Garage Sales. Don’t Get Me Started.

Garage sales. Sigh.

I’m not a fan of attending them, and I’m not a fan of hosting them.

When I was a kid, my mom hosted multiple garage sales every year, and I wasn’t enamored with the process at all, to put it lightly. Sure, my sister and I got to be the creative geniuses behind the signs, which took hours thanks to my mom being an evil genius (story here), but we also had to do the work of going through our stuff, helping to price it, and sitting outside watching strangers pick through it all.

Of course I completely get that many people LOVE garage sales as a fun activity. Garage sales can also be great for finding bargains and for making money, especially if you’re in need of finding bargains and/or making money.


The last time we had our own garage sale had to be a dozen years ago. Since then, we have regularly purged closets and dressers and the crawlspace, donating the discards to Goodwill, Amvets, or other worthy places. It’s easier.

This summer we’ve gone a little deeper with the purging process—finding a bunch of higher-value items we didn’t want or need anymore—and when the Homeowner’s Association announced the Annual Subdivision Garage Sale, we decided to jump in.

So here we sit, and traffic is less than ideal.

Some random thoughts for you while I wait for customers:

Contrary to popular (my) belief, enjoying a #PinkDrink from the Starbucks secret menu at the start of a garage sale doesn’t do much (or anything) to help increase sales.

Starbucks' pink drink

I started out by saying that the only way I’d do a garage sale is if I could make $500, and now, halfway through the second day, I’m just thrilled for every little dollar sale because that’s less I have to pack up and donate when we’re done. Perspective.

Though I know we haven’t reached the $500 goal at this point, I’m not sure how close or far we are because one of my mom’s cardinal rules on garage sales, one that I enforce with vigor as if she is taking over my mind and body, is that you don’t EVER COUNT THE MONEY until you’re finished. It’s bad luck. You might as well wish that you end up with a negative balance when you’re packing it in. Jim tried to count money mid-morning yesterday and I sprang to my feet, shouting “NO YOU CANNOT COUNT THE MONEY YET!” It’s Sylvia’s Law. Truth.

Another garage sale tradition is that Jim always has to call out some ridiculous item as something that will never sell. Back in the early 90s when we did garage sales as adults with my mom, he had three consecutive years where he would pick up a television remote first thing in the morning and say, “Nobody’s going to buy this!” Each of those remotes was gone within two hours, always purchased by men and I have no idea why.

It always helps when Jim says something like, “We’re NEVER going to sell all this crap,” even if it’s not crap. (It’s not.) Typically after he makes that declaration, business swells for a while. This, I believe, is completely related to how he’ll say “We’re NEVER going to get out of here.” when we’re trying to make a left turn without the benefit of a traffic light and then, like magic, the cars part and we do indeed get out of there. Never say never, unless you’re Jim in which case you should say it early and often.

I will totally go down on price (to a reasonable level) for people who are kind and don’t act like jerks. I’m getting rid of the stuff anyway and unless it’s an item whose value indicates I should try to sell it on eBay or Craigslist instead, I’m happy to adjust my pricing. Take it. Bye.

If you are a total jerk and act amazed and put off that I won’t give you a 90% discount on the armload of stuff you have picked up, bye.

An older woman just bought my “Brüno” movie backpack. It was a great backpack, blue with dark gray trim, with “Brüno” embroidered on it in yellow. I somehow doubt that she knows anything about “Brüno”, which is one of Sasha Baron Cohen’s more offensive movies (second to “Borat”, in my opinion). That’s why, when she smiled and asked if I’d take one dollar for it instead of two, I said “Sure!”

Every other time we’ve had a garage sale, people come by and ask if we were selling tools (we weren’t). This weekend, we ARE selling tools and naturally nobody is interested. The world works in mysterious ways.

I had a great conversation about DJ mixes with a guy who was looking through my old CDs that I used for spinning classes. We reminisced together about the good old days of Chicago’s DJ Markski. Conversation is one of the best things about garage sales. We have chatted with total strangers, some who are actually neighbors and some who aren’t. An old friend whose daughter and son are the same age as my older son and younger son (each pair went to school from kindergarten through high school together) stopped by yesterday. She lives two streets over and we haven’t had a conversation in years. YEARS.

When traffic came to a standstill yesterday, Jim started talking to the birds.

Garage sales and birds
They didn’t.

I have found that I get a little on edge when people pick up something from the table, inspect it, and say “This is…interesting.”

I adore watching little kids shop at garage sales with their little wallets. The following things found great new homes with the under-nine set today:
1. Two Discovery Channel DVDs, one about sharks and the other about tigers.
2. A Harry Potter cake pan
3. A camera lens coffee mug
4. A sun-shaped paper punch
5. Four cookie cutters

Someone bought my Crunch Fitness Boot Camp Training DVD for a dollar this morning and her selection made me almost as happy as doing the workout myself, back in the day. She’s going to love it.

I still can’t stand garage sales. Four hours left. Maybe I need another #PinkDrink.