C. Stroup – Are Garage Sales Worth It?

It’s been years since I had a garage sale, so many years that I’d forgotten what it’s like to pull one together.  I spent two weeks with my van in the driveway while I rummaged through the house and attic, piling things high in the garage.  And then I remembered that  you need help.

Doing it alone is impossible so I enlisted some help from my neighbors. Claudia came over and spent the better part of a day assisting me in pricing things.  She’s a garage sale junkie and knows what you can get for what you’re putting out on the table.  Funny thing happened during her visit.  She went to use my bathroom and somehow locked herself in.  We never use the lock feature on that door and I guess nobody else has since this was the first and only time this has become a problem.  After trying to claw her way out my husband finally came to the rescue with a skinny file and managed to pop the lock open from the outside.  Meanwhile I kept Claudia amused by ribbing her for the mishap.  Good thing she wasn’t sequestered very long because we had a lot more pricing to do.  (I just hoped this wasn’t an omen of things to come!)

She also lent us a couple of sawhorses which we topped with a nasty old tabletop we intended to throw out.  Came in quite handy.  And Claudia became my second buyer for the event.  My first customer was Teri from across the street who had come over the night before and given me quite a few tips on pricing.  She’s had several garage sales herself and is also an avid sale-goer.  Teri bought several items and came back later with her hubby who scored some of Ken’s wares.

We had duplicates of so many items due to our 10-year ownership of a big old cabin cruiser.  It lived up on Lake Tacoma and we had provisioned the kitchen I had in the boat house as well as the galley on board the boat.  Just to name a few items: 2 toasters, 2 can openers, 2 sets of flatware, dozens of towels, lamps, blenders, coffee makers, bedding to include blankets, sheets, pillow cases and the list goes on adnauseam.  In addition, my husband had a closet on the dock where he kept an entire full set of tools needed for fixing a wide variety of things both on the boat and on the dock.

I had thought I had plenty of for sale signs left over from the last sale but it turned out I was short by a half a dozen.  I realized this the night before the first day of the sale.  So at the last hour we were making more signs from flimsy cardboard stapled to wooden stakes Ken had in his workshop.  We headed out right around the time school was letting out so as to be sure to get caught up in the crowded roads close to our home.  And to further enhance our efforts there was the wind factor.  I swear it could have blown you onto another planet.  And it was during the process of placing the signs that we discovered I’d put the arrows pointing the wrong way on two of the fragile, makeshift postings.

By day’s end I was pooped and ready for bed early.  I couldn’t sleep, however, wondering if the wind had taken its toll and if the rain that followed had caused the signs to streak and become illegible.  Would anyone come to my big sale?

Would they ever!  That next morning we opened the doors at 7:30 a.m. and folks were Johnny on the spot to attend.  There was a steady stream of mostly buyers all day long.  In fact, at times, we were overwhelmed.  But Ken hung in there and hawked his merchandise to the men who showed even the slightest interest in his stuff.  Sold quite a few things that way and also by coming down on price.  We just wanted to get rid of the junk.

We had borrowed a long table from a friend and had used some plywood paneling atop sawhorses to make more area for our displays.  And still stuff poured out onto the driveway ~ a huge mirror, air compressor, hand truck, drill press, 2 ladders, shoes, purses, TV’s ~ it was never ending.

One of the early birds suggested we advertise on Craig’s List which we hadn’t even thought of doing.  So my husband hurried into his PC and listed our sale only to get a response from a reader asking where we were located.  In his haste Ken had omitted our address which made me feel slightly better about placing the arrows in the wrong direction.

One lady, who bought about $12.00 worth of “stuff,” showed some interest in a box of old telephones that Ken had thrown out.  Being the salesman of the year, Ken told her he’d give her a real deal if she bought a couple.  Instead she said, “I don’t want any of these phones but I’d buy that one there hanging on the wall for $10.00.”  She was pointing to an old, dirty rotary wall-mount across the garage.  It had mud dobbers’ nests in it and hadn’t worked in years.  Ken couldn’t get a screw driver fast enough to detach it and hand it to her.  She said it was just like the one her grandmother used to have and brought back fond memories.  Boy did that make us feel old! 

The oddest request we had, however, came from a man who wanted to buy my van.  He and a buddy pulled up in a Mini Cooper and barely stepped foot in to the garage.  They spied my van sitting out in the driveway and wanted to know how much we were asking!  As the van was about the furthest thing on our minds and quite taken aback by the question Ken rubbed his chin and threw out a price that was ridiculous.  The guys bargained for a bit and left in their Mini.

The second day of the sale was disappointing.  We had mostly lookers and few buyers and the day seemed to drag on forever.  One fellow from the day before did come back on his motor cycle and bought a pair of nickel cuff links, for Pete’s sake.

What was left we packed up and donated to CCA with the exception of some clothes I couldn’t bare to get rid of.  They are now living in a gigantic box back up in the attic.  Overall we took in almost $800.00!  So you make the call…”Are garage sales really worth it?”


Originally published in the May 2012 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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