Why Don’t We Celebrate the Garage Sale?

I spent the weekend—okay Friday and Saturday—manning the payment table at my family’s garage sale.  Initially, I was skeptical of the entire endeavor because I did not want to spend the better part of a glorious spring weekend watching people sift through my stuff in the hopes of trading the ignominy for a dollar or two.

This attitude seemed like a total “first world problem” the more I sat and thought about the humble garage sale.

First, what was I going to do with all of this stuff.  Sure, I could donate it to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or the local Young Parents Network.  Some of my children’s clothes and gear will make it to the YPN next week for sure, but it seems insane to merely drop off a car load or four of clothes, housewares, and what not on the unsuspecting folks at Goodwill.  Too often we treat charitable organizations like free dumps to sort through and dispose of our unwanted stuff.

Some things even charitable organizations want nothing to do with because of liability concerns, like cribs and car seats.  What do you do with these serviceable items when your children have decided that sleeping on the floor is the preferred option now?  It seems silly to load up a car and take it all to the dump.

Besides, when all was said and done my wife and I netted over $1000 for a day’s worth of work.  Not too shabby for selling stuff I would have gladly given away to someone who needed it.  Heck, we did give away all of our baby boy clothes and other baby gear to a friend who was having their first child.  I cannot imagine how much we might have netted with all of that gear available for sale.

Second, there is a lot of life in the stuff we have in storage.  Children’s clothes, especially baby clothes, might last three months before the child grows out of them assuming the clothes are not destroyed by blowouts, vomit, or spills.  I don’t have use for a box full of beer mirrors—gotta’ love Old Style—but someone might want some decoration for the so-sad “man cave.”

Third, it is psychologically cleansing to get rid of stuff.  I do not know what part of the brain the activity excites, but I feel so much better after clearing away dusty boxes full of stuff that I will never use again.  Why do we keep all of this stuff?  Why is there an entire industry dedicated to providing storage for the stuff that cannot fit into our homes anymore?

Maybe a better question is why we do we buy so much stuff?

Lastly, the city-wide or neighborhood-wide garage sale is like a community event.  In the span of a day I saw more of my neighbors than I would over the course of a week or more.  The people who were not having a sale at their house were out and about talking to the people having sales.  A food truck could have done a massive business by parking nearby with all of the foot traffic.  If there is one component of resiliency in the face of any kind of turmoil that is often overlooked it is community.  We are stronger, in all aspects, when the community is strong.

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