the tale-end of the sale

This past weekend, I experienced my first garage sale — as a "vendor," that is. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a garage sale kind of gal. I’ve always sort of observed the whole concept from afar with a sense of intrigue, and while the the idea of going out in search of a bargain appeals to this mother of five, I lack the basic "shopping lover" premise that would lead to such an outing being a truly enjoyable experience for me. The idea of setting aside an afternoon, not to mention a whole weekend, to go through someone else’s leftover items in hopes I might find that-certain-something-I-just-have-to-have has not caused an excitement in me I know it does for some. Nevertheless, judging from what I observed this weekend, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been living in a cave for the last forty years. I mean, where did they all come from?

I recall my mother having one "rummage" sale in my growing-up years. What I remember about it is that we didn’t have a garage and it rained, so the sale ended up taking place in our house. A little while after lunch that day, people from all over our small town began to filter into our livingroom, sizing up all of our home’s contents, attempting to buy even things that were clearly (I thought anyway) not for sale. It was an odd feeling, watching the townsfolk shopping right there in our home.

Later, in college, we had some fun hopping from sale to sale, and we did get a few much-needed items for our dorm rooms at the yard sales near campus. But even that took a lot of planning, and a whole afternoon of walking from house to house. I was exhausted at the end of it. (Did I already mention I am not a shopper?)

It’s always seemed to me much easier to call a local charity and have them haul away our excess rather than spend days preparing to organize, tag and sell no-longer-wanted items. And with small children underfoot, I’ve never been able to envision the whole thing working smoothly. But this year, with the moral support and help of a couple neighbors, I decided it was time — time to experience the other side of the garage sale: the selling side.

So was it worth it? Let’s just say the kids made almost as much money from their lemonade stand as we made from our sale. Well, not quite, but…if you consider the half-hour the stand was open for business before they grew bored and closed shop, the profits were probably relatively equal. But disappointing proceeds aside, there are other considerations to keep in mind when weighing whether to do it all again next year. Here are a few:

1) We got rid of a ton of junk. Even if most of it still ended up going to charity, the process of organizing a rummage sale got me motivated to box it all up and move it OUT! Our society has too much "stuff" in general, and if you multiply each item we acquire in a given year times seven for each family member times how many days we take in a new item, it begins to add up, adding unnecessary burden to our home.

2) I had a great time observing people, trying to predict what things would "go" and which wouldn’t. Oftentimes I was wrong. I really didn’t think that cow flag would get snatched up, for example, and who would have know those candles would go for full price? We also noticed that when we rearranged things, put them in more prominent place, they had a much higher chance of being bought. The rack of hanging clothes at the back of the garage hardly got a glance.

3) I came to realize that more than anything else, rummage-sale shoppers are there for a bargain, even if the item already has been marked down a good plenty. The goal must be to go home and announce what a steal it all was. "Look, I got all this for $4!" Sure, you didn’t really need that waffle iron, but you got it for only 75 cents, so it’s gotta be awesome.

4) One of the last shoppers of the day was a man who waltzed in, spent all of about two minutes sizing up the selection, picked up an onion "holder" and a DVD, paid for his purchases and left. All I could think was, Really? You came in out of the rain for that? There he was, a burly-looking man pleased as punch with an onion holder and a movie he’d only glanced at. He said he had another onion holder just like it at home and it worked great. Guess you can never have too many of those. Who’d have known?

5) My 6-year-old had a great time spending his proceeds from the lemonade stand at the neighbor’s sale. He purchased: a sling shot, a hand-ball game, two computer games (which included a talking, stuffed toy fox) and a jacks set. He was tickled to no end with his finds.

So when all is said and done, even though I was dog tired at the end of it all, I would do it all over again next summer — if not for the money, then for the chance to people-watch and have a couple glasses of the world’s best lemonade.