Chapter 15 – Your Own Special Thing


Usually I write these posts at night. I’m breaking that habit today by writing in the morning; I’m up an hour earlier than normal because two service people are scheduled to come and inspect my water and electric meters.

I’ve read about how getting up earlier is good for you, but now that I’ve done it I get it — I’m ahead on everything. Proof of how much smoother my routine would be with an extra hour in the morning.


On Day #29 of no frivolous shopping, it’s clear you can’t really know how things will be from the outside peering in. It’s like a passenger side mirror: a distorted perspective. Once inside, everything shifts, and while fear tends to make us cautious about change, reality emboldens us with the shock of how much better it is than you’d imagined.

Change your view and you change your experience.

This applies not only to getting up earlier in the morning but also to not spending money. For me this means if I own it, I can’t go out and buy something like it; I have to use the thing I have. And in my case, that’s made me use what I regard as Special Things, those items I’ve been saving for those big important moments.

Which leads us back to that conversation from yesterday on Those Moments That Matter, and the story I promised you.


Years ago I discovered estate sales. At the time I lived in a well-known college town dominated by an Ivy League university, but beyond the city line it was cow country. So at the mall and the movie theater you’d see wealth and privilege alongside hard-working folks.

I was driving on the outskirts of town when I saw signs stuck into the ground: Big Sale! Quality Items! Since I was a recent graduate furnishing an apartment with my boyfriend, this was catnip. I thought I was headed to a garage sale, but I pulled in front of a house that was quietly posh in a way I’ve subsequently come to realize telegraphs well-curated life with only meaningful possessions. 

The house had many lovely items, and the furniture and larger items were marked with these split-tag things which I quickly learned were the hallmarks of an estate sale. No crummy file folder labels or masking tape used as price stickers.

An estate sale (or tag sale) meant you ripped off the bottom tag, brought it to the ladies with the cashbox behind the folding table, and paid for it. Only then could you pick up your item and take it away.


A set of fine china was stacked on a dining room table protected by a custom-made pad. Silverware lay in felt-lined wooden chests. A cedar closet held Irish linens, Pendleton blankets, even a fur coat. And there were, of course, the guest soaps. Lavender soaps from France wrapped in tissue that crinkled when I examined the oval bars.

I ended up buying three small reproductions of Egyptian artifacts that were housed in museums in Europe. Each was labeled with details of their provenance. One was an item found in the Louvre.

And I bought a really good sturdy pepper grinder and a well-crafted wooden cutting board.


Much, much later I sold those reproductions at my own garage sale, years after breaking up with that boyfriend, moving to another city, and marrying someone else. But I still have the pepper grinder and the cutting board.

And in the intervening years, I’ve become one of the ladies behind the table. My friend Barb runs estate sales, and occasionally I’ve helped her sort through items, organize, and/or monitor shoppers during sale days. Like my first estate sale, these are run inside houses whose owners are now in nursing homes or have passed away.

People come for the little stuff, but it’s the big stuff that’s often the best deal — and occasionally the hardest to sell. I’ve ended up with some extraordinary buys. The two leather couches in my living room are from a man who fell off a ladder an hour after his new furniture was delivered; sadly, he died a few days later. The carved wooden armoire in my family room came from the home of two snowbirds; tired of flitting between upstate New York and Florida, they made the permanent move south.


At estate sales, I learned — from helping Barb clear out and from my own experiences — to buy only things that are needed, useful, and practical. Spend the money on larger items that offer quality you couldn’t afford otherwise, and don’t fritter it away on what antique dealers call smalls.

No matter how wealthy you are, you can’t stave off death. And after you go, a stranger — who has no attachment to your guest soaps and knows nothing about Those Moments That Matter that you anticipated — will gather up those soaps, place a price sticker on them, and put them out for other strangers to paw through.


Someone will gets a bargain on your soaps, and you’ll be six feet under with no say, no profit, no joy in the transaction.

All because you wouldn’t allow yourself a moment of pleasure and delight using up those Special Things: those guest soaps, high-thread-count linens, champagne flutes from Tiffany you received as a wedding present. Instead you kept them hidden away, waiting for Those Moments That Matter that never came.


You, sitting there and reading this. Right now. You. Are. Living.

Living in a Moment That Matters. This moment. Your moment. You.

You’re alive, you’re worthy, you’re special. Read the paragraph below, then do it.

Stretch your arms out in front of you. Pause the brain that is reading these words. Stand up on legs that are sitting, and feel yourself grounded, here, in This Moment That Matters.

(Did you stop and do it? If not, read, repeat, do it.)

(Not kidding here. I mean it.)

Did you feel it? Did you marvel at your beautiful self?

Were you present in the moment… as you? and nothing else? No wants, no needs, no desires, just gratitude for you?

You. You. You are your own Special Thing.

If not now, when? If not you, who else?

If you purchased it, thinking it would bring joy, why not allow yourself that joy by using it yourself?

Why are you so stingy with yourself? Gift yourself with your care. Your attention. Your love.

That’s what I’m doing, though I thought I was doing something entirely different: not shopping.


This journey has many unexpected twists, including this one. I love what I have, and I’ll love it more if I apply its benefits to the thing I love most: me.

Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Or do without.

I’m doing all of it. All in service to myself.

My goal is to have very little left for someone else to sell when I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.


I’m unearthing all the Special Things I’ve put aside for years, and I’m going to use them up until they’re worn, ugly, tired or completely gone.

And every time I do, I’m going to envision that distant stranger whose own purchase at the sale of my estate I’ve just thwarted. The woman who suddenly finds that the box of lavender soaps she’s tucked under her arm has blinked out of existence.

To her I say Hah!

And to me I say, Well played, madam. Well played.

It’s not that I mean her any ill will… but really — who deserves it more? Her… or me?

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

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