The winners: notes from a garage sale

Everyone at a garage sale is a winner. Of course there are those that disagree, that contemptuous bunch on the outside looking in who joke amongst their pate-sniffing sorts that every garage sale is missing the same thing: the letter ‘B.’

Garbage it is not. To the seller, who has seen these objects every day doing nothing more than collecting dust, it is more a problem than garbage because it has  some value. Who better to determine that value than random strangers? And by finally making that decision to move it out of the closet, basement or crawl space, the seller has taken the winning side in the battle of futility versus utility.

A satisfied garage salee, all up in his grill

To the peruser, the hunter, the early morning hawk, this discovered object could be the lynchpin that keeps the grandchildren from coming undone, that prop gag for the theme party, that rug that ties the room together. Surely all of these victories are worth a dollar and a half morning.

The garage sale transaction is symbiotic, a rare case of win-win capitalism where no one is getting screwed in the appropriation of scarce resources. It marks an even greater philosophic victory because there is no third party, there are no taxes.

Thus for the small cost of curiosity comes the potentially big reward of discovery. This theory applies on both ends of the non-transaction, as well.  To the seller, you have earned space and the relief that comes with it. You have learned, after a day or a weekend of well-heeled rummaging, that which is truly worthless to a marketplace. If that light-up rocking horse princess pony still has value, perhaps you should hold it on until your therapist or shaman declares you healed.

Personally, I employed the kids, another time-honored American family tradition. They made change, practiced the hard sell on littler kids, and nearly barreled over a lady with a walker. That kind of life training escapes economic rationale.

To the peruser, or the passive buttinski, what better insight into your neighbor or stranger than by the objects to be discarded that were once useful. You get a whole profile of a person or a family over a wide swath of time, seasons, years, life changes. But if you’re going to garage sales to check out people and not their things it may help to ask yourself what you are really looking for.

I am not going to argue that most garage sale stuff is crap. I’m also not going to argue that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold.


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