Gar(b)age Sale

My husband and I were feeling smug that we had sailed smoothly through early September and the beginning of the school year.  We efficiently shopped for school supplies, promptly completed the onslaught of forms for school, and doled out an inordinate amount of money for extra-curricular activities. The self-congratulatory air in our house thickened as we even completed a number of jobs that had been on “the list” since last winter.

Then the notice for a community garage sale arrived.

Enjoying the calm before the storm of the kids’ fall activity schedules, I did what any parent would: I threw the notice out.

Then, my daughter did what any media-influenced, cash-strapped eight-year old would do:  she recovered it from the scrap paper bin and excitedly wrote the date on the calendar.

Within seconds of proclaiming our family’s participation in the garage sale, Elena was in the basement digging through her toys…and within minutes, the excitement about the garage sale was replaced by delight for all the forgotten toys that lay beneath those on the surface.

Whew!  I thought.  Crisis avoided.  I was sure that she would not be willing to part with these re-discovered toys, nor would she be interested in abandoning them in order to prepare for a garage sale.

As I was appreciating Elena’s lack of focus, my 11-year old son, who is unable to hear me when I call up the stairs and ask him to come to set the table, apparently overheard parts of our conversation.   He came downstairs wanting to know what was going on.

“Nothing’s going on. Absolutely nothing.” I said, hastily closing the door to the basement.

Assuming I could keep Elena from hearing his question – she usually doesn’t hear me when the basement door is open and I ask her to tidy up – I felt I could divert Nick’s attention.

I cringed as she hollered, “Nick!  We’re having a garage sale!”

As I knew he would, Nick leaped onto the bandwagon.  He ran downstairs and they began to discuss all the new things to buy with a garage sale windfall.

We have held only one garage sale, during which my husband and I decided it would also be our last.  Although the premise makes perfect sense, we do not enjoy the practice:  standing on the driveway, peddling forgotten, outdated items from the bowels of our home to passersby struck us as a little odd.

Since then, we have vetoed many of the kids’ requests to execute what they felt was a sound business plan:  sell old stuff, buy new stuff.  But as their methods of persuasion have gradually become more sophisticated, their proposals are more difficult to deflect.

They now present their plan as a means by which they will reduce clutter, which they know holds great appeal to the garage sale naysayers.  We felt that maybe it was time we allow them to move ahead with their venture.

The kids worked feverishly (…or was that me?) to gather merchandise.  For the most part they would simply play with the forgotten toys, puzzles and games that soon covered the entire floor in the basement.

G-Day arrived.  Toys were sorted, cleaned, over-priced and under-priced.  Does anyone really know how to price a garage sale item?  The kids looked to us for advice, but given our lack of experience, we had none to give.

We all had pre-sale jitters.  Kids:  What if nobody comes and we don’t make any money?   Parents:  What if nobody comes and we have to keep all this stuff?

Garage sales in our area were in full swing by 8:00am.  Shoppers who seemed to have been professionally trained swiftly emerged from cars, and expertly examined potential purchases.  If nothing appealed to them, they dashed away as quickly as they had come.

In no time, our wares were flying off the tables.  The kids were thrilled as cash changed hands.  Elena and I accepted money while Nick demonstrated the operation of some of the toys.

At 9:00 am, my husband, the most unwilling participant in this endeavor, was left as the sole vendor when Nick left for hockey and Elena and I left for her dance class.

As he waved goodbye, he muttered something about how this had turned into another one of those great ideas started by the kids and finished by… (I could see the smile spread across his face as it occurred to him)  Finished by 9:00!

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record