What I Did This Weekend: One Epic Garage Sale

This past weekend we hosted a garage sale with two of our neighbors.  Hosting a garage sale doesn't require any real physical work, yet it's surprisingly tiring. 

A garage sale always originates with a fleeting thought: I don't think we need that (insert object) anymore.  If you let this thought germinate long enough, it might be followed by a preliminary mental survey: Do we have enough unneeded and outgrown items to warrant hosting a sale? If you answer yes, which we did, the next stage involves the initial gathering of simple, easy-to-spot items.  It's slow and pleasant, like the picking of low-hanging fruit.

Multiple awkward piles will clutter corners of your house at this point, but the real work hasn't even started.  Based on our ample experience with hosting garage sales (a lifetime tally of three, in case you were wondering), it's likely that you'll peter out until a few days before the sale, at which point the deadline looms and you quickly reach the blitzkrieg gathering mode.

At this point, nothing is safe.  You scrounge through bookshelves, cupboards, drawers, and storage closets.  You carry heaping armfuls of stuff into the garage.  You entertain thoughts of tagging your children with a sticker.

At some point, you pause, scan the mountain of merchandise, and have two sobering thoughts: Oh man, I have to price all of this, and Oh man, I don't want to bring any of this back into circulation in our house.  (Except the one decorative box that you reconsider and return to a bookshelf.  And the two bird wall hooks that suddenly look appealing.  And some of the toys you hoped to unload, but your children spotted them and gasped when they realized they were intended for sale.)

That stuff you bring back inside.

The rest you price, which involves roughly 327 sequential decisions.  Should I charge 50 cents or one dollar for this candle?  Is $7.50 too precise of a figure? 

You begin to philosophize about value and materialism and the ownership of stuff.  You find yourself muttering statements like, "How much is any of this worth anyway?" as you sort, arrange, label, and walk to and fro between the folding tables that have evicted your cars from their parking spots.

The morning comes when you finally fling open the garage doors.  Customers arrive, the first of whom normally pays you for a 50 cent item with a 20 dollar bill.  You chat and barter.  You send strong currents of mental telepathy to the woman who returns to the corner table to hold the tea pot. Buy it.  Buy it.  You know you want to buy it.

Your kids hold a bake sale on the sidewalk, and they sell out of cookies, brownies, zucchini bread, and Rice Crispy treats by 11 in the morning.  Make more! Make more! they plead.

You eat pizza with your neighbors off of paper plates for lunch.  At this point, you're so attuned to nickling and diming that you no longer can fathom the value of actual currency.  You intuitively know that the pizzas were worth four picture frames.

Finally, the day is done.  You count the bills and sort the change in your pocket.  You pull the $2 sticker off the back of your thigh, surmising that you've walked around the bulk of the afternoon that way.  You condense merchandise on the tables and comment on the day: I can't believe nobody bought this.  I can't believe someone bought that!

If you're die-hard, you do it all again the next day (kids' bake sale included) before you finally tear down the signs and clean up the aftermath. You sweep the floor one final time, mentally lightened by the amount of stuff you've recycled into the world.

Sweet garage sale victory.

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  1. Awesome. Next weekend is our annual family garage sale! My inlaws host it and it's actually something we look forward to every single year.

    My mother-in-law makes egg salad sandwiches, the BEST potato salad, we drink Oranginas, hang out talking, and watch as the kids make 10x the amount of money we do selling lemonade.

    There's always some moment when everyone gets frustrated with my father-in-law because he walks around the garage grumbling that no one's going to buy any of this junk. We walk around the garage during the lulls and barter for each other's things, and we plead with our telepathy (as you mentioned) for someone to buy (___) item.

    On the last day we compare who of the three families made the most and then my mother-in-law treats all of us to Chinese food.

    It is awesome and your post made me that much more excited for it. I better go find some stuff to sell! *wink*

    I hope you are enjoying your summer. I think of you often.

    1. PS - Now THOSE are great garage sale signs!

    2. So glad that you liked the signs. I was rather proud of them myself.

      Your garage sale sounds epic, and I'm glad you understand the mental telepathy pleading. I hope that you turn a good profit and enjoy the time with your family!

  2. "You intuitively know that the pizzas were worth four picture frames." The best line I've read all day long.
    Do you feel lighter and richer? I know I would...stop thinking about it! I have no time for a garage sale.

    1. I TOTALLY feel lighter and richer!

      Nearly one week later and I still occasionally think in garage sale currency, but mostly I've reverted back to a normal concept of monetary worth. :)


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