Garage Sale Psychology

Put up a Garage Sale sign and watch all the local skinflints emerge.

With pockets full of quarters, the world’s greatest barterers quickly turned our street into a hotbed of haggling—the kind best witnessed in Moroccan markets, Turkish bazaars, roadside stands in Uganda, with beach vendors in ___________ (insert tropical getaway here) and the souks of Cairo.

We had a garage sale this past weekend, mostly to offer prime driveway real estate to Kim’s rural sister who had expressed a dire need to declutter. In West Galt we have heavy foot traffic and are located on both a bus and bike route—we were the best target zone.


I was reminded of a vintage Herman comic, when Herman stops to tell a woman that there’s a spelling mistake on her sign. She is dumbfounded, standing in her yard in front of her unwanted wares. Her sign says “Garage Sale.” Herman goes on to say, “I think you meant to say GARBAGE Sale.”

We too had garbage for sale—and, this will be the last of my moaning about the former owner of this house. We heaved the remaining junk he kindly left us to the curb—this time with price tags. There were old school air conditioning units, 1980s phone sets with transcriber head gear (maybe he was a phone sex operator?), enough cables to wire our entire neighbourhood for phone, internet and dorm-room stereo systems, heaps of cassette tapes—half of them homemade tributes to his wife (Stray Cats, John Hooker anyone?) and a box of yellowing (but still in plastic) 1979-1981 Twilight Zone and Star Wars-esque comics. (*After our sale I read about a home owner who discovered a 1938 Action comics #1 in the walls of the house he was gutting in Elbow Lake, Minn.—worth over $100K. That is, until he had a physical squabble with a relative and they ripped the cover, negating the value. I have yet to see headlines in the Cambridge Times or The Waterloo Record regarding a woman finding a comic cache at a garage sale and cashing the suckers in for a villa in Tuscany, so, whew. But, I’m sure she found a steal at $10 for the box load. I was ready to give her a tenner to take them away.)

Selling the previous owners crap netted us over $160. Though, it still cost us $220 to buy a Bagster to haul the other 3,000 pounds of crap away, PLUS two trips to the dump with 56 paint cans, etc., but, back to the focus: garage sales.

I think gay people just have less stuff. Gays tend to have more partners (in general terms) and move more frequently. The gays I have personally experienced also have an unusual way of seeking closure. “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” has been the norm. Revenge comes in the form of keeping your things. Even if they didn’t even drink gin, ever. Or, make a pizza—ever. Now they want your bottles of gin and pizza trays? And the gifts from their friends that were intended for you? And, the lowest of the low—taking ownership of the Guinness beer glasses that you personally stole from the pub in Ireland.

To these individuals, I have to say, thank you! I have fewer belongings because of you.

My parents contributed to the weekend sale by offering up my old broomball equipment that my dad had hung on to for Torti Hall of Fame purposes. My dad also found five clock radios that were a pure donation on his part—we could pocket the proceeds. I don’t think I’ve owned five clock radios in my life, so I was amazed that he had such a collection. Which, led to our first “refund” at the garage sale.

Apparently the huffy old bird lives just down the street from us, and she was rather chuffed to find out that when she got home and plugged her “new” two dollar clock radio in, the radio frequency was lacking. She marched back with hands slightly on hips, ready to rumble. We said she could pick out another one of the clocks, but she was wise to us this time. “I wanna plug it in.” We agreed that this was the best idea and were alarmed to find that another one of my dad’s clock radios had zero reception. “I only listen to FM radio, I don’t care about AM stations,” she stamped. Kim was in charge of tuning the third radio which picked up Michael Bolton or someone to that effect, and she was instantly pleased.

As she strutted away in her pastel polyester pants, Kim and I laughed at the irony. The woman that buys a $2 clock radio comes back and seeks out a replacement—and a guarantee that it works. The guy that buys the $60 air conditioner buys it without asking to plug it in at all.

The morning was peppered with strange. Another elderly customer pressed a toonie into my palm as she walked past me with a flowerpot under her arm (marked at $3). “You’ll take this toonie, because that’s what you do.”
Better still—the Dutch man with a twitchy mustache and his wife (or mother?) on his heels, inquiring about how everything worked. He held up two picture frame vices priced at $3 for the set. Kim explained the mechanics to him when he asked. His reply? “Well, I have no use for these so, I’ll give you two dollars.”

Others went straight in for the kill, without pleasantries or questioning. A Honeywell air purifier (retail value: $100+) was marked for $25. Mint condition. “I’ll give you $4 for it,” a woman barked. FOUR dollars?? I was reminded of a previous Craigslist experience when I posted my Sidekick for sale. Even though I had asked for $3,500 firm, a single mother of two emailed me to ask whether I would consider donating my Sidekick to her, for free, so she could get around the city easier. As much as I’d love to extend Oprah’s generosity—yeah, hell no!


Kim’s sister moved burlap sacks and old boat rope in a flash. A wok from the 1970s and a questionable crepe maker was also pawned off. Somebody scooped up her study Bible (Kim was skeptical about it ever being used) and books on emotional healing. Velcro ankle weights went like hotcakes. Which, could also be made in that As Seen on TV crepe maker.

However, Lynne’s Daisywheel Electric Typewriter garnered no attention, except from me. I had to razz her about it being the world’s first laptop. She had several items from the era—“the historical section of our garage sale” as I told others. Lynne had Dorothy Hamill period figure skates, still in the box. Motivational CASSETTE tapes. Sweaters with…wait for it…shoulder pads! I’m surprised she even unboxed those in my presence, seeing how I was at full force mockery with her Christmas sweater collection.


Nosy neighbours poked around. Some introduced themselves after hibernating all winter, curious as to where we’d come from. Even Mr. Cheezy (not his real name, but, how we reference him) from Cheezy’s Variety across the road took a time-out to peruse. He probably wanted to ensure that we weren’t infringing on his convenience store inventory (which includes everything from eyelash curlers to pumice stones to crock pots to bongs to homemade jewellery and Lays chips).

In the end we sold over $1,000 worth of gently and aggressively used items. Though, Lynne nearly burned the entire sale down to the ground when her braided garlic and hot pepper ornament started to smoulder and smoke inside a stainless steel bowl in the sun. See, garage sales are dangerous!

Lessons learned? We are glad to have our one-and-only sale behind us and remind others not to hoard. Or buy a house from an owner flirting with clutter–you might inherit it by symbiosis! Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should fill it. Donate! Re-evaluate, repurpose. Shed. Be gay and break up more frequently and you won’t ever have to entertain the idea of a garage sale at all!

Most importantly, remember, the only thing you should collect is your thoughts.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, The Kitchen Sink | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Garage Sale Psychology

  1. Sheryl Hoshizaki

    Very very funny and so true. I love it.

  2. ~connie Lockwood

    You are so smart Jules.

    I can only imagine how amused you would find all the stuff I have to still purge. I hate the term, “hoarder’, and when my son told me that is what I had become I was terribly insulted. A large part of my collections are books, art, and materials that I amassed for educational purposes. Now that I am long retired from teaching but have lacked the energy and interest in getting rid of my “treasures and useful items”, I have come to terms with the fact that so much of the stuff is no longer of any use to me and it has to go. Tonight I gave a woman who has moved out of a terrible family situation with her children a set of six beautiful antique chairs and she was incredibly overjoyed and overwhelmed with my gift. I want to find some other people who might benefit from many of the items rather than have a garage sale as I hate them too!

    Keep free of stuff you do not need or want in your life!

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