SALE is my favorite four letter word. My parents were raised during the Great Depression and teenagers during World War 2 so I often heard about rationing and how people made due with what …
Source: Hunting the S-A-L-E
SALE is my favorite four letter word. My parents were raised during the Great Depression and teenagers during World War 2 so I often heard about rationing and how people made due with what …
Source: Hunting the S-A-L-E
SALE is my favorite four letter word. My parents were raised during the Great Depression and teenagers during World War 2 so I often heard about rationing and how people made due with what they had. They rarely bought something new, so my parents raised us with that mindset as well. If it’s broken then you fix it…you don’t throw it away and buy a new one. We were up-cycling before up-cycling became trendy!
I learned from a young age that yard sales, garage sales and estate sales were places to find incredible deals. Antiques were the main objective for my mom, so I looked for things with markings like Made in Occupied Japan, Limoges, 925 (the silver stamp), and other unusual symbols which could be worth more than the 25 cent sticker on them. I remember my mom found a small table cart with sides that folded down. It looked just like a mini version of our dining room table so mom bargained it down to $15. When we got it home, I noticed a small drawer in the back of the cart and opened it to find 6 beautiful dipping bowls detailed with gold leaf and marked Made in Occupied Japan. Jackpot!
My sister Caroline has been the most successful in finding amazing pieces. She bought the most hideous $10 lamps I’ve ever seen, and found out later they were worth $150! When I was moving into my first college apartment, Caroline gave me a box of glassware she picked up at a garage sale for $5 and a rug she found on the side of the road for free. Later when I moved out of that apartment I sold the glassware for $15 and the free rug for $20. A few years ago I bought an antique breakfront from a friend for $400. When I moved and realized it was out of place in my new apartment I sold it on Craigslist for $600!
My friend Betsy likes to say that I’m thrifty, but I really hate that word. It sounds like I’m cheap, which I’m not. I just love finding a deal. It’s like a game figuring out how much can be saved. I learned early on that many things can be negotiated, and not just at yard sales.
Many stores markup items three or many more times from their wholesale prices. So when you see a sale item, the store is still making a huge margin. Did you know that mattresses are marked up almost 45% (Tempurpedic is the highest with a 60-70% markup!). And furniture generally has an 80% markup?! Seriously negotiate when buying these things!
My cable TV, telephone, internet and home security system are all bundled together. A few months ago the bill had creeped up to $270 a month! So I called the cable company and asked for their RETENTION DEPARTMENT — they are the people who want to keep their customers, and keep them happy. I told the nice lady that I received an offer from one of their competitors for about $100 less a month (I really wasn’t planning on switching since it’s such a pain in the ass). Within a few minutes of negotiating and looking into what I no longer needed, my bill had dropped to $212. A few weeks later the cable company had merged to become another company, I contacted them again and found out my new pricing was now $187! They’re still making money since cable TV programming is marked up about 600%.
The great thing about the internet is the transparency it provides in finding all of this stuff out. Here are just a few items I found and their astronomical mark ups:
They even get you when you’re dead. Caskets are marked up a whopping 350% which could make anyone flatline!
I understand the need to markup items — rent, labor, utilities and other costs must be paid in order to cover your expenses. But 6000% for text messages is truly fleecing the consumer.
Now when I shop, I truly see the high costs in everything. This is why I LOVE shopping at The Dollar Tree and 99 Cent Only stores. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking ‘oh it’s just leftover crap’…but it’s not. Here’s what I buy at these stores:
Finding bargains, sales and deals isn’t difficult, you just have to look for them. When I was a kid my mom would say to look for the big S-A-L-E sign as soon as you walk into a store. I do this everywhere I go…and it has saved me tons of money. Once you do it enough, it becomes a habit. You become the hunter and no longer are the prey.
I was flipping through 200 channels with nothing to interest me when I decided to watch 30 ROCK on Netflix, mainly because it was the last smart and funny comedy on television. After an episode or five, I started noticing old things like flip phones, tube TV’s and VHS tapes. It was odd because I thought this was a recent show, then I checked the credits and was shocked to see 30 ROCK began in 2006.
WHERE DID THE LAST TEN YEARS GO?!
Over the past few months I’ve been feeling like time has been moving at warp speed. Think Indy 500 fast. I’m gobsmacked that we’re half way through October when New Years Eve feels like it was just a few weeks ago, and not approaching in just a few weeks! I also feel good that I utilized the word gobsmacked…it’s terribly underused. Back to the fleeting passage of time…
I never thought I would get to the age where I would say “time flies” but I am truly beginning to think that we’re on some interplanetary cocaine rocket. When I was a kid, my mom told me that life was like an hourglass — at the beginning the sand slowly trickles down, but then somewhere in the middle the sand starts to zip through the glass. I AM NOW AT THE HOUR WHERE THE SAND IS SPEEDING DOWN AND IT’S FREAKING ME OUT!
I’ve been trying to pinpoint the reason for this hasty movement and I keep coming back to one thing. Technology.
We are constantly looking at our smart phones, tablets and computers waiting for the next email, text, blog post (yeah, I know it’s been a while), and cute cat video. We keep looking forward and never stop to take in the moment we’re experiencing now. Technology is the biggest time suck of our lives. Though wasn’t it supposed to free time up for us?
Surely we can put down our phones, especially when we’re dining. Nothing bothers me more than seeing a table full of people looking at their phones and not speaking with each other. Let’s take a selfie of us having an awesome time then give me a few minutes while I post it on all of my social media platforms and ignore you. What has happened to us as a society? We’ve become glazed over anti-social imbeciles.
I went out for a walk today and saw several people staring at their phones. So when I got home I Googled “how many people die while walking and texting.” Here’s what it said in a recent USA TODAY article: A 10-percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of last year – the largest year-to-year increase in such deaths in four decades – may well be fueled by America’s increasing distraction with mobile devices.
Technology kills. Stop and smell the roses before someone has to place them on top of your casket because you JUST HAD to read that emoji filled text while crossing 47th St!
Time is fleeting. You especially realize this when someone you love has died. You wish for more moments with them. If you’re lucky you can hold onto a lot of wonderful memories but even then you wonder why you couldn’t have had more. Instead you were rushing from one place to another trying to cram as much in as possible to say I did this or did that on Facebook today.
Then there’s the time between now and Nov 8…Election Day. Why does that time move at a glacial pace? I can’t wait until it’s over. It can’t come soon enough! But I’ll save that rant for another time in a future blog post…
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I realize as I exit the taxi that my large spinner bag has a flat. I’m bummed that it’s come to the end of the road for the Samsonite but know that it’s been a tough friend to me as it travelled s…
I realize as I exit the taxi that my large spinner bag has a flat. I’m bummed that it’s come to the end of the road for the Samsonite but know that it’s been a tough friend to me as it travelled several times around the globe. I drag it through Nassau International Airport and manage to get it to the check-in counter. Now it’s someone else’s problem until I reach LA.
Sitting by the gate I peer out the window to see the conveyer belt take the bag up into the underbelly of the plane. It gets on first, I assume because it needs some special assistance. Poor baby…at least it’s being treated well and went on vacation before it is sent to the luggage dump.
This blue bag had seen Paris, Bali, New York, London and Hawaii along with many other destinations. I named him Spin, because he was obviously a spinner. Now, he is officially Curt, for his short bursts of stop and go, well, curtness. He was purchased where I get all of my bags…Tuesday Morning, but it was actually a Wednesday afternoon on my lunch hour when I first spotted him. He was just the right size and a nice shade of dark blue. Not black like all of the other bags, yet not that obnoxious royal blue that you see wheeling around the airport craving attention.
I once bought a 5 piece Samsonite set at Macy’s. Apparently it was a deal for $600. I booked a flight and checked the large piece through to JFK. Waiting at the gate, I was hoping for an upgrade so when my name was called I excitedly made my way up to the desk smiling. A stern agent greeted me with a statement “your checked bag was found with a bullet inside it.” Dumfounded I asked if it had been shot.
“No, it had a bullet in one of the zippered compartments.” Then she rattled on about how firearms and ammunition are not allowed on planes. I know, I protested as I said it wasn’t mine and I don’t own any weapons or ammunition of any kind. My face flushed. She looked at me as though I was Annie Oakley and there was nothing more for me to refute. There was no upgrade for me and I had to slink back to row 33 unable to comprehend how a bullet made it’s way into my bag. Was there someone walking around Macy’s thinking, ‘oh let me fuck up someone’s trip by placing a bullet inside their luggage’?
I only have one piece left from that set and Mable is starting to show her age. She’s a carry-on roller bag with a ton of space. I get stopped periodically asking where I got it, but they don’t make Mable anymore. She’s covered more ground than any of my bags and she plays defense really well. Outside of the US, especially in Europe I find that people like to stand very close to one another to the point of breathing on me. I hate it. They invade my personal space and they seem unaware they’re even doing it. I like my American wide open space so Mable helps me immeasurably. As I stand in line (or is it On line? or the Queue?), I get about two feet from the person in front of me and stop, meanwhile Mable is stretched out at least three feet behind me. She is protecting my personal space. A few people have kicked her (accidentally of course) or almost tripped because they see me so FAR, FAR away from them. Mable is my bodyguard and I hope she can roll along for a few more years.
After the $600 Samsonite bullet set I learned never to buy expensive baggage. When you travel thousands of miles each year, pretty luggage is going to become ugly very quickly. I have a cute carry-on set — Longchamps in powder blue with a brown leather trim. It was a gift and it has a 21” carry-on with a small bag that slips around the handle on top. It’s so super cute that flight attendants compliment me on the set! Or at least it was super cute. I once got on a small plane where the larger piece had to be checked at the gate. I landed in Phoenix and waited in the jetway for the elegant Ava to be brought up from the bowls of the plane. When she was placed in front of me I could hardly recognize her, I thought she’d gone on a bender. She was scuffed and stained. Her glamour had faded. She was now Charlize Theron in Monster.
I learned a long time ago never to buy branded bags. You know the ones — TUMI, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc…There was a saying I heard when I was a kid, “handsome is as handsome does.” Well the named, pretty luggage rarely does much except cause trouble. A woman I once knew had a large TUMI bag that she took on a 4 day trip to Cabo San Lucas. This bag came up to my waist and could accommodate at least two large American sized children. She was going away for FOUR DAYS, not FOURTEEN! So she emptied her closet inside Barbie, including jewelry (yes, jewelry…that’s another story, I just can’t) and checked it to Mexico. Barbie was never seen or heard from again. No ransom, nothing. All the woman got was $400 from the airline and a few neon t-shirts from Cabo.
The label thing really irks me. Companies pay millions of dollars each year advertising their brand on billboards, TV, radio, the web and in magazines and newspapers, yet someone will spend an exorbitant amount of money on an item emblazoned with LVLVLVLVLVLVLV all over it. YOU ARE ADVERTISING FOR A BRAND, YET YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT!!!! Shouldn’t they be paying you??? This drives me bonkers. I sat on my connecting flight in Miami and watched as Calvin Klein, T-Mobile and Nike all walked past me. Did the guy wearing the T-Mobile shirt really have nothing else to wear? He couldn’t find a nice button down in his closet? Or is he heading home and that’s what he actually packed for the trip? I admit to having a promotional item or two, but I can’t wear a t-shirt or carry bags advertising in such a garish way.
My black backpack has a small Spider-Man head on it. It’s understated, not overpowering and it’s a utilitarian piece I have come to rely on with its deep zippered compartments and a padded gut for my laptop. When my friend and former colleague Ann-Elizabeth, who has impeccable taste, had chosen it for a promo item, I knew I had to have Spidey. Periodically a true geek will come up to me grinning with white spit around the corners of his mouth to tell me he likes my bag. At least he had the courage to speak to a girl I think to myself as I thank him.
I also noticed on this trip, where I was on four different planes and in three airports that there are an awful lot of people walking through the terminals with their pillows. Not the travel neck pillow, but the actual pillow from their beds. I won’t even get into the disgust factor of placing your pillow on a plane and the God awful germs that will goose step into the stuffing. My skin crawls thinking about it as it is placed on the conveyor belt in the security check. No, for me it’s the absolute WASTE of bringing something on board with you. Remember, you get one small bag and one “personal” item to carry-on. Why on earth would you choose a pillow?! Especially one that you should never use again!!!
With Spidey on my back and Mable protecting me, I’ve got everything I need, including a neck pillow. Computer, iPad, phone, Kindle, sweatshirt, make-up, pens, papers, passport, protein bar, magazines, glasses (reading and sun), you name it, I got it. I can’ t imagine giving Spidey up for a germ ridden pillow!
The baggage we carry around says a lot about us. Sometimes we hold onto it for too long, even when it doesn’t serve us well. It’s label becomes meaningless when the wheels no longer work. More or less, less is more. Sturdy, strong and simple is all you need in this life.
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It’s been a year since I began volunteering for Culver Palms Meals on Wheels (CPMOW) in Culver City, CA (http://www.mealsonwheelsculverpalms.org). The mission of CPMOW is to enable our clients to stay in their own home and remain independent through the delivery of well balanced, nutritious meals to their door.
After the layoff, I knew I wanted to give some of my time volunteering for a good cause. My parents had volunteered for Meals on Wheels in their town, delivering hot meals to many people younger than themselves. I checked around and found the closest chapter here in Southern California.
Meals on Wheels originated in the UK during the Blitz of WW2. According to Wikipedia, volunteers prepared food and delivered it to homebound people in old prams to transport the meals. The service took off during the 1950s and 1960s throughout the UK, Australia, the US and Canada. Today in America, 1 in 9 seniors — an astonishing 5 million people — is at risk of hunger. Here on the Westside of Los Angeles, there are hundreds of people unable to shop, cook or prepare meals due to illness or age.
I remember my first day packing food and learning the ropes. The hot and cold bags for the 9 delivery routes are laid out on tables. Each route has a book with the names of our clients on separate pages showing their age, special food needs, and directions to their home. As I flipped through the book, their birthdates jumped off the pages of history…one man, born in 1915 during WW1, several during the Roaring 20s and many during the Great Depression. They are of the Greatest Generation (1901-1924) and the Silent Generation (1925-1945). They’ve lived through so much and helped build our country into what it is today.
Volunteers deliver one hot meal and one cold snack to an average of 90 clients a day, Monday through Friday — that’s about 20,000 meals a year. There are so many wonderful people who volunteer and work there. Pam, the Executive Director, always has a smile on her face and has so much energy and excitement for her job and the organization. She’d make millions if she could bottle and sell that enthusiasm!
I took on Route #7 early on and look out for my clients to make sure they are doing okay. Every Monday, I pack and deliver food for 8-10 people. I usually thumb through the book first to check for any new clients. Many homes I drive through in the Venice, Mar Vista and Marina del Rey neighborhoods have become gentrified over the last 15 years. Generally when there is a new client and I turn down their street, it’s not difficult to find their home.
Between the new builds and renovated homes you’ll find the house with the broken sidewalks, overgrown grass, and old paint chipping from the shutters and walls. Mark, a client I’ve never actually met, lives in one of those homes. He lives on a pretty tree lined street on a hill in Mar Vista. Across from him is a newly built McMansion that looks like it belongs on Nantucket Island. His home is surrounded by pretty homes with manicured lawns. When I first drove up to his house, the grass was knee high with an old garden hose stuck in the dirt. I’ve never met Mark because he is bedridden. I usually leave the food hanging from the doorknob or once in a while hand it to a nurse.
I often wonder if the neighbors are upset at the eye sore, yet don’t know Mark’s name or even his situation. Wouldn’t it be great if the neighborhood got together and cleaned up his yard? We live in a self absorbed world rarely looking up from our devices to see our community around us. Our social networking has made us anti-social human beings.
Margie, 91, lives alone in the house she bought with her friend back in the 1960s. Her friend died 15 years ago. The outside of the house is kept up by a gardner and the pool (she doesn’t use) is also maintained. Inside though, it’s a different story. While she’s not a hoarder, there are papers piled up on every surface. She is depressed and feels overwhelmed. Every time I visit, I try to be upbeat, but many times Margie is down in the dumps. She doesn’t have any family except for an 85 year old cousin who lives over an hour away and doesn’t drive. Last week she mentioned that she hadn’t paid her taxes in over 3 years. I said I’d try to find someone for her. It’s not easy to find a tax volunteer who makes house calls. For many people, the volunteers are the only interaction they have with another human being for an entire day. And that interaction may only be for 5 minutes.
Once, when I delivered food to Margie, she said she was so happy for Mondays and having food delivered. I told her that she could order extra food to be delivered on Thursday’s and Friday’s so that she would have food for the weekend. It was added to her delivery schedule that week. I wondered how long she had been going without food on the weekends.
Joe, a man in his late 60s, lives down the street from me in a small studio apartment. He began Meals on Wheels a few weeks ago. When I dropped his food off for the first time he met me outside and said he was just trying to keep food down — his cancer treatments were making it hard for him to eat. Joe stayed on the program for about a month. Happily I saw him recently riding his bicycle with two small bags of groceries hanging from the handlebars.
Most of our clients were born before TV was invented…most do not know how to use a computer or even own one. Their technology consists of cable TV and a landline. They are isolated from a world which has everything at its fingertips. Think about how easy it is for us when we need something: you need anything you order it from Amazon, you want food delivered you click online read the menu and order, need to go somewhere you Uber. Think about living without a smartphone, tablet or laptop (I know, a nightmare for most!) and then throw in the fact you can’t drive any longer. You’re trapped.
Today is World Food Day. Take a moment to look up from whatever device you’re reading this on and think about your neighborhood. Where are the broken sidewalks? Which house is overgrown and where you rarely, if ever, see the owner? Is there a newspaper lying at the end of their driveway or garbage cans that haven’t been put away? Ask who lives there and find out if they need help. The folks in the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation rarely ask for help. They are stoic, quiet and proud.
Culver Palms Meals on Wheels is a non-profit, non-sectarian, volunteer community based 501(c)3 organization that has been serving the homebound in Culver City and surrounding communities since 1974. It relies on donations and grants to keep up its good work. If you can, please help CPMOW by making a donation at: http://www.mealsonwheelsculverpalms.org or find an organization in your community.
This past weekend it rained. Not a big deal to most people, but big news here in Southern California where we’ve been living through a drought for over 4 years. I like rainy days…I don’t feel guilty about staying inside all day. With nothing on TV and no desire to binge-watch, I walked into my bedroom and, starting with the closet, began pulling out clothing I hadn’t worn in a long time.
Professional organizers say you should toss out clothing that hasn’t been worn in at least a year. I had just gone through my clothing 8 months ago so I didn’t expect to find much to discard. Was I wrong! I ended up filling two green bags with shirts, jeans, dresses, and a few scarves (I have a bit of a scarf problem which I’m trying to manage).
How did I accumulate so much stuff? I’m not pointing the finger at anyone but myself, however as I looked around my condo I saw things that I really didn’t need. It’s funny when you get a pet how many people give you pet related gifts. I love my two cats, but I’m not a Cat Lady…cat statues, cat salt & pepper shakers, cat books and bookends among many other cat items have been given to me over the last few years. I try, really I do, to pretend how much I love the item, but honestly, I don’t need or want any more cat stuff! ￼
Do I really need Lucky Cat?
Last week while visiting my mom, I went into the attic to help purge and organize 53 years of old stuff. Ancient luggage, deteriorating boxes and decorations for EVERY holiday were piled high across the attic. Did I mention that it was 85 degrees outside with 90% humidity? Or that the attic fan was broken? And that I couldn’t stand upright? I was basically working in a dwarf sauna, but this excavation work brought out the archaeologist in me. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I saw Indiana Jones twenty-three times in the movie theatre and an undetermined amount on TV. The attic is a time capsule into our family’s history and I wanted to sift through the dirt.
And there was some actual dirt. Several months ago there had been a furnace “blow back” which had blasted charred black pieces of God knows what everywhere, even into the garage. Did I mention that I could talk to my sister from the attic while she stood in the garage? There’s some flooring that’s been missing for a long time so I could toss her things that were either going to the garage sale or into the garbage — I just noticed that garage and garbage are only one letter apart…interesting.
The three items worth noting that day after all of the sifting, sorting and tossing were our airline tickets from NY to Bermuda in 1977, my sister Caroline’s high school year book and the dog bank. I guess the tickets were sentimental to my dad. All of our family trips until then involved driving, mostly along I-95 south to Florida or north up to Canada. Bermuda was our first plane ride together. I remember we rented 3 mopeds, mom and dad on one, Phil and Caroline on another and Dave and I on the last. Knowing how uptight parents are today, I doubt we would have done that now. We saw Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches, crystal caves and old forts. I was 9 years old, as written on the ticket alongside the price of $75, which was probably a lot back then. I was amazed at how new the tickets looked given the attic elements of extreme heat, cold and occasional “blow back.” ￼
Now that I have a photo of it, can’t it be tossed?
As sweat dripped along the sides of my face I yelled down to my sister that I had found her yearbook. Caroline was so excited you’d have thought I had found The Arc of the Covenant. She thought the book had been lost in one of her moves. Flipping through the pages seeing the 70s styles, or lack thereof, it was hard to imagine that the book was over 35 years old. How quickly time has flown. I’m glad she got that book back. It’s one of the few things that’s nice to keep for life.
Then when I unearthed the Saint Bernard dog bank, I knew I had struck gold! I remember this in my brothers room. I couldn’t remember if it was Phil’s or Dave’s but I knew it was their piggy bank. I texted Dave asking “remember this piggy bank?” and he wrote back, “isn’t that mine?” Yeah it’s yours, don’t worry, I seriously don’t want it. We’re saving it for you. ￼
The Doggy Bank
What does all of this stuff come down to? We eventually have to throw it all away or pass some other things on to the next generation. I am sentimental, but I find it’s the little things that offer the most value — not monetarily, but in the memories.
I know a woman who doesn’t speak to her sister over a photograph one has and the other wanted after their father died. First of all, don’t they know what a scanner is? I digress, but the fact that they don’t speak over a “thing”…well, I’m sure there’s more to that since they’re from a very dysfunctional family, but the bottom line is, are you really going to cut someone off over a photograph? Isn’t it the memories of your dad that matter most?
Other friends I know have a beautiful home, except for all of the stuff they’ve accumulated. How many shampoos, conditioners, lotions, potions, treatments and creams do you need until you realize you no longer have counter space in your bathrooms? Why not finish one before buying a new one? Their dining room is used for miscellaneous storage (I guess it is cheaper than renting a unit somewhere) and the refrigerator and cabinets seem to burst from excess stuff. They only have 2 people living at home!
Are they happy? It’s hard to know, but I believe I’m trying to move towards the Buddhist way of thinking — the more we are consumed by material desires, the less enlightened we are. Now I’m not going to shave my head or wear an orange robe, but I do think they are onto something. George Carlin’s comedy bit on Stuff sums everything up very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x_QkGPCL18
I find that I really don’t need a lot of things anymore. They just take up more and more space and eventually I will have to get rid of the stuff. When I was younger and working my way up in the world, if I wanted something I bought it. Now, I ask myself, do you WANT this or do you NEED this? It makes a huge difference when you ask yourself whether an item is a want or a need. Toilet paper for example is a need, whereas that stupid fuzzy cat snow globe is a needless, spur of the moment, I may have been drunk, WANT (or maybe someone gave it to me…).
Start asking yourself the WANT vs. NEED question now because someday you may find yourself in a dwarf sauna trying to figure out how you accumulated so much stuff!