Once upon a time I was a gatherer.

I gathered future projects. Supplies. Things I liked. I gathered at thrift shops, Goodwill, garage sales, estate sales…anywhere I could find a treasure for deal.

Then kids started growing. Games took over my Saturday mornings. Life became really loud. All the time. LOUD even when no one is talking. My gathering stopped as I began purging and looking for quiet in the realm of less is more. There is an old table in the garage full of my ‘someday’ projects. Slowly I’ve been clearing out those items – sending them on to friends that will use them now. I still relish the chance to wander around a flea market or dig through piles in an antique store. I just tend to come home with far less.

A friend asked me how I decide to buy something or not and what I am looking for when I head wander around those places. Well, this weekend I got a little time away and I thought I would share my ‘thrifting’ process.

First – I give myself a few guidelines:

1. I don’t NEED anything. I might like it. I might really, really like it. I might super want it, but I don’t need it.

2. I only buy stuff that I can put to use right now. No more buying and hoping to use it in the future. It must have a purpose now.

3. I usually won’t spend more than $10 on anything. Typically, it is less than $5.00 though.

4. When I see something I think I want to buy, I pick my price in my head before looking at the actual price. I decide what I would pay first.

The last one is the most effective guideline for me. It has saved me a lot of money. I would say 6 out of 10 things I think I want to buy, I end up setting back down because the price ends up being more than I want to pay. If I say in my head I would spend $5 and the item ends up being $10, I walk away. If it is equal or less than $5.00, I have a little party in the aisle. I’ve walked away from so many things I really wanted. However, if you were to ask me to name one of things I couldn’t. Obviously, none of it has been something I couldn’t live without. That being said, if the item is something I really want I might still get it, having the price guideline helps me evaluate if I really want to spend the extra for it.

8.15thrifting-01I thought I would share what I picked out and why.

  • I’ve been collecting large metal containers for my kitchen. I find these all over for $20+, but I’ve decided to only buy the ones I can find for $7 or less. I use these as kitchen decor, but I also use them for party decorations and put plants in them on the front porch. Multiple uses.
  • If I find a metal box in a great color for less than $3.00, I buy them to wrap gifts for friends in or I use them as storage containers for me.
  • I am a sucker for old jars and labels. I told myself I would spend $2.00 on this jar. The price ended up being $2.50. I had planned on grabbing a coffee later, but decided to skip my coffee and get the jar. Yes, I could have gotten both (it was only $.50 more), but sometimes it is like a game for me. And it just good money sense to practice budgeting even in small amounts.
  • 8.15thrifting-03Classic children’s books. We have SO MANY books. We got to the library weekly, but now that we homeschool I can’t keep up with all the reading that is going on around here. If I can find classics for a good price, in good condition I buy them. These books were $1.50 each and in like-new condition.
  • Vintage landscape puzzles. I have a few of these and am hoping to fill a wall with them one day. This is a multi-purpose purchase too. My 7 year old is a huge puzzle fan. He gets to make the puzzle and I get to enjoy the final product. AND I get a cool canister to use for something else once the puzzle is complete.8.15thrifting-05The next two were purchased with very specific purposes. We are finishing up our outdoor tables and I have wanted to cushion the wood benches. I’ve been keeping my eye open for thick quilts that I could fold over as cushions. The fabric on the right is a quilt top, but for $3.00 I figure I can add some filling to it and it will work perfect. The second is a very worn quilt (so it was cheap) and it is the perfect size for the bench.8.15thrifting-07Things that I can use right now….8.15thrifting-09Maybe when my kids are out of the house I will open a booth at a flea market. I could become a gatherer again!


back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Cheryl - Am I picking up on a couple of philosophies from the little book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? That whole “will I use it now?” question has really grabbed my thought process. It is an excellent way to look at purchases or things that others want to give you. It’s very freeing. Great post!

  • Aja - I feel like my thrifting (and all shopping!) has changed in the exact same way. No more frivolous, just-because-like-it purchasesโ€ฆ both because I no longer bring in much income for our family and because with kids and toys everywhere, I just want LESS! In this season it feels better for me to purge a closet than buy trinkets or a shirt that I kind of like that’s on sale. :) Love your finds and tip for making it a little game to only spend a certain amount. PS- I can’t wait for my kiddos to get big enough to do real puzzles with me!

  • Loren - I have my own silly little thrifting rule.
    For anything that is not consumable, I have to be able to use it as many times as the dollar amount on the price tag.
    Cute $20 quilt to place on couch & be used for cuddling & movie watching – Good purchase
    Awesome $10 cast iron skillet that I probably won’t use since I already have a couple skillets in different sizes – Bad Purchase

  • Angela Storm - girl! I need to come thrift where you thrift! Everything near where I live is SO expensive. But I really love those rules… I’m getting ready to to Canton (TX) and I’m totally going to keep your guidelines in mind!

  • AshleyAnn - Cheryl – I haven’t read it, but I have heard lots of people talking about it. I didn’t realize that was in the book…I should read it!

  • Ingrid - I know what you mean about decluttering when life is busy! It does help :) Also The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a great book :)

  • amanda - Such good finds !!! xo

  • Rose - This sounds like something I could embrace

  • Holly - I like that you set a price before looking at the price tag. That’s a great tip.

  • Katie T - I simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that you can find such beautiful quilts (heavily worn or not) for $3…!!

Three years.

Yesterday marked three years since we have been a family of seven. So much has changed in three years. Every member of our family has grown in multiple ways. I woke up early yesterday and headed to the gym in the dark. As I drove I thought about the emotions and feelings of that day three years ago. It is incredible how quickly time really does pass and how different a day can be three years later. So, unexpectedly different.

Three years ago I was a hot mess of emotions. Three years ago a beautiful, scared baby girl was placed in my arms. She was a hot mess of emotions too. Three years ago I held her, but I didn’t know her. Three years ago, she felt my arms around her, but she didn’t know me.

Everything is different now. I know her. She knows me. The scared little girl is gone, replaced by a confident, persistent, very opinionated four year old. A four year old that knows how to melt me and how to push my buttons. A four year old that has great empathy for others, loves to tell people she is from China and is the most athletic tot I’ve ever seen. She often looks at her baby pictures and points out how her cleft lip was so cute. She likes to smile, flex her muscles and prefers not to pick up her messes.

Adoption is a treasured thread in the tapestry of our family, yet it is a thread that is so woven in with all the others it we often are not mindful of its presence. Yesterday we celebrated that thread. We celebrated our story, her story. She opened a present we bought for her three years ago from the town of her birth. She helped me make cupcakes and watched too many episodes of Angelina Ballerina because it was a dark, rainy day.ย  Yesterday, we celebrated the day we became a family of seven.

She agreed to let me snap a few pictures of her on the porch. She did not agree to change out of her yogurt spilled shirt. You win some, you lose some.

It has been a beautiful three years.

8.15threeyears-018.15threeyears-028.15threeyears-038.15threeyears-04You can click here to read the post from the day we met.

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Suzanne - “Adoption is a treasured thread in the tapestry of our family” – wow that is so simply put but has such a powerful message. Thank you for taking each of us on this journey with you. Your words are spoken so true and your God centered heart resonates in your written feelings. Enjoy the day!!!

  • Tanya - Just simply beautiful. Beautiful story, beautiful girl!

  • Sarah Gartman - I love how in the last picture it looks like she is signing I Love You! And the yogurt stained shirt reminds me of your post about her using a spoon and eating yogurt. Than stain is a battle wound you have fought for her and won. I love your family. So sweet.

  • Heather - Love every inch of this post! Love!

  • Rae - Wow, it’s already been three years?? She’s grown even more beautiful <3

  • Melissa - Your anniversary probably means I have been reading your blog for 5 years. Its been so nice watching Little One come into her own and see your family expand. Thank you for sharing, I love reading your blog each day, its the first thing I do with my cup of coffee before I start work!

  • Krystina - Yay for three years! I can’t believe that it’s been three years already! I read that sentence a few times to make sure I read it correctly. It seems like just a few short months ago you were going to get her. Where does the time go?

  • Emily - Congratulations on your anniversary! Thank you so much for sharing with us <3

  • beth - Gosh, Ashley, I can’t believe it has been so long! But look at her….it’s obvious! She’s turning into quite the Little Lady! No longer a baby! Blessings to you and your family!

  • Erica - I remember that day three years ago too. I can’t believe it’s been that long! By God’s grace she has blossomed under the love of her family. I’ve learned so much from you about adoption. Thank you for sharing his beautiful story with us.

  • Jessica - She is so precious, and lovely, and spunky! I’m so glad she’s home and thriving!

  • christina larsen - Happy Gotcha Day!!!

  • amy jupin - love the pics, love the girl, love the momma!

  • amber - Just beautiful. Love everything about this story.

  • Linda - Just plain awesome!

  • Elise - beautiful!!!! I am so grateful that you have allowed us to glimpse into your beautiful family. I have followed you even before you became a family of seven. Blessed by you then, and blessed by you now!!!! Blessings to you!

  • Kathleen - She is so beautiful, then and now, and the glimpse into the story unfolding is so encouraging. Thank you.

  • Lacey Meyers - My goodness … I can’t fathom that it has been three years already. If feels like just yesterday I was praying for your paperwork to come in the mail and now look at your little girl right there! I am so glad she’s home. <3

  • deneen_elizabeth - She has grown so much! I started following your blog through your adoption posts. Crazy how the years go on. I think she has her big sisters cheeky smile ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Emily Betzler - So special!!! <3 <3

  • Kim B. - In addition to your wonderful post, Ashley, I love the reflections that Sarah Gartman made in her comments. Congratulations to you all on Little One’s three-year anniversary as being a physical part of your family. I know she was part already long before emotionally and spiritually.

  • Michelle - I love how this cyber world sometimes connects us in ways that fills our hearts up and makes the world feel smaller. As I read your post I smiled because although we have never met we share a special connection. This month you celebrated 3 years and we celebrated 15. Both girls born in China. Adoption is indeed miraculous!!


  • Jenn - that crinkled nosed face. oh my. what a beautiful story

  • Miriam - Beautiful and heartbreaking. It may sound weird, but she reminds me of her big sister. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It means a lot to me, more than I can express in words.

  • Carla - I will always remember the day your daughter first found your arms because I read your post about it as I was labouring with our third child, the final addition to our family. I sobbed when I saw the photo of your hubby holding his baby girl, tears running down his face. I think the photos of your daughter three years later are stunning, yoghurt stains and all.

My flowers are beginning to fade. I am not ready for summer to end. Not ready for falling leaves. Not ready for boots and layers and plaid. Not ready for the way our laundry triples when my boys are no longer running around barefoot and shirtless and the girls aren’t in swimsuits. Not ready.

Each year I try a garden. I’ve learned I am awesome at growing four things: basil, cilantro, zinnias and sunflowers. Basically, I can grow the things that thrive when you forget about them.

8.15zinnias-018.15zinnias-02Dirty bare feet dangling from my grandpa’s garden chair.8.15zinnias-04We are trying to be more consistent with our nature journals this year. I feel like we start strong each year and then it gets cold and I get depressed because everything is brown. I’m going to fight that this year! For those that asked recently, we use Strathmore Visual Journals, size 5.5×8. They come in bigger sizes, but I feel like the kids fill the pages better with the small size and they are more portable. The paper is thick for mixed media, so we can change up what medium we are using…paint, ink, colored pencils.8.15zinnias-05He was drawing our dog chasing the chickens. Arley (the dog) loves to chase the chickens, but doesn’t do more than chase them. The chickens chase our cat. The cat chases mice. I run from mice. It is a circus around here.8.15zinnias-078.15zinnias-08The next day she wanted to create a larger drawing of her dancing with a flower…the flower was the same size as her. She was holding the leaves like hands…with a big rainbow background. It was completely worth all the flowers she picked for inspiration.8.15zinnias-098.15zinnias-108.15zinnias-11We are going to begin harvesting zinnia and sunflower seeds soon. Part of the process. Seasons change. In rough seasons, I can’t wait for the change. When the season is sweet, it is so hard to let it go. Winter always makes me appreciate and relish summer a bit more. I guess I’ll take the coming winter, knowing summer will return.

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Rae - Beautiful post as always, Ashley! :) Every season comes with its own beauty.

  • babs - are you a lefty too? it would explain your artistic abilities. i also am blessed to be left handed. i consider it a God gift.

  • Jacque - You left us hanging- I was SO excited to see that picture!

  • Krista - I would love to see her finished painting! :)

  • Alie - Can you explain how you harvest your flower seeds? And store them!

  • Charity G. - What an awesome picture idea. We don’t homeschool but you are inspiring me to start nature journaling with my boys. It would be so cool to see it from their perspectives.

  • kimberly oyler - i got new boots for my birthday today and i CANNOT wait to wear them with all the plaid!!

  • AshleyAnn - Alie – We just let the flowers dry out and shake the seeds into a brown paper bag. We keep the bag in a cool dark spot. I am sure there is a more ‘correct’ way of doing it, but that is what we do and it seems to work.

  • AshleyAnn - Kimberly – did you get new socks too? :)

  • natalie - I love drawing and painting at the beach with my daughter. I plan to do more – thank you for the reminder and inspiration! The painting that your daughter is doing reminds me of a special book that we found secondhand a few years ago. It’s called Miranda’s Magic Garden by Linda Atnip. And wow, I found a link to it: http://www.amazon.ca/Mirandas-Magic-Garden-Linda-Atnip/dp/1885394217


  • Karen Davis - Is there a magical way to harvest zinnia seeds?

  • Dian Crain - How do you harvest your zinnia seeds? I grew them for the first time this summer and would like to know what’s worked for you.