Garage Sale-ing

Friday, March 2, 2001

Ah, the sun is just about to rise. Somebody somewhere is already awake, mowing their lawn and you can smell the fresh cut grass. After 3 cups of coffee to get woke up, you make the decision to skip the shower so not to waste 30 minutes of the prime “first come first serve” zone. You have a handful of empty Wal-Mart bags and a pocket full of change. .it’s time to go GARAGE SALE-ING!!!!

Most sales start at dawn, so if you are a true fan of the sport, you are up and hunting for your first neon poster board sign just as the sun cracks the horizon.

It’s nice to find the good old-fashioned sale where a nice lady is sitting at a card table on her driveway with a cigar box of change, smiling at you as you approach. She obviously has gone through her house with a fine tooth comb in a Spring cleaning frenzy finding every gadget, trinket and knick knack she has had since she was 2 and decided to sell it all to you for between a nickel and a quarter per item. She is sweet and is compelled to tell you her life story including the fact that her husband would be out here with her, but he’s got a bad case of the runs and needs to stay in the house. Not useful information, but an attempt at conversation with a stranger scavenging through her belongings nonetheless. This is the sale where you can get four (mostly complete) decks of cards, a poodle that USED to nod it’s head as you drive down the road, a man’s shirt from 1952, a matching tie, a lovely bunch of rubber grapes (only two of which have been chewed on) and a sock you think will match the stray one in your drawer, all for a fair but firm ¢75, not to mention a bag to put them in. You walk away with a bargain, some cool stuff and a smile on your face. This is what Garage Sale-ing is all about.

The quality garage sales will put an ad in the Sunday paper and put a well placed, moderately appealing sign or two up in the neighborhood to guide you to them. Some people don’t think the signs are important, but there is an art to the sign making process that enhances the whole experience.

First there are a variety of materials that are used. You might find the occasional sign made of construction paper. This is a relatively outdated form of sign making. Only unorganized sale-givers, who decide the night before to have a sale, use this method. The paper is flimsy and the size is better suited for making those little arrows you find on each corner that guide you to the sale, rather than the main sign itself. You will find the prepared Seller will have two main signs, those would be the one beside the biggest road nearest to, but not next to the sale, and the one in the yard or driveway of the sale location. They will use the before mentioned small arrow signs to guide you from the main thoroughfare to the sale itself.

For materials, there is the ever-popular poster board, good size, easy to write on and comes in a variety of colors. You might have a problem with actually installing your sign however because the poster board is a bit flimsy and will be destroyed by a stiff breeze. This would lead to a back up plan of stapling the sign to scrap bits of wood, large pieces of cardboard, or better yet, a large box with bricks in the bottom. The box method seems to be catching on. It’s easy to construct and you have multiple sides to put signs on, not just one. This gives an obvious advantage over the Seller who is naive and simply duct tapes their poster board to a stop sign, tsk tsk tsk. Even a balloon or two can’t save a sign that is flopping in the wind so badly no one can read the address.

As for these balloons, this is a new craze that I’m not sure I like. I understand the tactic, we see balloons attached to a piece of paper with lettering so bad it rivals a 4 year olds best handwriting and we are compelled (because of the fancy balloon add-on) to immediately go to that sale. “If they have balloons on their sign, they must have good stuff.” Only a beginner Garage Sale-ing fan would fall for this ploy. Don’t be fooled by the balloons, the streamers, or anything else dangling from or floating above any sale sign. This might only mean they had an extra ¢50 to blow on advertising, it does not mean they have good quality rummage for you to purchase and put in your home.

The lady at the card table generally has the sign she made 14 years ago out of the side of a refrigerator box and tempera paints. It’s totally faded and looks like it’s been through a hurricane, but we know what it says and it’s totally acceptable. She is keeping with the classy reputation and image we Garage Sale-ing aficionados appreciate.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the lettering for the signs. Now, I agree, this is not an ad campaign for Pepsi or McDonalds. It does not have to be a professional attempt at artistic design or mind numbing consumer brainwashing. However, if you misspell any of the choice words, (i.e. garage, rummage, yard, or sale) do not just scribble it out and rewrite it. This is not only a turn off, but if you are too dumb to spell those words, I’m not sure I want to come to your sale anyway. Here’s another tip, if you run out of space, don’t scrunch up the words at the end of the line! For goodness sake, just buy another piece of poster board. You might have to sell that precious straw hat from Flavor Hills Brewery for $2.00 instead of $1.00 to cover the investment … but go ahead, spend the extra cash, it’s worth it.

The arrow is a must and is a tradition that has no rules or guidelines, just that it points us in the right direction.

All in all, the simpler the better for our beloved garage sales. A few tables and piles of found objects from around your house on display for the public to put their grubby paws on and hopefully remove it from your possession for a modest price. Spending the morning watching people lose all ability to park their cars like normal people. They park in the most amazing ways, halfway in the ditch at the edge of your street, diagonally in your driveway as if there were yellow lines to guide them and sometimes you get the occasional yard parker. These are the folks who are desperate to get to a possible bargain and cut 3 seconds off their arrival time to beat out the people walking all the way from the ditch.

The problem with today’s society is that we try to improve things that do not need to be improved upon. We complicate things for a few extra almighty dollars. Nowadays you find someone has converted their garage into a permanent “store” full of crap that they bought last year from the nice lady at the card table. They mark it up 200% and would never even consider telling you the state of their spouse’s bowels. That is just not right. They are like the Wal-Mart(s) of garage sales, except they don’t bother to have a nice elderly “Greeter” with smiley stickers at the entrance. I disapprove wholeheartedly of this unnecessary commercialization of a tradition that is better left to the small timers who enjoy the process and respect our sacred Garage Sale-ing history.

Garage Sale-ing is an art, it’s a sport, it’s a wonderful way to blow a five dollar bill and get all the stuff you never needed. It’s fun and exciting when you find that one thing that makes the day worth while. I say boycott those greedy obnoxious people who try to turn a profit from our beloved tradition. Protest against the Landow buildings that are built solely to house a permanent, weatherproof den of ill gotten Garage sale gains. Refuse to go to a basement that is open to sell things year round against our ritualistic Spring/Summer event. Those buildings are not garages, a basement is not a garage, nor are they yards. We don’t call them Building Sales. We don’t call them Basement sales. We don’t go Garage Sale-ing in the winter… Capitalist Rummage Barons, bah, who needs ya.

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