“BEST YARD SALE OF THE YEAR: Join us for the downsizing event of the decade! Treat yourself to something classic, funky, quality, or quirky.”
Neither my partner nor I have Facebook accounts, so we called on my daughter’s partner – an experienced and skilled online buyer and seller – to create a FB ad for our yard sale. She didn’t shy away from hyperbole, while managing not to promise anything that was not within the realm of possibility.
And, judging from the turnout, it worked.
We’ve accumulated a lot of possessions over the years. In an embarrassingly gendered division of tasks, I took on assessing the house and Peter the workshop to find items we were ready to sell.
Going through basement shelves full of cooking, baking and entertaining objects was slow. Almost everything I looked at came with a fond memory or a certainty that, even if I hadn’t used it in years, I would surely need it some day in the future. But, really. Who needs six dozen wine glasses? Three roasting pans? Four festive season tablecloths? Two dozen soup bowls?
I moved through the house room by room, moving everything for the sale into the dining room and feeling increasingly ecstatic at all the stuff I would no longer be lugging through my life.
Peter’s job was the harder one: sifting through a lifetime’s accumulation of carpentry, woodworking and gardening tools and supplies. He persevered, sorting what he had into sale, donation and dump piles, while also making a few pre-event sales to friends and giving a number of items to family members.
By the time we were each done, the backyard was covered in tools and the dining room was impenetrable, so deeply stacked were the items for sale.
I was committed going into the sale that nothing would come back into the house at the end of the day. Certainly, we wanted to make some money, but getting rid of everything was a bigger goal.
An early start
Once we had our tables set up and our goods spread out on them – something we could not have done without the help of family and friends who arrived just as dawn was breaking, carrying coffee, tea, homemade coffee cake and other treats – we settled in to haggle, sell and, best of all, people watch. Over the morning, we identified several categories of yard sale goers.
The early birds: people who arrived well before our advertised 8 a.m. start time to browse, comment and, sometimes, make a purchase or two.
The passers-by: people who pulled their cars up to the driveway, rolled down a window, took a quick look, then — our offerings clearly not living up to their standards — hit the gas pedal to move on to the next sale.
The browsers: people who wandered through the tables, picking up and replacing item after item; keeping one or two in their hand, then discarding them and picking up something else, eventually buying nothing or one very small item.
The talkers: people – many of them older women – who had stories to tell about items that reminded them of things they had once had or done, who sometimes bought something and often didn’t, but always added much to the proceedings.
The shoppers: people who came to buy, who appreciated what we had and were happy to take it off our hands.
Then there were the one-offs.
The tired-looking nurse on her way home from work who spotted the sale from the bus, got off at the next stop and walked back to do a bit of shopping. Once we had settled on a price of $5 for the three items she wanted, she was chagrined to discover she had only 45 cents in her wallet, which I told her would do just fine. I think I was at least as happy at seeing those three items leave the driveway as she was at getting such a good deal.
The little girl headed to the dollar store with her grandmother, who spotted a couple of sparkly scarves from the sidewalk. Once she purchased them — two for a dollar — she rolled them up tight and jammed into her little purse before skipping away, delighted with her acquisition.
The purple woman: a woman of around my age, dressed entirely in purple (including her glasses), who said she knew from the ad that we must be interesting people with interesting things to sell. She brought a smile to my face and left with several purchases.
The friend-helper who, when wrapping an older woman’s purchase in an old Toronto Star, called over to me that she couldn’t bear to wrap it in the obituaries, so could I please give her a different section of the newspaper.
An Indigenous woman, who stopped to tell me how much our “You are not forgotten” lawn sign meant to her and to ask where it was. She was relieved when I told her we had just taken it down for the lawn sale, having been worried someone had stolen it. I promised her the sign would be back up by the end of the day, and it was.
The lowly potato ricer
I’m the main cook in the house and I’ll admit that I have an eye for kitchen gadgets which, unfortunately, often see very little use. I was ruthless when I scoured the kitchen for yard sale items. Bean frenchers, herb choppers and more than a few things that were still in their original packaging made their way into the sale pile. One of those items was a potato ricer; something that, to the best of my knowledge, had never been used.
At one point during the sale, my partner overheard someone saying, “Is this a potato ricer?” He turned to me and said, in an aggrieved tone: “You didn’t put the potato ricer out, did you?” “Well, yes,” I said, “I did. It’s not like anyone has ever used it.”
Turns out Peter loves that potato ricer. Who knew? Despite my commitment to allowing nothing back into the house, once all the sale leftovers were packed and loaded into a van for delivery to Value Village and I headed into the kitchen for a cold drink, the ricer was in place of pride on the kitchen counter.
Perhaps in our new home, potato ricing will become a regular activity.