After 18 months inside our home thanks to the pandemic, my wife and I decided to free up some valuable space and make a bit of money for the kids by holding our first-ever garage sale.
The plan was to sell all sorts of things we have accumulated over the years and have either forgotten about or have no use for anymore.
If our three kids helped out, they would each get a third of the cash.
In my mind, holding a yard sale seemed like an idea that would be easy peasy – very little labour on my part, a lot of junk would be gone and we’d even pocket a bit of money for our kids. What could possibly go wrong?
We had been on the fence about a garage sale for quite some time. COVID didn’t help. We had never held a garage sale before and didn’t know what to expect.
And frankly, who on God’s green earth would want to buy stuff that even we don’t want? We were genuinely curious if anyone would even show up if we put all of our things on the front lawn and wrote out a sign that said ‘take me, please’.
But after heading down to our basement one day and noticing that I still had a 1997 book entitled ‘How to build a Website’ on my bookshelf – one book among many I realized I would never again open – I had an epiphany. We had to start getting rid of things soon or bookshelf one day would fall on me and I would spend my final moments crushed beneath a pile of unwanted and un-read literature.
Anyway, for a few days prior to the big sale I went into full feng shui mode, looking for things that brought disharmony into our home and might be of some value to others. It turns out our house is basically a treasure trove of anti-feng shui things – from random statues of wooden owls to bobbleheads missing their heads, to CDs still in their original plastic wrapping, to action figures from box office bomb films from the eighties such as Tron, The Black Hole and Clash of the Titans.
Along with old books and well-used CDs, the other thing we had a profusion of was toys. After a lifetime of spending a small fortune on toys that our three children might have played with once, I had amassed a gargantuan collection that would make FAO Schwarz and Hamleys seem like the local Dollorama.
We gathered the goods we decided to sell, put a few signs up around the neighbourhood, carried all the items for sale out into our backyard the night, and decided that we’d hold the thing at 10 a.m. on a Saturday because who wants to go to a garage sale earlier than that? Nobody, we foolishly thought to ourselves, before going to bed.
When I woke up the day of the sale at 7 a.m., I could already see cars circling around the block, slowing down in front of our home to see if the garage sale had miraculously started three hours before it was scheduled. It was a bit reminiscent of watching vultures circle above their prey.
Then, after we ate our breakfast and went outside to transport our goods from our backyard into our front yard– it must have been around 8 a.m. – a nice, well-mannered fellow walked up our driveway, introduced himself and started browsing through our stuff even though maybe 10 per cent of it was on display. Almost immediately after that happened, a deluge of garage sale enthusiasts who had been waiting in their cars apparently descended on our home like a horde of (admittedly friendly, kind and ebullient) locusts, examining everything, asking all sorts of questions and buying up a number of items I never imagined anyone would want.
It was utter madness and I hadn’t even had my morning coffee yet.
The first thing to go were my hockey cards. Like many young Canadians, I had been an avid collector when I was a kid, and had stockpiled a good supply of them during the late seventies and early eighties. While I didn’t have the Wayne Gretzky rookie card, I did have some notable players in my collection, such as Marcel Dionne, Lanny McDonald and Lambton County’s own Pat Verbeek, which had been sitting in a box simply labeled ‘hockey’ for the best part of 30 years.
For the longest time I sincerely believed that these hockey cards would be a big part of my retirement plan – I’d sell them for a fortune and live the rest of my life on a yacht or whatever.
But within a few minutes, my hockey cards (and retirement plan) were sold for substantially less money than I thought they would sell for. I immediately regretted selling them for such a price and now I suppose I’m going to have to rely on selling my headless bobblehead collection for a chance at the yacht.
In any event, other than the hockey cards, we sold a ton of children’s books, toys, CDs, paperbacks and other random knick-knacks.
To my great surprise, someone bought our juicer that we had used once over the past 10 years. Someone bought a DVD copy of Ernest Goes to Camp. And someone even bought one of my old political science textbooks, which regularly put me to sleep whenever I tried to read them in university (perhaps the buyer was an insomniac – in that case, well played, sir).
By the time 10 a.m. rolled around, probably half of our stuff was gone, and very few people showed up afterwards. I (well, my kids) had gained some money from our garage sale, sure, but I also gained some important knowledge about yard sales that I will keep with me for the rest of my life – always start early, never decide to get change on the morning of the garage sale, always price everything before the garage sale starts and never get too sentimental about inanimate, insentient objects because, as the band Kansas once so eloquently put it, ‘all they are is dust in the wind’.