GARAGE FOR SALE
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Anonymous
The guests from last week’s post are gone, I went back to work and the day-to-day routine kicked in again. In the spring-summer-fall, this routine sometimes includes a Saturday morning trip in to town to check out the garage sales.
Sometimes, when it works, Suzanne and I hit them together. This week, we did just that. Gail wasn’t here for the weekend, but she just happened to call as we began the treasure hunt. Of course, she wished us happy hunting.
Suzanne is the garage-saler extraordinaire. She was a garage-saler from way back; I only recently became one relative to her long history. Gail is a half-hearted garage-saler, but she will join us if we are all together and happen to spot one, and she reports she actually hits a few on her own sometimes in her small town. Gail doesn’t, however, make it a quest like Suzanne and I do.
However, she is planning on having her own soon. Suzanne has had a few when she lived in her small town, but, as a minimalist, she really doesn’t have much to sell.
I have tried twice to host a garage sale at my rural home, but it seems the distance from my small city is too prohibitive for the masses to traverse.
Because I am a font of useless trivial information—just ask Gail and Suzanne, I am offering a brief history of the American garage sale as we know it.
Also known as a yard sale, a tag sale, or a rummage sale, the garage sale has its earliest origins in the early 1800’s, when shipping yards would sell unclaimed cargo and excess warehouse items at a discount. These goods were known as “rommage,” and the sale was called a “rommage sale.”
In the late 1800’s, the name evolved to “rummage sale,” and they were offered in churches and other community spaces. A variety of goods from various sources were included in an effort to liquidate miscellaneous merchandise.
The garage sale as we know it today was likely born in the post-war 1950’s-60’s decades. The economy was bright, and the average consumer had much more spending money. So when they spent their money on new things, the old things were cast off in a garage sale for others to buy and use. The suburban expansion created the perfect set-up for the garage sale to be held in one’s neighborhood.
In the early 1990’s, garage sales continued to proliferate. Consumer spending was good, which left more stuff to get rid of. Newspaper advertising and cardboard signs were the primary means of advertising. As this decade progressed and the internet became an everyday tool, it was used to advertise and locate garage sales.
Myself, I use both. And, like Suzanne and I did today, sometimes simply driving around down is the best way to find them. Some of them are not advertised online or in the newspaper, and they rely on signage on street corners.
I found some very interesting garage sale signs online…
I did some informal research online (which, along with reading books, is how I gather most of my useless information that I use to impress Suzanne), with a very specific question in mind: Is the garage sale a uniquely American phenomenon?
My research results were minimal, but apparently other industrialized countries have such sales in an effort to shed their unwanted “stuff.” I did find one source that reports that European countries do have them, with England calling them “boot sales,” because they are held out of the trunk or the “boot” of one’s car, just like we hold our “garage sales” out of our garages.
Without further research, I can be fairly certain of one thing: Americans are expert consumers, and we have more relative wealth than most countries in the world. Therefore, we have more stuff—and too much of it. So, casting it off in a garage sale is how many of us get rid of it, and how many of us find more.
Suzanne and I are always on the lookout for clothes. Perhaps one-third of my wardrobe is from garage sales. I like used clothes, mostly because I’m cheap. And, I already have a ridiculously large wardrobe, so it is pointless to spend a lot of money on them. Most everything else is bought on clearance at my two favorite stores: Marshall’s and TJMaxx.
Besides being good for the earth, and doing my part to decrease American consumerism, buying used clothes works for my overactive imagination. I like to think that perhaps these garments traveled the world with their previous owner and have travel tales to tell. Better yet, I like to think that just maybe they got peeled off their last owner by a handsome man and thrown in a heap on the floor—you know, like in the movies.
So today, I found a few more pieces of my favorite brands and styles. And, in case I haven’t already impressed upon you that my stepson’s wife Lindsay is simply delightful, I will further reinforce it here: she, too, likes used clothes from garage sales, she is my size, and we like a lot of the same brands and styles. As a further bonus, she buys their children mostly used clothing at garage sales. I found multiple pieces I am pretty sure she will love, and they were cheap—just like me.
If you know me well, you likely have received a garage sale treasure as a gift—gag, or the real thing. I am not above offering these treasures to my loved ones. If they are cool with that, then I love them more. Suzanne and I have an unspoken understanding that if either of us finds something the other can no longer live without, we buy it, give it to them and expect no payment. It all shakes out in the end, I am sure.
Gail, Suzanne and I are always on the lookout for cool stuff for our homes. If I had to describe my decorating style in my home, I would call it “garage sale eclectic.” For me, it is whatever catches my eye. No unified style, just whatever speaks to me.
In my research today, I found a few stories of real treasures found at garage sales, like original artwork by famous artists and valuable pieces of history. I haven’t got any stories quite that awesome, but I know what is valuable to me.
My mosaic art/random art hobby is fed from garage sales. And books—I have dozens of great books others have decided to share, and I am forever grateful to them for sharing the love of good books at rock-bottom prices.
So today, Suzanne and I found a few small goodies. I am pictured here at the end of the morning with my haul, including: four pair of jeans for our granddaughter Avery, two sweatshirts–one for me, one for Lindsay, a green light bulb, 2 pretty scarves, a glass water bottle, one Christmas ornament and a patriotic Beanie Baby (on top of the pile) that will be used in next year’s Independence Day decorations.
Suzanne found this awesome shelf, her catch of the day:
We tried out the balance board, but neither of us felt the need to work hard-core on our balance, even though we obviously should.
This awesome hat came home with Suzanne. Despite the 90-degree temperatures this morning, it won’t be long before she will be sporting this on her head for real.
She told me about a sale she had driven by that consisted of two unattended tables with a sign that said “Free.” We went back to it and the house looked strangely familiar to me. Turns out it was a house my husband recently remodeled for the owner. Then, several weeks after that, my college-age son was looking for a cheap couch for his dorm room. He answered and ad on Craigslist for a free couch if he could pick it up. Turns out it was the same house.
Our small city of approximately fifty thousand really is small.
Suzanne dropped me off at my car, and I spotted a sign for another nearby sale that she said she had been to, but didn’t find anything. I decided to stop. I pulled up and remembered the house from last year. I remember they had cool stuff, and the proprietors were cool people.
Again this year, I wasn’t disappointed.
In my never-ending quest to find good books, this one caught my eye. A great topic for these great middle-ages I am living through, by an author with a great first name.
And speaking of great first names, the owner agreed cheerfully to a picture and to a spot in this blog.
Thank you, Mark.
I promised my husband Mark I would do my best to live by the one-in, one-out rule. So far today, I’m not doing very well. I need to go get busy getting rid of some stuff…
To give credit where it is due, the award-winning book pictured and mentioned above is available on Amazon and other online booksellers: Brehony, Kathleen A: Awakening at Midlife: Realizing Your Potential for Growth and Change. Riverhead Books, copyright 1996. I just got into it, and it is a great read.