Garage Sales: The Price of the Past

Sometimes, something which seems simple is so much more complex than one could ever think.

This week, along with various dinosaur duties* and other quotidian tasks, I am preparing for a garage sale. This should be simple, right? Pull out a bunch of stuff, pop on price stickers and stick them into a box to wait for the weekend. It sounds so easy unless you decide to have a sale not to sell, but to purge. Our house has been holding a super-sized amount of certain items: glassware, bar ware (we have enough martini shakers to get a small army drunk), kid's toys, and cds are the most egregious offenders of our space. The cds, especially. We have at least a couple hundred copies of cds, nevermind the actual "in the jewel case with the packaging" stuff. I have a stack of nearly 200 for Joe to sort through tonight; I've kept all of our 'for sure' favorites, but honestly, I can't remember when I've ever heard him play some others and they have the dust to prove it.

Organizing a garage sale with another human being can be mindnumbingly frustrating. I'm more methodical; grab up one type of object, pack them in boxes so that like things are stored with like. While the old Betamax machine and the corresponding Beta tapes are nicely boxed, Joe's pile in the basement is just that-- a pile. I'll amend that, actually, and say it's an Ugly Pile. Old games (a Simpson's Game, anyone? We've never played it....why would you?), some shoes, some other crazy stuff that I haven't yet identified because I am waiting for the pile to be brought upstairs by the man himself... this is stuff that might be best presented in one of the Free Boxes. We'll have at least 2 or more, because when you are purging, there's nothing better than the stuff just being Gone.

That's the promise we've made: he'll pull out stuff he feels good about letting go of, and he has to let me price them and It's Not Coming Back Inside. A friend has been alerted to my scheme...she can haul stuff away for her missions fundraiser for next month, or it goes to the Goodwill that evening. "After the sale, this stuff shall not again cross the threshold!" I declared this to my husband like a priest at an exorcist--once this stuff is gone, it stays gone.

But what price to put on memories? Sentimental value is inflation at its worst. Looking philosophically at garage sales, here's my perspective: I really dislike going to garage sales that don't price things to move. Three bucks for a bucket of glitter glue pens? Well, okay, yeah, it's cheaper than the store, but not a garage sale bargain, in my opinion. For me, if I'm going to try making some money back on items I'm selling, I'm probably going to scare people away. Cheaper is better for us.  Being able to have all of the cds contained in one area of the house is far more important than making money back on them. Having formerly worked at a record store for nearly ten years, I am quite familiar with the folly of this thinking.

Garage sale pricing is about understanding that, while you may have had an awesome time in Europe wearing that jacket, your prospective buyer is just looking for a cheap jacket-- the experiences of Paris or Barcelona don't come with it. I price with the understanding that these objects have yet to accrue sentimental value for someone else. I have a beautiful fluted glass bowl, purchased for two dollars at a garage sale in San Francisco, in which I force paperwhites every winter. There's no way you could have sold it to me for more than four or five bucks at the time of purchase, but now I have the good memories of visiting my dear friend Jen in SF, over 10 years ago, and the bowl has become a meaningful player in how we celebrate the winter, priceless to me at this point.

I am looking forward to Saturday, to letting go of so much and saying goodbye to it once and for all. The profit that come from this will first go to pay for the Dinosaur Deal (which will be the next blogpost) and then the rest will be gravy. And perhaps buy us some dinner out on Saturday night, because we are going to be beat. The real payoff is the space we'll have, hopefully not to be filled in with more clutter. More space to breathe. I have a vision for our home, eventually, and want to keep working toward it. In the meantime, it's all priced to move...

*If you were wondering, Dinosaur Duties includes making sure they have a place to sleep at night (near the bed, on their own little bed and covered with a blanket), making sure they all make it indoors after being buried in the sandbox, and getting to dry them off after their baths in the bin full of water, stones and marbles. Last night all of the dinos were washed and we read their bellies for their names and thus began the chant "Allosaurus, Made in China... Triceratops, Made in China... Edmontosaurus,Made in China".  Now Kiddo thinks everything is made in China. Not true, but those German dinos are really expensive!


Amanda said…
German're funny!

I am purging the kitchen today- so I can make room for the kitchen things that are in the basement- so I can make room in the basement for my crafty corner- so I can make room for my husband to spread out in his shop- so he can work there again.
It's true, there are German dinos...Schiller makes them and they expect you to pay more for them than you would cheap lederhosen. tee hee.

Also loved your last paragraph description of moving your household goods around from room to room. That was my "Rube Goldberg" moment for the day!

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