Cultivate Simple Podcast in iTunes Chiot's Run on Facebook Chiot's Run on Twitter Chiot's Run on Pinterest Chiot's Run on Flickr RSS Feed StumbleUpon

Lightening the Load

February 1st, 2012

Every winter, I spend time going through all the rooms in the house getting rid of stuff. It all goes into a pile in the attic for a yard sale. It’s amazing how many things can accumulate even when you don’t shop or buy things. Most of these items were purchase long ago and have simply been gathering dust.

Six years ago, Mr Chiots and I decided to go one year without buying anything we didn’t need; that year was a turning point for us. We quit accumulating things we didn’t need, we saved a ton of money, and we set off down the path to a more simple existence. Ever since, we have done a pretty good job at not bringing extra clutter into the house and we’ve been able to simplify our lives even more by getting rid of lots of stuff we didn’t really need.

Every two years we have a yard sale with some friends. If you’ve never had a yard/garage sale I’d encourage you to have one. There’s nothing more eye opening than seeing a garage full of things you spent money on being sold for pennies on the dollar. I used to just have a goodwill pile in the basement that would be donated every few months. In my experience, saving it all up is a great incentive to buy less because you see it all in one HUGE pile. If you want, you can then give the money you earn at the yard sale to charity, put it in savings, or pay down your mortgage. Do something proactive with it.

The more we simplify our lives, the more stuff we realize we can live without. We have also learned to focus on buying items that will last for the rest of our lives and items that can be repaired. As a result of our efforts we were able to pay off our house a year and a half ago and achieve financial freedom. Being debt free is so much better than having a house full of stuff that doesn’t get used!

Have you ever had a garage sale? Is getting rid of stuff easy or difficult for you?

22 Comments to “Lightening the Load”
  1. kristin @ going country on February 1, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Growing up, we had yard sales every time we moved. That is, as a military family, every three years. Packing all your junk into a truck every few years is an excellent way to decide what’s really worth shipping from Hawaii to Alaska.

    There has never been, nor will there ever be I suspect, a yard sale at Blackrock. This is the House of Accumulation. Family tradition yadayada. How could we possibly throw away A.’s grandmother’s 30-year-old eyeglasses? It’s ridiculous. Also irritating for me, given my own upbringing, but them’s the breaks.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  2. Kathi Cook on February 1, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I really dislike having tag sales. We have a nice free-cycle table at our school that I love to leave items on. Honestly I have a more difficult time getting rid of my stuff than I would care to admit. I am definitely working on accumulating less though. We have only moved twice in 28 years, which is part of the problem. We are looking to move in the next few years, so I am trying to tackle my attic (which is the size of my house). I love that you went a year wiithout buying anything. Did that include restaurants and clothing too?

    Reply to Kathi Cook's comment

    • Susy on February 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Yes – that included eating out and clothing and a lot of food that is considered not necessary. We did eat out once or twice when invited with friends. No movies, entertainment, we cancelled our cable…

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Andrea Duke on February 1, 2012 at 7:32 am

    The same thing happens here. I keep things I no longer want or need stored in a spare bathroom in our garage and have a garage sale or two every year. My Grandmother usually comes down for a few days and helps. We love having garage sales, while I know most people do not. We also have a lot of laughs together.

    I am a very simple person when it comes to materialistics, most rooms in my house only having 10-15 items in it (exceptions are the kitchens and son’s room). Yes, I count sometimes!! Family and friends make fun, but that’s ok. I would never want some of their messes!!

    I love finances. We am not spenders really and we live on less than we make. Dave Ramsey is where I got my start. We no longer have credit card or vehicle payments and it is amazing how much can be saved when you don’t have those expenses. That way when big things to come up(like new tires yesterday), we have no problem paying the bill. I am hoping we can pay our house off within the next few years with a little more hard work.

    There are things we might say we want, but that is all it is. We don’t go without needs and it’s nice to know that if something happened to my husbands job, we would be ok for awhile, We have seen too many friends and family struggle and have helped several of them and I know we’re not above it happening to us, so it’s better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

  4. Kathi Cook on February 1, 2012 at 7:33 am

    PS: You have the perfect yankee thrift mentality for living in Maine or anywhere on the East Coast!

    Reply to Kathi Cook's comment

    • Susy on February 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

      Thanks Kathi!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. The Minnesota Farm Woman on February 1, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I love going to them but hate giving them! Out church has a yearly garage sale and I usually donate to that. Love your blog, by the way!
    Chris “The Minnesota Farm Woman”

    Reply to The Minnesota Farm Woman's comment

  6. Songbirdtiff on February 1, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I absolutely hate having a yard sale. I tried to let my stuff pile up last year to have one, and ended up getting so sick of it, I called a thrift store to come pick it up! For me, it’s just as painful to see all that stuff go for free (I don’t have any romantic ideas of how I’m going to save the world by donating my old crap) and each year we acquire less and get rid of less. This season definitely makes me want to declutter and clean out closets. For perhaps the first time in my married life, I don’t have any closets or cabinets that are too full, but I still tend to want to clean them out. You know, just in case there’s something taking up space. I like a little extra breathing room.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  7. daisy on February 1, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Congrats on paying off your house. Such a feat for someone so young.

    We purge often but don’t bother with yard sales. We bring items to our local Meals for Wheels thrift store, where money from sold items goes to fund the program. It feels great to purge!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  8. Allison on February 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

    We won’t be paying off our mortgage anytime soon :( But I am trying to declutter our lives and not bring in so much unwanted/needed stuff. I just need to get my hubby on the same track of thought!

    I have thought about garage sales, but sometimes it is just easier to give it to goodwill or planet aid.

    Reply to Allison's comment

  9. Daedre Craig on February 1, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I’m a little frightened by how quickly I’ve filled my house will “stuff” (including the scary scary basement). I had a garage sale a couple summers ago…and I think it’s time for another one.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  10. Mich on February 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I try not to buy ‘stuff’ these but my weakness is books….sigh. When I do have a sort out instead of doing a ‘carboot sale’ I donate it to the local cancer hospice charity shop.

    Reply to Mich's comment

  11. Texan on February 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Always good to keep things cleaned out. We too are focusing on healthier and better made products. Things as you say that will last a life time. I just invested in some Popsicle makers that are stainless steel not plastic thus no BPA. Here in Texas where its hot as heck a good portion of the year, something cold is such a treat. I can make them from all healthy ingredients as well so its a win win.

    Agreed, living debt free is so the way to go. :O). It allows one a much less stressful existence :O).

    Reply to Texan's comment

  12. Liz J on February 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I have been going through stuff in our loft for the past few days, and taken several boxes to the Salvation Army thrift store. I also have a couple boxes of books for the library. I didn’t realize how much quilt fabric I have! I am trying to find a new quilter who would enjoy a box of varied, nice fabric, I’m talking a BIG box! If I have anything that I know family would enjoy, I ask them first, then decide if it’s worth the time to put on EBay…if not, it goes in the pile for the thrift store. It is truly amazing how we accumulate “things”. After so many years of acquiring stuff, now the the mantra is “less is best”…I must say, I agree.

    Reply to Liz J's comment

  13. KimH on February 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve had a couple garage sales over the years with family members, but they’re not really my favorite thing in the world. ;)

    In my 20s & 30s I moved often so getting rid of stuff was easy.. I didnt want to move it, so it was pared down then.. but I’ve been in this house for almost 14 years and m’honey doesnt want to throw anything out.. We combined 2 households and had a lot of extra stuff hanging around.

    I’ve spent the last couple years getting rid of a lot of “stuff” from the basement especially, but there is always room for improvement.
    Its better than it used to be, but worse than it could be. ;)

    I have a tough time even looking at books to get rid of.. I used to spend a ton of $$ on them and know I’ll never recoup a fraction of their value.. Dont do that anymore.. I get em from the library first, and if I think I still MUST have them, then I’ll buy them. They are also all reference books of one sort or another.. Guess I need my own library. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

  14. Karen on February 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Susy, I can’t tell you how many garage sales I’ve had! (in direct correspondence to how many times I’ve moved) At one ~ actually, my sale when I was leaving Damariscotta ~ I had FIVE frying pans for sale. I’m single, I live alone….even though I love to cook, why in the world did I ever need five frying pans! My one rule is: if it goes in the garage sale, it doesn’t come back in the house. Anything that doesn’t sell immediately gets loaded in the car and driven to the local thrift store, library, etc. While I’m clearly still pretty acquisitive, I also find I don’t have a problem getting rid of stuff. Good luck with your sale!

    Reply to Karen's comment

  15. Jodiana on February 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    My house is very ready for a yard sale. I have been going thru all the rooms and have a pile of things. The basement will be my last stop, that will take a while….move in boxes from 6 1/2 yrs ago! Never opened, but I’m afraid if I don’t check them there ‘might just be something I needed’…..

    Reply to Jodiana's comment

  16. itchbay on February 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    We’re both the same way. We wear things out, and because we know that when we buy something, we tend to spend the extra money up from for the better quality version. Anything that is intended to be temporary or to hold us over until we can get the item we really want is usually used.

    My MIL wanted to buy us bedroom furniture from IKEA, and we had to explain to her that although we ARE looking to buy new bedroom furniture in the future, we have an idea of what we want, and we’re saving our pennies, because it’s real wood, hand-crafted, in the style that matches our aesthetics. In the meantime we’re happy-enough with the used wood furniture we have now. I don’t want to bring new temporary particle board furniture that won’t last.

    We’ve had our eye on a hand-made dining room table that is especially made for table-top gamers (which we are) and spent 2 years saving for it (after buying the house and doing other remodeling projects), and in the meantime used a pair of folding tables like you see in offices. In fact, that’s where we got them from — a used-office supply sale.

    Reply to itchbay's comment

  17. Jennifer Fisk on February 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I set stuff aside for a yard sale but never can bring myself to commit to giving up a Saturday to have it. I end up taking it to Good Will.
    I am almost finished reading Maine Farm and found out today that the farm in question abutts the farm of a friend of mine whose farm also abutts Four Season Farm.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  18. Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie on February 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I’m a big purger, but the other people I live w/ don’t agree w/ that philosophy most days. That said, I HAVE gotten rid of SOME things on occasion that would have come in handy years later. But then the next question is, how long is too long? :)

    Reply to Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie's comment

  19. BJ on January 2, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I would LOVE to do a joint yard sale with you this summer…or maybe during Common Ground Fair weekend? We have TONS of traffic then…let me know.

    Reply to BJ's comment

    • Susy on January 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Sure thing!

      Reply to Susy's comment

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Reading & Watching

Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Read previous post:
The Best Things in Life are Free

You've no doubt heard the quote, "The best things in life are Free". I find this to be quite true,...