Writing about a yard sale isn’t exactly cutting edge.  If you’ve ever attempted to off-load dusty objects that you once couldn’t live without, or thought you somehow needed in the future – it can be an emotional circus of epic proportion.  I must have imagined, at one time, that owning 4 apple corers would enhance my life beyond expectation.  Or, if called upon for a favor, I could magically produce a kitchen gadget that would impress even Martha Stewart.  However, the experience left me staring at decades of  “inventory”, that read like a diary of  chaos and gluttony.

The parts of the yard sale can be greater than the sum.  Each activity involved mental angst over the memories that I infused into them, like the reeking odor of an overly perfumed woman.   “I remember the holiday we used those dishes….remember we made Christmas cookies with those cutters?….I used to read this book to Adam when he was little……”  I mumbled half-hearted regrets to myself as cars were loaded,  and kids skipped away with Colin’s favorite game.   I’m not saying that everything sold put me in a spin.  I just realized that there is a headset that you need to have to peddle your goods, and necessary advice – “Detach yourself from your junk, or DON’T HAVE A YARD SALE!”

So as the day wore on we watched the identity parade of bargain hunters ebb and flow.   We priced items and reduced prices during the lull, as we heard the intermittent downshift of cars pulling over; some sounding like a last-minute decision, others slowly and deliberately.  For the serious bargain hunter,  we were on the day’s yard sale itinerary.    Whatever their reason for stopping, I knew that the sound of car doors closing meant possible sales.

We met neighbors we’ve never met, and all walks of life.   People stop by to find items that were lost in a divorce, like air conditioners and cooking pots.  Some had no desire to browse,  as they inquired if we had things like WWII memorabilia, small tables, and antique tools.  No, no and no.  One woman examined a “like new” $4 iron, for at least 40 minutes.    “Does it leak?”  “Does it really shut off automatically?”  We offered to plug it in, as I explained that all irons leak a little until they’re warmed up and the water turns to steam.   She struggled with the decision, like she was buying a new car.  She parted with the money, asking one last time, “does it leak”.   I no sooner turned to scan my remaining items, and she had returned for a refund.  A case of overwhelming buyers remorse.  I imaging that the possibility of a  leaky iron was too much to take, no matter how much it cost.

Jamie made a decision, early on, that he was the one to price items.  This came about after I offered everything that wasn’t marked for $1.  He’d roll his eyes, or shake his head like a parent disappointed in a child.  I gladly put him in charge of the money, so I could concentrate on product placement and hosting responsibilities.  Some shoppers noticed his shrewd, but fair pricing, and my lack of market knowledge (“Miss $1”), and waited for him to go to the bathroom to negotiate with me.  We caught on to this and had a good laugh with a woman who came clean, admitting this strategy.  She was offered a discount, based on her initiative and honesty.

The best part of the day was when Jamie negotiated with a little girl over  a small orange beaded purse.  He would have given it away, but she was there to play.   She  held the bag in the palms of her hand, like it was an injured bird, allowing him to see its full value.   Her firm, but gentle grip, revealed that she was serious.  They talked about the price, as she would excuse herself to confer with her mother.  This went on for several minutes, until she came back to Jamie with the purse, and an old Sony Walkman.  If she was going to spend her birthday money, it was going to worth it.  He finally turned to me, and said, “how much for the purse and Walkman?”  Here was my chance.  “One Dollar!!!!!”

I didn’t mention why we had a yard sale.  Jamie and I have decided to live together after 15 years.   As I say to people, “we didn’t want to rush into anything.”  I think the timing is right.   Jamie’s lake house is small and comfortable, as long as clutter is kept under control.  So, I’ve come to terms with only keeping important things like my lucky Kentucky Derby hat and my Woody and Buzz Lightyear action  figures.  As far as those memory infused things, well,  Colin’s game may live to see another yard sale, if all the pieces remain.  Adam is grown as well, and will not be needing to read that beloved book.  It is etched in his heart, and on his tattooed arm (Ferdinand).  The book may end up at a library book sale anyway, or going off to college with a kid who loved it as much as Adam.

Now, where did I put my new apple corer?

4 Replies to “Anatomy of a Yard Sale”

  1. Well, this email like most, if not all of your yard sale items, was priceless! Loved it…thanks for your writings!

  2. I loved this post. I think you’ve expressed the difficulty it is to part with possessions perfectly. As much as I like the feel of de-cluttering, I also struggle with breaking an emotional attachment I have to different items I no longer use.

    If you ever feel the need to purge some more, http://www.yardsalesearch.com has some great tips for holding a yard sale.

    Best of Luck,

    Liz

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Michael-Ray Jeffreys for Selectman

Michael-Ray Jeffreys, veteran and small-business owner, is looking to earn the trust of voters in Lunenburg, MA

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