QUIT: Our Perpetual Garage Sale

This was not one of our signs, but I kind of wish it was.

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]


In all my decluttering efforts, I’ve been committing a cardinal sin, and trying desperately to pretend it isn’t there:  I’ve been taking everything I no longer want or need and, if it has any modicum of purpose left in it, I’ve been dumping it in a “We’ll deal with this later room.”  And then we never deal with it.

May I introduce you to:  our perpetual garage sale.


It Wasn’t Always Like This

Let me preface this by saying we did hold a real garage sale two years ago, which was a pretty decent success.  It was part of a block sale, featured such hot items as a rarely used Wii Fit (that resolution didn’t last long), and it was 80% picked over by 7:50 a.m., when we went outside to open up for our 8:00 sale and saw a horde of elderly early birds descending on us en masse.

So we had reason to believe we could replicate similar success.

This past summer, we got out our folding tables again, organized them back into handy zones such as the “kitchen items” table, the “computer gear” table, and the “kids’ items we have only because my husband once worked for a product testing company and got to take home free toys” table.

We didn’t have quite the big ticket items we did before, but we still had a decent array of things it seemed people might want, so we were fairly confident.  We opened up shop at 7:45 a.m. this time, were a little dismayed not to find a pack of elderly chomping at the bit, and sat down on our patio chairs to wait for the customers to start rolling in.

They didn’t.  We had three, maybe four browsers, one purchase of a stuffed teddy bear, plus the obligatory slow-down/drive-bys that make you feel momentarily hopeful and then unreasonably dissed.  I don’t remember the exact numbers.  It was a long, excruciating two days.

We had picked, somehow without realizing it, Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of the summer, and possibly the windiest two days in all of Western New York history.  We spent the entire weekend leaping up to chase down things that had been swept off the tables Wizard of Oz style.  Mid-afternoon on the second day, we gave up altogether and shut the garage door.

And the tables have been there, preserved like some fairy tale moment in time, ever since.  Enchanted layer of gathering dust and all.


The Madness Behind the Method

At first, we just didn’t want to deal with our epic failure by re-boxing everything we’d been hoping to get rid of.

Then it got kind of cold, and we kept finding reasons not to go out into the chill to haul everything back inside.

Then it was somehow Christmastime, and we figured what the hell, why not just leave things where they were till next summer?  That way we just dust off the cobwebs, reopen the doors, and viola!  Instant garage sale.

In the meantime, any time we came across anything that might fetch a buck or two, we optimistically piled it up in the garage, ready to earn us some change next summer:  Corporate giveaway water bottles.  Off-the-mark Christmas presents we didn’t have the receipts to return.  Things other people wanted to get rid of that we promised them we’d try to sell.  More giveaway water bottles.  (Seriously, Past Me, who needs any more corporate-logoed water bottles?  Who would actually pay for them?)

Slowly, it became harder to get the snowblower out of the garage without piles of things shifting and avalanching down upon us.  The few nice items we had on display started getting dingy.  I started tripping over—then, when I’d had enough, deliberately stepping on—things as I tried to reach our garbage totes to throw out a trash bag.  I let my dogs step all over floor items with their muddy paws when I brought them in from outside.  I just didn’t care anymore.  It had gotten out of control.

We were “getting rid” of our clutter by creating even more clutter.


Everything Must Go

Frugal as it may have seemed to preserve our garage sale as a means of collecting future profitable items, in truth, we were just collecting crap.  We’d started with the leftovers from the previous year’s garage sale, and now we were just adding anything that held the potential of getting us a quarter or two.

We’d become a miniature version of Hoarders, filling one whole room with crap we didn’t need in the hopes that it might one day be valuable to someone or something.

I’m all for eking a small profit from every item possible, but at some point, enough has to be enough.

So, starting this week, I am systematically going through the hoard and disposing of things any way I can:  eBay/Craigslisting the things that might still be valuable, Freecycling the things that aren’t, and tossing out all the rest.  If something doesn’t sell on eBay, it goes to the Freecycle pile, and if no one bites then, it gets tossed.

I can’t tell you how therapeutic it feels to toss some of that shit straight into the garbage bin.


’Fess Up!

Does anyone else have one of those “dumping rooms” where things go to never be dealt with again?  How long do you keep things before you decide it’s time to go?  And seriously, who ever made a profit at a garage sale selling water bottles and festive socks that Aunt Margo somehow thought were “totally you”?

p.s.  To my IRL friends:  If you ever gave me anything you wanted me to sell, you are welcome to have it back or let me know it’s o.k. to Freecycle.  I won’t throw anything out, but, in the immortal words of Semisonic, “It doesn’t have to go home, but it can’t stay here.”

Never miss a post! Sign up here and get a free copy of Your Guide to Calling It Quits.

  • Good for you! I can’t stand garage sales–too many traumatic childhood memories from my days as a military brat. For some reason I get really emotionally attached to stuff, even the stuff I don’t want any more. I can barely stand to make the decision in the first place; sitting there all day facing my rejected stuff and watching other people reject it too (or try to talk me down to a quarter for it) is just way too much. I send everything that’s in good condition to Goodwill, attempt to freecycle the rest, and trash/recycle anything remaining.

    •  Yeah, the actual experience of the garage sale is oddly degrading.  It was one thing the first time around, when we really did have some decent things to sell, but part of the compulsion to toss what’s left is that none of it is really worth parading out for all our neighbors to see and then try to haggle us down to a penny for.

  • Melissa

    As a fourth generation New Englander with strong packrat tendencies, OH GODS, I NEED TO DO THIS ONE!  I have enough crap that I’ve been schlepping around to fill most of a 10×10 storage unit (ok, so that’s including actual things like furniture and dishes, but still).  I periodically look at the storage “closet” in the house I’m living in, mutter darkly under my breath things that sound suspiciously like “gasoline” and “bonfire”, and then walk away in disgust, rather than roll up my sleeves and deal with it.  I just can’t bring myself to pitch anything that I “might need someday”  or “could come in handy”.  

    I’ve been relatively successful in not adding too much more the monstrosity, and have been reasonably good at making myself get rid of anything that I haven’t used in a year, but the mountain of boxes, it mocks me.

    Good luck to you!  🙂

    •  Your comments always make me smile.  I find myself muttering things like “gasoline” and “bonfire” around my clutter as well.

      Good luck to you, too!  Mock the mountain of boxes back–as you toss them straight in the trash!

      • Melissa

        Yay!  I like making people smile.  🙂

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Nooooo.  What will I do with all my unwanted crap if I can’t give it to you for your yard sale?  BTW, most of my crap that you have was stored in a very expensive commercial storage unit until I realized it was just unwanted crap and gave it to you!  (And won’t it be nice some day to be able to actually use your garage for a car?)