The Value of a Garage Sale

Garage Sale
Garage Sale

$260. That’s it. That’s what your excess miscellany is worth.

In order to earn that, you must spend weeks sorting things out, carrying the sale items to your garage, and pricing them. You will have to get the help of friends to move the big stuff and you will have to borrow folding tables. You will need at least one friend to join you on the day so that you can go to the bathroom without abandoning the cash box, and you will have to put up with early birds.

Early birds are people who do not thoroughly read the online ad, and who arrive at your house two days before the sale looking for bookshelves. They also arrive on the right day but an hour early to poke around your garage while you are trying to set up. They then grumble because they are on the wrong day or too early and that is clearly your fault.

The earliest arrivals are also likely to complain about the prices being too high. To be fair, some of mine may have been, but it still seems rude to me. I did some homework and checked out prices of some things online, so I wasn’t too far out with the going rates. At least, I thought so. Even if I was wrong, why complain? Just make an offer or walk away. Whatever you do, don’t grumble at 8:00 AM. I will not be sympathetic.

The friend who joined me at my sale tried kindly to tell me to lower my prices, but I thought she was underestimating the need to haggle. I had the idea that garage sale shoppers like to bargain to bring prices down and hence to feel that they got a good deal, and I was quite willing to do that. As the day progressed I became even more willing. It turns out, though, that most of the people in my area just want to pay the ticketed price. Or grumble.

If you tell me my prices are too high even before I’ve put out my stuff, you will not invite a negotiation, but at 2:00 PM, I’ll practically give stuff away.  At 4:00 PM, I will definitely give stuff away.

Aside from the early birds and grumblers, a garage sale is a great way to visit with your neighbours and to meet some very nice strangers. Most people arrive with cheery greetings and leave with a “thank you” whether they bought something or not. We like those people. It’s those people who bought nearly half of my items and for whom I would happily have another garage sale one day.

It won’t be any time soon, but I figure a decade from now I will have forgotten about the grumblers and will only remember the nice people and the feeling of freedom I got from discarding unwanted possessions. That is the real value of a garage sale–lightening the load.


  1. It’s true these aren’t about the money. Otherwise we’d be tempted to rush out with our new loot and get more stuff!
    I one lived in a neighborhood with an annual 40-family garage sale. Besides many experiences similar to the ones you shared, we also got to enjoy seeing some unique items for sale year after year. The funny part: each year the same treasures were in different garages.

  2. Well said…It is all so true! As for the early birds, they know exactly what day & time your garage sale starts…they just want to beat everyone to the punch. My neighbor had the advantage of owning a garage so we could get it all set the night before with the door shut. When you don’t have a garage, and you have to start moving everything out into the yard at 6:00am, and early birds want to haggle while you’re trying to get set up…it makes one never want to do another garage sale. It IS Great for meeting folks though.

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