How my tag sale taught me an important life lesson

I had a tag sale on Saturday. It was, how shall we say… a bit emotional.

I’m not saying that having a tag sale is up there on my list of all-time worst things to have to deal with (death of loved ones, chronic illness, major surgery, foreclosure and moving), but it definitely brings up some, shall we say, “issues.”

To put it plainly, it really freaked me out to have to go through a major accumulation of stuff in my house that had all sorts of emotional ties to persons living and dead. In classic style, fueled by the preceding couple of extra busy weeks, I ended up saving all of the preparation for the night before. I made a bunch of signs, and then my son and I drove around the neighborhood to our local supermarkets (great community bulletin boards) and to our handful of favorite establishments (pizzeria, barbecue place, gourmet grocery store) where they know us, and would not hesitate to post a sign in the window. However, it was so emotional that I bought prepared food at two of the three places we visited (stuffed tilapia, lasagna), so one could say that I actually started the sale $16 in the hole. (sigh)

This produced an additional, terribly negative layer of self-criticism that I would rather have done without. Something that sounded a bit like this:
Nobody saves all the prep for their tag sale to the night before. You’re going to have people showing up at your house, and you’re not even ready, you’re not taking this seriously, your neighborhood telephone pole signs are not even up, you are disorganized, unprofessional, stuck in an utterly destructive procrastination loop, and you don’t even have any TAGS!!

Then I pretty much cried myself to sleep.

Fortunately, I was joined first thing in the morning by some intrepid cousins and later a few additional friends who helped me carry the heavy stuff out of the house. I’ve lately been plagued by low back pain, so there’s no way I could have done this thing without the labor of others. Even though I was still feeling kind of shaky when they arrived, I expressed my conscious decision to simply go with the flow of the day, and see what it would bring. I figured it would all just fall into place if I could relax enough to let it unfold naturally.

I scheduled this thing to start at noon, so we were able to slowly roll into action. I put some signs up on telephone poles in the blocks immediately surrounding my house, and felt a little cheered up. The first man to show up had seen my sign at the supermarket! He asked if I had any paintings. I hadn’t planned on selling any artwork, but I remembered that back in the bowels of my garage (aka floor to ceiling storage space) I had some old framed things from when I was a kid. I found a set of three drawings of animals that he purchased for $15. My first sale!

And so the day slowly unfolded. I met two sets of neighbors who lived on my block and we had never seen each other before! People bought things and chatted with us. Friends came by and my son had a few successive waves of playmates join him for some running around and TV watching. Later on, a small group of us barbecued into the evening and hung out in the cool night air up on the porch until the wee hours.

One visitor told us about a weekly church flea market where we can rent an inexpensive spot and will no doubt be able to make some money on selling my son’s HUGE Transformer collection (the majority of which was not sold). That will be our next Saturday project! I’ll have to donate the rest of the stuff, and it will probably take at least two carloads to cover everything, but my friend manages a thrift shop where they support a community soup kitchen and financial support for neighborhood folks who need medical care for their pets, so I have my destination all picked out.

So yes, we took in a little over $100, and I was reminded of the blessing of family and friends, but most importantly, I saw in action the concept of saying “yes” in the face of my doubts and fears. Even though I had no idea how it was going to turn out when we started, I gave myself over completely to the rhythm of the day, and it flowed as naturally and effortlessly as I could imagine, bringing with it a myriad of pleasurable moments with new friends, and a lot of nice surprises along the way.

Here’s a coda to this story:
I’m in the process of developing a workable budget designed to help me transition out of a tremendously challenging financial situation. It involves deep cuts in personal spending that will necessitate drastic changes in my daily habits. My friend who is helping me out wanted to review the numbers yesterday so I could start making some debt payments this week.

Of course, I couldn’t find the final sheet of numbers we had done earlier in the week, and I had to refer to an older, slightly outdated version. I was very tempted to do the old, “Deb, what is wrong with you, why are you so disorganized, you’re avoiding, etc.” He just said, it’s OK, get a fresh sheet of paper and let’s do it again, it will be a good thing. What he basically said was, “Let’s find the YES in this.”

I realized it was the same thing as a conversation my improv teacher friend Kim Schultz was saying the other night to my colleague Alexandra Moga, who is a yoga instructor, and invited me along to listen in on her interview with Kim for her own blog (coming soon, will keep you posted). They have been discussing this same concept as it appears in both improv and yoga. It was also the same thing I had done when I was tempted to go down a negative path on the morning of my anxiety-provoking tag sale.

So I had a triple revelation, that this concept exists in all of these three places: yoga, improv and in regular life, particularly when dealing with a difficult task that you seem to be “failing” at (having a tag sale, creating a budget, etc.). Right at that moment before self-judgement, self-denigration… there’s a real opportunity to invoke faith and just go for it, and see what happens.

It turned out that by doing the numbers again, I gained a whole different level of insight as to my whole financial picture, and we discussed a new way of me keeping the info handy so that I could keep the concepts alive in my daily behavior (not binging on take-out food when we have food at home, cuz it’s just not in the budget, for instance)… It WAS a good thing!

By chance, I found the perfect link with which to close this post, courtesy of the good folks at who had posted it on tumblr. It’s Amy Poehler giving the commencement speech at Harvard: The whole thing is really funny and smart, but a little past 8 minutes into it, she starts getting at the heart of this lesson from the world of improv that applies to life in such a far reaching way. Don’t be so afraid that you don’t move forward.


Photo courtesty of MoonSoleil


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