DH = Dear Husband
DFF = Debt-Free Friend
DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
Obstacles to Garage Sales
“Your junk is someone else’s treasure.” You’ve heard it before, right? And you probably know from experience that it is often true. “Gather all the ‘junk’ in your home and have a garage sale!” If you’re like me, you’ve resolved to follow this practical advice . . . many times. What’s stopping me? I have often wondered. We’ve got ‘junk’ and we’ve got a garage. Why is it so difficult to follow through and actually hold a garage sale?
1. De-cluttering Drudgery
“In our efforts to reduce our debt, DH and I have recently taken on the task of de-cluttering our home,” I wrote in a February post. “We take on a single cupboard or drawer each week-end.” How purposeful and productive that sounds. And I really felt purposeful and productive when I wrote it, but in actual fact we maintained this de-cluttering schedule for a mere two week-ends. It’s definitely drudge work to go through a house, painstakingly determining what hasn’t been used for years, what is still worth keeping, what might have value to someone else, and what should just be thrown out. Maybe there’s a deeper psychology in this aversion to dealing with excess stuff. Maybe, at a subconscious level, some of us feel a comfort in our clutter. I don’t know. I just know that for me personally, it’s incredibly easy to get side-tracked from a mission to de-clutter.
2. Is It Worth the Effort?
“Don’t save the stuff for a garage sale,” DH said as I started putting things aside. “Just throw it out.” Is it worth the effort to put aside – say – a DVD that we haven’t watched in years, and try to sell it? What about all of our old VHS movies? Do people even have VCR machines anymore? With Netflix, do they bother with DVDs? And what about the record albums that have been in storage since 1990? (I looked at the date on the newspaper that served as packaging.) “Records are in again,” I told DH. “Go for it. Try to sell them,” he said in resignation. And there were shoes, and puzzles, and board games, and soccer balls, and books, and kitchen knick-knacks . . .
3. Can’t Meet the Requirements
As the week-ends in May passed by, I got into my de-cluttering mode again. I felt a determination to let my better angels have victory in this struggle against my stubborn aversion to stuff-sorting. The entertainment cupboards in the basement and the family room; my bedroom closet – I worked through them, but May was passing, and there were still many other closets, cupboards, boxes in the basement, not to mention the garage itself. It would be impossible to get through it all.
“Why does it have to be in May?” asked DFF when I told her about my dilemma. DFF is the one who gave us the needed nudge towards debt-reduction two years ago, and she is a stunning testimony to the wisdom of paying off debt, living frugally, and saving. Now a single mother of four children, she is nevertheless completely debt-free, cushioned by ever-growing savings, and has the freedom to continue to be a stay-at-home mom. “And you can still hold a garage sale without going through everything in your house. Just have a smaller one.” Why did I think it had to be in May? And why was I burdened by the notion that the whole house had to be sorted through? How many of us submit to defeat because of the preconditions we don’t even realize we impose?
Just Do It: The Great Glebe Garage Sale
Our street had a garage sale two weeks ago, and I didn’t know it was happening until DD2 told me about it on the Saturday it took place. That’s OK, I thought to myself, armed with a wisdom in line with DFF’s broad thinking. I can hold a garage sale that isn’t part of a street effort. But would anyone bother with a single house garage sale? With a relatively small stash of stuff?
Every year, at the end of May, there is a huge and famous neighbourhood garage sale in our city. It’s just not our neighbourhood. But I have a sister who lives there. “Are you selling anything at the Glebe Garage Sale?” I asked her last week. “No,” she answered cheerfully. “I keep saying every year that I’m going to – but I never get my act together.” It clearly runs in the family. “Can [DD2] and I set up outside your house?” I asked. “Sure!”
So yesterday morning, the Saturday of the Great Glebe Garage Sale, DD2 and I were up bright and early, packing our van with tables, blankets, and our respective “stuff”. We parked in my sister’s driveway shortly after 8:00 am, and we couldn’t even set up before customers started going through our merchandise. The record albums were a huge hit – for all age groups. “There’s lots of Joni Mitchell.” “My dad has all of these.” “Bread! How does this song go again?” (I sang it. And it sold.) “What a memory trip!” The shoes went. $2 per pair. Almost all of the puzzles and games went – for $1 to $5 each. Most of the DVDs and even some of the VHS tapes went – .50¢ each. “That’s why we keep our VCR,” said one man, his little daughter on his shoulders.”We get our entertainment cheap.” It was a perfect morning – sunny but not too hot – and there was a remarkably friendly vibe that made the busy transactions and constant scrounging around for change entirely pleasant. The sale went on until 3:00, but DD2 and I packed it in at noon – exhausted.
I started the day hoping that I’d make $50. Instead, I ended up with $300. And DD2 was happy with her takings too. We were both eager to get home, but we made a stop at the bank first to make our respective deposits. I have a plan for that $300 – something consistent with our debt-reduction efforts – but I’ll save that for another time. For now, I’ll just savour the triumph. Despite drudgery, discouragement, and doubt, I rose to the challenge, thought outside the box, relieved our house of some of its clutter, had a great morning, and earned a surprising amount of cash.
Debt repayment is a war consisting of many battles. I believe I have just won a significant victory.