It always starts with this question from my husband:
“Should we have a yard sale?”
My eye begins to twitch. My shoulders start to tighten. My mouth becomes dry. I feel a pain in my lower back – some sort of muscle memory, I’m sure – as thoughts of yard sales past start filling my head. I glare at him with my non-twitching eye. A glare that would certainly set him on fire if such a phenomenon were truly possible.
Inevitably, the dreaded question is prompted by my husband sifting through the Sanford and Son pile of junk in our garage, looking for something he never ends up finding. He comes into the house, frustrated that he can’t find what he’s looking for, and jumps to the most heinous of all conclusions: take all of the crap in our house that we never should have purchased in the first place, and dump it on the front lawn for complete strangers to sift through.
First world problems.
Sounds painless on the surface, right? If yes is your answer, you’ve never had a yard sale. Let me walk you through a day of landscape entrepreneurship.
The Day Before
I’m not sure what’s more painful; the day before the yard sale, or the actual yard sale itself. The day before is a hoarders worst nightmare. It’s the day you open your closets, look under the beds, go into the spider-filled garage, venture into boxes that haven’t seen the light of day since 1987 and decide: “Should it stay or should it go?” Oprah says it’s easy to purge. Oprah has most likely never had a yard sale. At some point before nightfall, you get into your car with a pile of hand-drawn signs, the smell of magic marker filling the air, and make your rounds to all of the neighborhood telephone poles. With a hammer and nails in one hand, and your neon poster board in the other, you hurriedly pound your announcements into the poles before someone steals your car with your engine running. Once all signs are up, you return home to give your inventory a once-over before retiring to a fitful night of sleep.
The Early Shoppers
It’s the day of the yard sale! You wake up at 6 a.m. to do one final sort before unleashing your junk on the public. While standing behind the closed gates of your back yard, you hear voices on the other side. With no coffee flowing through your veins yet, swaddled in your flannel Snoopy pajamas, you peer through the slats of wood to see a small crowd already gathered in your driveway. They have arrived. Two hours early. Completely ignoring the times scrawled on the posters you put up the night before. What you don’t need on yard sale morning is pressure.
One year, we were setting up the tables in the driveway, wheeling things out with a wagon to place on the tables. A gentleman walked up the driveway and started picking things up as I was placing them down. It was 6:30 am, an hour and a half away from the official opening.
“We’re not open,” I said quite brusquely.
“I don’t care if you’re open, I just want to see what you have.”
“Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I said, ‘We’re not open,’ which means you can’t look at anything until 8 a.m., the time we have designated as the start time. Capiche?”
The man stomped down our driveway toward the sidewalk, went across the street to my neighbor’s driveway who was also having a yard sale, and started picking thorough his things. I yelled across the street, “He’s not open yet, either!”
He looked up at my neighbor and said, “She scares me.”
Beware of early shoppers. And if they come, don’t be afraid to tell them to back away.
You know the question. The cheapskate points to a fully functioning vacuum cleaner that’s only been used five times and asks, “How much is this?”
You say, “One dollar.”
The cheapskates say, “One dollar?!?!?” as if you’ve just said $700. They follow up with, “How about fifty cents.”
You come back with, “Fifty cents?!?!?!? It’s a fully functioning vacuum cleaner! You can’t pay a dollar for a vacuum cleaner??”
And so the dance of negotiation begins. Rarely does the person having the yard sale win. You get so beaten down by the masses you finally say, “Fine! Take the darned vacuum for fifty cents!” Moral of the story, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s not worth fighting for.
Perhaps more annoying than The Cheapskates are The Thieves. People who think a quarter is too much to pay for a t-shirt, so they stuff it into their purse when they think you’re not looking. If you’re not skilled in security or confrontation, my advice is, let them have it. Unless, of course, it’s the vacuum cleaner (see above). Then pounce.
At a previous yard sale, a woman approached me with a handful of gold bracelets in her hand (real gold, those thin, chain bracelets that were really big in the 80s) and asked how much they were. I said, “Ten bucks for the whole pile.” A deal, mind you. After all, they were real gold.
She turned her nose up at my price, but didn’t even try to negotiate. She just walked away. I assumed she put the bracelets back on the table.
Later that evening as we were packing up, I noticed that the gold bracelets were missing. I asked my husband if he had sold them to anyone, he said no. The Thief, not willing to pay ten dollars for the gold bracelets, walked off with them.
Few things are lower than stealing from your own neighbors. Isn’t that part of the Ten Commandments? “Don’t covet thy neighbors’ bracelets”?
The Second Thoughts
You look across the yard and see someone holding up a beautiful blouse you totally forgot you owned. Your heart starts longing for this blouse again, not wanting to give it up quite yet. You remember the day you bought that blouse and start getting a little nostalgic. You stare at the person, praying they put it back on the pile and walk away. They do. You immediately rush over to the blouse, casually grab it from the pile and toss it behind a bush. You’re not quite ready to let that one go.
Yard sale fail.
It’s 5 p.m. The yard sale has ended. You’re not sure what hurts more, your feet or your feelings. But then you reach into your fanny pack and wrap your fingers around that sweet, giant wad of singles. The kind of wad that only waitresses and strippers normally see. Sure, its probably only about $200. But, in this moment, the medicinal powers of cash seem to make all the pain go away. Until next year. When your husband says...
“Should we have a yard sale?”
Lisa Goich-Andreadis is an author, talk radio host, former comedian and Detroit native living in Los Angeles. She manages the Jazz & Comedy Fields for The GRAMMY Awards. Married to Guns ‘n Roses keyboardist, Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis, the two share a home with four dogs in the San Fernando Valley area of L.A. Lisa's memoir, “14 Days,” is available now for pre-sale on Amazon.com. For more information, visit www.14daysamemoir.com.
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