July 2012: One Man’s Treasure …

I had a yard sale.

Well. That was a learning experience. One of those lessons that only needs to be taught once. Yard sales are not for me.

(There should be a word for that. Learning experiences. Something that can be whipped out in the perfect situation, or whenever a family sitcom needs to have a Very Special Episode about Julie’s brush with a cocaine salesman or Uncle Jimmy’s colostomy bag (Hey, my hairy aunt had one for awhile. One of the oddest Christmas gifts I ever got.) I probably should have thrown another comma in there, although it really would be a Very Special Episode if Julie had a brush with both cocaine and colostomies (To be clear, I don’t think my hairy aunt ever combined the two.) Like I just had a Learning Experience about commas. Learning Experience. Lexperience. Expearning. The big LE. A Lesson Touch. Okay, now it’s just getting creepy …)

Yard sales. Garage sales. Tag sales. They all boil down to one thing: gathering all of your unwanted stuff and trying to get people to give you money for it, before you take it to the local thrift store and donate it. Usually at night, when no one is looking.

I started preparing for a yard sale a long time ago. Years, really. Every time I would pick through stuff to throw some away, most of it would end up marked (in my head) as something that I could one day put on display in hopes that I would earn money from its sale.

I’m not sure where a lot of that stuff is these days. I doubt it earned me any money, however.

For all my preparations, this was my first yard sale. I started by going through my entire storage locker and checking through boxes for those things I had once wanted to sell. For all I didn’t find, I did find quite a lot (funny just how many VHS tapes I held onto. As well as VCRs.)

It didn’t take me long to build a large pile in my kitchen of sellable items. It took longer for me to price them. I wanted prices that would reflect how much I felt they were worth, yet not be priced higher than someone would be willing to pay. I also didn’t want to haggle. I’m not a haggler; when I see a price, I assume that’s how much it costs, and that the seller is a reasonable person who decided upon a reasonable price, and if they didn’t, no amount of reasoning will change their mind.

Also, the less I have to talk to a person, the happier I am.

With this in mind, I decide to set my prices for what I thought an item was worth, and if it didn’t sell, so be it. My hairy aunt’s colostomy bag had value.

I had the entire day planned out in my head. As the Saturday approached and I worked out an entire pricing system based upon quarters to minimize the amount of change I’d need, I put together a layout of the yard, and where everything would be placed, including my table and the box for all the money I’d make.

The day of the sale arrived, and I got up up early to make sure that I had everything set up by the time the early birds arrived to look over what I had to offer. Books and tapes and miscellaneous items went on the tables I had thrown together from plywood and sawhorses; clothes were hung on the fence with the cheap plastic coat hangers I’d purchased; and my assorted computer parts sat on the ground by the old dishwasher and air conditioning unit I was hoping to see go to a good home.

By 8 a.m., I was ready. I made a quick trip around town to set out some signs, returned home and pulled back the fence gate to welcome my customers.

It wasn’t long before the first car pulled up. An older couple got out, and began to walk around, looking at my things. I then learned one of the downsides of having a yard sale- people are going to touch your stuff. Probably with dirty hands. And even though it’s all for sale, and I was trying to get rid of it all, I still found myself strangely attached to these items. They’d been mine for a long time.

As more people came and went, some making very small purchases, most looking and leaving, I was amazed by how many people drove their cars past my yard, slowing only slightly as they quickly whipped their gaze from one end of my yard to the other before driving onwards. Either their vision was far better than my own, or they were looking for something much more specific than I had to offer.

Maybe if I had dressed like a cocaine salesman.

(What does a cocaine salesman dress like, anyway?)

(Do they buy their clothes at yard sales?)

For all my plans best laid, I had really neglected to account for one thing- the sun, and the lack of shade my yard offers. By 11 a.m., I had broken my no-haggling rule, hoping to get rid of things more quickly. Such as everything in my yard.

By 12 a.m., I was ready to offer people money just to take my things away. I blame the heat stroke to which I was beginning to succumb.

By 1 p.m., I was ready to pack what was left and close my gate. Every time I attempted to, however, another car would drive up and stop, and I’d hold on to the hope of selling just a few more things. Eventually, the stragglers stopped, I boxed up what was left, and finally, sick of it all myself (used colostomy bags in the 90 degree heat will do that) I made three trips to the thrift store, and put it all behind me.

I wasn’t quite ready for my treasures to become trash just yet; hopefully, someone browsing the thrift store will find something that used to be special to me, and see its worth for themselves. Like the eight-year-old kid who had bought all my Transformers VHS tapes earlier, or the 38-year-old kid that had bought all my Doctor Who VHS tapes, and a VCR along with them.

I’ve already made my memories; now it’s time for someone else to discover some treasures of their own.

I made $115, got rid of some things I no longer needed to keep around, and found out that I never, ever want to have a yard sale again. For all the effort I put into the project, I made roughly 25 cents per hour. Was it worth it?

Well, at least now I know what having one is like. And it was kind of fun to see someone discover something I had for sale was suddenly what they wanted more than anything else in the whole wide yard. And people don’t by clothes at yard sales, even cocaine salesmen. At least, not at mine.

But I suppose the most important Learning Touch (eww) for me …

That bag of my hairy aunt’s was never a treasure, and could have easily bypassed the entire process and just gone straight to the trash a long time ago.

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