Just One of the Many Things I’ve Never Done Before

Garage SaleOnce a year the community we live in here in Silicon Valley sponsors a city-wide garage sale. This is presumably to entice people from other communities to come get our junk so that it doesn’t end up in the city landfill. We would rather have it end up in their city’s landfill.

I’m not quite sure why they need to designate a special weekend, since I often see people enticed by garage sales held by individuals rather than a whole cluster of individuals. In fact, I’ve seen people waiting on sidewalks at 7:30 on a Saturday morning for one to begin, and I’m sure the neighbors love that.

Over the years, we have accumulated stuff that we don’t need, either as gifts or from parents as they have started clearing out their clutter. One way to alleviate this situation is to move to a bigger house. We took that path nine years ago, so it’s not an option this time. We do Freecycle, and drop clothes off in those parking lot bins (I don’t even want to know what the inside of one of those looks like), and contribute to Goodwill.

But we’re thinking it may be time to join in the annual garage sale. Anyone who wants to disabuse us of the notion that this is a good idea, now’s your chance. (I’m finding this column works extremely well as a problem-solving tool; when I complained last week about not having enough plastic shopping bags, I was immediately notified that friends would be shipping them in from Massachusetts, Florida, and rural parts of California.)

Never having done a garage sale before, here’s what I’m worried about:

Not Having Enough Stuff. You have to have a certain volume of goods to entice people. On the other hand, toward the end of the day, you’re going to have less stuff to display anyway (assuming it’s sold).

Letting Go of Stuff. Some of this stuff I’ve kept for a long time because it was a gift from close friends. But if we’ve never, ever used it, isn’t it time to let go? I think I’ll take digital photographs of some of the framed art prints I’m getting rid of, just in case I ever want to see them again.

Not Getting Rid of Enough Stuff. There’s probably some stuff that I’m going to heave a sigh of relief about it not having been snatched up by the hordes. The rest, I guess I’ll just pack up and drop off at Goodwill.

Not Having Enough Change. How many rolls of quarters and one-dollar bills should I have anyway?

Pricing and Haggling. So do I set the prices high enough that I can come down when people start to haggle? I don’t like haggling. If I’m on the buying side, I still feel like I paid too much. If I’m on the selling side … well, I’ve never been on the selling side. I do have an idea, though – I’m going to print out pages from eBay to show similar pricing for the same items.

Tag-Switching. Do people really do that, switch tags in order to get a better price? Maybe I should put together a master price list, just for checks and balances.

People Touching My Stuff. Do I really want strangers on my driveway touching my stuff? Maybe I should just stop thinking of it as my stuff right now. I’m sending it back into the universe for someone else to enjoy.

Stay tuned, or better yet, stop by on September 21st!

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About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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7 Responses to Just One of the Many Things I’ve Never Done Before

  1. sue steinberg says:

    Howard, I am a dedicated garage sale person. I even organized an annual neighborhood one, followed by a pot-luck, so I don’t have to go far for the fun. However, I still donate to non profits and sell at consignment shops. It is great fun-I hope you enjoy the process! Sue

  2. Brian says:

    A couple of things. First, Sunnyvale doesn’t have a landfill, just a transfer station. They share a great big landfill with lots of other communities. Second, don’t bring one single quarter to the sale. If you are selling something for under a dollar, just throw it away. Third…about touching your stuff. I don’t know exactly what kinds of things you are selling, but if there is something you don’t want anyone to touch, I recommend that you keep it in the house and don’t sell it. If they go in the house and touch it anyway, you have a different set of problems and I recommend calling 911.

  3. I’ve always wanted to do a garage sale for the same reason as you, however, no one will want to hike up our very steep driveway to get there. Besides, no one can find our house and parking sucks. Other than that we’d be ideal. As far as pricing, I heard from a friend who was quite successful at a sale, though he is an interior designer and had some pretty great items. Still he gave this advice, don’t price anything at all and have people make offers. It will save you time, and he found that in almost every case, they offered more than he would have asked. Good luck!! And have fun. It will certainly be an interesting study in human behavior and no doubt give you part two in this series!

  4. Ellen says:

    We never sweat it. If somebody’s having a garage sale on our block, we quickly haul stuff out to catch the browsers walking to and from their cars. Price tags? Ha! I laugh at the concept. I just stand there and smile sweetly, all the while repeating as needed: “I’m cheap and easy. Make me an offer.” If you do set prices, quickly drop them by 20% as soon as somebody asks if the price is firm. They leave thrilled to have gotten you to move, and you get the last laugh — because you just got them to haul away your junk!

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