To come face-to-face with your community, hold a garage sale.
We explained Saturday’s all-day project to our children as a fundraiser for our oldest daughter who hopes to scrape together enough for an educational trip overseas. But my wife and I also aimed to simplify our lives by purging this cramped house of decades of collected detritus. The complexity of modern life should subside at one’s doorstep.
Traffic began arriving at 8 a.m. Professional garage salers pulled within feet of the goods and leaped to their tasks. Driven by assortment and discount, they picked, paid and sped to the next sale. Leisure shoppers arrived by bike and lingered, discussing with travel companions the extent of a bargain. We were heartened when a visitor shared by cell phone news of our large assortment and attracted even more comers. An 8-year-old haggled us down from 10 cents to free for the grossout bestseller “The Day My Butt Went Psycho.”
Nine out of 10 shoppers were polite and quite a few delightful. We swapped stories with a young couple who had recently arrived with their baby from Louisiana. When we asked what brought them to Colorado, the dad smiled, turned his palms up, glanced to the blue skies and replied, “This.” A blonde woman with an aunt in Switzerland coveted our gadget for making the German noodle called spätzle. Until then, we’d explained its function to many shoppers and joked that it’s a Texas garlic press.
Traders with the public can’t choose their clientele. A red-faced man on a mission curtly requested a price, to which my wife offered a bit of the item’s history. He cut her off, “I didn’t ask you that. What’s the price?” Our answer included a steep surcharge for rudeness, so he sped away. Also, we discovered after the fact and with chagrin that a middle-aged couple had “yardlifted.” How sad to don the mantle of a thief to save two bucks when the price is already 5 percent of original retail.
Our friend was right when he observed, “No one likes your junk like you like your junk.” Sure enough, nobody took a shine to grandpa’s ancient Sears drill press, the framed black-and-white photo of Gary Cooper or a book holder I crafted in eighth-grade shop class. But occasionally a match was made. A bulky dresser-top mirror found a grateful new owner, a history buff seemed thrilled as he drove off with a musty soldier’s footlocker, and an army of toddlers got new duds.
In spite of the hiccups, we ended the sale feeling satisfied if weary. In support of the original objective of clutter reduction, what didn’t sell went straight away to a church clothing drive and Arc Thrift, a wonderful nonprofit that redirects proceeds toward people with developmental disabilities.
Our cash take-home was $188.53, a shock to our daughter who must’ve expected to pocket thousands from the truckloads we began with. We explained to her that the payoff came in many forms beyond cash, such as reverting idle items to active use (a form of recycling, a positive word), helping folks overcome their own cash shortages, and restoring our garage to its purpose as a place for the car. We added, “And don’t forget, dear, we also met some really nice people.”