A few notes on yard/garage/moving sales

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I was the volume buyer at my mom’s recent moving sale.  It’s true.  As I had to explain to my husband, it’s just that I have a refined eye for quality which my mother and sister lack and so I was obliged to rescue the treasures the two of them inadvertently offered for sale to the public.  I did so before the public arrived at the sale, of course, though there was one 4X6 collage picture frame which my mom put in the sale which I did not manage to whisk away to my lair before the first customers came, and wouldn’t you know those first customers bought it, but I did tell those customers that if they ever decided they didn’t want that frame, they could bring it back, because I would gladly take it.

The funny thing is that I’ve always presumed to be a thrower, not a keeper.  You would think that after a summer of helping my parents sort through a lifetime of clutter (which at times seemed an insurmountable task), and with a move now looming in front of my own family, I would be shunning the earthly shackles of greed for plunder and refusing to accumulate more needless junk.  In fact, I didn’t even allow my kids to be at the sale because I knew they would go wild claiming all sorts of junk they don’t really need.

Yet, like I said, I personally was the volume buyer at Mom’s sale.

Of course, that also means that Mom’s moving sale (at the ranch house 10 miles from a small town) was not exactly a hip-happenin’ destination two Sundays ago.  Yes, we had the before-Catholic-mass crowd, and the after-Presbyterian-services crowd, but mostly I think folks came to show support for my mom’s efforts and most of them left with a small token item or two.  (I would suggest that anyone planning a yard sale in a rural location should advertise Free Meal With Purchase of Any Amount and also possibly Free Pony Rides for Kids.  That might help the cause.)

The good news is, thanks to some fabulous posters I whipped up beforehand, we did manage to get rid of three (very heavy) couches that day.  A strapping young man and his strapping twin brother came to carry the couches away — even better!  (One of Mom’s main worries all summer was how in the world were we going to get those heavy couches, which she didn’t want anymore, out of the house.)

Mom had been planning on having that single, climactic moving sale for most of her life.  I can remember her talking about it even when I was a little girl:  “No, we can’t get rid of that; I’m going to put it in a moving sale some day.”  Every time she upgraded her furniture, she was enabled in her keeping because she could store the old furniture in an old trailer house at the ranch.  You know, for the eventual sale.

Then the day of the sale finally — after all these years of anticipation! — came, and we were just too tired to drag all that old furniture onto the lawn for folks to view.  Honestly, we weren’t sure it would be worth the effort to get it out, because we didn’t know how many people would show up.  So we mostly put out smaller stuff on tables for the sale — all very reasonably priced, mind you — and waited for the customers to arrive.

We advertised we’d be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  People came and people went.  Not much stuff disappeared.  Then, to my mom’s dismay, a wind storm blew in a little before 2 o’clock.  Racks of clothes were tipping.  Tables of trinkets were threatening.  I look back on that wind as the kick in the butt we all needed to get moving and get all that junk loaded into pickups that went straight to St. Vincent dePaul and the Rescue Mission the next day.  My husband showed up with my kids and niece and nephew and we all just went into overdrive, clearing the yard and packing away the debris as though we didn’t care if we ever saw it again.

It was such a relief when we closed the last tailgate behind a load of stuff that will be somebody else’s problem from now on.  My 90-year-old Grandma, who drove herself to Mom’s yard sale and who has a big house filled to the brim and who has for all of my lifetime, at least, refused to purge her stuff, declaring that we can all do that when she’s dead… took home the arm chair that nobody else wanted.

So that’s over.  And, since I have gained life experience since I last wrote, I feel justified to add to my previous list of Things Not To Keep.  This is important, folks.  Do not hoard these and other items or your stuff will take over your life:

  1. Books.  People like my husband like to say you should never get rid of a book, because if the power goes out or the creek comes up or the end of the world gets here… at least we’ll have books.  Rubbish, I say.  I’ve read a lot of books in my life.  I used to review books when I worked at the newspaper.  And I can tell you this right now:  not every book is worth keeping.  In fact, there are some downright terrible books out there.  So here’s what I say:  keep a few that you dearly love, that you would read again someday or that you would want your kids to read some day.  Also keep a couple (only a couple!) that you’ve always meant to read but which have honestly been collecting dust on your shelf for a few years now.  (As for the rest of them, admit it… you’re never gonna get around to reading them.)  Some books really do deserve to go to the dump.  Some you can pass along to special folks.  Whatever you do, get yourself out from under that load of books… you’ll feel like you’ve risen from the grave when you do!  Of course, I need only to apply this to my own life and I, too, will feel totally alive.
  2. Old underwear.  It sounds silly, but it’s something that happens in real life.  See, my mom is a lifelong cleaner — she’ll do the dishes, scrub the kids’ faces, and clean out the calf bottles all with one sudsy sinkful of scalding-hot water with a splash of bleach in it for good measure — and in order to be a cleaner, a gal needs lots of good rags.  Suffice it to say Mom does not buy her rags at Costco.  As far as she is concerned, any sort of cloth that wears out its first-life usefulness is a candidate to be torn into rags.  Dad wears out a white t-shirt?  Mom tears it into rags.  Old kitchen towels and bath towels and sweats… you name it, she has torn it into rags.  She has boxes of rags strategically located around the ranch… lest she find herself in the middle of a Something Needed Scrubbed Down But There Was Not A Single Rag To Be Found case.  But what’s a little weirder, and what seemed pretty hilarious to all of us in the giddiness of sale day, is the fact that Mom has never excluded used underwear from her up-cycling program.  She armed us girls with rags the morning of the sale for wiping down tables and for spiffing up sale items and, you guessed it, we were each grasping a pair of underwear with the elastic cut out of the waist (the elastic has to be cut out, Mom explains, in order to prevent the irritating abrasiveness).  Now, we’ve known subconsciously that she’s been saving old underwear (and long johns too!) for rags all these years, but the hilariousness of it all hit us that day… and we sure had a great time making fun of Mom for her underwear-to-rags story.

Phew.  The sale was an experience.  I’m glad it’s over.  I think I’ll have another one… never!  The truth is, I’m not sure yard sales are worth all the work.  Instead, I hereby vow to take at least one box of junk to the second-hand store every month for the rest of my life!

© Tami Blake

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