Sunday, September 14, 2008

everybody loves a bargain

Item #1,273 on our list is having a garage sale. While we don't have a lot of stuff, we do have five odd years of accumulated belongings, almost none of which has been deemed critical enough to cram into the 2 bags we each get to lug onto to the airplane when we make our move.

Garage sales are weird animals. You invite strangers to come to your house and peruse the things you don't want. You deliberate on this, you agonize about what goes out on the lawn and then you place silent bets with yourself about which items will sell and which will not. After yesterday I've decided that I understand nothing, I have no idea how this world really works.

The day started early, we were dragging stuff outside when the first shoppers descended. Some folks are uber-efficient, they know what they are looking for and they quickly scan your lawn with their cars idling in the middle of the street. No old records? I shake my head and he's off, a smile and a nod. Others peruse everything, they seem to scoff at that great pair of shoes, the ones you were actually trying to convince yourself to keep. They grab the old broken item and they want it. THEY WANT IT! All bets are off garage sale people. I can't figure you out.

Then there's the folks who offer you small change, literally less than half a dollar for things that obviously are worth much more than that. The store purchased coffee in their hands is worth three times that and they had no problem parting with the two bucks for something they will drink and throw away but your artisian pottery isn't worth the price of a phone call. They are vicious, this brand of garage sale people, they stay the course and shame you and ultimately they will break you if for no other reason than to get them on their way. They will follow you and tell you that this is only worth so much and then when they pay you they try and stiff you again. You'll note that they drive off in a BMW and that makes you want to kick them in the shin and hope they spill that coffee on their leather seats.

And then there's the ones that are truly pleasant, the ones you know immediately that you'd love in real life. They see the value in your stuff, they fall in love with the painting or the dress and you see it in their eyes and you almost just want to give it to them, the meeting of the minds was so intense, they see why you own this and will give it a good home. You feel it and it matters. You want to hug them as they leave and momentarily your faith in humanity is restored.

Some folks fall into the middle, they are true bargain shoppers, veteran garage salers. They know what they want and how much they want to pay. They stockpile their wares on the corner of your lawn all the while asking questions. They notice M sitting at a table with her handmade sign: Lemonade and a Cookie $1.00. They see her sitting proudly with her cups and her piggy bank and they smile. They will bargain you to near death but on their way out they'll pay twice the asking price for that watery lemonade and you love them for that. And you will understand the haggling because to them this is an art and a science and you know you are only a rookie, delving into this world out of little more than desperation and some crazy need to feel like your stuff is being recycled rather than thrown away.

All in all the day was a success, what we didn't sell we gave away, we feel a thousand pounds lighter and came away with some walking around money. But the social experiment stays with me, each of these people on our lawn represented a world view, an opinion, a vote. These folks took a piece of me with them when they left and one or two even left a piece of them with us. If I was still in school I'd consider garage sales as a thesis topic, the underpinnings of our collective psyche sprawled on lawns across America, each of us ever hopeful we'll find the thing that suits us when we least expect it before returning back to our collective solitudes in search of the next best thing.

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24 comments:

Sober Briquette said...

I hope you don't have to be offline for long when the move comes. Your words always help keep my head on straight.

marymurtz said...

I mostly go to garage sales for old tupperware, kitschy stuff, and to visit with the sellers. I especially love the old folks having garage sales.

I LOATHE holding a garage sale. In our area, they start showing up as much as 18 hours early, saying "Hey, can I get a preview?" This city is garage sale crazy--fun for the shopper, not so much for the seller.

Madge said...

this was wonderful. thank you so much.

hele said...

:D

Defiantmuse said...

It's funny to read this right now, as we were driving around this morning I noticed at least 5 garage sales going on. I viewed it through the car window, in passing, and watched people bargaining and perusing. I had similar thoughts as you about the sociological aspect of it all.

Omaha Mama said...

I wanna feel a 1000 lbs lighter! I am intrigued by the transition you are going through and read with fascination. I'm so glad you're bringing your readers along for the ride.
Two bags! I can't wait to find out what made it in. :0)

Karen said...

my step dad is an expert garage/yard sale purchaser. Whenever we need/want something we always mention it casually during garage sale season. That's how I got my waffle iron & what could be better?
The issue is that he tends to accumulate too much stuff, so we have sworn the whole internet to secrecy, you cannot tell that man about freecycle or my mother's house would be buried in the free items he picked up for potential (fictional!!!) future use. It helps that he has to part with hard earned cash at tag sales.
Glad you're stuff is getting reused! I'm sure the lemonade was great!

painted maypole said...

that would be an interesting thesis. and yes, people are crazy in what they will or won't spend money on

kristen said...

the things that people will buy and the things people will leave...i don't get it.

glad you made some casholio out of it and that your girl has a full piggy bank. xo

meno said...

Getting rid of stuff feels sooo good.

flutter said...

I would have paid M at least twice as much as the asking price, just to see her smile

QT said...

Oh man, its getting so close now, and I want to feel 1000 lbs lighter, too!

Anjali said...

You're one step closer...

patches said...

All the things I love and hate about garage sales.

I don't have the stomach for it anymore. I usually load up the car and drive to Good Will or the Salvation Army...it keeps me from grinding my teeth at all the wackos.

Amanda said...

Wish I could've been there working the lemonade stand.

crazymumma said...

I looooove garage sales.

The sharp ones, those people willing to haggle tooth and nail scare the bejeezus out of me, but the lemonade stands? Love those.

Gwen said...

I'd read that thesis on garage sales!

(I might not buy anything at yours, though. :))

carrie said...

I think I'm better having garage sales with other people's stuff . . . that way I'm not emotionally attatched to it and when those people haggle over something I've loved and cherished and worshipped forever, it's no big deal.

Also, I learned that it's best to remove the kids when having one of these yard sales. They are very good at donating, when we actually go somewhere and drop things off. But something about sitting outside your home and watching people pick up *your things* just puts them over the edge. Like it is so incredibly painful.

Anyway, glad you feel lighter, friend. :)

bgirl said...

love this post, cracking up and nodding my head.

one step closer to stepping off my friend!!!! :)

Janet said...

We took some stuff to a friend's place when they were having a garage sale. It was, as you say, a veritable melting pot of bargain hunters. I would have cheerfully dumped a jug of lemonade over some of their heads.

1000 pounds lighter looks good on you, babe. ;)

Magpie said...

Having been through a number of garage sales, I know precisely of what you speak. They are indeed fascinating.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh woman, you're almost there! I second that earlier wish of you not being off line too long before you get set up but I know you'll make your way here. But I want to send you all off with the biggest of hugs.

Tabba said...

as i was reading this, i was thinking..."hmmmmm. what a great idea for my cultural anthropology paper in 6 weeks."

KC said...

love this! and,yes, great thesis topic.