So we had our community garage sale on Saturday. I had mixed feelings about participating in this sale since so many of my friends have told me about their frustration with the ratio of time invested in prepping for and participating in a garage sale vs. actual money received. Something along the order of earnings that might cover a fast-food meal if you’re lucky.
But my house is in desperate need of de-cluttering. And that is an understatement. I used to de-clutter by moving every few years. I didn’t purposely plan my moves in order to get rid of stuff, but that was a great byproduct of the uprooting. These moves occurred during my single days in my 20s, and involved moving from one apartment to another. So what I was basically divesting myself of pretty much involved a bunch of indeterminate paperwork.
Then I get married and we bought a house. It was a rather petite house, and although I was still clueless about the whole paperwork thing, there wasn’t a whole lot of space for the problem to get too inflated.
After a few years we moved across the country, so I once again got rid of a whole lot of stuff when we moved. This had been my pattern, and I expected things to continue this way until I was so old and forgetful that I wouldn’t really care what happened to my stuff.
The house we bought was almost twice the size of our previous home. I didn’t immediately realize that this was the first problem. And when the kids came, I was unprepared for the accompanying stuff that arrives – and continues to arrive – when you have children. I clung to the belief that within a few years, we’d move again. But that didn’t happen. In fact, over 20 years later, we’re still in the same house. And the stuff has bred and multiplied when no one was looking. I don’t want all this stuff but my head hurts every time I try to figure out what to do with it.
So I decided to participate in the garage sale. We’ve had beautiful weather here in the South this month. Until this past week when the temperatures began dropping. And the night before the sale they plummeted into freezing territory. I still could have backed out. But I had piles of stuff ready to be re-homed, and I was determined to send them on their merry way. And there was certainly no room for sentimentality, which threatened to rear its maudlin head if I decided to back out of the whole thing.
I don’t know about you, but I am not an early-morning person. Seriously, you cannot pry my eyes open before the sun has made its appearance and is fairly high in the sky. And if you’ve ever participated in a garage sale, you know you have to be up and at ’em in the dark of night, with all of your stuff set up and ready for the cheery, scary people who are early-morning people, laser-focused on getting deals, deals, deals.
Due to the big chill, few people came in the early-morning hours, but those who did show up were looking for serious bargains. I decided not to label things this time, but told them to make me an offer on the few larger items that I had laid out – otherwise most items were in the $1 – $5 range. Nothing that would break the bank there. So all jewelry was $1. A lady held up a necklace and bracelet.
“A dollar each,” I said, smiling.
She glared at me as if I was a child who had misbehaved in her classroom. “I thought it would be a dollar for both of them,” she chided.
“Oh, OK,” I said after a long pause. But really? Is it imperative that you bargain for everything at a yard sale, even if you know you’re already getting a great deal? I guess so. I proceeded to sell almost everything I had for next to nothing. This is good, I reminded myself through my chattering teeth and the realization I could no longer feel my toes. At least I’m de-cluttering, I told myself, repeating the mantra of my very insistent friends.
One lady looked at the small pile of self-help books and cookbooks. One was about preventing diabetes. She thumbed through it.
“Do you think I should buy this?” she asked. “It looks like a lot of words.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to this question tactfully. Finally, I said, “Well, do you have diabetes? Or are you worried about getting diabetes?”
“Well, yeah,” she responded. “But it looks like too much reading.” She then proceeded to pick up a book about low carbs. She thumbed through it as well. “There’s lots of words in this one, too. Do you think I should buy this one?”
She put it down. “I don’t think I feel like reading all those words,” she decided. She picked up a cookbook and rifled through it. “I like this one. There’s not a lot of reading. It just gets right to the point, showing you what you can cook.”
I mentally pinched myself. “Yes, this one is a cookbook,” I said, holding back the torrent of giggles welling up inside me. “So it’s good that way.” Needless to say, she didn’t buy any of the books. But she was very entertaining.
But then something happened that made the whole frigid, odd, not terribly lucrative morning worth everything. A grandmother and her young grandson approached. The boy was bright and charming beyond his years, and interested in everything. His eyes lit up when he saw the board games I had for sale. “Oh, look, you have my favorite games!” He turned to his grandmother. “Can we please get these games? I love them!” He did not say this in a demanding or whiny way. Just a sweet statement of the joy he felt upon seeing something he loved.
I couldn’t believe a child in this day and age would go so excited about seeing board games, but he was. Then he saw the Nok Hockey game and the excitement on his face was unmistakable. He ran over to show it to his grandmother.
“Please, please, please can I have this? I haven’t seen one of these in ages. I love this game so much!”
His grandmother smiled and agreed to buy it as well. I looked at this sweet and wonderful young boy and I felt as if I had just landed at the end of “Toy Story 3.” I turned to him and said, “I was feeling kind of sentimental about selling these games today because I have such fond memories of playing them with my kids. Knowing that you love these games and will continue to have fun with these games makes it so much easier to let them go. I never expected to find someone who would appreciate them so much. Thank you.”
And then things took a turn that was so unexpected and lovely, that my whole morning, and really, my whole outlook, turned inside out. I helped them carry the purchases to their car. The young boy gave his grandmother a bear hug and thanked her profusely for buying these treasures for him. I smiled at his open display of gratitude. Then he turned to me. “I have to hug you, too,” he said. He proceeded to propel himself into my arms and hugged me tightly.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved