I refuse to venture out of the house, on purpose, in my pajamas). So, I wore yoga pants, and went to the gym twice in the past two days-- this coming from someone who only set foot in the gym twice all of last year. It’s something that I CAN control at this point so I’m relishing it.
      The loss of a job feels like a death- and I’ve gone through most of the stages of grieving over it, not in order and I'm sure I'm not done with it. It is extremely personal. A part of me is gone now and I’m not sure what to do. I’ve started with a very lofty to-do list- things that I’ve always wanted to get ‘around to,’ organizing the CD collection (seriously- I want them all on iTunes so I can pitch the clutter), watching 68 64 episodes of “The Closer” on my DVR; you know, really important things.
        I’ve done most of the work to get ahead of this- my resume is so polished (so explain, why isn’t anyone calling!?) as is my LinkedIn profile, I’ve already applied for unemployment insurance (this will be interesting!) and I’m starting to network. I very much want to take my wonderful husband’s advice and try to enjoy this time, it’s just weird. Not having to go in to an office on any given week day. That’s one thing on my list though- organizing my office- creating an organized nice one to ‘commute’ to when I’m job hunting or working on my direct sales business (who knows! That’s a great focus point too- did you know that there are many women in this country who make six figures work in direct sales?- watch me!) There will be good days- those packed with enough errands and appointments to keep me busy; and then those days where the thought of my ‘former’ life will bring me to instant tears. Many benefits of being out of work- less money for gas or lunches on the go, dealing with commuter traffic, dry cleaning bills, great coffee from my Keurig; and then the downfall- my boss is super demanding- but when she throws those grubby little hands around my neck and says, “I love you Mommy!” it brings me back to reality and I take a deep breath and think that this might be the best job ever.

January 21, 2013

Controlling What You Can...

I saw a Facebook post today about a little girl who died due to complications from  Gaucher disease. I didn't know her, but as a fellow mother, I shed a tear for little Addy and walked over to my daughter to give her a great big hug.

The thought of losing my child is my worst nightmare and I get choked up just thinking about it, ( yet I still growled at her for creating a complete disaster in 30 seconds flat with a deck of playing cards and tissue paper... And felt like an ass.) You can't control death, you can't control the economy, guns, who's elected president, gas prices, ever increasing taxes and comparatively shrinking paychecks, jobs, your friends.... many many things are out of direct control. 2012 was a long, emotional lesson on that for my family; one that will NOT (if I have any control!!) be repeated in the near future.

I've learned that you cannot control those external events. You can, however control your immediate surroundings, your support circle and your reaction to those. While other factors in life are spinning out of control focusing on those few things that you CAN control is cathartic. With each step you take in finding order in the chaos- just washing the dishes and having a clean counter in the midst of being emotionally spent helps you focus on a small achievement and a sense of order. Sometimes it feels like everything is too overwhelming.... It probably is, but life could always be worse. I'm not trying to be morose, just realistic.

When you're miserable because of family health problems and consequently death, you have to take a minute to appreciate the little girl growing up in front of you, and reflecting on special memories of those we've lost. When you've been completely shafted in another aspect of your life, get pissed off, angry and hurt. There is a grieving process for it all. But let that run its course and formulate a plan to get over it, learn and laugh again. It's okay to let life events drain you emotionally dry but not worth giving up completely... Stand up, dust yourself off and start focusing on what you CAN control: taking charge of your health, organizing your sock drawer, plan your menus, call a very funny friend, toast to tomorrow (with a glass or two of wine- NOT the entire jug!)

Life happens- sometimes it's shitty, most of the time it's good but the true test is how you control your reaction and your plan. Look back to what happened six months ago, six years ago and where you've grown from there. The discomfort was temporary (in theory!) and the lesson still remains.

I learned last year that life is TOO EFFING SHORT to feud, hold grudges, to not apologize and you can't say 'I love you' enough. People and memories are precious and irreplaceable-everything else is.  I can still call my Mom and tell her I'm thinking of her, while a friend of mine cannot. I can't relate but I empathize and offer my support when I remember that she had a shitty year too. It's a club we don't really want to be in, and when we get through those 12 Steps we can 'sponsor' friends having a shitty time and help them focus on small blessings until life returns to a somewhat normal state. And then I hear my MiniMe shuffling down the hallway debating on which Princess has THE prettiest dress,and it makes me smile and gives me the strength to conquer tomorrow one minute at a time.