Develop a Minor Expertise

by Katy on August 4, 2016 · 21 comments


I like listening to podcasts when going about the somewhat dull tasks of my day. Cleaning, hanging laundry, commuting and running errands. It can add up to a couple of hours per day, which gives me the opportunity to find inspiration on financial matters, decor, blogging, habits and happiness.

One of my favorite podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin which includes her delightfully droll sister, Elizabeth Craft.

A recent episode included a segment encouraging listeners to “develop a minor expertise.” This advice made me realize that I already engage in this act as a natural component of my reselling side-gig. Whether it’s dolls, midcentury and antique furniture, antique marbles, barkcloth fabric, Birkenstocks, vintage Pyrex, cast iron or any of the other endless categories that I’ve researched to optimally sell my thrifted finds.

To many, researching these categories would be burdensome and a barrier to taking advantage of this lucrative income opportunity. To me, the process of developing a minor expertise is not only a necessity, but a delightfully enjoyable perk of the transaction. Checking “completed listings” on eBay, finding specialty groups on Facebook and allowing myself to indulge in luxurious in-depth internet searches to increase my knowledge on the detailed history of my scores. It’s fun, plus I thoroughly enjoy getting to add to my knowledge base.

Not only am I educating myself about my Goodwill finds, but I’m also honing my eye on what to keep an eye out for on future thrifting excursions. That way I’ll know that diamond in the rough when I see it.

I’m sure that I walk past great items every time I enter a thrift store, but since it’s stuff that I know nothing about, it doesn’t even catch my eye. With every new category of purchase, I increase my knowledge a little bit more, which then increases my chances of later spying that million dollar item. (Don’t laugh, this happens! Sure, it’s been for other people so far, but a girl can dream.)

Would you enjoy developing a minor expertise? Do you think this act would boost your happiness? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

susan August 4, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Hi Katy,
Such a coincidence that you posted this today, as just yesterday I was thinking about how you are so knowledgeable about your thrift shop finds. The ‘barkcloth’ material that you wrote about was what inspired the train of thought… LOL.
I have seen this material many years ago, probably in my mom’s stuff or any of my several aunts’ homes, and it brought back very good memories from long ago. Glad for you that you had such a quick turn-over on the fabric!

Stay well…


Katy August 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

I will usually do a quick “completed listings” eBay search while still at Goodwill.


Bee August 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm

As the daughter of an architect, I have a love for construction, art and design. I spent a great deal of time as a child and young adult on construction sites, in furniture showrooms, and playing at my fathers drafting table. Although I have not made a living directly in this field, I love buildings … I love furniture…. I love art and antiques. I confess that have shelves of books and magazines on architecture, designers, and decorative arts. I have my own book of sample colors from Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams. Sadly, I also have a closet full of fabrics, trim, beautiful old tiles, and salvaged drawer pulls. Occasionally, a stray piece of furniture will find its way into the house or garage. Fortunately for me, I have a few friends and family members who allow me to rearrange their furniture, pick their paint colors, and help with renovations. Now that my children are more or less grown, I have thought about going back to school and getting a degree in historical restoration. I guess that would be a “major” expertise. Unfortunately, there is not a program nearby; therefore,the cost seems to be prohibitive.


Bee August 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

I just wanted to say that it makes me happy that you appreciate barkcloth, love an older home, and save many good pieces of furniture from certain destruction. So much of our history has been lost in this crazy consumerist society.


Katy August 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Thank you, that’s so sweet of you~


Su Mama August 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Bee, you obviously already have a wealth of knowledge in this area. What about exploring the internet for online degrees in historic restoration? I recently completed a master’s degree in textile history/quilt studies, a “hybrid” program through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with about half the courses online, then a semester in residence.


Bee August 5, 2016 at 5:02 am

Textile history must be fascinating. I think it is wonderful that you have studied your passion. I really appreciate your encouragement. I haven’t investigated the options available in depth yet. I have found two programs that have some e-learning options available. We will see!


tonya parham August 4, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I love podcasts and generally listen to ones about books just because I love to read and don’t have many reader friends who can recommend books to me.

I don’t know if I have areas of small expertise.. maybe books…but otherwise…. well, maybe in one strange thing…electric light insulators. I’m obsessed with those and know what a good price for them is.

Other than that– most of my expertise is in history or literature…not necessarily frugal helpful! (though not particularly expensive either!)


Karen August 5, 2016 at 1:45 pm

So many women on this blog read. I am in 3 book clubs myself. Anyway when women say the are picking up their book from the library perhaps they could say what the title is so we can get reading ideas.


tonya parham August 5, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Today I picked up Colson Whitehead’s new novel _Underground Railroad_. I’m finishing up a novel called _The Hours Count_ about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their execution.

I like hearing what people are reading too!


lisa August 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

As part of my nonconsumer advocacy I grow a vegetable, herb and fruit garden and do a lot of canning, fermenting, drying, etc. I am a librarian and when people I work with found out I did this I started getting asked by libraries if they could hire me in my off time to teach programs on canning and pickling, etc. It was an accidental minor expertise that has worked out well. I also make soap for fun for myself and as gifts and now have people I have gifted soap to in the past ordering soap from me for their gift giving.


Sharon August 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Read somewhere about different kinds of friends we have. One type is ‘the maven.’ An expert on a narrow topic who is happy to share his expertise.

Unfortunately, this gets you labeled ‘grammar nazi’ on Facebook. 😀


Mairsydoats August 5, 2016 at 8:11 am

Me too!! I’ve tried lately to just talk back to FB posts rather than actually correct them. The fine line between when to use “fewer” and and when to use “less” is my particular niche. Don’t mind me muttering under my breath as I read FB, the newspaper, blogposts, etc.

FYI – Fewer applies to things that can be counted, Less to things that aren’t counted or are indeterminate. Fewer cups of flour, and less flour are both correct, the reverse, not so much.


Marcia August 4, 2016 at 5:34 pm

I sort of do already. My interest in all things medical has been with me since childhood. I originally planned to go to medical school but for many reasons, got sidelined into English Literature. My interest continues, and since we have one doctor, about five nurses, and a couple personal care aides in the family, we exchange stories and subjects of interest fairly often. I read a lot also. So I have a mini-expertise and drive my doctor crazy by diagnosing myself all the time and not saying anything until he confirms my diagnosis. Right now we disagree on whether or not I have gout because it’s not in my big toe, but the 4th toe. Lab tests pending.


Betty Winslow August 4, 2016 at 6:32 pm

I have or am developing minors in kiddy lit, vintage jewelry, cooking, and jewelry repair. Three of the four have worked their way into money-making gigs; the ooking just makes me and my family happy!


Leah @ The Frugal South August 5, 2016 at 1:51 am

I listen to the Happier podcast too and love it! My minor expertise is Disney World travel. I’m a teacher by trade but I’ve been obsessed with Disney World since I was a kid. I remember reading the “Unofficial Guide to Disney World” cover to cover when I was 8 years old! Now my friends and family all ask me for advice when planning their vacations. It is a great source of happiness!


chris August 5, 2016 at 4:10 am

I have a minor expertise in foods for special diets, plus the details of nutrition, digestion and general wellbeing that go with that. It is something I would never have sought on my own.

My oldest son has autism, food intolerances and dyslexia and optimizing his nutrition while avoiding the food landmines that used to make him ill has become a significant part of my life. He is much, much healthier as a result, I have a group of friends made solely through the learning of all of this and had the fun and occasional irritation of helping to moderate a large yahoo group devoted to the way I feed my kids (started out no grains, no potatoes, no refined sugars etc…very overwhelming at first). I titled myself the “Food and Lifestyle Girl” because that is what I did. I could answer many of the technical questions but my real value to them was the recipes I had created and the docs I wrote up on handling kid life while eating so bizarrely. How to do a Killer Picnic, Birthday Parties That Aren’t Lame, Dinner Parties For Doubters, Persuading Your Kid That New Food Won’t Kill Him, Packing Food for Road Trips and Avoiding Food Poisoning, Convince Grandma the Kids Aren’t Suffering or Malnourished…that sort of thing. It was fun.

This kind of minor expertise has an unexpected pitfall. I really do not care how other people feed their kids but have found that some people (mostly moms) assume that I must and get defensive with me. No mean feat since I avoid discussing our diet if at all possible.

On the other hand, it gives me great joy to be asked to help others when they find out I have resolved my son’s GI problems with just diet, probiotics and one foray into, of all woowoo things, homeopathy. The latter helped tremendously and immediately but I still think I must have imagined it. So…special diets and nutrition. Total accident.


janine August 6, 2016 at 3:53 am

I’m really impressed by your efforts. I can only imagine the efforts it takes to put together a diet with multiple food intolerances. It is great that you have taken the time to share your expertise.


Mrs. Picky Pincher August 5, 2016 at 5:02 am

Fantastic idea. 🙂 And it’s quite helpful that your minor expertise rakes in a good amount of cash on the side, I’m sure!

For me, it’s writing. I’ve been blogging since March and man, I have to say I’ve been so much happier. Everybody is looking for their “thing” and I think this is it.

I’m a lucky lady. 🙂


Vickie August 5, 2016 at 7:51 am

I agree!
I have a good eye for porcelain, china, native artwork and old books. I love researching the history on these and finding any info I can.


jennifer August 5, 2016 at 8:56 am

I can make pretty fancy cakes. I’m probably not as good as a professional baker and have never taken any classes but I have somewhat of a knack for making cakes with interesting details such as Barbie, beach theme, princess theme, Hello Kitty, Tweety bird, etc. I made my daughter’s wedding cake for about $15. It was 3 teir and a really nice cake that I think someone would pay $100 or more for. I never have really made them professionally because my downfall is that I don’t want to sell anyone a cake that is not perfect and almost no cake is perfect. I would spend a lot of time on a cake and not really charge enough for my efforts. I don’t know that I want to commit to a side gig in cakes but I do try to make a nice cake for my family a few times a year. I seem to be kinda crafty so I think I need to stimulate that side of myself more .


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