You learn a lot of things when you have a garage sale.

Linda and I held a garage sale Saturday with our tenants Andy and Christine. We one once every three or four years. It usually takes me that long to want to go through the hassle.

We made some money and got rid of a lot of stuff, the latter being the point of it all. If your were to break it down to an hourly wage, it probably wouldn’t be so worth it.

Andy sold about 150 CDs. There were no takers on his CD shelf, despite the capacity to hold 1,000. We finally sold the bread machine after including a hard bound recipe book. Nobody uses bread machines anymore. We certainly didn’t. And the plate rack we left hanging in the garage from the previous garage sale finally sold. Fist bump.

Books don’t sell at garage sales. We got rid of some cookbooks, but other than that, nada. I had a copy of Atlas Shrugged but I didn’t want to sell it. I didn’t want to be responsible for furthering the ideas of Ayn Rand, so I tossed it in the recycling bin.

Some of the stuff I considered too crappy to sell — like  a cheap, rusting lamp originally purchased at Target for $20 — went anyway. Three bucks is better than nothing. At least the lamp is enlightening.

Linda and I inherited three ladders when we moved into our two-flat 12 years ago. None were tall enough to get up on the roof. We tried selling two of them the past two garage sales. How many ladders does one need? We’ve since purchased a longer multi-functioning aluminum number. When the heavy wooden ladders didn’t sell, I just left them in the alley. Even the pickers took two days to take them.

Some of my coworkers warned me of the kinds of people you meet at garage sales. Of course there was the usual guy who’s always looking for deals and has to comment on everything he sees. He didn’t buy anything. We mostly met a lot of our neighbors, especially the dog walkers. A wide variety came for a sniff. Pure breds. Mutts. Andy turned to me at one point and said, “It’s true, people with three basset hounds are a little strange.” I also learned that one neighbor plays the trumpet in a number of church and social bands and collects G.I. Joe action figures. She only takes some out of the box. The staff from Kindred Hospital down the block has been some of our best customers each garage sale.

What I took away from the experience is that I am blessed (cursed) with an abundance of stuff — much of which I don’t need. Just like so many of us. So it was great to see someone get excited to buy something I no longer valued.

For the most part, what didn’t sell was packed up to bring to Brown Elephant at a date to be determined or left in the alley for the pickers. Anything metal was salvaged as soon as the garage door closed, including the metal cabinet I inherited from my godmother. She gave me this advice when she had a moving sale years ago: “Don’t keep things too long. You just accumulate a lot of useless junk that nobody wants anyway.”

So long stairstepper. We had you for more than 15 years; the first few you served as a coat rack.

About the Author

Tom Long

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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