When I was a young woman, I used to love a good garage sale. As a newly-married twenty something, garage sales were a cheap and easy way to fill our new home with necessary furniture and household items without doing too much damage to our household budget. And when my children were young, spending the morning at neighborhood garage sales was a fun family outing. I’d give each of them a dollar bill to spend on an item of their choice, which kept them happy and busy while I sorted through the goods, looking for gently-used clothes and toys. At that point, my children were growing so fast that I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on their play clothes or on toys that I knew would be ignored once their novelty wore off.
Later, when our house began to feel a bit too full and we had our own piles of outgrown children’s clothes, I even held a few of my own sales. It was work to gather the stuff I wanted to sell, price it, make the signs and then get up early on the morning of the sale to set up the display tables in our driveway, but it felt good to get rid of all those unwanted items and make a little bit of money at the same time. I don’t remember being particularly overwhelmed when I was preparing for a garage sale, or being particularly exhausted after the sale was finished.
Yesterday, I spent the morning helping my daughter, my mother, and my sister host a multi-family garage sale. Most of the items for sale were my daughter’s, the combined result of her love for shopping and the need to find space in her house for the many lovely wedding gifts she received last year. It took us hours to sort and price everything because we had so much stuff we couldn’t even fit it all in my mother’s two-car garage. And since we had all contributed items for the sale, we also had to have a system for keeping track of who was selling what, so we could divide the cash fairly afterwards. Five of us spent an entire evening just setting up the sale. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was pretty tired before the sale even started.
The sale was an undisputed success, with so few leftovers that we were able to fit it all in only two cars to transport it to the local GoodWill. We had the usual “early birds” who showed up well before the start time, wanting to buy while we were still lugging around the heavy furniture and trying to remember where we put the cash box. People tended to come in groups, and usually all wanted to check out at the exact same time. I started the morning running the checkout table, but decided that wasn’t the best use of my talents after I found myself adding $4.00, $.25 and $2.00 and coming up with $5.43. After that, I stuck to bagging up the purchases and helping my son-in-law carry the heavy stuff to people’s cars.
I’m very glad that I got to spend time with my family, working together, as family bonding time is always important. I’m glad that my daughter was able to declutter her house and make a small profit at the same time. I’m even glad that the people who came to the sale were able to get items they needed at a very good price, because I remember how much I used to appreciate that. But today, I’m exhausted and sore, and feel every single year of my (late) middle age. I’m sure that my daughter will have another sale someday, but I’m thinking that the next time she does, my contribution is going to be my best wishes, and maybe a couple of cheap glass vases.