The Crap We Keep

A word about garage sales.  They seem like a good idea at the time, don’t they?  The past few years I’ve eschewed them as a waste of my valuable time and energy.  I have hauled boxes and boxes of my stuff to the local Goodwill to donate and taken the receipt for a tax deduction.  But…I had accumulated more stuff to get rid of and a friend had lots of stuff to get rid of so we had a garage sale together out of my garage.

First of all, I knew from past garage sales that garage sale goers will buy almost anything—if the price is right.  My personal policy is if I can’t get a quarter for it then it isn’t worth selling.  And yet, when an item is priced at a quarter, inevitably a buyer will ask if I’ll take ten cents for it.  My response is, “You can have it.”  And that offends them.  Which I find amusing.

These are usually the same people who pick up what was originally a $50 Brooks Brothers men’s dress shirt in pristine condition which I’m asking two dollars for and they’ll want it for a dollar.  If I insist it’s worth two dollars, they’ll put it back.  But not after arguing, “a dollar, a dollar, a dollar” at me.  So I figure, okay, if you’re that desperate and you can’t give me a quarter for a tee shirt, then I’ll give it to you.  (Times are tough, but I’m not yet desperate for that last twenty-five cents.)  When I did this today, a woman gave me a look I supposed was meant to convey, “I don’t need your charity.”  She then proceeded to dig out some nickels and pennies for me.  Which I didn’t count and which promptly landed in my piggy bank.

As my friend and I gazed at our assorted tchotchkes, we marveled at how we’d ever managed to collect them in the first place and how much we might have paid for them once upon a time.  And then we wondered why we’d kept them for so long.  We’re both certain had we opened more drawers and rummaged deeper into our closets we could have found many more items we’d happily part with.

Surprisingly, we didn’t always happily part with certain items.  Sometimes the bargain hunters got to us.  When we thought we were being exceptionally generous fairly early in the day, they wanted more, more, more and cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.  At least once I dug in my heels and simply said no and the woman walked off with her bargains.  A half hour later someone else paid me exactly what I’d wanted for the same item with no argument at all. 

Two fairly beat-up wicker chairs sat with no interest for most of the morning.  As business slowed, my friend and I made ourselves comfortable in them and sat in the sun while more would-be buyers trickled in.  By then, I’d marked them to half the original asking price and two of those late-comers showed interest and one bought them just like that.

Items we insisted to ourselves we wouldn’t take any less than what we’d originally marked, saw their prices slashed as the morning wore on.  As much as we hated to sell things for so much less than we knew they were worth, we wanted even less the task of hauling it back into the garage to give it away or try to sell it later.  By the end we were hoping the late-comers would just take the stuff off our hands for nothing.

People love to paw through stuff.  They love the hunt.  To dig through boxes and bins in the hopes of finding some hidden treasure.  I think they’ve all watched one too many episodes of Antiques Roadshow.

 I suggested to my friend that sometime we should take a Saturday morning and do the local garage sale circuit just to entertain ourselves by studying the behavior of the seasoned garage sale shoppers.  We decided that might be a bad idea.  Chances are, we’d both come home with a carload of crap we don’t need.