Yard Sale

While recorded history stretches farther back than a yoga instructor, it does not go back far enough to tell us the name of the person who invented the yard sale. Maybe it was a Cro-Magnon man who decided to unload a bunch of spears and clubs he didn’t need anymore by staging a cave sale—or maybe he called it a “Spring Cave-Cleaning Sale.”

No, wait a minute! That has to be wrong. It must have been a Cro-Magnon woman. No man would ever get rid of perfectly good spears and clubs.

When you think about it, yard and garage sales are really just improvements on going to the dump or transfer station. Under the yard and garage sale plan, you no longer pay anyone to get rid of your garbage. Instead, someone pays YOU—and THEY haul it away.

(Indeed the word garage is only one ‘b’ shy of being the word garbage.)

Every weekend—even in driving rain—the entire area is awash in garage and yard sale activity. With no special permission, people brazenly tack up signs on telephone poles, trees and road signs. In fact, a neighbor once pasted two separate placards on the top—and bottom—of a stop sign on our street. It then read:

Be sure and
At our garage sale!

Indeed the signs are everywhere: GARAGE SALE! YARD SALE! And, the snootiest of them all: ESTATE SALE! They are all pretty much the same thing, but ESTATE sale sounds the best because it suggests unbelievable treasures and magnificent antiques. Of course, the treasures and antiques are usually musty record albums, rusty exercise equipment, funky-smelling toasters—and old shoes (which are also often musty, rusty and funky-smelling).

In other words, the stuff at the ESTATE sales is pretty much the same stuff you would find at the GARAGE and YARD sales. The difference is marketing.

Extravagant claims and alluring adjectives are key ingredients to any and all signage—and the more exclamation points, the better. “BIG, HUGE FAMILY GARAGE SALE!!!!” is almost impossible to pass up. Plus, it is always interesting to see just how big and huge the family actually is.

Sometimes, an entire bunch of families will band together for a NEIGHBORHOOD YARD SALE—or CUL-DE-SAC SALE. Of course, it is not always possible to get total participation—there is always one crabby neighbor who doesn’t want to take part. In that case, look for the signs that read: NICE NEIGHBORS’ YARD SALE.

If you are ever staging a yard sale, remember that besides trying to unload your unwanted stuff, you are also putting your life on display. If you are a married couple selling a bunch of old baby clothes, you are indicating that one of you has recently had a vasectomy.

When you put your old Abdominizer or Thigh Master up for sale, you are pretty much telling the world that you have chosen to go to seed.

And if you are a single man selling a collection of high heels and ballroom gowns…well, that’s your business.

My wife and I have held—and attended—a BIG, HUGE number of garage sales over the years, and have learned a thing or two. Here are some basic truths and rules:

Advice for sellers: The items you are absolutely sure will sell—will not. The stuff you want to get rid of the most—will also not sell. The junk that is so lame that you’re embarrassed to even put it on display, will sell immediately.

No matter what price you put on an item, someone will want it for less. If you put a 50-cent price tag on a dollar bill, someone will want it for a quarter. That’s just how it is. If you are a couple, make sure you have both agreed on what exactly is for sale. In my neighborhood, a woman came home to find that her husband had just sold their beautiful, antique brass bed. Luckily, the buyers had not yet departed with it —and the sale was voided. Even so, the husband spent the night on the couch.

The worst place to hold a garage sale is in your actual garage. That’s because shoppers will be constantly trying to buy the things that are NOT for sale. (A tip: Put “SOLD” signs on everything that is not for sale. Like your antique brass bed, for example). Once the sale is over, remember to take down your roadside signs—unless you want people to continue showing up for months to come.

Advice for buyers: As soon as the guy sells you the bed—quickly load it into your truck and speed off.