The 2020 Garage And Yard Sale Report

2020 has been a bad year in more ways than we can count, but it’s been a pretty productive year for us in terms of garage and yard sale acquisitions.  After an early slack period in deference to the coronavirus, the ads for sales started to appear in the local paper, and by the end of the summer the Stonington-Deer Isle area was back to its normal complement of Saturday sales.

I’m not the big garage sale expert in our household — Kish and Russell are the true aficionados — but in my limited experience there are two types of people who put on garage or yard sales.  In the first category are people who are really hoping to make a lot of money on their unwanted items.  The people in this category tend to overprice their stuff, not fully realizing that it is, after all, unwanted stuff of dubious provenance that doesn’t carry any special memories or value for the potential buyer who is just looking for a bargain on a used item.  The people in this category tend to be kind of stiff and rigid.  The other category features people who just want to get rid of stuff, have put an ad in the paper in hopes that people will stop by and take stuff away, and have priced everything to sell.  I like garage sales put on by people in the second category better.  Last weekend, we went to a sale put on by some people who were leaving to move to a different state, and after chatting with them for a while they were basically trying to give us stuff just so they could get rid of it and not have to cart it to their new house.  

Garage and yard sales are interesting for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that they show you, in tangible form, just how much stuff people tend to accumulate over the years — stuff that, at some point, has moved from useful to unwanted, from prized possession to clutter, from key parts of a new hobby to nagging reminders of past failures, from potential treasured heirloom to junk.  Another reason is that garage sales tend not to be organized in any meaningful way.  Normally, when I am going to buy something, I know exactly what I want, go directly to get it, and then end the shopping excursion.  That doesn’t work with garage sales.  Even if you go to one with a specific thing in mind, it might not be there, and even if it is what you’re looking for is going to be mixed in with a bunch of stuff that is totally unrelated.  And, of course, in looking over tables of household debris you might just find something that you hadn’t thought of but really could use.  Once in a while, the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” really turns out to be true.

This year we’ve used yard sales to buy a nifty circular painting of a ship that is now hanging in our main room, acquire a sturdy used wheebarrow and some useful yard and gardening tools, get the cream pitcher and sugar bowl pictured above, and fill in some of the gaps in the household.  It’s all stuff we like and can use–for now, at least.

Of course, at some point in the future it all could end up in a yard sale of our own, on a table filled with other bric-a-brac.    

The Family Garage Sale

When we cleaned out Mom’s condo, we were left with a bunch of stuff that she doesn’t need and no one really wants.  What to do with it?

IMG_0226Yesterday we put it before the general public in a subdivision-wide garage sale at my sister Margaret’s neighborhood in Hilliard.  Cups, clothing, plates, books, pots, Christmas decorations, golf clubs, CDs, children’s games . . . all of it got assigned a price and put on card tables.  And then we waited for the browsers.

My guess is that most people who sell things in garage sales overestimate how much the sales will bring.  They think their stuff is nice and should fetch a good price from grateful visitors.  The reality, unfortunately, is that nothing looks particularly valuable or enticing when it is crammed with other bric-a-brac on the top of a card table or displayed in a cardboard box on a driveway.  When you see stuff laid out in such a fashion, you immediately begin to recalibrate your pricing down to nickel and dime territory.  Our niece Amy led the mark-down brigade.

IMG_0227Garage sale patrons seem to fall into categories:  those who are looking for a particular item they are collecting, those who are hoping to find a bargain to supplement their wardrobe or home decorations, and hoarders.  The people in the first category come early in the morning and zip in and zip out, the second category visit throughout the day and take their time, and by the end of the day you’re just hoping for the hoarders to come and take away whatever they want.  We had an end-of-the-day hoarder and were happy to load up her car and bid her adieu.

At the end of the day, we made $223.95 for hours of work, met some nice people who were happy with their purchases, had some laughs, and sold about two-thirds of what we offered for sale.  The remainder got boxed up and delivered to AmVets.