You hate it. You don’t want it. There’s just no place to store it. And yet you have the feeling that you just might be able to find someone who has searched their entire life for it. Welcome to the garage sale. Here’s a handy survey of the field before you go off into battle.
Garage sales are an American tradition. If you take it into your head to slap a sign on the corner and throw your odd lots out on the lawn on a Saturday morning, you’ll have plenty of company. They happen in communities rich and poor, young and old, rural and urban. Everybody has something that falls into that limboesque chasm, where possessions are unwanted and yet vaguely valued. They all make some money, and most practitioners live to tell the tale. But if you’ve never held one before, you may ask yourself, "What am I getting into?"
Expect confusion. Expect lookee-loos who ask a million questions without buying anything. Expect wandering dogs that pee on your framed art print because it’s technically outside, and therefore fair game. Expect theft. Expect exasperating haggling over an amount of money you wouldn’t stoop to pick up if you saw it on the street. Expect to make some money, and expect to work for it. You won’t be disappointed.
No matter what you actually do for a living, for one dizzying weekend you will be in a sea of improvised retail. Imagine opening a store for the first time, staffing it with your family, learning how to run it properly while it’s open, and then closing it forever the next day. Well, believe it or not, it can be lots of fun.
The Bottom Line
As long as you’re realistic with your expectations, are reasonably organized, and have willing family or friends to help out, you should be able to make a little money, clear up a lot of useful space, and enjoy yourself in the process.
Clear out the Junk…
Don'ts for your garage sale:
Don’t place anything of great value in your yard to be handled and examined by strangers during a chaotic weekend afternoon. If you have a rare object, take it to the auction houses, or place a newspaper ad showcasing it in the Antiques section of the classifieds.
Don’t sell anything that you’re not absolutely sure you want to sell. You’ll likely regret it, and the money won’t seem worth it in retrospect.
Don’t price your items too high. The point is to get the stuff out of your house.
Don’t cave right away when people low-ball you. The fact that they’re offering means they’re interested, so hold your ground for awhile, particularly early in the day.
Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t get caught up emotionally when someone sniffs at your price of $.50 for your still-in-the-original-box Pottery Barn candles that retailed for $25. Sure, it makes your blood boil, and sure, you’d like to order them off your lawn and tell them to go buy it new if they think they’re so smart! Uh… that happened to this one guy I knew.
...But Hang on to Your Sanity
Dos for your garage sale:
Do cultivate an air of genial detachment.
Do use this as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors.
Do haggle. It’s inevitable—enjoy the game!
Do always keep one hand on the till.
When the Dust Settles
At the end of the weekend, you’re going to be free of some of the extraneous stuff that cluttered your life. You’ll have turned the page, wiped the slate clean, and have that faint tickle of new possibilities that always accompanies fresh starts. And who knows? You may even have enough money to go out and buy yourself some more extraneous stuff.
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