Gray Matters - Clutter clearing, and a teaching moment
Belfast — Much like many of the folks I know, I own way too much stuff.
This is why my son and I recently decided to spend a few hours going through what turned out to be a couple Jeep-loads of said stuff and schlep it all down to my folks house with the intention of organizing a yard sale, or a "yahd sale," as I have always enjoyed saying it. I suspect that is because I'm a Mainer, and quite proud of it.
But we've been over all this before, a la the Maine speak series from last fall.
Anyway, I thought it might also be a nice way to continue ongoing discussions I have been having with my nine-year-old son, Shane, about the value of earning money in exchange for completing assorted chores or helping out around the house. Lately he has decided he would like to save up for an Xbox 360, which comes at a fairly hefty price, but I am a firm believer that the kids who are expected to earn money and save up for those larger ticket items will then appreciate those items a bit more than he might if I chose to go out and buy it for him myself. That's how I was raised, and I think it did me a lot of favors as I entered young adulthood.
I am still pretty talented when it comes to living off a fairly minimal household budget, and I have my folks to thank for teaching me the value of a dollar and how to spend it wisely. It may sound strange to some, but I am also quite proud of having those skills, too.
And during the process of collecting the stuff, setting up the sale, and tearing it down twice over the course of one weekend, Shane really came through for me. He helped greet all the folks who stopped by, bagged up items for all who decided to relieve me of my surplus stuff and kept me company throughout the days.
He even brought me food and beverages, without me asking him for any of that. Of course he spent some of the time during those two days playing with the neighborhood kids, riding his bike, swimming in the pool and playing games, activities with which I was totally cool. Because, after all, sitting with your mom at a "yahd sale" can get pretty boring for a young man his age.
After a couple of long, hot days of wheeling and dealing, Shane then helped me load up the Jeep with all the remaining stuff, which I promptly transported to the local Goodwill. I also believe that just because you no longer have a use for your perfectly good stuff, it doesn't mean there isn't someone else out there who can use it. In those cases, I think it's better to pass items on rather than throw them away, as I know there are lots of families just like mine, who live paycheck to paycheck and must also stretch their dollars as far as possible.
In short, Shane worked really hard.
After I counted up our proceeds from the sale, which added up to more than $90, I doubled his allowance for the week and I also gave him an additional cut from the money we made over the weekend. It boosted his Xbox fund rather nicely, and I could tell he was really proud of all that he accomplished.
I hope to continue these kinds of teaching opportunities for the boy as he grows, so that when the time comes for him to buy his first car, or figure out how exactly we will pay for his college education, he will have the tools he needs to work for his money, save it up and make smart spending choices.
For the time being, maybe he'll be nice and let me play on his Xbox once in a while.