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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The BIG Challenge Finale!

I know I'm a week late, but I just had to report the final numbers for the BIG challenge. If you're just now joining My Dear Trash, the BIG challenge was for me to earn $5,000 in 6 weeks to pay for my daughter's wedding. I actually met my goal in week 5- but here's the results of week 6. I didn't have any new lists, since I was working on the wedding and didn't have time to go shop, so my only item to sell for over 10.00 was this dress.
Women's Liz Claiborne Size 16 White Floral Dress was purchased at a yard sale for .50 and sold for $31.09! I did, finally, have something sell on craigslist. I purchased this amazing trunk for $25.00 at a yard sale...
It took 2 months, but it finally sold for $80.00! Here's my final totals...

Ebay Sales: 235.13
Craigslist sales: 80.00
Costs: 0 (clothes), 43.76(ebay fees), 35.12(paypal fees) 25.00 (Cost of trunk)
This Weeks Profit: 211.25
Total Profit: 5220.61

I met my goal for the wedding and we actually were under on our $5,000 budget - I'll have more pictures and a break down of the budget coming soon. Love, Kelly.

Doing what you love.

Author Herman Cane said:

I’ve heard before that when you do what you love, it won’t feel like work at all.
That’s the stage I’m at. 
I love getting out there and digging through trash.  I recently found this amazing dresser.
Here's a vintage coat hanger stand I found at Goodwill on $1.00 day.  My sweet friend, Debby painted it up for a wedding reception she helped decorate for. Painting it pink and draping it with pearls is something I would've never thought of.  
Debby borrowed my $1.00 corner shelf, which was so nappy and ugly when I brought it home, I wasn't sure what to do with it.  See what happens with red paint and ceramic angels!
And this $3.00 Italian easel I found at a garage sale sure cleaned up nice.
The wedding Debby hosted for Brittney and Joe was so much fun.
Debby is so talented.  She used vintage luggage in the food line.  This suitcase housed a big bowl of pasta.
She found these vintage doors and created an amazing backdrop for the wedding line.
Debby also is the creator of brooch bouquets.  You can check out her site, Top This Wedding here.
Shopping trash has created some amazing friendships for me, plus Debby is a huge source of inspiration.
I can’t believe how much my business has grown.  I’m buying trash I never thought I would.  I’m taking risks and it’s paying off.

Author Robert Kiyosaki said:

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.”

Here's a woman who loves what she does.
Rhonda Baker Michaud is the owner of Sister Thrift, a thrift store in Boston.
Rhonda is asked:
What tips would you give to people who want to find a good deal at a thrift store? You need to visit a lot, since it's hit or miss. Many of our customers are here every day, and they get the best bargains. You also need to look through everything very carefully or you'll miss a lot .

I have no problem shopping every day.

Rhonda is also asked:
What's the best part of being a thrift store owner? If I rip my pants while working, I'll just go to the floor and buy a pair of jeans. I need sneakers now, so I'm hoping something comes in, in my size. I've become so frugal that I don't buy anything new, and we're living the good life because of that. We don't spend a lot of money, and we're not in a lot of debt.

Thrift store owner! 
Wouldn’t that be fun!

What do you love to do? 
Is it something you can do for a living? 
How does it bless your life?
Are you taking risks?

My friend, Collin Smith has told me for years he wants to be a toy maker when he grows up and it looks like he’s on his way.  He’s been accepted to a school back east to start on his Masters degree in something fantastic that totally has everything to do with making toys.
And he and his wife Ashlee just had there first son, Nolan.
Congratulations!  What a beautiful family.
This summer Collin is here in Mesa and Gilbert, AZ doing something he loves.  He is going to help kids DESIGN & BUILD their own toys at his own day camp! I know my kids will have a blast exploring, discovering, brainstorming, prototyping, and creating new toys!

If you want in on the action, check out his website at here.

Many times when we do what we love, it blesses not just our lives, but the lives of others.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rockin 50's Wedding Part 1

When my daughter came to me and said, "I want to wear hot pink, high top converse under my wedding dress" I knew she would be up for a slightly non-traditional wedding- A themed wedding- A 1950's wedding! Here's what started it all...And here's my beautiful daughter and son in law...
No 50's reception would be complete without a diner- so with my drama teacher background guiding me along we began to create the perfect backdrop. We started with flats from a hotel set Mr. Right and I built a few years ago...
With a coat of primer and a few coats of paint (In the wedding colors) we were ready to start the build...
Here I am with the bride and groom getting ready to add some vinyl...
Mr. Right was carefully measuring the shelves that would hold the ice cream sundae cups...
I hate to leave you hanging, but we haven't received the pictures from the actual reception. I have tons of projects and ideas to share with you. So stay tuned this week as we highlight our 50's Rockin' Reception. I'll also be finishing up the BIG Challenge on Wednesday. Thanks for your patience. Love, Kelly.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Girl's Gone Wild Bridal Shower

It’s all wedding around here.
Amanda and Brennen

Kelly’s been working day and night, turning her daughter's wedding reception into a 1950’s wedding dinner.
I can’t believe the wedding is tomorrow.
Amanda’s wedding colors are hot pink and turquoise, but for her bridal shower she wanted hot pink and zebra print.
How cool is that!
Along with the colors came a fierce bridal shower theme
Girl’s Gone Wild.
“Girl’s Gone Wild” in layman’s terms is usually attached with spring break, way too much partying and a video that surfaces later in life right before you start that political career, but for Amanda, a Mormon Latter-Day Saint girl, it meant cupcakes, strawberry lemonade and best friends.
Joyce and Aubry came up amazing the decorations.
I found this tiered table at Goodwill for $20. With a little black spray paint, it worked great as the cupcake table.
For a group gift, Amanda hoped to collect a down payment for a king size mattress, so Kelly suggested a money tree. I purchased this branch of a tree at a garage sale for $5.00.
It’s been painted white and has paper leaves attached. Those at the shower who wished to give a cash gift placed their money in an envelope and tied it to the tree.
The shower was so much fun and now it’s on to the big day tomorrow.
We’re so happy for you, Amanda.
Tomorrow you get to marry your best friend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Telephone Table - The Final Chapter

I’ve had a flood of emails and comments, supporting me and the loss of my ability to sell on eBay.  It’s been a tough time, trying to figure out my path without eBay. 

I went through the standard 5 steps of grief:
Denial – I couldn’t believe what had happened.  I went over it again and again in my mind.
Anger – It seemed so unfair, no justice at all.
Bargaining – If only I could go back and change what had happened, if only things could be different. 
Depression – I felt like my credibility and honor was lost, that somehow I was less than I was before. 
Acceptance – I now know I have been given a new path to life and new opportunities await me.  Necessity is the mother on invention and God will never abandon us.

You know I love to shop.  Read some of the earlier posts on My Dear Trash and I wrote about the thrill of the hunt, fashion lust and how much I love digging for the prize. 

So, how do I curb my appetite for all-things trash? 

I am filling my time with other things I love.
Spending more time with my family.
Buying furniture to re-sell at a consignment shop.
Painting furniture.
Working on my new young adult novel, yes, I said new!  And it’s coming so fast I can barely keep up with it.

And I realize sometimes a loss turns into a time to re-evaluate, re-discover and re-create.

I won’t pretend.  This fight definitely isn’t over.  It’s still something I’m going to try to fix in the future, when I’m not so attached to it.
So, what did I learn about eBay?

Now that this has happened, I can see there are ways to avoid such a disaster.
When my ability to sell on eBay was taken away, I called and talked with a customer service manager.  I explained to him my situation, pointing out the ankle jeans and the XL girl’s overalls, hoping he’d see how subjective my specific situation was.  He told me once a seller’s star ranking percentage goes under 98.5%; they are no longer able to sell on eBay.  They are kicked off and never allowed to sell again.  However, I was told every 4 months eBay gives you, the seller, a clean slate and starts your star rating percentage over.  So, if you receive an email from eBay stating you’re in trouble or on probation, I’d suggest you walk away from that account and sell under another account.  Do not link them up to the same bank account or the same paypal account.  Have them entirely separate from each other so you can work for 4 months until your other account is wiped clean from your poor ratings. 

Is there a way to avoid probation all together?

Yes, I think so.  I think it involves sincere communication with your buyers.  Be sure you have in your item description your desire to be the best eBay seller possible.  Ask your customers to contact you before they leave any negative feedback or low star scores.  Offer refunds immediately, do not delay.  Yes, it isn’t fair, but it’s worth losing out on the $9.99 instead of being shut down.  I always did refund money anyway, but sometimes I waited a day or two before I got around to it. 
My personality is very casual.  I react to the stress of life by making chocolate chip cookies or taking a bike ride and I don’t always move on things as fast as I should. 
When I started selling on eBay, it was a casual experience, fun and full of opportunities.  There was and still is no better place to sell on-line, but the rules have changed. 
I asked the customer service manager if I could appeal my case.  I was told no, that eBay doesn’t have an appeals process.  They do not have the man power to listen to every case like mine.
Remember, the customer service manager told me thousands of sellers were being shut down every day.  Ouch!
Realizing the inevitable. . . 

I did a Google search, hoping to find stories from other sellers who’d been kicked off eBay.  This was a waste of a day, because it’s a very negative experience.  I found clips on you tube with Axed-eBayer’s ranting and raving, spitting on the very spirit of eBay.  Profanity, boycotts, even threats to eBay itself.  I also read some very sad, sincere stories on the eBay discussion forum of others who’d been shut down.  An eBay seller back east was unable to ship the products she sold on eBay because her town had some of the heaviest snow falls on record and her post office was shut down for 5 days.  She received poor ratings on her shipping time and eBay shut her down.  eBay was her only source of income and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to make her house payment.

eBay is a billion dollar company and their needs to be a human element involved in this process, but who knows if or when that will happen.   

I can’t believe my telephone table is finally done.  
The first thing I did was drive it over to Kelly’s house, (who has been so completely supportive through this whole experience) thrilled I’d completed it and that’s when her neighbor saw it.

“Whatever it is, I want that,” the neighbor said and we agreed on a price.  I dropped it off at her house and she’s making a seat cushion for it. 
There’s nothing more fulfilling they doing your best, working hard and seeing the rewards.  I still look forward to walking this path.

And what about My Dear Trash

Interestingly, My Dear Trash was never about eBay, it was never about vintage furniture or garage sale finds, but finding value where others may not see it, especially in yourself.  It's a philosophy I claim as my life's mission.

Sexually abused as a teenage girl, I spent much of my life feeling like trash.  I moved through my twenties, many days feeling worthless. This trap left me vulnerable to more pain and more abuse, but through God’s help, I was able to pick myself up.  God carried my burdens when I was unable to carry them myself.  Then He gave me a gift I never dreamed of – my husband.  A kind, good and loving man who over the last 12 years of marriage has cherished me.  The counselor has taught me more about love then I ever thought possible.  He is my hero.  He has helped me see the value in myself when I saw nothing good at all.  When I was strong enough, I used the gift of his love to push through my past and I can say I am whole. 

Read through the 5 steps of grief again, and you'll realize they have very little to do with being kicked off eBay, but overcoming obstacles as a whole.
The bigger picture is My Dear Trash will continue to be a place where I write about discovering beauty, reaching goals and finding value where others may not see it; in trash, yes, at the thrift store, most definitely, but most especially in yourself.      
Linking up to:
Jenny Matlock

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Telephone Table - Part IV

Oh my goodness!
I never expected such an outpouring of love and support all because eBay kicked me to the curb.  I’m an outcast; an eBay leper and you still love me.    
I can’t thank you enough.
And my telephone table, well let’s just say my elbow was just on the mend when I turned the telephone table over while painting it and found a whole other panel of furniture staples. 
Pick, pick, pick.
One by one, I pull them out and it gives me more time to reflect on my eBay woes.
When I realized my store had been shut down, I was certain there was some mistake. 
Still, I had a feeling who had given me low ratings on the star system and I was certain this had contributed to my demise.
I had been in contact with a seller who had purchased a pair of Gap jeans from me.  These jeans were typical, nothing written inside the tag other then the size and material.
However, the customer emailed me when she received her package, outraged I had sent her a pair of Gap ankle jeans.  I emailed her back, groveling in the way us sellers do when we’re questioned about something we’ve sold and I offered her a full refund, including shipping costs.
Why did I offer her everything back?
Why was I so wimpy?
Because of eBay’s policies, I know I have no ground to stand on.  I’m literally teetering on a sinking ship.  If I refuse a refund to this customer, I’d receive negative feedback.  If I refuse to return shipping costs, I’d receive negative feedback.  I had learned it’s just easier to refund a customers money then to question/justify why their request isn't valid.
So I never questioned her supposed Ankle jeans, I didn’t even go there.

I refunded her money and although she left positive feedback, she left a low ranking on the star system for “item as described”.
I was kicked off eBay because of a pair of ankle jeans.
Does anyone know what ankle jeans are?
I’d had 3 other instances like this one.
I’d sold a pair of Girl’s XL (size 16) overalls.  The customer was certain they would fit her toddler and when they didn’t she wanted a full refund, plus shipping.  I refunded all her money, but she left me poor star ratings.
I sold a blue cocktail dress.  The seller received it and said it was more navy then blue.
She left me poor star ratings.
Out of 563 sales in December, I had 7 poor ratings, note all were positive feedbacks, but the 8th one pushed me into the point of no return.
Ankle Jeans strike me down!
Did I call eBay?
Did they listen to my concern?
It’s not like I was selling cats and sending out dogs.
I was selling Gap jeans that a customer interpreted as Ankle jeans.
“What I sell is so subjective,” I told the manager, certain he’d look through me emails, see all the money I’d refunded, recognize that I work with my customers in a professional way, but he didn’t do any of that.
He simply said because I’d preformed below standard, I could never sell on eBay again.
“Never,” I said, certain he’d misinformed me.
“Never,” he said.  “You’ll have to find some other venue to sell on.”
“What other venue?” I asked, knowing all too well there is no other website in the world like eBay.
“I can’t answer that,” he said, “But in this economy, eBay has to stay competitive with other on-line bidding sites.”
“I’ve never heard of any other on-line bidding sites,” I said, unsure what site could be giving eBay, a billion dollar company, a run for its money.
“eBay is getting strict and we only want the best of the best selling.  It sucks to be a manager because I’ve shut done thousands of accounts like yours because of this new star system, but this is the way it is.  And don't even think about opening another account.  If we find you, we'll shut you down again.”
I didn't realize eBay had it's own internal mofia?
I went around and around with this manager. 
I tried the “Please help me, I’m just a stay-at-home mom who’s making extra money for my family” card, the “I don’t understand, this is so confusing to me” card, the “I’ll report this to your supervisor” card, the “My mom’s a journalist and she’ll write about this injustice in the New York Times” card and nothing worked.
It was like dealing with the federal government.

My case was not looked at individually, basically a computer kicked me off because of one too many strikes.
What would justify kicking someone off eBay.
Maybe if that person is a terrorist?
Yes, I can see kicking them off.
Embezzling money?
Stealing identification?
Hacking into other peoples accounts?
Selling drugs?
Auctioning off their toe nail clippings?
After my call with the manager, I was left wondering what happened.
I haven’t had a traffic ticket since I was 17.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude.
I qualify for a home loan.
I pay my taxes!
And I’m not just kicked off eBay for a time, but told I can never, ever sell on eBay again.
A part of my credibility is gone, forever!

“Where do I go from here,” I said to the counselor that night after I told him my sad story, my eBay gone wrong narrative, my account of belly-up trash.
“You always find a way,” he said, my own 6’5 Polish cheerleader.
“But honey, I write about eBay on my blog.  Kelly and I are finishing up the book My Dear Trash.  How can I possible do this if I’m banned from eBay?”
“You still have a story to tell and you still have other outlets to sell.”
Where else can I sell $1.00 day overalls for $40.00?
But, I know my husband is right and now I have to see which direction God wants me to go.
Maybe I’m staring at it in this telephone table.
Maybe I’m staring at it in my manuscript.
And maybe it’s staring back at me in 5 beautiful little faces.
It’s important to keep things in perspective.
Next week, I’ll share what I’ve learned and how you can protect yourself from eBay.
And, I’ll feature my telephone table because it’s just about done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The BIG Challenge Week 5

The wedding is next Friday!!!! I only have 1 more week left of the BIG challenge to earn $5,000 to pay for my daughter's wedding! Let's take a look at this weeks top ebay sellers...
Women's Chico's Travelers Size 3 (XL) Black Floral Top sold for $10.49
Women's Ann Taylor Size 0 Navy Lindsay Career Pants sold for $10.50
I love this Women's Banana Republic Size XL Gold & Orange Jacket- it sold for $15.50
This Women's Simply Vera Wang Size XL Black Knit Dress sold for $27.66
And my top seller this week? Women's Chico's Size 2 (Large) Black Velvet Crop Pants sold for $32.99. These pants have been listed for 3 weeks and were down to a $5.50 starting bid- it just goes to show how unpredictable Ebay can be. As many of you know, I also had an estate sale this weekend. We were able to empty the house and earn some cash for the homeowner. Here's how the week turned out:

Estate Sale Profits (my commission plus items of mine that sold): 1360.00
Ebay Sales: 348.85
Costs: 26.00 (clothes), 55.17(ebay fees), 26.40(paypal fees)
This Weeks Profit: 1601.28
Total Profit: 5009.36

WE MET OUR GOAL!!!! With still a week to spare! Trash has been such a blessing in our lives. Just 2 years ago I wouldn't have had any idea how to earn this kind of money in just 5 weeks. I most likely would have found myself putting the wedding on a credit card to be paid off at some future date- some distant future date. I feel empowered! But also exhausted! I'll admit it's not easy work- trying to plan a wedding that is mostly a "Do It Yourself" project and working to earn the money- but hey it only took 5 weeks and now I can relax- well, maybe after the wedding I can relax- and I won't have to look at a big fat bill when it's all over. Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this one! All I have on ebay this week are relists- With preparations for the estate sale all last week I wasn't able to shop and had no new items to list- I'll let you know how I do though- I think the extra money I earn will be used for a vacation for Me and Mr. Right. Let me know how you're doing on your own BIG challenge. Love, Kelly.