Garage Sale Survivor

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.

IMG_9716Yesterday, 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.

33 thoughts on “Garage Sale Survivor

  1. I’ve never had one of these garage sales, and here we call them Car Boot Sales! But your post reminds me of a jumble sale (I think called a Rummage sale in the USA?) that I organised when I was in my early twenties , it was full of ‘old women’ (ie, my age now!) and was pandemonium quite a bit of the time. I think it frightened me off doing any more of those. But I’ve bought some really nice things from charity shops. (My husband loves oicking up things, too, from these shops.) Isn’t it curious what people throw out, though?

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    • How interesting! Here, we call them “yard sales” or “garage sales” (even though they are often held in our driveways) when they are held from our homes, and “rummage sale” often refers to a larger sale that’s held in a church hall or school hall. And it does get a bit crazy, which is why I really believe I’m too old for this now! Thanks for the comment, Val!

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      • Yes, jumble sales are also held in large halls, etc. Often the proceeds go to charity. Oh and a commenter in my blog reminded me today that what Brits call ‘boot’ is what Americans call ‘trunk’! 🙂

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        • I knew what you meant! Several of my favorite authors are British, so even though I’ve never yet visited England (although I really want to), I am familiar with some of the terms. Thanks for clarifying, though!

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  2. Garage sales are definitely a lot of work. I have a bunch of stuff in my basement waiting for me to get the energy to put together a sale. Part of me thinks it would turn a nice profit, but another part of me thinks I should just load it up & take it to a charitable organization. Good on you for getting so organized!

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    • I think it’s a matter of energy! I used the think the extra money was worth the effort, but then I got a bit older, and….it just seemed easier to donate the stuff. But my daughter had a ton of things to get rid of and she was hoping to make some money, so I agreed to help her. And realized that I really don’t have the energy and stamina I used to!

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    • We did have fun, even if I’m kind of tired. And we’re lucky that my mom lives in an area where it’s okay to hold a sale, and she had the best garage and location for the sale, so that’s where we held the sale. We just donated the items that didn’t sell.

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  3. Garage sales are fun to attend but not fun to hold. I was thinking of having a sidewalk sale before I move, after reading your post I think I will list them on-line, specially since I am not organized enough to do all that work. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  4. Well, an exhausting sale isn’t so bad as long as it was successful. It would have been terrible to put in all that work and then have to store most of the items away again. I’m glad it all went so well for you and your daughter.

    Sales are much harder to arrange when you live in an apartment. Not a single person came to my last one. I guess I shouldn’t have held it on my balcony.

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  5. I used to attend and have garage sales when we were younger but hadn’t had one for about twenty years until last year. You’re right, it is a lot of work, more than most people think. When it works out, as yours did, there’s a sense of satisfaction but if you’re unlucky and the weather is bad or the traffic is light, there’s a lot of frustration. Our town had a town wide sale last year and did all the advertising so we did much better than I ever imagined. Sorry you were sore the day after. If you do it again you may want to do some kind of training before you get started😊

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    • Now there’s a thought: training for the garage sale! Maybe lifting weights, and in my case, hauling out an old Basic Math text book for a quick refresher course!
      Glad to hear your sale went well, too. Because you’re right, nothing is more frustrating that putting in all that work, and then not have many sales.

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  6. I survived a few of my own garage sales through the years, but I’ve downsized considerably! I no longer have enough “stuff” and now I make a once a year trip to Goodwill with just a few items/clothes.

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  7. Yeah, I used to love going to garage sales but not so much holding them. Sounds like an exhausting exercise Ann but a worthwhile one. I must admit I’m in need of a declutter but not enough for a garage sale and honestly, I don’t think I could be bothered anymore. Sometimes it’s just easier to bag them and send them off to goodwill charities. Good on you Ann for helping your family, I’m sure they appreciated the support.

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    • I’m the same way: if it was just me, I don’t think it’s worth the effort anymore, because I don’t keep that much stuff. But I wanted to help my daughter declutter, and she wanted to try to earn a little money, so we had a family garage sale. It was fun, but dang, now I realize just how old I really am!

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  8. It sounds like a wonderful sale. Garage sales are always so much fun when they are a success. My last garage sale (probably 15 years ago) didn’t go well and in recent years I’ve just donated items to a charity–but maybe I’ll have to try another one sometime. 🙂

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    • I once had a sale at our house without placing an ad in the local paper, preferring to rely on signs instead. But that was the one time that the city decided that they weren’t allowing signs, so they made me take them down right after the sale started… I think I had maybe four customers! So I know what you mean!

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  9. I’ve always heard that garage sales are a lot of work and maybe that’s why I’ve never had one. As much as I’d love to de-clutter our basement, I’d never convince my hubby to give up his stuff ~ and most of it is his. Anyway, congratulations on a successful sale, Ann. Now sit down and put up your feet for a while.

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  10. I commend you! When I moved, I gave all my stuff away: to friends, to charity, to the dump, to whatever. There was no way I was going to waste a day or more sorting, sitting outside to make the little bit of money and go through all that trouble! No thanks! I felt very generous making folks happy bringing bags of ‘junk’ in–giving my memories to everyone…. Of course, then the one person that I gave most of it to was nowhere to be seen when I needed help loading my moving pods! Needless to say…we’re not really talking anymore! Ha ha.

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    • It is a LOT of work! If it had just been me, I wouldn’t have done it, but I wanted to help my daughter. And she’s young and energetic enough that she’s more than ready to have another one!

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  11. Good for all of you! It’s amazing the treasures you can find at a garage sale, and sometimes even on the side of the road when people are throwing stuff out. I wish I had the patience to hold one, but all that work figuring out pricing and tagging. I’d have to have a “Make me an offer” sale!

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