Yard Sale Suckiness

Every Saturday I take my daughter to a music lesson, which takes me into a neighborhood that has a chronic yard sale condition. I can’t understand this neighborhood and their need to sell their crap in their front yards, driveways and garages every single Saturday. And for all I know, they’re doing it the other six days of the week, too.

“How much stuff can those people have left?” I asked one week, when we passed this small white house on the corner, which nine times out of 10 is in on the perpetual yard sale. Where are they getting all that stuff? The house isn’t that big. I’m guessing they’re buying it at their neighbors’ yard sales and just reselling it. When they get new stuff, it may not even make it into the house. Straight from the car to the folding table out front.

I wouldn’t care, except that the people who show up to shop at these yard sales park so haphazardly, it’s almost impossible to drive down the street without committing a misdemeanor. Many of them are old (Old people + not knowing how to use EBay + needing to practice driving = yard sale circuit) and they have taken the Florida Driving Class at the senior center, where they were instructed to just stop their Buicks and turn off the engines, leaving them in the middle of the road while they go tend to important business, like buying a cassette tape player or a Golden Gate Bridge jigsaw puzzle.

The streets in this neighborhood are narrow enough without having people parked on both sides, barely off the road and onto the grass, because God forbid you ruin the lawn of the house having the yard sale. So, yeah, just leave it there on the street.

I’ve glanced at what’s being sold and I wouldn’t give them $1.75 for the whole lot of it. A lot of figurines, vases that come with flowers delivered from the florist, colored glass (but not the cool Fenton stuff that I would buy and certainly nothing that would show dollar signs when put under a black light), a few dozen plastic Big Wheels, some cardboard boxes full of black electronics and long cords all tangled up - basically what every good American has stashed in his garage already. The difference between us and them, is that we aren’t trying to charge money for someone to come and take it away.

I myself have been the co-hostess of only two yard sales in my lifetime. The first one I did with my sister Kathy. It was at her house and the idea of taking my junk down there (approximately six blocks away) and spending a Saturday afternoon hanging out in her driveway with the kids running around playing, sounded pretty sweet to me at the time.

What I didn’t know was that after cleaning up all my junk and hauling it down there, I wouldn’t make more than $10 for it, and one of “the kids,” namely mine, would end up asking me to buy him a lot of the junk, some of it ours. My big sale was three Garfield comic strip books that I sold to my nephew Steve, but then felt so bad about charging him, that I gave him his 25 cents back.

Kathy, on the other hand, sold three playpens, three cribs and about 300 onesies with spit-up stains on them.

This was the yard sale where I learned the Law of Crap: The junkier it is, the faster it will sell. The nicer it is, the longer it will sit in your driveway in the rain, long after the yard sale is over and you’re still trying to figure out what to do with this stuff that you’ve already come to terms with parting ways. For instance, Kathy’s three playpens were classified as Gently Used, Used by the Wilder of the Kids, and Looks Like it Hosted Dog Fights. Guess which one sold first?

The second yard sale I did was a pain. Because the whole time I was wiping spider webs off, and tagging merchandise, I had to listen to my oldest son say, “You told me that if you ever tried to have a yard sale I was supposed to remind you how mind numbing the last one was, and tell you to stop and think about what you’re doing.”

I ignored him and hauled my stuff across the street and down two houses to a neighborhood yard sale that I actually chipped in on the newspaper classified ad for. So I started out $6 in the red. And I can honestly say I didn’t make a dime off that one.

It rained, so no one came. Except our neighbors, which was bad for me, because if I know the people buying, I have an incontrollable urge to give away all my stuff. My next-door-neighbor, Janie, admired my playpen, car seat, changing table and swing, so I gave it to her, to keep at her house for her new, almost born grandson.

On the front end, my kids were finding all kinds of stuff they wanted and started crying and whining.

“You’re not really going to charge me for this, are you?” I asked my friend Nancy, who had talked my oldest son into buying a boom box the size of a mini-frig. “You’re like a sister to me, and yet you’d withhold this from my little son, until he forks over $4.50?” Yes, that apparently was the case. That and the $2.50 jungle safari board game that took me 72 hours to set up a rickety bridge and talking idol with the light-up eyes. The boom box required eight D batteries, which cost me almost 10 times the amount that I made on the garage sale.

That yard sale rid our neighborhood of a record number of spit-up-stained onesies, and I didn’t sell much at all.

“OK, you guys, next time I say I’m going to have a yard sale, remind me - and this time really stress - that it’s just a lot of work and it’s not fun and I’m not going to make any money off it it.”

I give stuff away now. I take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or I call Purple Heart or some other organization that owns a truck and have them take it and sell it at their own garage sales. So if you want my old stuff, you’re going to have to look at those charities’ resale shops. The giant boom box and some onesies are still there.

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