“It’s a nice, relaxing thing to do on a Saturday,” said Carol, a neighbor down the street.
You’ll never guess what Carol was doing at the time. Since you’ll never guess, I’ll save you the time trying: she was unpacking boxes for a yard sale. All of Crown Hill was disgorging its garages for the neighborhood event. I, myself, was on my way to the corner to put up a sign.
I don’t often hear a yard sale described as relaxing, especially not by the folks hosting it and especially not by the ones who declare “No early birds” in their Craig’s List ad. These are the ones who have their back yards protected with electric wire that they turn off when the sale starts. They follow you around with a clipboard where they’ve itemized everything down to the number of paperclips in the baby food jar and the number of hotel soaps that Aunt Liza brought back from her trip to New England.
I love the early birds. I’ve done sales where I made the bulk of my money before the sale officially opened. Besides the early birds sometimes help me move heavy things. When my fairy god child, Jessie, was school-aged, she and I put together yards sales every summer. “Here come the experts,” she said when people arrived two hours early. http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2011/05/selling-the-vibrator/
This year’s neighborhood sale was not so relaxing because there was no break in the flow of people. I didn’t get a chance to pee until 1:30. It reminded me of the 1980’s before yard sales became so commonplace. Back then, a sale required two able-bodied people and neither of them had time to pee until 1:30.
So yeah, I’ve been doing yards sales for a long time but until I moved into my current house, I never had such a sweet set-up. There are two structures on my property: a little cabin built in 1880 and the actual house built in 1936. I’ve connected the two with a fiber-glass roof and made a sun-room where I can have dinners, teas, singing parties, and recital receptions; and where my painting buddies and I can paint. I use the sun-room to hang laundry that dries in an hour on a hot day. I have wood delivered and stacked so it can bake under the fiber-glass roof until November. A tomato in my sun-room will ripen before September when the summer is chilly. I read out there on summer mornings.
The cabin in the back provides a storage area so I have a stock room, as it were, where I keep the sale merchandise, much of it left over from the estate sale of my parents’ house three year’s ago. I can take my time setting up a sale in the sun-room, and take my time packing it away in the cabin until next year. In between sales I live in my house and pretend I’m a minimalist.
I had parents who never threw anything away—not entirely true. My mother never threw anything away. My father threw away a lot of my mother’s junk under cover of darkness. Even though my parents have been gone for years, they are still supplying me with material for both my yard sales and other less welcome areas of life.
My father never threw out a book. Over the years I have lugged car load after car load of his books from Olympia to Seattle. They’ve furnished their own little book nook in the cabin. When life gets to be too much for me, I go back there and alphabetize books. I’ve sold hundreds of books from that little room but it is always continually stuffed because my friends find it easier to bring boxes of books here than to Good Will. Their cast-off junk as well.
“Here, can you put this in your sale?”
“Sure, I’ll take it.”
It’s the inverse of taking things out of my parents’ house where the exchange was more like this:
“Elena. What have you got in there?”
“It’s that box of mine that we talked about last time, remember? Okay, gotta go!”
Clearly the point of my yearly yard sale is not to get rid of stuff: it’s to play store and make some mad money.
A year ago, in my second post on this website, Freud, the cat, had peed on the Great Books. http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2010/08/book-chi-part-one/ I never thought it would happen, but I sold those books, de-scented and sterilized to within an inch of their great lives, in the sale this weekend—and to some lovely people who were excited to get them. What a great way to mark the anniversary of this blog.