The Home That Yard Sales Built

How to conquer life's obstacles one bargain at a time!



The Holidays: A Decoration Conversation

So you say you want to tart up your house for the holidays, but you’re not a fan of ‘effort’?



For those of you who want your home to have the appearance of one touched by the magic from the shimmering wand of a benevolent Christmas fairy, but who have minimal time, creativity or interest in putting your back into the endeavor, I have a few simple projects, most of which take mere moments to implement.  You can whip out a few of these designs and be back on the couch, pounding back a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and watching The Cartoon Network before you can say Burgermeister Meisterburger.I had all but decided to skip most of the decorating for Christmas this year, when last minute I threw together a couple of trees (see my next post!) and then felt inspired to go a little further, as I knew I would have people over during the holidays.  Other than greenery, which was gathered in advance, most of this was thrown together from things I had on hand and most projects took only a few minutes each.  I wasn’t going for something out of the pages of Veranda magazine, just some simple additions to each room that would make the house feel more festive.

1.  Let’s start with the most simple.  Fill a glass container (large vase, urn or bowl) with ornaments.  I find that if they vary in size and/or color/texture they’re a little more visually appealing, but there is something to be said for a jar filled with small silver or gold ornaments, all the same size and color.  The latter is better for folks who have decor with a more contemporary feel.  You can’t tell in the photo, but I nestle  a candle inside a glass container larger than the candle itself in the center (leaving empty space above it, obviously) and it adds a glow that emanates from between the ornaments and is absolutely beautiful.  I accumulate these through the year at yard sales and thrift stores, so that I can choose only the ones that I really like and at the best price.  Otherwise you’re stuck in an angry skirmish over the last two boxes of crappy ‘shatterproof’  (read: plastic) ornaments on the shelf at Target, fighting off a mean broad with two caterwauling children in her cart and something to prove.  So tell me how you’re going to explain that black eye to your Aunt Ruth at Christmas dinner?  “Oh, this?  I walked into a door…at Target…FIGHTING OVER CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS!!”  Save yourself the time, the black eye and the uncomfortable conversation and plan ahead.  You have all next summer to watch for them.
Cost for me this year:  Zero
Cost for me based on accumulating items over time:  The one pictured cost me 3.75 INCLUDING the ornaments, the glass bowl, the candle and the driftwood.
Cost for you:  If you play your cards right next summer, only a few dollars per container at most.

2.  Most Christmas tree sellers will give you the bottom branches they cut from trees before they are sent home with the consumer.  Two large branches should be more than enough to fill several vases to place around your home.  In the best case scenario you will have more than one type of greenery (say, Douglass fir and cypress) but one will still be pretty if that’s not possible.  Make one or two large arrangements, for the living room and dining room, and possibly a third for your kitchen if you have plenty of counter space.  For the rest of the house, use smaller vases, or even pretty glasses (for instance tiny vintage juice glasses) and set these on bedside tables, bathroom countertops, etc.  I even put one in my laundry room, because hey, why not?  If you want to step it up a notch, pick up an inexpensive bouquet of flowers (Trader Joe’s has fantastic deals on cut flowers, if you have one in your area, if not, try a floral supply house) and pull a few stems for each arrangement and add them to each vase, tucked into the greenery, just to add some color.  If flowers aren’t in your budget, you can tuck in an ornament or two, depending on size, add some pine cones or even some bare branches, either in their natural state or painted.  This year I kept mine simple, they’re just pine (see above for my commitment to a lack of effort during Christmas 2012), but the sky’s the limit.
Cost:  Cost for me this year:  Zero
Cost for me based on accumulating items over time: The vase pictured cost me two dollars.
Cost for you:  Anywhere from ZERO to five or ten dollars, depending on vessels you already have on hand and the optional supplemental floral arrangement.

3.  Use vintage ornaments in unusual places.  I have one in particular,  made from felt, (an impish little angel) and in the past I liked to nestle her in a basket of towels.  Position a few shiny orbs on a tray on your coffee table. You could hang an ornament from every other shower curtain hook to hang in front of the shower curtain (make sure they’re unbreakable, because they will be likely to hit one another when the curtain is opened and closed.)
Cost for me this year:  ZERO
Cost for me based on accumulating items over time: 50 cents for the ornament pictured.
Cost for you:  Free if you already have some, a few cents to a dollar or two if you find them at yard sales or thrift stores.

4.  Tie a bow and/or jingle bell to your dog or cat’s collar.  It’s a classic that never goes out of style.  You can be sure they’re on board when they scratch at it or flail and rub against the carpet after you attach it.  It’s their way of saying thanks!  I’m kidding of course, that would be silly…put them in a red and green I heart Santa Paws sweater instead.
Cost for everyone involved:  Priceless

Disclaimer:  I actually really like adding a little something to my dog’s collar for the holidays.  She prances around happily and it makes me giggle.  🙂


5.  Pile lights into a bowl or other container.  BOOM!  Done.  It looks prettier than it sounds.  I have a few birdcages and I have filled each with Christmas lights in different sizes and shapes.  They look lovely at night and are an interesting and quirky take on the traditional look of lights.
Cost for me this year:  Zero
Cost for me based on accumulating items over time: I paid two dollars for the strand in the larger birdcage a few years ago and less than four for the strand pictured in the smaller birdcage after Christmas on clearance two years ago.
Cost for you:  Zero if these are lights you already own, a few dollars if you pick them up at yard sales next summer, or anywhere from five to 15 dollars per strand if you’re buying them retail.


6.  Never underestimate the power of the genuine article, as opposed to artificial.  The day after Thanksgiving, Home Depot was selling garland, at a HUGE discount, for only five dollars per bundle.  I bought one and it now adorns my staircase railing.  It looks SO much better than ANY manmade garland could ever look.  In a perfect world I like a mixture of different pines, but if I can have only one type, I prefer cypress garland, as it drapes very nicely and has an old-fashioned, traditional feel.  It is easier than you might think to install.  I attached mine to the railing in about three places with green plastic zip ties.  I cut the extra ends off of the zip ties and hid them with the garland itself.  I then used leftover flora from the nature inspired tree I created the day before (see tomorrow’s post), added some ornaments, some glass beads and decorations (I’m especially fond of the clip on blown glass birds on garland) and it was done.  It took very little time and looks incredibly high-end.  Be prepared to spend some time cleaning up needles after the installation, but it’s totally worth it.
Cost for me this year:  Five dollars
Cost for you:  Variable, but worth it.

7.  Light a pine scented candle and call it a day.  What with the end of the world right around the corner, don’t wear yourself out.  “A Garfield Christmas” isn’t going to watch itself, and you have a four serving sized Haagen-Daz
peppermint bark ice cream to put away.
Cost:  Five dollars for the candle, 50 dollars or so per month for cable TV and my self-respect.

All told, I spent 17.75 on this Christmas decor, and most of that was spent over time.  My total cost this year was 5.50. Merry Thriftin’ Christmas!  :)______________________________________________________________________________

So, there you have it.  Some quick and easy tips for last minute holiday decoration frustration.


Salvation Thy Name is Yard Sale



My passion for yard sales and thrift stores began before it was legal for me to drink.  The heady thrill of finding something someone else considered useless and giving it a new home, life or purpose was intoxicating enough to keep me sidling up to the bargain bar for the rest (so far) of my life.  A semi-significant portion of my adult life has been spent either in financial hardship or at the very least, just getting by, but I was unwilling to let the condition of my wallet negatively affect the comfort of my surroundings.  Everything changed earlier this year when I lost my home.  Now, before you feel sorry for me, please wait.  Why?  Because, as with so many circumstances in our lives, what can on the surface appear to be a tragedy, is really a shiny silver lining waiting to reveal itself.  In this particular instance there are many, but the one most relevant to this, MY BRAND NEW BLOG (*say in your best Rod Roddy voice.  Do it.  I’m waiting.  Ok, that’s better, thank you.), is that after I did everything within my power to save it, after I shed many an eye-puffing tear over it, after I felt colossal shame, I realized something: I hadn’t lost my home.  I had lost a house.  A house that another family would buy and then it would be their home, and that part made me happy to imagine, and eased the pain.  However, to paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, a pretty resourceful gal in her own right: “Wherever was I to go?  Whatever was I to do?”  My challenge was to turn a rented townhouse into my new home…and to do my best not to look back.  And God as my witness my sofa shall never hunger for the sweet embrace of a cozy throw ever again!

I traveled the long and winding road of loan modification only to be turned down by the bank and find myself in a humiliating town called “Foreclosureville” (Which thanks to it’s recent population explosion, might someday be able to improve the infrastructure and do something about all of these one-way, dead-end streets!)

This journey taught me a few things, these two being the most pertinent to this conversation:

  1. Even if one believes oneself to be compassionate, there are always lessons to be learned.

  1. Second, that, no matter how difficult your struggle, there are always other people who need help even more.

I consider myself a fairly strong and capable lady and I have to tell you, foreclosure is a debilitating experience.  How, I asked myself, could some people ever get through this?  What if one was working three jobs (my hat is off to you!),  had 12 kids (heaven help you if that’s you, and if you’re reading this right now…TAKE A NAP!), was chronically ill, wasn’t a native English speaker (Please press two for La casa que fue construida por ventas de yarda), or if one flat out had NO idea how to start over?  There are plenty of organizations in place set up to help you keep your home, but once all is lost, then what?  I have been through a laundry list of ideas about how I could reach out to these very people.  The people with whom I will forever share one of those aforementioned silver linings.

What do I know best?

Well, I know a thing or two about starting over (I’ve done it multiple times), I know a thing or twelve hundred about finding bargains and I would like to think I know at least a little about sharing.  So, maybe, if I put this out there, suck up my pride and share my story, then perhaps some folks who are starting over can get a little inspiration, a little know-how and a little push to get started and build a home.

It took me a long time to openly admit the defeat known as real estate foreclosure.  I had to force myself to speak openly about it.  Even now, this is difficult…I’m sharing this with the Internet!  Do you have any idea just how many friends the Internet has?  Lots.  The answer is lots.  No, whatever you’re thinking, double it.  Actually, triple it, then multiply it by the number of times Lindsay Lohan has crashed (literally and figuratively) multiply THAT by the number of times you’ve heard someone on “House Hunters” say:  “I don’t like the color”, then add another million or two people AND YOU’RE STILL NOT EVEN CLOSE!  What I am saying here, is that there are a lot of people online! Forevermore the Internet will have it on record that I said:  “My name is Laura, and I lost my house.”  However, if my plan is to do something valuable, then by golly, we’d better start out with all of our cards on the table.  (What?  This old thing?  Only solid mahogany….yard sale…35 dollars.  I knooooow, right?)

My mother recently called me The Queen of Making a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear.  It’s a long title, and the crest, I have to tell you is a little off the wall, but I’ll take it.  Check me out Internet, I’m royalty!

So, let’s do this together.  Whether you wish simply to be entertained by the ramblings of a yard sale addict, to check out whatever crazy finds I have unearthed, or if you want to learn the ins and outs of sow’s ear reconstructive surgery, read on.  I hope that this helps some people like me.  Folks who would love to live in a beautiful and special home, but don’t have the money to go about getting there in the traditional way.  Maybe you have plenty of money, but you like a challenge, the satisfaction of doing it yourself or you just can’t find exactly what you want via traditional retail.  That’s great too!  Everyone is welcome!  (except for you Chase bank…I’ve got my eye on you!)

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