As I type this sentence, we are in the middle of hosting a garage sale.
I really don’t know why I say “host”. Hosting is supposed to be fun, like hosting a party, or hosting a game show, or hosting the Academy Awards. Garage sales are not fun. They are work, especially if you are like me and have to be super-anal about everything. Left to his devices, Richard would throw it all out there in one giant heap, with no idea of how many music CDs there are (49), or decorative mirrors (9), or assorted picture frames (23). My system is to type up a categorized inventory on Excel, affix price tags, sort the junk into a dozen heaps, and drive everyone crazy in the process. I’m happy to say that after the sale was done, I went through my inventory and was able to account for every last CD. There was no shoplifting at Prunella’s.
The reason for this garage sale is because we are getting ready to remodel our nearly thirty-year-old house, and have to downsize to make room for all the new stuff we’re planning to buy. We have been slowly getting rid of things over the past couple of years, foisting the better junk on our underwhelmed kids and divvying the rest between the Goodwill and the landfill. Brent was an especially good victim for our ding-dong ditches. While he was deployed last year to the Middle East and, therefore, too far away to stop me, I hauled stuff from Dallas all the way to his house in Washington, near Olympia. I took a meandering route through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana, before easing into eastern Washington and then moseying my merry way to the west coast. But that’s another blog.
As I said, we’ve been slowly getting rid of things. The problem was that while we were getting rid of things, we were also taking on other things. This happened because we moved my mother into assisted living and my father-in-law died. I would get rid of something only to take on two more somethings, forcing me to go steadily backward in my quest to go forward. Once the remodel -- something we'd talked and fantasized about for years -- became a reality (by plunking down a hefty deposit with our contractor), we realized we were going to have to resort to drastic measures if there was any hope of clearing out some space. Thus, the garage sale.
Richard insisted on calling it an estate sale. In his mind, “estate sale” implied wealth (which we don’t have) and class (ditto) and quality merchandise (umm...no). He also insisted that we hold it indoors because he didn't care to lug heavy furniture out of the house and into the garage. I was very unhappy with the idea and argued, and when that didn’t work, whined, but Richard played the old age card and the bum ankle card and the trick knee card, all of which trumped my I-don’t-want-strangers-in-my-house-what-if-we-get-robbed card. As it turned out, Mother Nature couldn't resist one last blast of winter weather. It was in the mid-thirties all day and actually spit snow/sleet for a few minutes. We would have been so miserably cold in the garage that we probably would have set fire to my carefully collated heaps just to keep warm.
We confined the entire thing to the middle part of our house, where the formal living room and formal dining room are. To keep snoopy people out of the rest of our abode, I bought cheap plastic shower curtain liners and hung them in the doorways. I flirted with the idea of putting signs on the liners saying things like NO ADMITTANCE and PROHIBIDO ENTRAR and TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT, but decided that, surely, the liners alone made the message clear. Nope. We couldn't believe the number of people who asked if they could go into the other rooms. When told no, it was obvious they were very disappointed. No doubt they thought we were holding out on them and hiding the good stuff. Honestly, we were merely trying to hang onto the few pieces of furniture earmarked to get us through this remodel. After all, we have to have somewhere to sit and a table to eat off of and a bed to sleep in.
I advertised our sale on Next Door and to encourage the neighbors to attend and get their pick of this junk wonderland, we had a "soft opening" from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM. One lady showed up at 7:20, ten minutes early. It was awkward having this perfect stranger poking around in my house and handling my things. I watched her without trying to be obvious about it and wondered what she was thinking. Was she impressed with thirty-seven years of carefully curated impulse buying? Was this the benchmark future sales would be measured by? Or was she merely acting interested while deciding how fast she could leave without being rude? In the end, all she wanted was a pottery bowl I had marked for $10.00 because the piece was signed by the artist. She said she would pay $5.00 for it. I pointed out the signature and said I would part with it for $7.00. I thought I was being reasonable, but she was highly offended and stalked off. We were not off to a good start.
I worried about Phoebe sneaking out the front door and confined her to the laundry room. But her yowling got on everyone's nerves and we were forced to let her out. She promptly staked out the spot you see in the photo above, leading me to add the handwritten portion on the price tag.
At 9:00 AM on the nose, we posted signs at the neighborhood entrance and threw open the doors to the public. People came in waves. We'd be busy for ten minutes or so, and then there would be fifteen minutes of downtime. Toward noon, a middle-aged man bringing what I presumed to be his elderly mother stopped by. Mama, wig askew and dentures clacking, was at least a hundred, but she was as sharp as a tack and loved to talk. He poked around while she yammered up a storm about events that happened sixty years ago and people dead longer than that. Next thing I know, he disappears to "go get some cash", leaving us to eldersit/entertain his mother. He was gone so long, I worried he wasn't ever coming back, but Mama didn't seem perturbed and went on full-tilt, like a 33 record played at 78 speed. I was about to suggest Richard call the old-people version of CPS when sonny-boy came back, bought a few items, packed up Mama with his new treasures and left. Later, Richard told me that he got the impression they were a married couple, from some overheard snippets of conversation between them.
Finally at 3:00 PM, after I'd checked my watch a million times to find it was only five minutes later than the last time I'd checked and not the forty it felt like, we gathered up our signs and shut down business. Richard mixed a celebratory Bloody Mary and announced that We Are Never Going to Do This Again. He's said this many times. The first was when he was bleary-eyed from lack of sleep shortly after Mitch was born, and then after Brent came along and introduced us to the charming phenomenon called projectile vomiting. It is also proclaimed every January after all the Christmas things are finally put away, and whenever someone in the immediate family needs help moving (and they move a lot).
The stuff deemed too crappy to buy got unloaded on a neighbor who is having a garage sale tomorrow. The good stuff that didn't get bought is now up for grabs on Next Door. And so it goes, the circle unbroken.
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