Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Going to the Flea Market

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


Last month the family and I went to a monthly event, The City-Wide Garage Sale. Ever since one of my staff members bought a really cool old stove at the sale, I’d been curious. (And since that was literally more than 15 years ago, it seemed like it was about time.)

Wow! Was that eye opening! The garage sale is really an indoor flea market, and you could buy just about anything there – the smaller it was, the more likely they were to have it. The sellers are pickers and traders who endlessly loop throughout the country attending these events. Nothing’s terribly expensive; I don’t know how they actually make money doing this. One friend even suggested that it was just a socially acceptable form of hoarding: The vendors just keep buying and accumulating, selling and accumulating.

Here are some photos I took that day

I was struck by the fact that the vendors didn’t have one of something; they had 100. All alike. One woman had a huge display case of Bakelite bangle bracelets – a whole row of red, a whole row of yellow, a whole row of green, etc. Another man had several hundred little skulls. A pair of sellers must have had four hundred silver native American-style bracelets with a chunk of turquoise in them. The volume was just eye popping. The photos above are all things that people might save for sentimental reasons or to sell in the future. There were dozens of brass letters, hundreds of watches and cufflinks, thousands of baseball cards complete with bubble gum (just $1.50 to $3.50 per pack).

What I took away from this day was this message: Your stuff is a lot less precious and a lot less rare than you think it is. There is virtually nothing that can’t be replaced a dozen times over. Especially if it’s not of a deeply sentimental nature, you don’t need it. And if you do need it again later, it’s out there. In triplicate…or more.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that you are keeping “just in case” you eventually find a use for it.

Today’s Declutter Item

This declutter item is related to another I got rid of a little while back. Remember the candle with the pink design on it, it rested on these stones in a glass bowl. I still have the glass bowl but the rocks can go. I barely walked into the thrift store with them when one of the other volunteers said “I’ll have those!”. So as usual one man’s clutter is another man’s clutter, I mean treasure.

Aquarium Stones

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. „One man’s clutter is another man’s clutter” … gotta love that woman 😉

    • Great minds think alike, Ideealistin, haha! Cindy’s wise comment sums it all up in just one sentence, “So as usual one man’s clutter is another man’s clutter, I mean treasure.”

  2. The whole concept of flea markets makes me shudder. There’s regularly one at our local fairgrounds and I walked through it once thinking I’d look for a small desk. I just can’t stay in those places–the sheer amount of stuff overwhelms me. I’ve heard that the flea market held in Hollywood Bowl is truly a sight to behold.

    • It was pretty amazing. And you could pay extra to get in early. Why you would do this, I’m not sure.

  3. Cindy this is a good one. This statement, “Your stuff is a lot less precious and a lot less rare than you think it is. There is virtually nothing that can’t be replaced a dozen times over” is one I keep trying to get my mother to understand. We talked about it again the other day and I told her that some of the things she thinks are worth something I’ve found 100 copies of on eBay selling for very little. It’s just not worth the hassle of trying to sell when they aren’t worth it. I wish I could just take them to the thrift store.

    • Slowly, slowly she’ll come around Deb J. Perhaps you could come to an agreement with your Mom about the minimum amount something has to be worth in order to officially be worth selling. That might help cut down the excess somewhat.

  4. Great post. Sometimes people think they are better than shopaholics because they spend much less, but by going to garage sales and getting too much you are exhibiting the same behavior patterns as a shopaholic. If people could just realize that it is the rush of a good bargain not the actual item that causes them to do this, then they could think more rationally about purchases. We were behind some people in Walmart who were buying a cartload of just new clutter (junk) when my husband even noticed and remarked about it. Just think what that money would do in the bank in a savings account for emergencies or vacations or towards a 6 month savings.

    • I remember having neighbors who purchased everything based on their perception of its “value” (meaning they got it at a deep discount). I felt like they didn’t care so much what it was as much as they cared how much it had been priced and what it was priced now. What crazy thinking!

  5. Thank you for reviewing the Power of Habit last week, I purchased a downloadable copy and have just finished reading it. I enjoyed it very much.
    I think your friend hit the mail on the head with her comment that it was a socially acceptable form of hoarding! Flea markets offer people an alternative to the slick, well presented, malls of consumerism.
    And your comment , your stuff is a lot less precious and a lot less rare than you think it is, should be added to quotable quotes.

  6. I recently stumbled upon your blog, and am so very glad that I did. I use to think I was so weird and different for always trying to live a simpler life, by minimizing materialist items. Until I started stumbling upon blogs of people with similar traits/habits. How relieving, ha.

    What a great post!

    • Hi Lani. Welcome to 365 Less Things. No matter what your interest, you can find a group – or seven – for it on the Internet. Welcome to your tribe!

  7. ” Your stuff is a lot less precious and a lot less rare than you think it is. There is virtually nothing that can’t be replaced a dozen times over”. Yes ! Absolutely ! Keeping something “just in case” it is worth something is most definitely not worth it from a financial point of view quite apart from anything else. Have learnt that from experience. Interesting post Cindy!

    • Thanks Jez. That message was really driven home to me while looking around – the volume was just amazing.

  8. Hi Cindy – I enjoyed this post Cindy. I banned myself from flea markets some years ago – I used to bundle up the kids on a Sunday morning and buy one plant or seedling each week for our landscaping, but invariably would bring home a book or a toy or fruit/veges.

    Yes you are right, there is a lot of much of a muchness and no one sets out to a flea market with the intention of buying a silver bangle or a set of wind chimes or ???? but we lay eyes on one and then must absolutely have to have it.

    About six months ago my hubby and I went for a wander thru our local one as I wanted a particular plant and I did enjoy the semi-carnival atmosphere but really wasn’t comfortable around the jumble – had the overwhelming urge to orchestrate a mass decluttering.

    • You’re so funny, Moni, “I had the overwhelming urge to organize a mass decluttering…” LOL

      I usually have this urge when I’m around my relatives who hoard, not too bad, not too much, but still hold on to crap “just in case.”

    • I think the flea market is the result of someone else’s mass decluttering. It’s pretty scary though. And you’re right about not needing something until you see it, and then you just have to have it.

      • Hihi,
        I booked a table on a fleamarket for my ongoing mass decluttering and I am dreading the date already 😉
        All the dragging around of stuff, bah. But I try to look forward to it because some of the stuff will actually sell. It will be too little though (no one ever goes home with all empty boxes it seems, no matter how well you seem to sell). The sight of the unsold lot will motivate me to release more in other ways even if it means getting no money for it. The weird logic of a declutterer 😉 (But I can’t afford to be picky, I’ll take any approach that works)

    • I can relate to this Moni. The last time I went to my local flea market I asked a couple of store holders if they are regulars or just getting rid of stuff. One was cashing up and dematerialising in order to start a business venture in Bali. Another was selling off all her crystal because her children told her they didn’t want it when she died and that they were just going to bring in a skip and ditch it all. It was probably an idle threat because she refused to believe them about not wanting it but it has the desired effect even if the women was impressed with their attitude. Sadly the third person was just selling off her perfectly good unwanted stuff so she could go out a buy a new lot to replace it.

    • I can relate so well to “the overwhelming urge to orchestrate a mass decluttering.” Often, while in other people’s homes, at garage sales and flea markets, I get that same strong urge. Those opportunities motivate me to clear out more of my own stuff once I return home.

  9. Good food for thought, Cindy. Like Moni I feel bothered by the amount of jumble in yard sales, flea markets and the like now – even in craft markets and in stores. It’s nice to no longer be a slave to whim and want.

    • “It’s nice to no longer be a slave to whim and want.” You’ve hit the nail on the head, Jo H. I went for a wander around a car boot sale a few weeks ago. I used to sell regularly at this sale about 15 years ago and since then I’ve regarded my intermittant opportunities to browse there as a treat.

      My goodness, I was like that ancient Greek philosopher (can’t recall exactly which one) who apparently remarked whilst strolling in the market at Athens about how many things he had no need of. It astonished me that all this stuff existed and so much of it was pure flim-flam. Such a waste of raw materials and time and effort. I did buy an as-new wheelbarrow for just under half what it would have cost new, but I was going to buy one of those anyway.

      I think next time the opportunity to go “carbooting” comes along, I shall go for a nice country walk with my family.

      • If there were things in Ancient Anthens he didn’t need, imagine what he’s think of a modern flea market.

  10. I have just returned home with my box of “special coins and notes” I received $4.50 each, for my 50cent coins. The rest of my motely collection I packed up and bought home. the guy at the coin shop would only pay me face value for them. So after twenty years of storing these notes they are neither rare or valuable.
    I will try the local coin and stamp market at the weekend, someone might like to collect them. Cheers

    • Well, you got $4.50 for some of your 50 cent coins. That’s not bad. There was a money booth at the flea market. A lot of the coins were being sold at face value.

    • Don’t forget to look up their value on the computer too before you give up. It is best to have several opinions because there are plenty of unscrupulous dealers out there and one opinion isn’t advisable. After that I would suggest giving them away to a budding collector who would really appreciate them.

  11. We are doing a big round the world trip, financed largely by our frugal ways. Before we left we made a list of things we needed eg three new t shirts for my husband, a cotton dress for me etc. well we bought those at our first stop in Hawaii.

    Traveling around is a huge temptation to buy, all those gift shops, etc. but now I am disappointed in them and don’t want anything, it’s a huge freedom. I have started looking at merchandise as if it’s art: enjoy looking but don’t buy. We are traveling quite light and have five quilts I have made as gifts so the luggage should get lighter as we go.

    One interesting thing: I took three of those mini shampoos to use on future trips, then read one of 365 less things post and stopped instantly! Just because it’s free and cute does not mean I have to have it. Thanks for the motivation.

  12. Flea markets can be so addicting, because everything is supposedly “one-off” -if you don’t buy it now you might never find it again. Except you will. Or something very similar. The thrill of the hunt, scoring some valuable thing for next to nothing, a rare collectible.. that’s what gets most people.

    Ugh. “Majority of stuff is clutter” my dad said recently. He is so right.

  13. Hi Colleen,
    I’ve found a whole new way to declutter – unintended! Last Friday, I had a kitchen fire, destroying most of our (lovely relatively-new) kitchen and lounge/dining room! Heaven knows when we will be allowed to return for more than a few minutes at a time -suffice to say I have a new understanding of what “smoke damage” means! Oil, plastic and aluminum is not a good combination. When I start again, it WILL be with less, and with as little plastic as possible. Hopefully by then I will have stopped coughing it up!

    • Oh my God Ann, I am so glad you weren’t hurt. I’m guessing you were at home at the time hence you have a lung full of awful chemicals. Nasty! I can just imagine you trying to get out of there with your dodgy leg. I must have been scary. I am glad you can look on the bright side that you got your kitchen decluttered without having to work at it. What do they call that? Probortunity. What caused the fire so I know to be cautious in future.

  14. Just found your blog. I may be only 18 but I don’t like clutter. I have a small wardrobe and keep only my favorite things. it’s a good feeling not to have a lot of stuff!

    • Hi Debt Free Teen and welcome to 365 Less Things. The young years are the best ones to figure out that wasting money on stuff you don’t need is setting you up for future problems like credit card debt. Good for you coming to this realisation now while you are only 18. I was always fairly clued on about money but it didn’t stop me from accumulating more stuff than I needed as the years went by. I may have got the stuff cheaply through good deals and garage sales and the like but stuff is stuff and it soon leads to clutter. Now I have no desire to buy anything that is likely to become future clutter. In fact I have got to the point where I am not even keen to buy the things I actually need.
      Good luck in the future and I hope you stay as smart as you are right now.