Anatomy of a Garage Sale

For the first – and probably only – time in my life, i moved the contents of my trailer onto the front lawn.  Piling items into my garage for the better part of the past few weeks, advertising in every imaginable venue, and preparing signs for posting at strategic intersections, i was ready Friday morning to face the Great Sociological Adventure known as “the garage sale”.

After two days of this – combined with some heavy home renovations as Trailer Park Superhero, BJ, returned to finish the deck and renovate a bathroom – and i’m pretty whipped.  Some quick vignettes from the past two days…

– The Lawnmower Underground: My ex-husband collected lawnmowers.  i contracted this service out – first to The Boy, and then to professionals after he abandoned me left for college.  Clearing my storage barn, i discovered five mowers: Riding mower (oil leak), two gas push mowers, one electric mower, and one old fashioned push mower.  Knowing this would draw some bargain hunters, i put the lawnmower info in all advertisements.  Although my sale was not to start until 9 AM, the Lawnmower Men started showing up at 7:30 AM, as i was setting up.  They seemed to know each other.  Retired gents, they loved to barter, swapped stories amongst themselves about their latest finds, and argued the merits of this mower over that mower.  The mowers were mostly gone before i “opened” at 9 AM.  i just have the feeling there’s an entire part of the economy i know nothing about…

– “Get outta my shit!”: The Lawnmower Men were also a bit aggressive.  i was still setting up, hauling boxes and tables onto the lawn.  They would wander into the garage.  Coming back from dumping a load* out front, i caught one wheeling my bike out of the garage, asking me “how much”.  Explaining “that’s not for sale”, i caught his buddy in the back of the garage, looking over BJ’s pressure washer.  Shit, folks… wait til i open, alright?

– Thrifty:  After selling a man a small item for 25 cents, he paid me with three dimes (30 cents).  i gave him a nickel change.  That’s 5 cents.  Change.  From a quarter.  And he stood there and waited for it….  Maybe he’s going to buy himself a…. no…. wait.  you can’t actually BUY anything for a nickel.  Unless there was a better bargain somewhere else…

– “What’s the matter?  My stuff not good enough?”:  This is shit that i don’t need.  Stuff that i don’t want.  Odds and ends, but not really that important.  Well, except the unicycle (next nugget).  Within a few hours, as the Friday morning deluge of bargain hunters** swamped us, i found myself getting really pissed off when people would arrive, wander through the “aisles”, and just get in their cars and drive off.  “Hey, motherfucker!  i got that in Germany, for fucksake!  it’s a handcrafted dragon on a spring**!  You can’t get those here….”

– Unicycle:  When The Boy was about 12 years old, he decided that all he wanted for his birthday was a unicycle.  So he got one.  Learned to ride it (sort of), decided the novelty wasn’t worth the pain, and parked it in the garage.  This item was a great conversation starter as customers walked up…  i was mortified that after a day and a half, no one was seriously interested in the damn thing!  i mean, what is cooler than a unicycle?  Finally, two marginally dorky teen-aged girls arrived on bicycles, with helmets.  While i was off catching up with a neighbor, my friend KMD managed to find a perfect home for this treasure – “She was so excited i think she wet herself”.  Sold!  Watching them ride off – one carrying the stand, the other carrying the unicycle – i was delighted to know it had found a good home…

i sold dirt:  In the pre-sale frenzy, i was just piling things into the yard.  A three tiered plant stand, with three dirt-filled planters.  it went early, and the woman even wanted the dirt.  $10.  Who knew…

Children That Don’t Suck:  KMD is a goddess.  She worked the crowd, reminded me repeatedly that the goal was to empty my house, not become wealthy, hauled shit until she was wobbly – and brought her “monkeys” to help.  The Monkeys – about 11 and 9 years old – were beyond delightful.  Not only do they actually work, but they were festive and fun, and brought me (and my own Monkeys) great joy!  Two favorite moments:  M, the miniature diva, placed a vintage wedding veil on her head, and grabbed my whip**** saying “I’m a bride with a whip”.  i believe i heard her mother say something to the effect “honey, we all are…”.  Later, J, the adorable helper monkey, was making a last minute sweep for items he desired before we packed things up to take to Goodwill.  The single slalom ski was wobbling across the yard toward KMDs car as she explained “J, dear, we don’t have a boat and don’t even live near water….”.  He gave up.  Momentarily.  i later saw him attempting to put it in her trunk.  And eventually, it found it’s way into her backseat… A happy home!

– Pool Table Karma:  Mini pool table – about 1/8th scale.  Suitable for use on a table top.  No one seemed interested.  Until this morning.  A beautiful young man (with his parents, middle-eastern descent) got very excited and couldn’t wait to buy it.  For his 5 year old nephew!  How sweet…

– The Magic of Craig’s List:  We hauled all remaining items to the local Goodwill drop off location.  To be told that they don’t accept furniture, exercise equipment or most of the stuff we had loaded into BJ’s truck.  So, hauling it BACK home, we parked it on the curb.  The Girl recommended “Craig’s List: CURB ALERT”.  We watched from the front window – no less than an hour later, the trucks started arriving.  It was fascinating to watch as a near fight broke out over a disagreement regarding who arrived first.  The women did not come to blows, but there was much arm flapping…  Five trucks later, there isn’t much left.  They even took the guinea pig cage. 

In the end, about $400 was collected, my shed is empty (except the sailboat), close to a ton of stuff is out of my house (happily recycled).  Had a chance to chat with neighbors***** i don’t see often, too.  The Helper Monkeys were apparently tickled with their cash, new-found treasures and a ride in the jeep.  KMD and i both got quite a workout.  Perhaps not enough to negate the junk food we’ve been subsisting on for two days, but the ass muscles got some tone…  Mr. P enjoyed the adventure, and loved the attention of two wonderful kids.  And i can get on to finishing the home repairs, and packing… 



* No, not like that…

** the “professionals”, as my friend K explained to me, come out on Friday mornings.  “family” shoppers come out on Saturday.

*** purchased for $0.50 by a delightful dragon-worshipping older lady on Saturday!  he found a good home…

**** a toy whip.  the good one is not for sale…

***** Great neighbors, working-class suburb.  Mrs. E (who helped me rake leaves last fall), is typical.  Folks are friendly, smart, considerate (except for me and my damn parties), and generally keep to themselves… there’s a quiet, attentiveness – but no serious busybodies.  Most of us have been her for 15-20 years (Mrs. E?  Almost 50 years).  i am going to miss this…


19 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Garage Sale

  1. oh my lord – a unicycle! my ex husband bought one of those at an auction. every time we had a barbecue he and his drunk friends would haul it out and try to ride it. alcohol and unicycles? don’t go there…..

    after the last garage sale we had we put all the leftovers in the back lane and sat upstairs watching it all disappear. it only took two hours for everything to be snatched up

  2. Mrs. Wife and I held a garage sale last spring. $160 for a buncha junk I would have thrown out or given away for free. And you’re not kidding about the early birds—pains in the ass, one and all.

    No worries. A whole new set of great busybodies—ummm I mean neighbors—await you at your next destination, I’m sure.

  3. I hate garage sales but my best friend loves them and holds several every summer, so I used to haul crap to her place and she would sell it for me.

    11 and 9 years old are the perfect ages. I loved teaching sixth grade because they were still at an age when they were eager and delightful. They don’t truly go evil until grade 8 but they are starting to smell early in the second semester of 7th.

  4. Well, I laughed out loud at a couple of points while reading your post.

    I remember the first time we had a yard sale. F***ing bastards showing up at 7:30 am banging on the f***ing door. WTF?

    I remember the last time we had a garage sale. It rained. Hardly anyone showed up. Didn’t sell squat.

    Nowadays I just say f*** it. If I don’t need it goes to goodwill or to the dump.

  5. ‘M, the miniature diva, placed a vintage wedding veil on her head, and grabbed my whip**** saying “I’m a bride with a whip”. i believe i heard her mother say something to the effect “honey, we all are…”.’

    Ha… its a little scary that she knows that at that age though.

  6. I hated the early birds at the few yard sales I’ve had. You’re trying to get stuff out, and they are picking over everything. I think one of my best cookbooks got away from me that way. I hope I never have to do it again.

  7. hahaha. fuck, a unicycle. jesus i wet myself.

    the concept of a yard/garage sale hasn’t really taken off in SA, otherwise i would be an avid attendee.

    i love seeing what crap people have.

  8. don – agree. i generally hate these things, but setting a date/event FORCED me to clean out my house. glad i did it, more glad it’s done. Ran into a similar “nickel” guy at a charity yard sale once… guess that’s how it works. our generation doesn’t really understand the value of money any longer!

    nm – unicycles are fabulous! i could never get the hang of it, but The Boy could ride it all the way down the driveway. couldn’t turn, or do hills. so happy it found a good home!

    bob – those critters are the best! i believe there are photos of the junior bride, and perhaps one of the sprogs in the back of my jeep! if all children were this cool, i’d have dropped a catholic houseload…

    unbearable banishment – “Craig’s List, Curb Alert” is my new best friend. i don’t need a truck – just a laptop. Suspect the new neighbors won’t be this cool… hope i’m wrong, but there were just too many expensive cars around. They ain’t gonna like it when my Clampett-esque jeep pulls up tuesday loaded with furniture!

    annie – definitely an acquired taste. your situation is good though – opportunity to recycle stuff you don’t want, without the major hassles. i hope to never have one again, although when Mom moves, we’re already discussing how to excavate her packrat nest…

    rob – the early birds… “blessings of parasites” wearing shorts, socks and sandals. a few of them were delightful. the one getting ready to make an offer on my bike? notsomuch. another odd thing? they were poking around while i hauled things out from the garage. did any one of them ever offer to help me with a box? a table? Ummmm…. no.

    alex – She’s an amazing child. My daughter was tickled, noting that she was brilliantly funny and just a teeny bit dark in the humor department! She’s going to be queen of the world. Or the next Amy Sedaris…

    DP – alas, i’ve been so busy for the past few days, i haven’t had time for that… must schedule an appointment, i suppose.

    silverstar – i had to breathe, and remind myself that this was all about “purge”. letting go of STUFF. required a bit of patience. At least they didn’t knock on the door at 6AM…

    Bb – A bit “Stephen King-ish” for sure. i can’t help but wonder what they do with all the mowers… race them? turn them into weapons of mass destruction? rob banks with them?

    em&ct – you should start the trend! it’s definitely a study in sociology – i couldn’t believe the crap that went first! ugly random things (many of them knick knacks from my mom) were swooped up, but cool things (LIKE THE UNICYCLE) were barely given a dissmissive glance…

  9. Jenny – Welcome to The Park! i really like the way you think! we adopted a related pricing strategy with only a couple hours to go – cost reductions were directly proportional to the weight of an item! heavier stuff? bigger discounts!

    kyknoord – just kinda sorta close to striking range of fun…

    nm – i’m thinking she should come and organize my next one. not that there’ll ever be a next one…

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