(This was originally one of my weekly columns in The Beach Reporter newspaper in Manhattan Beach, CA.)
Having a garage sale every five years or so should be a requirement for every family. Not only do you get rid of things hanging precariously in the rafters of your garage and threatening lives, but you also get to know the true feelings of other family members. It’s better than therapy.
Take the following conversation (which may or may not have happened, I’ll never tell).
Wife: “I really think we should sell your surfboard. The last time you surfed the Beach Boys still had hair, and you didn’t get winded carrying the ice chest down to the beach.”
Husband: “I’m not selling my surfboard! Why, just the other day I was sitting in my office thinking maybe I’d take it up again.”
Wife: “That’s called fantasizing. What do you think we could get for it?”
Husband: “Oh yeah… How about the exercise bike you had to have that’s sitting in the corner of the garage with Christmas lights draped over it. Are you going to sell that?”
Wife: “Of course not! It’s a perfectly good bike. And besides, when I have more time, I’m going to start using it again. It’s definitely not for sale.”
Naturally the previous conversation is just an enactment and doesn’t bear any resemblance to conversations I may have ever had with my husband.
We did just have a garage sale though, and it surprised me how emotionally attached we had become to certain things. I mean, I’m not a person who likes clutter, so I thought I’d be happy to let certain things go.
Skis that hadn’t been used since the kids were born became symbols of our lost youth. Suits that were two sizes too small became reminders of a body giving in to age and the law of gravity. Cribs and strollers and car seats brought to our attention the biggest question of all. Do we get rid of that stuff, or not.
It may seem silly that having a garage sale could focus your attention on big issues like having more kids, but nevertheless. Another “hypothetical” conversation: Wife: “There is no way I’m selling the crib and all the baby stuff. We haven’t decided FOR SURE that we’re never having another baby.”
Husband: “We haven’t? You mean you’re willing to go through another pregnancy and possible C-section, get up three times a night for six months, and chase a two year-old in circles – AGAIN!”
Wife: “Well, if you put it that way. Let’s get rid of everything. Including the kids we already have.”
You have to understand something. I am not a garage sale type of person. I have never gotten in my car and driven to a garage sale, and I never plan to. This is the result of having a mother who lived for garage sales. Thank God she lives in Washington, or she would be at ours and see all the stuff she’d given us over the years sitting in our driveway.
But when you start having a hard time getting both cars in the garage because of all the stuff you have stored out there, then it’s time to make some bucks.
It’s funny the things people want to buy. I had a lady haggle with me over a souvenir tea set I got in Chinatown in San Francisco fifteen years ago. It had sentimental value for me, but why would someone want to buy someone else’s souvenirs?
I finally had to let my husband handle the finances. If someone seemed poor to me, I’d cut the price in half right away, and throw something else in for free. My husband would hear this and glare at me. This is a guy who wouldn’t lower his price on an ugly framed picture of a mallard duck that we had never even hung, to an elderly lady who wistfully said that her dying sister loved ducks so.
He practically gave away the baby stuff. He didn’t have to be so obvious. At the same time, I noticed that certain things he wanted to keep stayed priced unreasonably high. I’m telling you his surfboard belongs in a surfing museum, the thing is so old.
We made a pact. Everything we didn’t get rid of at the garage sale we would take immediately to Goodwill. They don’t take surfboards though, or so I hear. And the exercise bike is still in the corner with Christmas lights on it. The crib is gone, though…