Debt Reduction Garage Sale

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.

Comments are welcome!

I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advice, disagree, or ask questions. (Disrespectful comments will be deleted.)

Join the Conversation


  1. For me personally, I find that I don’t have the time or the patience to hold garage sales. When I’ve held them, I’ve found myself with proceeds that, frankly, weren’t worth the trouble, and I’d be stuck again with most of the stuff that I’d have to move back into my house. Since the City of Ottawa introduced giveaway weekends twice a year, I’ve been taking advantage. I put every thing by the curb on Saturday morning, and by noon, everything is gone. It’s amazing what people will take once it’s free.

    Here’s a link:

    And Prudence, if you’re the only one on your street to have a garage sale, don’t let it stop you. I think you can still place an ad in the citizen for free, but if not, I’m sure some local sites do. For some people, shopping garage sales is a hobby and they start planning their route on Thursdays for the places they will hit. If you live near a busy intersection, you can put a few signs.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Blue. You share my husband’s views on garage sales: Too much grunt work for too little cash. But for me, it was worth it. Here’s one positive ripple effect that has resulted: I considered treating myself to lunch after the garage sale. I was tired and hungry. It would have cost about $10, but I couldn’t spend that much. “That’s about 4 board games. Or 10 albums. Or 20 DVDs,” I thought. So I just ate at home. I don’t know how long that type of thinking will last, but I definitely have it now.
      Thanks for the tip on garage sale hobbyists. There’s a chance I’ll do another garage sale later in the summer with two friends. Good to know about the possibility of free ads in the Citizen.
      The give-away strategy you use is great. It means that you don’t allow clutter to accumulate in your house. My hope is that as my house becomes de-cluttered, my finances will do the same.
      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  2. You post made me remember our first garage sale. For YEARS I was opposed to a garage sale. Too much work, too little gain – let’s just throw it out. As part of our debt reduction journey, you take whatever money you can raise, so I agreed to a garage sale. Your friend is right…you do not need to gather ALL your stuff to have a sale. We had a garage sale each spring and fall for a few years, always finding stuff to put up for sale. We’re now to the point (decluttering has left our house very….well…decluttered. lol) that we will have to wait awhile to have another sale, but we do occasionally put stuff on craigslist for sale. I also remember the proceeds from our first garage sale…..over $500. I couldn’t believe it….$500 and less crap in my house – it was a total win/win!

    1. A garage sale each spring AND fall for a few years? I’m impressed! How great to be in a position of not being able to have a garage sale because you don’t have any clutter! Do you think that clearing out your home cleared your head and cleaned up your finances? That’s the sequence of events I’m hoping will happen for me : )
      Thanks for commenting, Travis.

    1. Any kind of debt can be stressful. Ours isn’t from credit cards, but from lines of credit and a mortgage. I hope that the help your friend has found includes ongoing coaching and accountability. So often, when help merely consists of consolidating debt, lowering the interest rate, lengthening the payback period, and sending the debtor off on his/her way, the debt simply starts to build up again. I have found it so effective to engage with other debt bloggers. Reading their posts helps to keep me on track. Sort of like Weight Watchers for debtors. Thanks for stopping by Andre.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *