My Last Garage Sale Experience

My Last Garage Sale Experience

Amusing Stories and Surprises
What Sold and What Didn’t
Disposition of Unsold Goods
Reasons to be Thankful

My October Bulletin offered perspective on doing a huge garage sale in my “older age.” I haven’t worked this hard physically for years, but I’m thankful I had the stamina to do it. This month I’m sharing behind-the-scene stories and perspectives that may benefit anyone planning to downsize and eliminate a lifetime of stuff. 

“Our hoarding habits clog our energy channels, drain our reservoirs of place. The things we possess ultimately possess us if we let them.” – Kathleen Gibson, from her book, Practice by Practice: The Art of Everyday Faith

To get a head start on the sale, I created a pre-sale handout for distribution in my small church and was surprised to quickly sell two sets of dishes and several bulky items I couldn’t display in the garage or move to the driveway each day. Later, friends and others from church bought most of my jigsaw puzzles, some glassware, bookshelf standards and brackets, and seven cases of canning jars.

As opening day approached, the weather changed. I felt lucky to make $800 in total sales in spite of being rained out the first Saturday and second Friday, days when only a few garage sale diehards drifted in through drizzling rain or showers. With music playing in the background, I cheerfully greeted everyone who entered and encouraged conversation with anyone who wanted to chat.

This sale was unlike any I’ve held in the past in terms of who came to look and what they wanted. Some came out of curiosity with little intention of buying anything, while others were collectors looking for something I didn’t have. Men and women of all ages popped in, took a quick look, and left. Others spent time browsing every display and usually bought something. Except for one man with a bad attitude, everyone said thanks on their way out.

Seeing how much people’s interests, attitudes, and habits had changed, I concluded that the pandemic forced us to develop new perspectives on life, work, and how we want to spend our time and money in these uncertain times.

My Pricing Strategy. Signs in different places said, “No price, or price too high? Make a reasonable offer.” Only a few asked if I’d take a dollar or two less, and I accepted their offer because my primary goal was not to make money but to get rid of stuff. In the end, sales of many little things, with some $10 and $20 purchases and a $50 sale of Dremel tools, gave me a tidy sum.

Amusing Stories and Surprises

I was amazed by how many came with less than $5 in cash. Those who made small purchases often had to dig for (or borrow) what they lacked. One woman who checked out with two items for $2 said, “Oops, I left my wallet at home.” She then began to dig to the bottom of her foot-deep purse and, one by one, pulled out coins she had dropped there as if her purse was a piggy bank. Amused when she found only $1.83, I smiled and said we had a deal. She left happy.

Shoppers had no interest in my two-tier display of vintage kitchenware and “entertainment niceties” (pretty hot pads, napkin rings, fancy dishes). As one woman after another walked by it, I asked if they liked to cook, and they all said no. One day when my helper suggested to one of them to look at my collection of cookbooks for ideas on what to cook, the woman said, “And then there’s takeout.” An older man overhearing my queries to two women said, “Why don't you ask the men if they like to cook, because I do.” We had a sweet conversation, but he didn’t buy anything.

Although vintage items are hot on the internet, mine held no interest for the kind of shoppers I attracted. Vintage to most of them meant “old.” What some don’t understand is that today’s home items from mass manufacturers are designed with planned obsolescence, and they can’t match the quality level of products from bygone eras. (Harry and I had a beautiful refrigerator that worked perfectly for 30 years. Today the life of kitchen appliances is between 8 and 15 years.)

What Sold and What Didn’t

Workshop Tools and Supplies. Before I gathered things from Harry’s workshop area, I’d kept what I needed for home maintenance and any creative project I might want to do. To his stuff, I added my sabre and scroll saws and Moto tool accessories. I sold all but one of the power tools, but no one wanted the large assortment of never-used home-repair materials from Ace Hardware or like-new items made by Radio Shack.

Dolls, Bears, and Gifts. Three shelves of a utility shelf unit were filled with like-new teddy bears, handmade china and cloth dolls, jigsaw puzzles, and games, but I sold only a collectible Alf animal and the games. Nearby were nearly a hundred small handmade gifts and decorative accessories, with small pictures, plaques, and posters hanging on a pegboard above them. Buyers took about half of these items home but ignored larger framed pictures, glass art, and wall hangings on another wall.

Other Items. I was surprised to attract no creative people, except for one crafter who took all my undecorated boxes. Thus my display of all the art/craft materials, books, patterns, and tools ended up at Goodwill.

I sold half the office supplies and most of the Christmas decorations and cat stuff, but I couldn’t give away any of the hundreds of neatly displayed fiction and nonfiction books or any of the high-quality bookshelf boards with standards and brackets originally used in the house. I couldn’t even give away pieces of clean scrap lumber stacked neatly against one wall.

Surprise Sales. I sold $100 worth of costume jewelry, several vintage vinyl LPs, all my little mushroom figurines, and a pair of felted mittens from Norway that touched one woman’s heart. Also sold an anvil, sledgehammer, and an iron tamper to a female blacksmith.

Disposing of Unsold Merchandise

The tear-down process was as tiring as setting everything up. I spent many hours in October getting my house back in order and packing up or disposing of everything that didn’t sell. Goodwill got the first batch of most of the books and all of the kitchenware and other items not desired by Wayside Ministries, which has a resale shop. Their truck picked up seven boxes and four bags on November 8, and I was happy to know that these useful items will be available to low-income families who need them. Goodwill is also getting 70 vinyl records with little value and the rest of the stuff Wayside didn’t want, which was anything metal.

That left me with a lot of workshop stuff, brackets, standards, and shelf holders. Each week, a friend carried boxes of this stuff and some of the lumber to the street a day before my weekly garbage pickup, which takes everything that isn’t harmful to the environment. Passersby quickly grab anything useful.

Reasons to be Thankful

When I told the Lord I would give 10 percent of my sales to my church, I asked Him to send some Christians to my sale. He did that and more. (You can tell a Christian by their gentle demeanor and choice of words.) I had uplifting conversations with several, and some were my best customers.

Knowing how much I love dogs, God also sent four dog walkers into the garage, each stopping at the door for permission to come in. None of them bought anything, but I got to pet each dog. One, a shepherd, made my day. Still in training and looking timid, he was practically glued to his owner’s leg. “He doesn’t take to strangers,” I was told as his owner introduced him to me. Smiling, I called to him by name (which I’ve now forgotten!) and told him how beautiful he was. His ears perked up, and he made a move in my direction. “He has never done that before,” his owner said, but I said, “Dogs know when someone loves them.” After sniffing my fingers, he rubbed against my hand and invited a little pat on the head. That was better than making a sale!

Planning how to spend my earnings was fun. Having additional income enabled me to give my church an extra $100, which I urged my Pastor to use for his coffee-and-conversation meet-ups with college students and others in the community. I also treated myself to a shopping spree for new clothes I didn’t need but simply wanted, reserved money for a large Amazon order of things I do need, and made a generous contribution to my “mad money” fund.

Getting rid of so many things I no longer wanted or needed removed a worry from my mind and gave me peace, satisfaction, joy, and extra money in the bank. Who could ask for more?

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Related Article: Developing New Life Perspectives. Lessons learned from a garage sale. a friend’s perspective on downsizing, an unusual “purge and reorganize” experience, and more.

First published as a Brabec Bulletin on November 10, 2023.

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