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How I Save Money on Kids’ Clothes: Consignment Sales

A few posts back I wrote about how I save money on my kids’ clothes by creating seasonal capsule wardrobes for them. Another of my tried and true methods for not breaking the bank when buying children’s clothing is to buy gently used clothing rather than brand new items. And my current favorite way to do this is by shopping consignment sales! If you have not tried shopping consignment sales, you are missing out, let me tell you!

A few years ago, I really did mot know what all the fuss was about our local kids consignment sale. I figured it was just a glorified garage sale, so I just skipped it. But then one year I decided to just give it a try, both selling and buying. I had such a great experience that I hate the fact that I am missing out on it this fall because of our move! (But you can count on me finding a sale to shop in our new area!) So, why do I love to shop consignment when it comes to kids’ clothes? Let me count the ways!

  1. One night of shopping, and boom! I have finished my clothes shopping for the season. Seriously, I go in there with my handy dandy Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe checklist, sift through the racks to find what I need, and at the end of the night, I have pretty much everything on my list! I have found that it is getting harder to find everything for my boy because he is getting to that age in which there is just less of a selection, at least at the sale I have been shopping. And sometimes I need to buy brand new shoes because the used ones can be pretty roughed up. (But I ALWAYS get shoes on clearance unless I cannot possibly avoid it. They are just overpriced otherwise, in my opinion.)
  2. I can often find cute name brand clothes that I could not normally afford for a fraction of the price. Gap, Gymboree, and even more select boutique style clothes are often easy to find at consignment sales, and they are usually in great shape. I especially like shopping for Christmas and Easter dresses for my little girl because they have usually been worn so few times that they are practically brand new! And at around $2-4 per dress on discount night, I can buy a couple and still not spend half what I would shopping a department store clearance rack!
  3. I shop the discount night to get an even better bargain! Most consignment sales have one or more time slots in which you can get as much as 50% off everything! Some sellers may choose not to give a discount or to offer a lower discount, so that is something to watch for as you check tags before buying. But I try to buy as much that is the lowest discounted price as possible. Often, if you are a volunteer helper at the sale or are a seller, you get an early bird pass to shop the discount sale first and snatch up the beat deals before the general public.
  4. I can also sell our gently used kids items and make back a part, if not all, of the money I spend shopping the sale! This was probably the thing that got me hooked on consignment sales the most. Every time I have sold items, I have been able to make enough to cover the cost of that season’s clothing. Often, I had one or two bigger ticket items along with all the clothes, like my son’s old train table and a barely used stroller. These help make a bigger contribution to the total profits! It is work to label everything and get it set up at the sale, but in my experience it was totally worth the effort. And it was much easier than having a full-on yard sale on my own!

I could go on and tell you a few pointers I have learned about buying and selling at consignment sales, but I think I will save that for another post. For now, I want to hear from you! Have you shopped consignment sales for kids clothing? Did you love it, or hate it? What is the best deal you have snagged shopping consignment?

The Comforts of Home: Thoughts on home, heaven and the local church

As I write this, I am sitting at a plastic folding table, surrounded by moving boxes in the middle of our new dining room. Last night as I was making cornbread from a mix I had brought from our other house. As I set everything up, I realized that the one thing I was missing for the process was a mixing bowl! Thankfully, I had brought the mix in a large Mason jar, so I simply stirred all the ingredients together in the jar! We don’t have any of our living room or bedroom furniture moved into our rental house yet, so there is nothing to sit on except the floor or folding chairs. I want to unpack some boxes, but without any bookshelves for books or dressers for clothes or bins for kids’ toys, it is hard to really do much of that. Moving over the long term is an adventure, and we are making the very best of it, but at times I do miss the ease of having all my belongs and my family in the same place at the same time. You could say that I miss the comforts of home.

Ever since we knew where we were moving, we have been researching churches in the area and wondering where God will call us to serve next. We have seen a few different “styles” of churches and are not sure just where we should even begin looking. We know that God has made us with specific gifts and talents to fill a place in His local body of believers, but we don’t know which place that will be yet. I started out asking the Lord to give us, just this once, a place to belong where I could feel comfortable being myself and feel like I fit in, somewhere I could be fed while also serving and being useful, with minimal discomfort of uneasiness. After all, we often refer to the local meeting place of a specific body of believers as our “church home,” so why should we not look to that place as having all the comforts of home a church could offer?

But then the Lord began to gently prick my heart. He reminded me that this world is not my home, and that includes the church. Heaven is my real home, and no matter how blessed and abundant my life here on earth may be, it will never truly satisfy the longing of my heart to be home with the Lord. Only there will I truly enjoy ALL the comforts of home. So while we may search for a place for corporate worship, a place in which our gifts can be useful to the local congregation to serve and uplift, we ought not be seeking comfort. In fact, we should expect discomfort, challenges and difficulty. We should expect to be stretched, to be called out of our comfort zone into deeper waters and tasks beyond our current abilities. This does not necessarily mean we have to go out of our way looking for a local church that does not fit our doctrinal beliefs or practices in a way with which we do not agree. We still ought to hold to our beliefs and gather with others who share those basic tenets of the faith. However, we do need to be willing to go to a place that feels too big or too small, too loud or too quiet, too new or too old, too this or too that, for us to feel totally comfortable. If we sense God calling us to a specific church location, we must follow His lead. He wants to use us for His glory, not for our ease. So I am learning to let go of my wants so that I can be filled with His desires instead. I know that wherever He places us, it will be better than whatever I might choose. I might will be uncomfortable for a time, but I then I will be reminded to look forward to my eternal home even more.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭~Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Disconnecting to Reconnect: Taking a step back from our internet habit

Last week we spent our first few nights as a family in our "new" house. It is not anything fancy, and it is not really new at all…just an old brick farm house somewhere in Middle Tennessee. And it is not even ours, since we are only renting this year. But it will be home for a little while, at least, once we get everything moved and can find our bearings. This first trip felt kind of like vacation at a cottage or cabin, where you are working with very limited supplies and furnishings. The difference was that we did not really take a vacation at all. We worked. Hard. There was a lot of dust and dirt on the floors that needed swept and mopped away. There were boxes and other heavy items to be moved into the house. There was carpet to vacuum and shampoo. At the end of each day, we were all hot and sweaty and dirty and tired. We collapsed into our makeshift beds, exhausted, and fell right to sleep.

But do you know what? Even though we physically worked hard, those days were some of the most peaceful and restorative days we have had in a long time. Why? Well, for one thing, we were working as a family toward a common goal. The kids were either busy playing with toys they had not seen for a couple of months, or exploring new spaces in and out of doors, or just watching Mommy and Daddy work. Also, it was a chance to get a taste of our new life and feel freedom from some of the past difficulties in Illinois. There was a sense of adventure, which I think is normal when moving to a new area, but that has been sorely lacking in our lives for a long time.

Also of note, we have no wifi at our rental house. We are going to be changing how we get internet access, and it means we will be much more limited with our online time. Don't worry! I will still be writing and posting here a few times a week, as well as catching up on social media daily. But we got a chance to break from our bad habits of picking up our phones and scrolling through Instagram and Facebook every spare minute of the day. And this was good, very good. It forced us to look around at our surroundings and the people in our family and listen to each other more. It forced us to spend those in between moments actually thinking, resting, listening, looking, talking. . . We were present and making memories rather than posting about what we were doing online. We were paying attention to each other instead of listening to the many voices on social media. Yes, we do still need to use the internet occasionally for work and even for entertainment and education. But we also need to disconnect from all the distractions and noise so that we can reconnect with ourselves and each other.

I know that this is not a new concept and that plenty of people discussed the need to unplug and step away from the virtual rat race, probably since the dawn of the internet age. I have done my own fair share of social media fasts and been offline for vacation plenty of times. But somehow this time was different. Maybe it was because my husband was so intentional about being offline as well, being the huge techie that he is, and noted how much better he felt as a result. Maybe it was because we knew this was a decision we were making to take a step back from our screen time usage as a whole family, not just for a week or even a month, but for the foreseeable future. Whatever the case, disconnecting to reconnect was good for our family, and for me personally. And I look forward to seeing how our family culture changes for the positive as a result!

As I said, though, I am not abandoning this website! I will still be blogging regularly, although maybe not as frequently during the actual moving process because we are traveling back and forth so much right now. But I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on limiting your online time, especially as a couple or family. If you have tried it for an extended period, what kind of affect did it have on you and your family? If you have never intentionally significantly reduced your family's internet usage, what motivation would help you give it a try?

Swimming in the Sea of Ideas: a metaphor for my thought life

A quote read in the book on my nightstand, a line of a song sung at church, a phrase heard on a podcast, a passage of Scripture copied in my journal. . .each little exposure to thoughts of others on this voyage through life adds to the sea of ideas in which I find myself. I may be reading books whose overall theme is totally unrelated, but a sentence will strike me in such a way as to remind me of something I read somewhere else. Lately this has been happening more and more. It seems that related ideas keep coming to mind whatever I am doing: sitting in church, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, writing the Scripture of the day. This is, I believe, what Charlotte Mason called "the science of relations."

On what does Fulness of Living depend? –– Education is the Science of Relations . . . . What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 185-186

All these ideas that keep swirling about and interconnecting with each other…they are GOOD ideas, beneficial for "that fulness of living", indeed. However, sometimes it gets to feel a little overwhelming, like I have waded out too deep and am about to get in over my head! Maybe I forget to give myself time to sit with an idea or concept long enough to catch my breath before taking another deep dive. Sometimes I try to immediately find a way to make use of an idea, wanting to be pragmatic and productive, rather than restful and contemplative in my approach. But when I do this, I find myself frustrated and foggy, unable to move forward. I wonder what would happen if I would slow my frantic flailing about, stop trying to grab every idea and possess it. I wonder if I learned to just relax and let these thoughts wash over me and carry me along, perhaps the Master of the Seas would steer me to a destination I could never have dreamed of!

An idea is more than an image or picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force – with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its kind. It is the very nature of an idea to grow.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1., Home Education, p. 173

Not to say that there is no work involved if I am to understand and apply new ideas to my life. On the contrary, it takes an immense amount of gumption to stop distracting ourselves with some new shiny object just over there out of reach. It takes great power of the will to quit trying to keep paddling about here and there wasting our energy on the seemingly urgent, but actually unimportant, tasks we add to daily life. If you have ever watched (or been!) a young child taking those first swimming lessons, you know how hard it is to trust that if you will just lie still on your back and breathe, you can float. It takes work to be still. It takes work to trust the process.

A blessed thing in our mental constitution is, that once we receive an idea, it will work itself out, in thought and act, without much after-effort on our part…But we must get clearly into our heads what we mean by masterly inactivity…Perhaps the idea is nearly that conveyed in Wordsworth's even more happy phrase, 'wise passiveness'. It indicates the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 28

You may ask, "What is the point of all this meandering and metaphorical talk?" I am actually not sure myself. It may just be that I needed to process some things by writing about them like this. I do wonder if anyone else out there every feels this way, overwhelmed by the connections and ideas that are coming to mind as they seek a better education for themselves as an adult. I do think we could all use more quiet and stillness in our lives to contemplate, meditate and listen to that still, small Voice…that Voice who can still the waves and bring us to shore with a better understanding of Who He Is.

So, from one seafaring voyager to another, let's trust the Master of the Sea and lie on our backs, gazing up at the deep blue sky and let ourselves be borne along on this vast sea of ideas together. And, to borrow a line from an old gospel song, someday "we shall meet on that beautiful shore!"

The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!