The Garage Sale

We had agreed we had too much “stuff”. We had researched disposal options, decided against consignment and made our donation destination decision. Then we started pulling everything out into the open for removal and it suddenly seemed to multiply, making a bad situation even worse; stacks of that stuff were all over the garage. Since there was an advertised neighborhood garage sale that weekend, we decided to give it a try.

Some people are skilled at this. They know just which items will sell, how to price and how to display things appealingly. They probably spend days or even weeks getting ready; not so with us; we had about 24 hours to get it together. We clearly had no idea what we were doing and naively envisioned swarms of buyers arriving before daybreak to fight over our treasures and then carrying everything away…after first giving us money.

We set up tables, made signs with prices, hung balloons from the tree, remembered to go to the bank for change and had paper bags on hand to make it easier for all our anticipated customers. We felt smugly in control. We had been warned that if the sale starts at seven, people would arrive before six so we were up and ready.

During the preparation process my spouse astonished me by voluntarily putting all sorts of other things out to sell; “let’s get rid of this”, he said. He said it so often that I began to wonder who he was and what he had done with my real husband. This welcome attitude was assuredly not normal.

Our nomadic military lifestyle had afforded us many too many opportunities to buy way too much in way of every kind of tableware and glassware and this was primarily what we wanted to sell. All of it was beautiful, at least to us, so we were certain it would appeal to everyone. I did mention that we were naïve, didn’t I?

Those predictions were correct; cars started arriving right after six but after they slowed down and looked, most of them sped up and drove away. No matter, we assured ourselves; the truly appreciative connoisseurs would come along eventually.

Just before seven a car stopped and a couple got out and went directly to the table containing 24 porcelain buffet plates we bought in Germany nearly 40 years ago, but haven’t used in at least 20. They didn’t even glance at anything else but carefully examined each of the plates before purchasing them all, with no quibbling over price whatsoever. I somehow doubt they were going to invite 24 people to dinner and suspect they might be dealers. We didn’t know whether to be delighted that someone wanted some of our stuff or distressed; had we foolishly priced them too low?

Throughout the morning my husband had a great time as the “front man”, cheerfully waving at everyone who came by, urging them to stop & shop. Through sheer charm (and rock bottom prices) he managed to talk a lot of people into taking enough away that we felt the whole thing was somewhat worth the effort.

The best “sale” for me was the silver plated tea service. As military tradition dictated 54 years ago, we had been presented with one as a wedding present. I can’t even remember the last time I used it but it has been taking up a lot of space for a lot of years and was now black with tarnish.

Assured by my garage sale savvy friends that no one was likely to have any interest in it, especially since it needed to be polished (and that wasn’t going to happen!), we put it on a table with a price of $25. It was totally ignored for four hours and then two sweet women stopped by to browse. One of them kept looking at it and shyly asking questions; she hadn’t really seen a tea service before.

Finally she timidly asked whether we would accept $12. The look on her face when we said yes was touching, especially when she excitedly told us how wonderful this would be on her table after she polished it. So we got rid of something we no longer need, delighted to know it was really going to be cherished by someone else.

We learned a lot in case we ever try this again…first of all, very few people had any interest in what we were trying to sell. What was excess to us was deemed not needed by nearly everyone else as well.

There were lots of requests for furniture, tools, CDs, costume jewelry, Pyrex, tires, clothing and books…alas, we had none of to offer. Guess we’ll have to get some more stuff. There will be another neighborhood garage sale in the autumn.

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