The Garage Sale


I should have known the garage sale was doomed.  Maybe my first clue should have been how we kept having to postpone due to (among other things) missing the deadline for the classified ad in the local paper. If not that, then definitely when my mother assured me there was no need for a bank run for change; the $5 in singles in her wallet and the coins in her piggy bank were plenty.

But let me start from the beginning.

I didn’t want to do it. I had just come off of not one, but two garage sales within a month of each other back in California before our big move back East. I sold stuff on eBay. I sold stuff on Craigslist. I sold stuff at two kids consignment sales. My husband made two trips to Good Will.  We made out pretty well, but I was tired! So when my mother said, “I’m waiting until you come home to have my garage sale,” let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic about sorting through yet more junk.

“But, Mom, I’m so done with garage sales,” I pleaded. To which she simply responded, “Too bad!”

Okay, she did help me with one of my sales when she visited in California, she took us into her home when we moved back East, and she IS my mother, so, yes, we were having a garage sale.

If you’re thinking, Garage Sale? Ugh! I can’t be bothered, then trust me, you’re among the majority—the saner majority, I should add.  Greg and I would typically have one once a year to keep the clutter under control.  Yes, I know garage sales are a pain, but I didn’t mind it so much.  It forced me to purge and clean, and, by the end of the day, we were pounds lighter and about $100 richer (or more if it was a good day) for a nice dinner out or a new outfit.  One Saturday a year I could live with.

Now, we’re not the type to go to garage sales. Sure, we may stop by one on the odd chance that something catches our attention, but the die-hard garage salers are a breed all their own—showing up an hour before the sale starts (or, in one case, the day before!) and haggling over a quarter. Seriously. But these are also the folks that will give us money for our crap things we no longer want, so I’ll curb my snark here.

Anywho, we learned a lot over the years about garage sales, and the past few years we had it down to a science.  I would make the Friday bank run for just enough singles and quarters. I got really good at making colorful eye-catching signs and knew where to post them.  I advertised in two different papers. I had tables and items by category. I priced things to move. The morning of, we were up early enough for the effin’ crazy enthusiastic early birds with our travel mugs of coffee in hand. Hell, if we were going to put in the time and effort to have a sale and kill a weekend, it was going to be worth it.

But those were OUR garage sales. In California. In an area where actual people live. This one? This was my mother’s garage sale at my mother’s house – where we are forty minutes from everywhere.  It went something like this:


Greg, Mom, and I spend the day (about 11 AM to 6 PM) dragging the mountain of junk garage sale items from the garage on to the deck where we wash, we clean, we sort, we price.

The dialogue is strewn with comments like “Where’s the top to this?” “What IS this?” and “Oh, these shoes are cute. Maybe I’ll keep ‘em.”

Charlie is pleasantly content rummaging through boxes and pulling things apart. She does things like pour a little bit of juice into each of the Christmas coffee mugs I just washed or drag her stuffed animals around with one of the five dog leashes in the pile.

By the end of the day, we’re all exhausted and I just don’t have it in me to make signs. I figure I’ll make them early in the morning. My mother makes them instead. I wouldn’t exactly call them eye-catching.


We wake early to get things started. I am expecting to see the mad rush of early birds. Um, nope.  Only birds here are in the trees chirping away.

11:36 AM A car drives up and slows down. “Ooooh,” I say excitedly. “I think we have a customer!” The car drives away. The first of many drive-by false alarms.

12:22 PM Finally, our first customer. He wanders around and then says, “I see the hunting stuff. Got any knives or firearms?”

“No, sorry,” I respond backing up just slightly.

1:48 PM (around the time Greg and I would be done packing up with our garage sales) we make our first, and as it turns out, ONLY sale of the day—a phone for $2.

3:27 We realize that at some point, someone stole a necklace. Guess it was hard to keep an eye on all those customers.

The day ends with us feeling pretty defeated. On the up side, I get a lot of reading done. Apparently a second day is needed, so we clean up a bit and throw tarps over everything.


Having realized the early birds are not really a concern (and the ad had the sale listed for Saturday only), we get started around 11:00 AM.  Mostly, it’s a Hail Mary hoping for drive-bys. Not surprisingly, there are only a handful of people for the day.

12:00 P.M. My parents head out to hang more signs. “Don’t worry,” I quip, “We’ll handle the rush.” But we do make out better than Saturday, selling a high chair and two bracelets for a total of $7.

We call the day over around dinner time, throw tarps over everything again and plan for a Monday of dealing with the aftermath.

Total sales for three days of work for three people:  $9.

Okay, so taking into account the $16 spent on the classified ad and the $18.83 spent on poster board and markers (and tic tacs), it is officially the first garage sale I have ever worked in which we actually lost money.  I won’t bother factoring in the money Greg subsequently spent on boxes needed to pack everything to take to Good Will because, well, that would just be depressing.

My mom wrote on her Facebook page, “The next time I say I’m going to have a garage sale, somebody shoot me. In the foot, anyway.”  Don’t worry, Mom. I couldn’t bring myself to shoot you, but your junk? Fair game for target practice.

Categories : journeys in life


  1. Lisa Kelly says:

    Oh my! I hope you let your mom read this post before it went up!

    With her good nature I am sure she took it in stride.

    You know I am no fan of the garage sale!

    Great post!


  2. Kris Giannone says:

    Dear Kelly,
    First may I say I know that your mother is THRILLED that you are back in NJ. After eight years at Dr. Johnsons, I know that she missed you terribly. Both of your acounts of the yard sale were hilarious. I really enjoyed reading them both. Please get a column in some newspapers so I can enjoy reading them. Good luck to you. By the way, in the leftovers, was there anything that I’d be interested in?


    Irene Landon Reply:

    lots of junk jewelry Krissy! Crib? You might need a second hand one soon!


  3. Helenie says:

    Okay, so when someone at one of my garage sales asks me, with something I’ve marked 25 cents in hand, if I’ll take a dime? I’ve been known, on more than one occasion, to tell that bargain hunter that I’d sooner throw it in a dumpster than give it to YOU for 10 cents. I then proceed to rip it from their fingers and place it back on the table.

    Garage Sales? YUCK, PTUEY, HACK, WHEEZE…. these are the sounds that come out of my body when someone says, “why don’t you have a garage sale?”
    Never is far too short a time limit to place on when my next one will be!!!!!


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