Skip to content

Thrifty or cheap: Either way, inexpensive gear can be fun

It’s been a sad time around our homestead this week. A few days ago we delivered (followed) our youngest a couple hundred miles to her home-away-from-home for another year of higher learning. She took her transportation with her but we tagged along behind to help her get moved into the dorm room and set up, and to provide extra hauling capacity. When it comes to stuff, she’s a lot like Barbie – she comes with lots of accessories.

When our older child finished up at the local junior college and moved away to complete his degree a few years ago we were fairly certain he wouldn’t return home to live for any extended time, just to visit. So we did some remodeling and took over his bedroom, and created a guest room where my wife does her quilting when he’s not home visiting. Last week I caught my wife eyeing up our daughter’s room and immediately suspected some remodeling was in order. But, as it happened, she was just checking progress on the packing and organization of the “accessories” which will remain with us until she potentially returns home on break next summer.

I had heard for years that the empty nest syndrome could be rough on parents … usually the mom of the house, I was warned, because she is often the nurturer and tends to be closer to the children. No one warned of the emptiness that dads feel when their “daddy’s girl” moves away. This year I was sad to see her go again, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it was when she moved away for the first time last fall. Knowing this was coming again, I’ve tried to spend as much time as possible hanging out with her this summer while she was around. 

But the fact is, having an empty nest leaves parents with more time on their hands and options to consider at this important turning point in life. What do we delve into as a means of coping with the house being quiet and no longer having to keep up with the kids’ activities? Do we get a dog as many empty-nesters opt for? Do we donate our time for a worthy cause, or take up a new hobby to immerse our energy and thoughts into to and keep our minds and hands busy?

A couple years ago my wife posed this question to me one evening: “What if we get to that point and suddenly realize the only thing we had in common anymore was raising kids? What do we do then? We need a hobby?”

Over the years we had several animals around the house … from turtles to hamsters to cats to dogs to goats. But we like to travel and having to schedule care for pets is counterproductive to jumping in the car or on a plane and heading out on a whim. So we quickly ruled out getting an animal to nurture. As for worthy causes, we already try to donate a portion of our time to good causes. We could donate more time, but eventually that can lead to just feeling burned out and used up. To remain in balance you have to have some “me time” as well.

I suggested she take up hunting, but she balked at the idea of smelly game scents and being in the woods with bugs. She suggested I take up visiting quilt shops and shopping for material and thread … but I’d rather slide down a razor blade into a bottle of alcohol than be forced to spend time in such “girly” establishments. I appreciate the effort and talent she puts in to making a pretty quilt, but I have no desire to be part of the process whatsoever.

So we considered several other options – skydiving, extreme hiking, marathon running, scuba diving all of the world’s best reefs, climbing the highest 10 peaks on Earth in ascending order, buying an RV and visiting the largest city in each state, cycling across America, etc. But eventually we settled in on going to yard sales on Saturday mornings. 

So starting late last summer we would wake up early every Saturday morning and run by the ATM to get some cash. Then we’d take our trusty copy of the Daily Journal and methodically work our way across a community hitting each yard sale that listed anything besides little kids clothing and baby items. We certainly didn’t need any of that. We were drawn to the older neighborhoods, because that’s where all the old junk can be found.

Newer subdivisions will often harbor sales of clothing and sporting equipment (the types of things younger families tend to outgrow). But people in new homes have only been there for a short time, and statistically they likely dumped a lot of their older junk (if they had any) when they made the move. To find antiques and such you need to find a yard sale at an old house where the occupants have lived there for a few decades … then you’ll find some real collectible leftovers. To put it in perspective, it’s like going to a newer “starter” house and finding a Snoopy fishing pole and matching plastic tackle box for sale, or going to an old house and finding a bamboo fly rod, brass reel and woven creel with real leather straps. Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule … and that’s what keeps yard sale enthusiasts driving to every sale listed or sign posted down the street. It’s the thrill of the hunt.

But, alas, filling our empty nest time with going to yard sales lasted about three weeks. By then we had other people’s cast-offs and junk running out or ears it seemed. Our freshly empty nest was quickly filling up with items we didn’t even need.

Looking back I’m not sure how we survived the past year without finding that new hobby that would keep us together … I guess we had developed a deep love for each other and that was enough. We weathered the year of change fairly well, and then had the shock this May of suddenly having another human being coming and going through the house again. That, of course, changed again this past week.

So to attempt to offset our pending loneliness in coming weeks, we gave yard sale-ing another try this past Saturday. We hit a few sales in Farmington and then spent a couple hours driving the streets of Park Hills and Leadington during their annual city-wide sale. While I didn’t score any antique tackle or hunting paraphernalia, I did get a Weber grill for $2, a sizable cooler for $3, and a nice shelving unit for my garage for $20. The latter will hold lots of future yard sale finds if we decide to keep with the hobby this time. 

Leave a Comment