“I once knew a guy who placed a huge line of buckets with holes in them along his store front. He sold them for something like five or ten cents a piece. Every damn one of them sold. No one knew why the holey buckets sold, but the shopkeeper kept getting more.”–story from Dad
If you want to study the human psyche without going to grad school or reading a book on Freud, just have a garage sale. Few things pique my interest more than seeing a “Garage Sale Today” sign in front of my favorite neighborhoods. It’s hard to resist the thrill of potentially snagging a great vintage garden piece or lightly used high-end patio set for mere pennies. As a garage sale troller, I know these treasures are few and far between, yet, I can’t resist the opportunity for a bargain. Believe it or not, until last week I was a garage sale virgin — meaning I’d never had a garage sale of my own. After participating in my first neighborhood garage sale as a seller, I now have a new appreciation of the whole process and thought I’d share a few lessons learned.
3 Days Prior To Sale:
Puking child with fever. Hoping child feels better soon because this hoarder has not pulled and priced one single item for garage sale in 3 days. However, husband has offered to sell neighbor’s crap for them while they are at work.
Night Before Sale:
Child feels much better. Rummaged through closets and attic looking for old crap to make a profit on. Finally willing to give up stroller and newborn sleepers now that newborn is turning 7. Shabby chic, antique wrought iron bed I purchased for $200 also going on the selling block in anticipation of receiving big bucks from hopeless romantic that is into restoring furniture.
Neighbors are up $50 from random passers-by who decide to do some early shopping. We’re down $20 after we cave and buy neighbor’s air-hockey table. Come on, it’s a Brunswick! Grandma lined up to perform child care duties while I man the sale. Hoping child is 100% next day — momma needs some cash for some new furniture. Set up rope around non-sale items in the garage and create booby trap for snoopers.
Day One of Neighborhood Garage Sale
7:58 a.m.: Sale items are priced and displayed neatly on table. Children’s clothing is cleverly hung in coordinating fashion on a cute, white wrought iron garden trellis (trellis not for sale). Balloon is placed on mailbox to alert shoppers of sale. Husband backs out of driveway and screams, “Did you hear that? It sounds like the O.K. Corral!” Quickly clean up Pop-Its left on driveway from night before when one exploded as I was opening package and I panicked and threw the whole pack on the ground in massive explosion. Settle in lawn chair inside of the garage with, “If You Were Here”, Jen Lancaster’s new novel. Looking forward to the unexpected.
8:30 a.m.: Light foot traffic and many drive-bys. A very tan older woman with a flourescent mall walker shirt that matched her husband’s commented after spying all the baby stuff for sale, “looks like Grandma has a baby.” See dollar signs in my eyes and refrain from telling her to go to hell, instead responding with a smile, “have a nice day.” Meanwhile, neighbor’s crap is selling like hotcakes. Decide one man’s trash is another man’s treasure if it costs 25 cents or less. Child emerges and feels 100%. Dog is barking her head off inside every time someone drives by or walks up the driveway.
11:00 a.m.: Made first sale. Set of resin chairs for $5.00. Woman compliments me on flowers in the front yard and inquires about their name. I tell her some of them oddly have not bloomed yet and jokingly tell her to help herself. She’s not interested in any merchandise but asks me for a spade so she can dig up my flowers. I pretend to help another customer and vow to keep midnight watch on my garden that night for a Redneck Black-eyed Susan napper. Mom walks out into the garage and asks, “What do I smell cooking out here?” It was the dog food container. Mental note: serve flea market-style crock pot Sloppy Joes to customers, not dog food.
12:30 p.m.: Close up shop to take grandparents to lunch in appreciation for childcare. Including the air hockey table, now down $70 after appreciation lunch.
3:15 p.m.: Sales are extremely slow except all the neighbor’s crap sold out. Everyone wants to buy the cute trellis that is not for sale. I take comfort in the fact that at least all the non buyers have a 70 foot walk of shame back down the driveway. Close up early in anticipation of Day 2 and allow time to rip house apart in search of last-minute revenue generators, i.e. find some more crap to sell. Dog is exhausted and gotten more gray hair.
Day 2 of Neighborhood Garage Sale
8:40 a.m.: One drive-by on a moped. Wonder if he can strap my antique wrought iron bed frame to his back. Inching closer to the beer fridge.
9:10 a.m.: Just made 50 cents. Set up wrought iron bed in driveway as attempt to merchandise. Couldn’t even lure Amish shoppers from up the street. Ask Facebook friends if anyone knows how to spell “will turn tricks” in 6 different languages? Started misting outside. Moved bed back inside. Good thing the bed is on wheels.
I text my friend down the street, “An f-ing caravan just drove by me! I’m slashing tires!”
She texts back, “I can’t even sell my husband’s beloved recliner for $10. I am not hauling that fucker back downstairs! I’ll take a chainsaw to it first!”
11:27 a.m.: Made a dollar. Garage troller’s dog peed in my showroom (a.k.a. The Garage) and shopper who drank too much coffee asks for restroom facility. Just thankful she didn’t follow suit with the dog. Just cracked first beer. Moved bed back outside. My dog briefly escapes into garage then moves back inside to finish barking her head off. Beg child (a.k.a. Junior Hoarder) to give up some toys in a last-ditch effort to make some bucks. Jr. refuses.
2:11 p.m.: Had a $20 run. Felt giddy from run (or beer) and gave nice old man the “Bark Off” As Seen On TV – for free. Decided he was not so nice after he crossed my personal space line and tried to use it on me.
My mom emerges and says, “Why are your cheeks so red? Are you drinking?” Settle back in lawn chair and take another swig. Beginning to appreciate why people sit in their garages and drink beer for hours. Thinking about telling my mom the garage sale is going to last the rest of summer break and I’ll need all-day child care services until school starts. Husband and daughter take turns unwittingly getting caught in snooper booby trap.
4:42 p.m. – Garage door goes down. Unsold Antique wrought iron bed’s rusty hinges meld together after being outside in mist all day. Can’t get bed apart. Bed rolled to end of driveway with FREE sign.
5:30 p.m.: Husband can’t stand the fact we look like the Bedknobs and Broomsticks house so he musters up some Hulk-like strength and tears the bed apart. It is back leaning against the same wall in the garage that has propped it up for the past 2 1/2 years. Dreams of new furniture diminish along with the garage sale profits. All worth it for the people watching and getting to just sit and read for two days. Husband also cleaned house while I was slaving away at the sale. Friend’s recliner is sitting in the garage next to chainsaw.