The Anatomy of a Garage Sale

Since we’re officially into summer now, I figured it was a good time to revisit my thoughts on the garage sale. I don’t know how it is where you live, but it seems I can’t drive 100 feet without seeing a cardboard sign with an arrow pointing me towards the sale of the century each weekend.

If you’ve never actually put on a garage sale yourself and tried to convince people they need to buy the crap you just don’t want, allow me to clue you in as to just how much fun they can be. I conducted a yard sale myself a couple years ago and feel I’ve recovered enough to talk about my experience.

The Night Before: You stay up late making tiny price tag stickers for all the junk you’re hoping people will buy. You’re naively psychotically optimistic, calculating the total value of your “inventory” at slightly over $5,000, give or take what you can get for those old curtains that came with the house you found stored in the attic.

6:30 a.m. The garage sale is scheduled to begin at 8 am, but a woman pounds on your door and tell you she “likes to get an early start.”  When you walk outside to let her “window shop,” you notice that there are five other cars in your driveway.

6:35 a.m. One of those cars is your crazy uncle—a black belt in flea markets, weekend auctions and roaming the beach with a metal detector—who is there to help manage the situation. He immediately lays claim to a yard tool he forgot he gave you last week.

9:30 a.m. You’ve sold a few things but are already annoyed with the fact that everything isn’t sold and you’re not counting your riches. A shopper offers you a dollar for your lawnmower that is brand new and not for sale.

You ask him to leave.

10 a.m. You look for your uncle and find him drinking Busch Light in a can and offering extras to shoppers for $1 a piece. He tells you he has sold three beers. At 10 a.m.

Noon: You leave the operation in the hands of your uncle/concession seller and go inside to get some lunch. A stranger knocks on your back door and asks to try on some T-shirts for sale, and another wants to know if you have “weenies to go with the beer.”

You ask them to leave.

12:30 p.m. When you return to the sale, you find your uncle slightly manic because he has sold a shovel, a set of garden tools and a hose for 50 cents each. You tell him that they weren’t for sale in the first place. He replies that he wondered why there were no price tags.

You ask him to leave. Of course, he won’t.

2 p.m. A group of college boys will stop by and start trying on some of your clothes in the driveway, conducting their own drag queen fashion show. Your mom will attempt to stuff dollar bills into their bejeweled belts (priced at 50 cents) and your uncle will offer them beer.

They are cute. You will not ask them to leave. In fact, you will give them the clothes, a few other items and several pathetic come-hither stares.

2:30 p.m. You decide things are taking entirely too long and start drastically slashing prices like an overzealous mattress salesman who does his own commercials. In fact, you just start giving stuff away and find that’s entirely more fun, especially because it pisses off your crazy neighbor lady who is trying to sell a holographic palm tree for $50.

4 p.m. You’re done. It’s hard to know what your take is for the day because at some point your uncle apparently sold the cash box. However, you find a dollar your mom dropped during the impromptu frat boy fashion show and seek out your uncle, who is digging through your “junk I’m throwing away” pile.

4:05 p.m. You buy a beer.

4:06 p.m. You vow never to do this again.

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19 responses to “The Anatomy of a Garage Sale

  1. I loved your post! Tell me, if you have a two day garage sale, what do you do with the stuff that hasn’t been sold the first day? Do you leave it outside?
    Do you ask your uncle to sleep outside and watch it? Seriously, these are the things I wonder about. Love your log.

  2. Oh AMEN. I did that a few summers ago. inventory estimated at $2000.. got rid of everything in sweaty frenzy of ‘oh please let this be over’ for $550. And that guy who offered $1 for my snowboard? WTF dude? If he’d waited until 4pm he’d have got it for free…

  3. kelleysbreakroom

    Loved this! Especially love the visual of the mattress guy that does his own commercials, because I totally can see that. We just did an estate sale last weekend. I think you pretty much described these outdoor-sales-of-junk pretty accurately!

  4. I was thinking of having a garage sale to deal with 13 years worth of stuff that has collected in my garage. I need some beer and to reconnect with my uncle!

  5. The first & only garage sale I held, I bought a newspaper ad, put up signs, and spent days setting up. The first day of the sale, my next door neighbor, seeing what was going on, decided to set up her own, impromptu, sale. And since her driveway blocked mine, people went to hers thinking the ads & street signs were for HERS and never coming to mine. She sold nearly everything she put out, while I was only made about $200 total over the 2 days. I ended up sending everything to the Goodwill and not speaking to her for a couple weeks after. I’m still scarred over this experience!

  6. I love having garage sales and have some definite rules. They are only good for dumping junk…

  7. I love your post!! You always make my day and put a very big smile on my face. I think I love you, lol..Seriously, you are hilarious!! 🙂

  8. Lovely. I enjoyed its every bits 😀 thats Y i never dare to summon garage sale for my precious junk 😀 😀

  9. Love going to the yard/garage sales! I’ve held some myself over the years, so much work, so little reward…And….it’s is usually way too hot to sit out there for very long, but we stick it out, ya know,,,just in case one more person comes to buy something! 🙂 You got the timeline just right! 🙂

  10. “black belt in flea markets”. Funny phrase
    (and so far have held to similar vow)

  11. I love going to garage sales. I loathe having them. I once had a lady offer me a nickel for something. I don’t remember what it was but I told her to just go ahead and take it. Really? A nickel?

    Jaime at Awakenings and Reflections

  12. I might add one thing that spiced up my garage sale experience – have a long one way drive with no parking at the end.

  13. Aah joy! My friends and I used to sell our parents’ clothes, kitchenware, anything we thought they hadn’t used in a while, every school holiday in a local park. Easy holiday pocket money…. until our parents started looking for missing clothes, pots etc… Yikes!

  14. and people wonder why I refuse to try to sell stuff. I have a “Goodwill” closet and once that gets filled, everything is shipped out. I don’t even bother with a receipt when I drop it off. Not because I’m overly generous but because I can’t handle the hassle.

  15. Also love your description of your uncle (black belt in flea markets, etc.). Beautiful. Made me think of all the garage sales I’ve held plus helping my daughter with hers. When we were going to move from NY, we had someone come Friday night, asking about comic books and baseball cards! Funny post, Abby. Thanks.

  16. Here we have car boot sales in big fields. Everyone brings their car, filled with all their crap and sells it. The problem is you usually go home with more crap than you arrived with.

  17. This sounds about right. My sister and my dad really want to have a garage sale and sell all our stuff to make a little money. My mom is convinced that it’s not worth it and just wants to give it all to Goodwill. To compromise the stuff has been sitting in the living room for several months.

  18. LoL! I tried this one year and made 25 bucks!

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