Too Much, Part III: Garage sales


Dani and I planned to have a garage sale for years, literally.  I mean, when you move in together, you tend to need more room.  And if you move in with a hoarder (especially a second-generation hoarder), you absolutely need to get rid of some crap.

I had Dani cleaning out closets over the course of several months both before and after I moved into her place.  In reality, this was probably a job that would only take a weekend or less, but hoarders characteristically agonize over every item.  Can she part with this shirt?  Sure she's never worn it, but it was a present from a friend?  Yes, that was in college, and, no, she hasn't spoken to her in about ten years, but still...!

Ultimately we ended up with more than twenty large Hefty bags full of clothes.  These and other items both from me and Dani lined the wall of the garage as they accumulated in this designated area.  I tossed in my old stereo, several pieces of furniture, board games, etc.  The plan was to have the garage sale at Dani's parents' house.  After all, we lived in a really white trashy neighborhood.  Sure, we would get lots of traffic, but not the kind that would allow us to ask decent prices for our junk!

Dani's mom kept putting us off for months, something that always happens and is always complete bullshit, but that's a story (or two or three) for another time.  Before long we had bought a house and were ready to move from there, yet we had never gotten around to having the garage sale.  There was so much else to get done like simply getting our other crap boxed up and in the new place on the other side of town.  We moved most of the things we were planning to take with us in a weekend over the xmas break, but the garage remained full.  It was a low priority for a while.

Finally we went back to the old place to do our last pass as cleaning and getting the rest of the junk we were too exhausted to throw in the moving van last time.  That sounded like a good time for a garage sale.  I bought some bright green poster board and threw up signs all around the main streets adjacent to ours.  We dragged the stuff out of the garage and set it up, and I set Dani in a chair out front to field the shoppers while I loaded more crap from the house into the car and carted it over to the new place throughout the day.  Fortunately, I didn't have so many trips to make that I couldn't spend a lot of the time on the lawn furniture with Dani basking in the whole white trashiness of the experience.

Among the fun of any garage sale is meeting people you'd otherwise never meet... and probably wouldn't want to meet again.  Our particular favorite was the chain-smoking guy in a cowboy hat who pulled up in a giant Carter-era Oldsmobile that probably got about seven miles to the gallon.  He was the only occupant of the car, naturally, because there was no room for anyone else.  That's saying quite a lot for a car that size, but the back and passenger seats were filled with all kinds of crap he had picked up from other garage sales and the curbsides between, I'm sure.

Though over-loaded already, he bought some stuff, then proceeded to chain smoke his way through stories about how he had rented a couple self-storage units full of his other crap because his house was overrun with all the junk he had collected.  Of course, it wasn't like he could afford any of this or was making any money off of it.  He related another story about how the cops had ticketed him for using a gas grill in his yard to cook on during a burn ban.  At the time, the national news was reporting on the wildfires that were ravaging the dry winter countryside less than fifty miles from where we were.  He was using the grill precisely because he couldn't afford to pay his gas bill, and the service had been cut.  I don't have the time to dissect the layers of irony in him flicking used cigarette butts on our lawn.

With all the junk we had and the shop-a-holics like this to rummage through it, we were doing pretty good business in spite of the neighborhood.  Granted, we weren't really making much off most of our neighbors.  Like we suspected, most of them weren't interested in paying for our junk.

"What ya'll gonna do wid alla dat when you done," one of them yelled from his front porch a couple doors down.  Clearly it wasn't even worth the effort for him to come over and browse.

"It's going to Goodwill," we yelled back.

The general strategy here was they would simply wait for it to end up on the curb and then take whatever was left over for rock-bottom prices.  We hadn't spent as much time as Jane Goodall had with her chimps, but these guys were a lot easier to figure out.  We'd seen the pattern played out over and over.  Sure, all the best stuff was usually gone by the end of the day, but, hell, the leftovers were free.  As far as we were concerned, they were going to have to pay for it either way, even if it wasn't our profit in the end.

However, we taking in a pretty good haul considering our state of mind that this was all just junk we didn't want anyway.  It wasn't long before Dani found herself shifting from a reluctant garage saler into an enthusiastic saleswoman, always sizing up customers to see what she should ask for anything (We never bothered to price anything with stickers as that would have taken longer than the garage sale itself).

In spite of the fact that we sold off an enormous amount of things, we still had tons of junk left over when the day ended.  See, pretty much no matter how much you start off with, you're only going to see a certain number of customers in an afternoon, and they're only going to buy a certain average amount.  Multiply those figures, and you only have a small fraction sold compared to what he started off with.  Even with a woman who bought loads of clothes and dishes to replace what she lost in Katrina before evacuating here to Texas, there was a lot left over.

"What are we going to do with all of this now," asked Dani.

"Why, another garage sale," I said.

She looked confused.  I explained that we had a brand new neighborhood where we could sell things next weekend, I explained.  I told her to box it up.  We loaded it up and brought the leftovers (and there was definitely a lot of them) to the new house, and left them out of sight on the front porch.  The next weekend, we were a finely oiled garage-sailing machine (No, that isn't a spelling error in this case).  This time we were more organized than before since everything was boxed up more intelligently than the mess we started out with last time.  We had signs made up the night before and posted out around our neighborhood bright and early.  We made almost as much money that weekend as the one before even with fewer choice items.

Of course, you would think that would have been the end of things.  No, not so.  Shortly into the sale, our neighbors across the street off-handedly commented that we should have waited; that there was a neighborhood garage sale a few months later that would bring in even more customers.  Damn.  Again we put off going to Goodwill.  The leftovers at the end of this second garage sale got boxed up and tossed in the shed to wait for yet another day.  And then we repeated the process not only when the neighborhood sale came along, but yet again for the community-wide sale for the next neighborhood over as well since we picked up their traffic on the way in.

We had gotten so good at things by this point, Dani's mom brought us in (irony alert) on her own garage sale a few months later.  They were moving, and this was to be the ultimate catharsis of the garage to end all garage sales.  The place was jam-packed with furniture, craft items, clothes, clothes, more clothes, and every other variety of junk.  We made tons more money even practically giving it away since there was so much.  And like mother, like daughter, guess what happened?  Yep, mom got so into things that she was willing to have yet another garage sale the following weekend with all the crap we had left over.

There was a lengthy hiatus after that, but somehow we managed to collect still more junk to sell.  At the end of the second parental garage sale, we ended up bringing home "choice" items that we thought "should have" sold, pieces that probably stood a chance to find a buyer next time.  Add to that pile all the things that resulted from Dani's long-delayed pass through our junk room after I finally managed to get her to clean out her own craft boxes, etc., and you have the makings of yet another garage sale.  It's amazing what you're willing to part with once you realize how much more you value the space in your home than the things you never use (or even knew you had).

We planned to put the latest accumulation out again for the most recent neighborhood garage sale, but a windy system of tornado-spawning weather came through and swept away what was the beginnings of spring.  I was up at 6am ready to set out our goods that morning, but it was so cold I went back inside for a while hoping the weather would warm up.  It didn't.  A couple hours later it was just as nippy, so we just went out instead.

Of course, in preparation for the sale this time, I had unloaded everything from the shed and placed it in the front room.  Experience has shown that the second you put the first card table on your lawn, shoppers start showing up.  You need to have all the stuff handy for them to get to in a hurry.  Cutting out the trips through the house and back yard (and back again) saved time the day of the sale, but in the meantime, the pile of things in my front room was a bit reminiscent of Richard Dreyfus' scale replica of Devil's Tower in Close Encounters.  We ended up putting off the sale for several more weeks until the cold and the rain (and cold rain) all stayed clear, and we were very happy when a break in the weather presented itself.

As always, we met more interesting people.  The winner of the bunch this time was a guy from our neighborhood who started talking about the power of positive thinking.  He told us he was a successful actor.  We were kind of doubtful, but he claimed to have just finished a movie with William Hurt.  Sure enough, we looked him up on the IMDb, and there he was.  While I can't say his resume would bowl most people over, tell me how many people you've met who have been on four different episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger.  Oh, yeah?  Well, how about playing four different characters?  That's what I thought.

At the end of this garage sale we decided we liked having our space more than we enjoyed  turning our junk into cash and meeting unusual people on our lawn.  We took a couple carloads of things to Goodwill that afternoon, more than a year after we initially promised our trashy neighbors we would, and got out of the garage sale business.  For a while, anyway.  We'll stop by yours though.  Let us know when you're having one.  I mean, we have the space for more junk now.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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