One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” –Unknown

It’s that time of year again. And, despite all that 2020 has had taken away in its first half, the beloved garage sale did not fall prey to our new culture of COVID. There may be a few changes, and requests to distance and wear masks, but the all-American garage sale is back.

Suzanne and I are thrilled.

Garage sales were a distant reality when we were growing up. For starters, we lived in a rural area outside of a small Kansas town. And—perhaps most importantly, it seems that when we were kids, people didn’t consume material goods only to sell them a short time later in a garage sale. Most families—ours included—bought only what they needed, and used it until it was no longer able to be used. When we outgrew clothes, they were passed down to the next kid, or perhaps given away to someone else’s kids.

Suzanne reminisced about the first garage sale she ever went to. She was ten years old at most, and we were in Wichita visiting our grandparents. There was a garage sale across the street from them, and she walked over with Mom and our younger brother.

“The idea of shopping in someone else’s driveway was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I thought ‘why don’t more people do this?’”  she recalled. “And then it was probably at least ten or fifteen years before I went to another one.”   She has loved them ever since.


There are almost three times more storage facilities in America than there are McDonald’s restaurants.   We have become a culture of “stuff,” as evidenced by our need to store it outside our homes. Storage facilities have boomed since 2011, per U.S. Census data regarding private construction spending. In 2011, $241 million was spent on mini-storage facility construction. In 2018, that number had increased to nearly $5 billion. Americans need more space for their stuff.

There is my trivia for this post. My hope is that it helps you understand the surge in the “stuff” that shows up in garage sales. Suzanne and I aren’t complaining, it provides the basis for one of our favorite summer pastimes.

Gail is not a garage sale-er. She does enjoy estate sales; she even has the power to create one when there was not one planned. I’ll explain.

Perhaps you remember that she purchased “Lola,” a 1974 Chevy Nova from the family of a dear woman named Lola, who had moved to the nursing home in her small town. She treated herself to this gem as an early 60th birthday gift.


As Gail does with people she gets to know, she got to know Lola’s family quite well. So, when Lola passed away several months ago, Gail was in touch with her son, who was making arrangements to clear out his mother’s house and eventually sell it and her remaining possessions. Gail, in her usual style, stepped in and offered to take a few things off his hands. What started as a few small transactions became a one-woman estate sale.


The fixtures and the furniture were too much for Gail to pass up.


The retro kitchen speaks for itself.

On top of many treasures that Lola’s son sold to her, Lola’s house is now hers as well.



It may become a vacation getaway, a hunting lodge, a weekend rental, or all the above. It may become a hangout for Gail. With Gail, all things are possible.   And these are all good things.


Suzanne and I had a grand plan for our Saturday morning garage sales. The small town of Lindsborg, Kansas is just 30 minutes from my home, and this “Little Sweden” community was hosting its annual community-wide garage sale event.


We were in.

We arrived early, and I found my greatest treasure of the day at the very first sale. It seemingly jumped off the table into my hands as I walked up the driveway.


As a bonus, we saw someone we knew at the first sale. We even got to see her again at another garage sale later in the morning.


Lucy was Gail’s area supervisor when she managed the Osborne Pizza Hut.  Suzanne worked there, too, so she knew her then as well.  Now retired, she lives in Lindsborg and she enjoys her time off doing whatever she pleases, including going to garage sales, and spending time with her granddaughter, Chloe.


If this picture looks familiar, that’s because Lucy made the four-hour trip to Gail’s birthday party in February, shortly before the COVID shut-down. Gail makes friends even with her own boss, which likely doesn’t surprise you, if you know Gail.



We found Lucy for the second time in this beautiful outdoor haven, in the courtyard of a local museum, dedicated to a local artist.  I found a few other treasures there, too.


He sculpted this statue of our favorite saint–Mom’s too, Saint Francis.

Suzanne’s favorite find of the day cost her an entire quarter:


This picture was the second runner-up:


The town is a beautiful burg, with unparalleled Swedish—and American—charm.


If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend you do.


As noon approached, the sales dwindled, and we had plans to scoot on down the road to Hutchinson, where Suzanne needed to pick up a small dresser she had purchased at a garage sale when nearby Inman had their city-wide sales. She went with a friend, and left it at her house. After a delicious lunch and the dresser pick-up, we got to go to my favorite store:


It had been over five months, much too long.

We’re already jonesing for the next round of sales. Even though Suzanne is the minimalist, she enjoys finding new treasures when they feel just right. Unlike her sisters, she wants to find only a few things, and she is satisfied.

I typically overdo it, and send a few things to my give-away pile as soon as I get home. But that’s part of the thrill for me, the thrill of the find. Which likely explains why I love to shop at my favorite store pictured above.

I just wish I wasn’t thrilled by so many treasures, and so does my husband. But he knows me well enough to know what brings me small measures of joy, and he knows I will pass them on in due time.

Life is full of treasures, and I don’t mean just at garage sales. Greater than that, there are many joys to take from life, many treasures that can’t be purchased at a garage sale or any store.

Whatever it takes, I hope you search for and find the meaningful treasures in your life. You’ll know them by the thrill of the find.







Some traditions are not meant to be carried on forever.  If, perhaps, they bring you more sadness than joy, you should consider leaving them behind.  Maybe, though, you could change them up a bit, and make something new out of the old, something happy out of the sad; something that brings you joy where it once made you blue.


Before Suzanne moved to my small city, she was nearly equidistant between here and Grand Island ,Nebraska.  Mom and Dad lived in the same small town she did; Gail lived about 2 ½ hours west of them where she still lives.

Shopping trips were split nearly evenly between the two; sometimes Suzanne and Mom would travel here, sometimes they would head north.  As I write this, I realize that maybe they went north more than they headed south toward me.  Perhaps Grand Island held more shopping charm than my small city, and I understand why.   I went along sometimes too.  When I could swing it, I would make the trip to their small town, and then we would drive further north from there.  Once or twice perhaps, Gail was able to make the even longer trip and join us too.  Most of the time, however, it was Suzanne and Mom who took this little trip.  After Mom and Dad died, it was too painful for a long time for Suzanne to return, so I didn’t go either.

We liked to take Mom here as a birthday trip.  Our last trip together was for her 71st birthday in January, just six weeks before they died in March.

If you are a Kansas native like we are, or perhaps from another Midwestern state, you already get it.  If not, perhaps we need to paint you a picture, an image that will prove to you that Midwest farmer’s daughters know how to create an adventure in what may appear to be land that lacks virtue, plains that may not look so great.  There is a reason why we are called the ‘plains,’ but there are many reasons why we are also called “The Great Plains.”

Kansas sunrises and sunsets are unquestionably several of our greatest virtues.



Suzanne and I took a little trip north Saturday, a trip to commemorate all those trips we used to take with Mom.  Gail already had five or six plates scheduled to be spinning in the air for Saturday, so we had to soldier on without her.  Suzanne and I went last year to go Christmas shopping, deciding to revive an old tradition.   It was time to leave the pain behind, and make new memories.

So we did.

I was inside shopping during the Nebraska sunset Saturday night, but I’m sure it had the potential to rival those in Kansas.

I’ll bet the Nebraska sunrise was beautiful, too, but I after all the fun we had last night, I didn’t get up early enough to see it.

I did get a few shots of  the scenery on the way there.




And just in case you are thinking this Midwest beauty is not so beautiful after all, take a look at the fortune inside my cookie after our Chinese buffet dinner:


It’s all in how you look at it.  The beauty is always there if you choose to see it.


Last year at this time, Suzanne was preparing to move to my small city.  She thought, perhaps, she may never come back here again since she was moving further south.

She was wrong.

Because the route on the way here last year and the way home went through her small town, we also drove by the sign that leads you to the geographic center of the United States.  After all those trips driving past it, we decided it was time to actually stop.



I’m so glad we did, because we didn’t take that route this year.

We have a long tradition of making a grand entrance into Nebraska.  Sometimes it’s just a honk and wave, sometimes it’s a stop.  One year, we actually came to a complete stop on the highway at the state line–after checking to make sure there was no traffic behind us of course, squealing out and perhaps laying a little rubber as we honked.

This year, we pulled over.



After a full day of shopping–apparently we were really, really good this year, because Santa got us each a few goodies too–we enjoyed dinner.  Our dessert tasted exactly like one Mom used to make, so that made it taste even better.


Then, we checked into our room.  This picture of an old tractor almost identical to one our dad had and treasured greeted us at our door.


That made our hotel room even more perfect.

And, after fully checking them out, we decided–in our very own Goldilocks style, that our beds were just right.



We tested the beds last year too, and decided we would make it a new tradition.


The holiday season is upon us.  Traditions abound; we know the drills and we carry them out, mostly without thinking much about it.  For better or worse, our holiday memories are rooted largely in these traditions.

Traditions anchor us, give us stability and bring back good memories.

Except when they don’t.

Sometimes, traditions have lived beyond their natural lives.  Sometimes, they no longer serve us with tidings of comfort and joy.  Sometimes, it’s time to think about leaving them behind; changing them up.

Sometimes, like rules, traditions can be bent or even broken without anyone suffering.  Sometimes, it won’t hurt a soul to change these traditions, just like it doesn’t hurt to bend the rules.  Sometimes, there is more fun to be had when things are changed up.

Sometimes, however, traditions serve as a lifeboat for some people, but not for others involved in the same traditions.  Referring once again to the 70’s song, I will reiterate a point that is so often unrecognized:  “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”   We all see things differently.

However, if you are the one who wants to rock the boat, just be aware that you may also be the one treading water in the end.

I consider myself a mover and somewhat of a shaker; I don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo if I think there is a better way.  Which is why I saved this page from one of my daily calendars the other day:


Don’t hesitate to consider that there may indeed be another way; perhaps a better way.


Sometimes, out of necessity, traditions must be changed.  The first Christmas after Mom and Dad died, my siblings and I were faced with a decision.  Our tradition had been to spend a day at Mom and Dad’s house with them, with all of our families.  Now they were gone, and their house was gone.  We had to make changes.   Now, it was even more important now for us to remain close as siblings, and spending a day together around Christmas was a priority for us.

My house was geographically in the middle for most of us.  We had the location, the space and the desire,   so my house it was.  For the last nine years, we have met with our families for a day of family, festiveness, food and fun.  This year, however, we are changing it up.

Our younger brother and his wife will be the new hosts.  On December 23rd, we will meet at their house near our family farm and it will be wonderful.  His birthday is Christmas Eve, and one tradition we will continue to observe–no matter where we meet–will be to observe his birthday.  Mom always made sure to observe it, so we will carry that on.


My holiday wish for you is to find peace and joy, no matter where or how.  If your old traditions bring you that, keep them going.  If they bring you more sadness than joy, consider changing them.  Start by simply considering it.  There may be a better way.


And next time you find yourself in a hotel room, don’t hesitate to test the beds like we did. The rules were broken, no one was hurt, no harm was done and a new, fun and wonderful tradition was begun.






In August, we said goodbye to our college kids in Time For Letting Go:  Part One.  I called it Part One because I was already saying another goodbye and planning Part Two in my mind for a future post.

Or perhaps instead of saying “another goodbye,” I should say I was saying “other goodbyes;” plural vs. singular.

Goodbyes that turned out to be joyous releases, not sad ones.  Goodbyes that were probably meant to be said a long time ago.

On August 1st, I accepted a challenge Gail posed to me long ago, a challenge that I didn’t accept then, but decided to accept now.  She and I both decided to accept it now.

Suzanne didn’t need to accept it, probably couldn’t accept it.  She didn’t have 497 material objects she could part with.  Gail and I did—and then some.  Suzanne was already living bare-bones, and Gail and I needed to take a cue from her.

Recall in Lessons From the Sea Creatures—And My Sister, that I packed way too much stuff for the Florida trip with Suzanne and her daughter Julia in July.  Recall that I was lugging my way-too-heavy carry-on bag through the airport while Suzanne and Julia breezed down the airport corridors en route to our gates as weightless as feathers.   Recall that (at least) three kind strangers rushed to catch up with me to give me back the things they picked up that had fallen out.

Recall that I look up to Suzanne in many ways, one of them is because she is a minimalist.

On August 1st, I got rid of one thing.  On August 2nd, I got rid of two things.  On August 3rd, I got rid of three things.  You get the idea.  By the end of August, I should have been on schedule to get rid of 497 things.

I gave them away, threw them away, sold them or recycled them.  I gifted some, I returned some recent purchases, and I donated some.

By mid-August, I stopped counting.  And I kept going.  It felt too good to stop.

Big things like the broken wicker basket.  Little things like a stray golf tee.  Pairs of things like socks—they counted only as one.

Extra things like coffee mugs.  Ugly things like the totem pole that sat in the corner of my room for years.  Pretty things like the scarf that my friend liked more than I did, so I gave it to her.  Useful things like pens—I simply had too many.  Useless things like an old phone charger.

Bags of things like clothes that I wore perhaps once a year—perhaps 30 pieces of clothing or so.  My delightful step-daughter-in-law Lindsay is a willing recipient of many of my cast-offs; she and I have roughly the same size and same tastes.  Either I am hip and cool, or she is mature and matronly in her tastes.  Or maybe I should meet in the middle and call us both classy.  Either way, we like many of the same styles and same brands, so we are a good clothes-swapping pair of women.

Soon, perhaps even by the time I finish writing this post, she will be able to wear most of her old wardrobe again—as well as the new ones, because she is due to deliver our second grandchild any moment.

We are so fortunate to be able to share their lives in such close proximity, just 100 miles down road.   Now back to business.

Unbeknownst to Suzanne, and also in honor of Suzanne, Gail and I made a pact that we would indeed purge at least 497 things.  We did this primarily to get rid of stuff, junk, crap—whatever, but also to honor her minimalism.  We both look up to her—the little sister—in this respect, as well as many others.  We want to honor her because she is honorable in many ways.  We thank her for her good example to her older sisters, who, at least in this manner, are not wiser.

I must make it abundantly clear that it is not in my nature to be a minimalist, nor is that the effect I am trying to achieve.  I must be honest to all of you in saying that this was really hard for me—at least at first.  And, I must be honest in saying that—sigh—this really hasn’t made a dent.  Just ask my husband.

But I continue.

I purged 36 books, and books are next in line in importance to my family in my heart.  That was hard. I parted with a few CDs too; they are next in line after the books.


I should have buckled up these bags of books in the back seat–they are precious cargo, just like my children.  They made it to the thrift store safely.

And the clothes.  What was too hokey for Lindsay, I needed to realize may have been too hokey for me as well.   Someone, perhaps, will like them.  That vest that I looked at several months ago and thought I can never let that go, today became that is the ugliest vest I have ever seen. 

Shoes—I don’t need all those shoes.  I refuse to tell you how many pairs I had/still have, but I have parted with five pair.


Most of my home-health patients are relatively short-term; 1-2 months tops.  Some, however, I keep for a longer term due to various factors.  One such delightful patient has an equally delightful wife—we’ll call them James and Lucy—whom I’ve gotten to know quite well with frequent visits since early this year. We chat throughout our sessions, and I told them about this challenge.  Lucy thought it sounded like a good idea, thought about it for a few days, then took off like wildfire with it.  She told her sister about it too, and she was on board.

Every visit, we would discuss the day of the month, how many things we should have ridded ourselves of and how we likely exceeded that number.  She kept me motivated, and I thank her for that.  She, too, stopped counting, finished out the month, and kept going.  Their home already appeared to belong to minimalists, but she said the basement was full.  It was always neat, tidy and clean.  I thanked her for that too—I told her I would eat off her carpet, and I meant it.  I doubted she had that much stuff to get rid of, but she assured me that directly below us was a basement full of stuff, waiting to be purged.

I could write a book about all the homes I have been in during my career in home health therapy—perhaps 300 or so.  I have seen everything from minimal and tidy, to full-on hoarding.  Most are somewhere between.  Most are comfortable and welcoming, some are scary.  In the scariest home, I came home and threw my clothes away.  That’s one way to get rid of stuff.


My parents moved off the farm in 2000 into a small house in town.  They got rid of everything except the bare essentials, and special things from us.  That was a gift to us, because when it was time to clean out their house, it was still hard, but as simple as it could possibly be.  I will be forever grateful to them for that.

I come home from some home visits and feel motivated to get rid of more stuff.  I see what I don’t want to become; what I don’t want to leave my children with.

I saw James and Lucy today, and Lucy continues to inspire me to get rid of more.  “It’s time for the season to change.  Time to purge more stuff.”

Thank you James and Lucy.  You both inspire me.


Speaking of books, I did write one several years ago.  I kept all the first drafts in print:  corrected, edited, trashed, changed or otherwise.  I thought that someday, it would be interesting to re-read them to see just how much I’ve grown as a writer.


Why, I now asked myself, would I plan to bring myself down like that in the future?  Why would I want to grimace at my novice writing skills, and my obvious mistakes?  I wouldn’t, I decided, so I got rid of the whole box (it only counted as one thing).  Now, the (almost) error-free version is available on Amazon, if you would like to check it out.



Jettison: to throw or drop something from an aircraft or ship; to throw away as no longer useful.

I included this word and definition in Lessons from the Sea Creatures—and My Sister, and proceeded to put in writing that I was committing to jettisoning some of my possessions at home.  I said that I was trying to recognize some of the patterns in my brain that lead me to repeat futile actions, such as accumulating more stuff.

Since I try very hard to be a woman of my word, and because I put it in print for the world to see, I kept my word.  I went home from that trip in late July and began the quest on August 1st.  I haven’t stopped.

Just today, I have jettisoned the following items from my home:

*the stinky lotion in the pretty bottle

*the paisley curtain I will never use

*2 aprons–I have several others

*4 stained and/or torn tea towels.  I sent them to the rag box in the shop.  That counts.

*the sponge in the shower—I thought it was his; he thought it was mine

*2 beautiful pieces of blue glassware—I offered them to my neighbor because she likes blue more than I do.  She can pass them on if she doesn’t want them.

*a meaningless refrigerator magnet—I have plenty of others

Gail was busy today too.  She made two piles, and donated them to her local thrift store:





You get the idea.  Large or small, new or old, useless or useful, these things needed to leave my home, and Gail’s too.

Greater than that, the act of purging keeps my brain thinking in that direction.  It keeps refreshing my eyes to look at possessions with this question in mind:  Do I really need that?

I follow two guidelines, one provided by each sister:

1:  From Suzanne, because she recently experienced a move:  If I were moving, would I take it along?

2:  From a plaque on the wall in Camp Gail:  It must make me feel good.


This means that, even if it was a gift from Aunt Madge or my friend Sally, I don’t have to keep it if it doesn’t bring good vibes.  Or even a gift from Gail or Suzanne.  We made a pact that it’s okay to pass it on if it’s time.  Or, if I spent too much money on those jeans, but they aren’t comfortable, they’re history.



Less is more, and less is also less.  In this case, less is good.  Not only does my brain look for more material things to lighten its load, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I possess other non-material things I don’t need to hang on to.  This is how my brain works, and if you are open to it, yours just might too:

Getting rid of that old heavy coat can make you realize that you don’t need to keep that heavy grudge either.  Perhaps they didn’t even know they hurt you.

Letting go of that ugly sweater can dismiss that ugly regret too.  Neither of them are serving a purpose anymore, if they ever did.

Those worn-out shoes served their purpose too, as did that worn-out friendship.  Like shoes, not all friendships are supposed to last forever anyway.

Expired mayonnaise will make you feel about as good as that expired romance.  Get rid of them both.  I had a few in my single years; trust me on this one.



Suzanne, unaware that Gail and I were conducting an ongoing purge in her honor, continues to purge useless stuff.  She and I talked about having a garage sale, but never fully committed.  She had a Friday off work several weeks ago, and I kept the day open just in case we decided to throw our stuff together and have garage sale at the last moment.

Knowing the life is short secret, we opted instead to take a field trip one hour south to Hutchinson, Kansas, home of a famous salt mine that stores Hollywood memorabilia.  Below, like a good Kansas Girl, Suzanne is posing next to Dorothy II from the movie Twister.  Along with many other props from many other movies–including some original movies reels, it is stored there for dry, safe keeping.



We lunched at our favorite Mexican Restaurant, and shopped at my favorite store:  TJ Maxx.  Yes, I did bring home more stuff, but less than I would have, had I not undertaken this effort.  I had several things in my cart that didn’t pass the would you take this with you if you moved/does it bring me good vibes test, so I put them back.  Having Suzanne there was a good reminder to ask myself that question.  Seeing her empty cart helped too. Unbeknownst to her, she was passively policing my purchases, and I thank her for that.

I know myself well enough to know that, at least not at this point in my life, I won’t completely give up on bringing more stuff in my house.  Whether it is from a garage sale or TJ Maxx, there are certain things I like to buy.  I am more careful now when I make that decision, and I am bringing home less, which is actually more.  I am more careful now when I consider the usefulness of things in my home.

We took our potential garage sale stuff and gave it to a charitable thrift store.  Hopefully, someone else will find treasures in everything we jettisoned.


November 1st is several days from today.  Consider giving up one thing.  Then, on November 2nd, give up two things.  On November 3rd

Thank you Suzanne for your inspiration, and to Gail for challenging me and joining me as well.  Thanks also to Lucy—and her sister—for keeping me motivated to continue. 

Thanks also to my minimalist husband Mark; he has infinite patience with me and my stuff.