Wave of Consciousness, "A Voice of Sanity in a World of Conflict"

Yard Sales: Axis of the Economy

by Natalia J. Garland, M.S.W.

Not too long ago, I gave my first and last yard sale. If you are not familiar with the term yard sale, perhaps in your part of the country it is called a garage sale, driveway sale, or patio sale. If you have never heard of any of these terms, let me define yard sale for you: a lot of hard work! It basically means cleaning house, sorting out the things you no longer use or like, putting ridiculously low prices on everything, setting everything on tables outside, and then hoping you will sell all the stuff.

Yard sales are very popular in my neighborhood. I suppose that is what prompted me to try it myself. It seemed like the thing to do. How could so many people be so wrong?! The preparation for a yard sale is back-breaking work. The pricing of items can be agonizing. There is the tendency to want to make as much profit as possible, but the realization that nothing will sell unless priced even lower than the thrift store prices. People who go to yard sales expect almost giveaway prices. I rationalized, however, that it would be better to make whatever money I could than to throw the stuff away or to donate it to a thrift store (which is what I usually do). It would definitely be better than keeping all the stuff.

It was a day of selling things and talking to people. In spite of the hours I spent on my feet, it was a pleasant opportunity to socialize. It also turned out to be a lesson in human behavior. That is, a special kind of behavior peculiar to yard sales and the reason that yard sales are in demand. There are different kinds of shoppers who go to yard sales. I have categorized them as follows: the Treasure Hunters, the Bargain Finders, and the Smart Survivors.

Treasure Hunters are looking for hidden collectible or antique items. They know that not all yard sale entrepreneurs are aware of the greatness of certain items. They are digging for valuables which have been unknowingly included in someone's throwaway stuff. It could be a vase, some old crochet work, a piece of furniture, jewelry, a painting, or old toys. For these shoppers, yard sale shopping is as much a hobby as collecting rare items. They enjoy the thrill of finding a golden nugget amid the dust of everyday items, and then proudly taking home their bounty.

Bargain Finders are usually more specific in their shopping. They are looking for something they want. Buying a used item is okay with them, so long as the item is in good condition and cheaply priced. Most men who go to yard sales seem to fall into this category. They are usually looking for tools: drills, saws, leaf blowers, various hand tools and toolboxes. Women seem to look for lamps, cooking utensils, and decorative items for the home. Both men and women like to buy books. There is another interesting kind of Bargain Finder. Some shoppers are looking for things they can use in arts and crafts projects. Their creative imagination is at work while they shop.

Smart Survivors are looking for the necessities of life. They are adept at finding decent clothing, shoes, sheets and pillow cases, bath towels and blankets for their families. They inspect for quality and cleanliness. Sometimes, the whole family shops together. Grandmother and her lineage efficiently sift sizes and colors. Sometimes a young woman hurriedly searches the tables for essentials, as though she is pressed for time and has a job to go to or other obligations to take care of.

Now, I will tell you why I think yard sales are the axis of the economy. There is an enormous amount of recycling and livelihood activity that revolves around yard sales. Everything that was in my yard sale had been originally purchased in various stores. That means the cashiers and store managers were able to make a living. Before reaching the stores, the items had to be shipped from somewhere. That means the truck drivers were able to make a living. Before that, the items had be manufactured. That means the factory workers were able to make a living. Before that, the items had to be designed by someone. That means various inventors and artists were able to make a living.

Of course, I could not sell every item in my yard sale. What was I to do with the leftover stuff? I boxed up the better stuff and called one of the local thrift shops to come and pick it up. That means the thrift shop volunteers were able to do good for the community. The items would be sold, thereby bringing money into the thrift shop for their humanitarian works. What about the stuff that was not really worth donating? It all went into the trash. That means the sanitation workers were able to make a living.

At the crossroads of all this traffic, I made some money on stuff which I was going to get rid of anyway. And what does anyone do with money? Right. You go to the store and buy something. That means.....well, I guess you get the basic idea of my theory by now. Anyway, despite the importance of yard sales to the economy, I do not want to have another one.

You see, that night I had a nightmare. I dreamed that I woke up in the middle of a gigantic yard sale. My bed had been sold, and I woke up on a mattress on the concrete. I had no blanket or sheets. I was just sitting on the mattress in my pajamas. Everything I owned had been put up for sale. There were people walking around and looking for stuff to buy. They did not even seem to notice that I was in my pajamas. They were only interested in what was for sale. So, you see, it would not be advisable for me to participate in the selling aspect of yard sales again. However, I never had any nightmares after shopping at yard sales. (Written 06/07/04)


copyright © 2004 Natalia J. Garland