In Which I Get Rid of Excess, Then Buy a Lot

For the last few months, my women’s Bible study has been studying Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  In the book, Jen realizes that her “typical American life” is full of excess and decides to try a 7 month experiment to try to live a more simple, focused life.

Each month, she targets an area of excess (food! Stress! Media! Possessions! Clothing! Waste! Spending!) and makes sacrificial lifestyle changes in order to rebalance and gain proper perspective in those areas.

Naturally, our Bible study couldn’t just READ a book like this—we wanted to experiment along with her.

As part of our experiment, we decided to go through our homes, collect excessive items, host a yard sale, and donate the proceeds to a local nonprofit.

We found out that a local church was hosting a “giant parking lot sale,” where you could rent a parking spot (or 2! Or 3!) to sell your wares.  So we booked a few spots, dug through our homes, priced our items, and got ready for a fun Saturday morning.

I pulled up to the church at 7:15 am to see my friends hard at work.  Maegen had already pitched our beach tent (“it adds legitimacy” she said.)  Leah was going through our clothing with the authority of a buyer for Saks, deciding which pieces should be displayed on the clothing rack and which should be relegated to our tables.  Beth and Charmel were unloading their cars, setting up card tables, and offering us bagels and coffee.  Alison had contributed a jogging stroller that she now wanted back.  Arwen was defiantly wearing an apron advertising OUR church, which is located down the street from the host church.

These are my friends.

As we organized one another’s excess, conversations like these occurred:

“Are you really done with this purse?”
“Um, yeah, that’s why I brought it to our yard sale.”  
“Oh, well, can I have it?”

“I was going to donate this a while ago, but it was too cute to just give away to the homeless.” 

“This is totally Zoe’s color! Take it!” 

“I think I’m going to take those sheets back for my au pair.”
“You have an au pair?”
“No, but I will if I have a third child.”
“Are you having a third child?”
“I’m on the fence.”

By 7:45, the early birds were already circling our tent and tables, asking questions like, “does that foosball table have a ball?” and “how much for that tricycle? Would you take less?” while we tried to finish staging our items.

I was irritated by their predatory behavior until I looked at the parking spot to our right and saw a woman pulling a Little Tikes child’s double easel out of her car.

I dropped the shirt I was folding and ran.

“How much for the easel? $3, like that sticker says?” I asked, pointing to an old yard sale sticker that clearly was not her handiwork.

She sighed. “Oh, is that still on there? Okay, $3.”

“DONE!!!” I said, hauling the easel back to the tent we were attempting to organize and adding a big sign, “SARAH’S.  DO NOT SELL.”

Little Tikes Easel

(This is what I am talking about, in case you are picturing an actual
artist’s easel like David was when I excitedly texted him about my purchase. Also,
please tell me what yard sale I need to hit up to get those fantastically loud green
overalls for Zoe.  I’m there.)

It was 7:45 on the morning of our “rid the excess” sale and I had already added a board book, two shirts, and two outfits for Zoe from my friend’s wares.  Now, I had added an easel.

Still, I consoled myself, I was still ahead on the “donated vs added” items count.  

The woman walked back over.  “Here, this goes with it!” she said, giving me a bag of crayons, chalk, and an eraser.


And so it continued.  One of the parking spot vendors had the cutest baby girl dresses.  Obviously, Zoe needed 5.  Another featured a giant box of Melissa & Doug blocks for $1.  It would be stupid NOT to buy those!

All in all, I wound up leaving our “rid the excess” sale with a fuller car than when I drove there (although to be fair, the easel and blocks take up a lot more car space than things like a Magic Bullet and clothes.)

I don’t feel bad though.  I added things for our new stage of life and got rid of things from older stages of life—some of them, things that hurt a bit to get rid of (beautiful work clothes I just do not use anymore and that might be more useful to someone else in this stage of life,) and others, things I happily gave away (McKay and Kenny, join with me in celebrating that David has finally parted with his “Alaska” ringer t-shirt.  Unsurprisingly, it did not sell.)

Sure, it may not have been the best exercise in reducing possessions for me (or the group member who sent a crowing list of her swaps and purchases to the group two hours after the yard sale—although she remains anonymous here, you may call her “a woman after my own heart.”)

But who cares? We had a blast, raised $228.30 for an awesome organization, donated the leftover items to a homeless shelter and Dress for Success, and de-cluttered our homes (some of us may have very quickly re-cluttered, but at least we’re not piling new stuff on top of old stuff, Hoarders style!)

Also, we’ve decided to do an annual fundraiser of some kind now that we understand our collective power!

Our tentSetting up

Thanks to all my Bible study girls for such a FUN morning and fun memories!

5 thoughts on “In Which I Get Rid of Excess, Then Buy a Lot

  1. Hey, Sarah! This is Mel from Stroller Strides. I’ve been a quiet (aka stalker) reader until now. 🙂 I just wanted to tell you that I love your writing style and this post had me laughing out loud! Looking forward to many more future posts and catching up on the older ones. 🙂

  2. I love this idea! I would love to do an annual fundraiser/sale like you and your friends did. Way to go!

    I read 7 last year and it is what got me recycling. Now I am a recycle freak, pulling anything and everything out of regular trash that I know needs to go in the recycle bin.

  3. I read that book about 18 months ago and really loved it. I think it is awesome that your study group put the readings into action! And I love the honestly in purging and purchasing. 🙂

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