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Garage Sale Season

April 15, 2007

Spring means a lot of things to me: warmer weather, short-sleeved shirts, bike rides, flowers, birds chirping, the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s a wonderful season, I think. Everything and everyone finally wakes up from the cold winter and steps outside. My favorite thing about Spring, though, isn’t all of the things listed above. No. By far, my favorite thing about Spring is that it marks the beginning of garage sale season.

This is a tradition in our family. Every Spring, we begin to make the rounds of all of the garage sales far and wide, in search of a good bargain. I start to be more conscious of the “Dear God, Help Me” handle on my side of the van, as my dear husband has a habit of slamming on the brakes, swerving across several lanes of traffic, and careening around a corner on two wheels at the slightest possibility of having seen a garage sale sign. U-turns become a standard, and I think again about delivering pizza for a living because I know all of the streets and neighborhoods so intimately.

Even the kids are excited about this. We discussed it just yesterday, in the car on the way back from swimming lessons. The eldest daughter spotted a sign on the side of the road and instantly exclaimed, “Did you see that? It’s time for garage sales again!” The whole crew erupted into cheers and immediately began plotting ways they might earn extra cash. This thing might work out well for me in more than one way this year.

I’m sure it’s funny to watch our family do this garage sale thing. We pull up in the minivan, all doors open simultaneously, and six people descend on the garage sale, like a swarm of locusts, Mission Impossible theme playing in the background.

It’s even better when we go with our friends. We are professionals, then. We have walkie-talkies so that we can communicate without getting out of the vehicle. An “Affirmative, over” means we all stop and take a look. “Negative, over” signals that we have looked at what these folks have to offer and have decided to pass. We are masters at the art of sizing up the goods at 5 miles per hour.

When we stop, we pick through the piles, look through the layers, and marvel at the mountains of things people want to sell. Often, we find nothing. The “no dice” sale has been an opportunity to teach the tact lesson to our young ones on more than one occasion. After we have left said sale in a hurry, ears burning as we imagined what awful things the sellers would say about our adorable and polite children and, even worse, what they would say about us as parents, we sat the children down and said, “Sweeties, I know you think that garage sale had absolutely nothing but junk. You’re probably right. But it really is rude to scream it at the top of your lungs before you’re in the van with the door closed.”

Sometimes we do find the greatest of treasures. Last summer, the boys found pillows for their beds–one Scooby Doo and one Thomas the Train. Those are well-loved (and well-traveled) pillows (yes, of course we washed them first). We have found bean bags, video games, book series, puzzles, the mother lode of Build-a-Bear accessories, bike helmets, roller blades, and the list goes on.

I try to encourage them to buy something that they actually want or need. Stuffed animals are completely off limits. We can, under no circumstances, fit a single other stuffed animal in our home, and the little ones would buy the whole pile of someone else’s unwanted, discarded stuffed animals at every sale if I would let them. Often, I question their choices gently and remind them that their money is a limited resource. But honestly, if they can get an afternoon’s entertainment for a quarter, I’m good with that. They’re getting better. I’ll continue to believe that the whole process is a good financial lesson for them.

The best part of garage sale season is that my husband always manages to find the deals of the century. He is the Baron of Bartering, the Duke of Dickering, the Maharajah of Markdown. I never cease to be amazed at the particular items he selects. I generally wonder at the time if he’s lost his mind, but his fifty-cent purchase, that looks like so much trash to me, always seems to find it’s way to E-Bay and sell for fifty dollars. He’s good.

The kids have soaked up the skill of haggling as well. They have an unfair advantage, in my opinion. No seller wants to see a 7-year-old cry, so when the youngest heads up to pay for his item and offers a quarter for an item marked three bucks, he always gets his way. The hidden blessing about this is that if I wait long enough for him to decide what he wants and immediately follow him with my purchase, I can offer less, too. It’s hard to tell me no when the deep discount precedent has been set.

Today I had to work, but hubby set out on his own for awhile to see if there were any good bargains to be found. I haven’t heard from him yet, so maybe he’s making the purchase of a lifetime. Maybe he’s found the real, original Mona Lisa, hidden behind a Garfield poster. Who knows?

I’m not sure exactly why we like this thing we do so much, or even how it came to be a tradition. We need more stuff like we need a hole in the head. But it is a lot of fun. It keeps us occupied and, I must admit, it saves us a mint on toy purchases and clothes for the kids. It’s a bonding experience, a memory builder, I tell myself. I think I’ll go downstairs right now and charge the walkie-talkies, just so we’re ready.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2007 9:06 am

    OK – this is hilarious. You are such a gifted writer that I could actually see your family arriving and descending on the sellers wares like ugly on a monkey. This is as good as any of the humor pieces I have read in Woman’s Day or Family Circle – actually better. Are you submitting?
    Too funny!

  2. April 16, 2007 9:26 am

    Jeanie – Thanks so much for your very sweet comment! I love “like ugly on a monkey”. I’m going to have to use that one soon! No, haven’t submitted yet, but I would love to try! One of these days… 🙂

  3. Lynda permalink
    April 16, 2007 9:56 am

    Hilarious! Makes me wish I was still living there to join with you on these excursions! I’ve loved going to garage sales with you in the past, what fun!! Garage sale season here in Phoenix is nearing the end with the 100+ degree temperatures descending rapidly. I haven’t hit as many yard sales since moving to Arizona, but I still love to go just to look.

    I agree with Jeanie, you should do some freelance writing for the women’s magazines, or even Reader’s Digest. You have such talent Cuzzin! Your stories and insights are priceless. And I still think you should write a book. I’m going to be the first one in line to buy it and get it autographed!

  4. April 16, 2007 10:57 am

    Our house is very boring…..

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