Slim Pickings: No Overthinking

The solar panel is not for sale!

Yesterday, Memorial Day, those at home–two young adults and two less young adults–rolled out of bed fairly late, just before 9am. It was yard sale day and time for the gleaning of salable goods to begin. The lack of planning ahead didn’t bother me at all. Who needs over-anxious bargain hunters–known in garage sale parlance as “early birds”–pounding on the door at 6am?! It was a lovely day for their garage sale. Happy because spontaneity obviates overthinking, I got right to work helping to collect appropriate personal and household items.

This was a morning of the constantly misplaced tea cup. No easing into the day with a cup of tea and book or newspaper on the front porch. Tables on which to display items were dragged up from the basement; blankets and tablecloths on which to display other items covered tables and were spread on the lawn. The clothes line never materialized, so the clothing was not optimally displayed. It turns out that people do not look at dresses hanging from tree branches. A rejected shoe rack was a late find. The shoes might have received more attention had that been unearthed sooner. Unlike when we had garage sales in California, no one asked whether we had any swords or weapons to sell. The multi-tool offered for sale does have a small knife and was one of the first items to sell.

There was a small flurry of late morning activity, and then things slowed down. We made and served brunch al fresco. When no new customers stopped by for a fairly long stretch, the yard-salers became a bit grumpy. The parent who had discouraged this enterprise from the beginning shared the information that yard sales were best advertised in advance. The professionals would be out bright and early with a well-planned itinerary, quickly scanning each sale for collectibles & items with resale value. Then the older sibling came around to do some bike repair and to protect his property–no selling that solar panel! He also offered sage advice: garage sales should be held on Saturdays. The garage sale hosts were off on a camping trip in another part of the state on Saturday, and very vague about the date and time or their return, so I gave no thought to planning ahead. This yard sale was either going to be a last-minute affair or not take place at all. Whatever the results, I thought it would be a “learning experience” for all, and that the birthday beneficiary of its proceeds would appreciate the effort.

Fortunately a second sortie of shoppers came by. Had they attended Memorial Day ceremonies or parades earlier? Were they finally free to sort through “one man’s trash” in search of elusive treasures? The latecomers were probably adhering to a different tradition within garage sale culture: Arrive late and the sellers will be very ready to bargain. Or maybe some of the handmade signs, belatedly posted at the top of a busy through street, directed traffic their way.

While it wasn’t a huge financial success, there is enough net profit to purchase a nice birthday gift. It was gratifying to see what grew to be a group of four working hard together–not a born salesperson in the group–and achieving some success through persistence. When the action was slow, they lounged in comfortable lawn chairs, listening to the Grateful Dead. The music was played on a portable iPod player powered by older brother’s single solar panel.

It is always fun to meet and greet neighbors as well as strangers passing through at tag sales. Having sold thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies and lots of wrapping paper, tubs of ice cream, frozen cookie dough and pizzas, it was rewarding to finally be a minor role-player in fundraising. Maybe the time-honored lemonade stand would have been a good addition, but isn’t the unwritten upper age limit on lemonade stands middle school? And who really wants powdered lemonade? We were spoiled by years of lemonade made from freshly-picked lemons. It is unlikely that our customers followed us east, but I personally can’t work up much enthusiasm for the sugary sweet stuff. If there is a next time, I think a chai and coffee stand might be a respectable addition and traffic-stopper for this older group of kids.

I’m not convinced that more lucrative is that important to them. Staunch environmentalists all, they would have been happy to see more of their outgrown clothing reused. They have not asked for my advice, but does anyone have suggestions for their next garage sale?

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