Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Day at the Community Garage Sale

Kris and I had a l-o-n-g day today. We rose early and drove to one of Portland’s nicest neighborhoods for the 24th annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale. Officially, there were 141 families hawking their Stuff. Unofficially, there were well over 200.

Eastmoreland garage sale 2009For seven hours, Kris and I walked up and down the quiet residential streets — not so quiet today, as they bustled with a carnival-like atmosphere. (This year, there were plenty of people playing Michael Jackson tunes at their sales.)

“What are you after today?” I asked Kris before we started.

“Jars,” she said. She and her friend Rhonda are avid jar collectors, and they’ve found that yard sales can be a good source for them. “What about you?” she asked.

“I’m not after anything in particular,” I said. “I have a $50 budget, but I don’t want to come home with a lot of Stuff. No more Stuff.”

Each year, certain items seem to be for sale at every house. This year there were lots of lawnmowers and luggage, as well as a large supply of vacuums. And, as always, there was kids’ stuff galore. (There’s just no reason to ever buy kids’ stuff new. You can buy everything used at huge discounts. Well, except for diapers perhaps.)

Kris and I had a great time wandering the sale together, just hanging out. We got to meet a GRS reader (hi, Emily!) and we spent a couple of hours with Kris’ sister, Tiffany.

After looking through the stuff in one driveway, I had to chuckle. “What’s up?” asked Tiffany.

“Did you see that girl back there?” I asked.

“No,” said Kris.

“She’s maybe ten years old, and she had an arm full of scarves,” I said. “Her mother said, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want?’ The girl said yeah, so her mother gave her three bucks. But she warned the girl, ‘Here’s the thing — we’re just getting started. You can buy those now, but what if we go to the next sale and there’s some toys that you want?’”

“So she didn’t get the scarves?” asked Kris.

“No,” I said. “She bought the scarves! But at least her mother tried to get her to think about her choice.”

In the end, I spent $32.50 of my $50 budget. Here’s what I bought:

Garage sale loot

  • $2.00 — a heavy, long-sleeved Nike “dri-fit” running shirt for winter
  • $0.50 — Motoring Atlas of Europe (2006)
  • $0.25 — Road map of Alsace-Lorraine, my family’s ancestral homeland, and one of the most hotly-contested corners of Europe
  • $1.00 — Leather-bound Tiffany & Co. world atlas (1994), travel sized
  • $2.00 — Bible-like edition of Shakespeare’s complete works (onion skin pages, tabbed by play, etc.) from Oxford University Press (1924)
  • $5.00 — Chatterbox Cats and Dogs, a 1909 children’s book of stories about anthropomorphized animals, wonderful illustrations. I love this book.
  • $0.25 — October 1953 phone book for Bend, Oregon
  • $0.50 — December 1933 issue of Popular Science, with articles like “Radio Pen Writes in Letters of Fire on Far-Away Screen”
  • $8.00 — set of 5 vintage cut-crystal champagne glasses
  • $4.00 — set of 4 vintage cut-crystal port glasses
  • $4.00 — set of 3 vintage cut-crystal cordial glasses
  • $5.00 — 1960s molded glass liquor decanter

“It’s interesting to see that even wealthy people have the same junk as the rest of us,” Kris said when we were finished. It’s true. But I like to think that this is higher quality junk. It’s certainly high-density junk, as there are over 200 yard sales crammed into a small area. The $32.50 I spent today would have been well worth it, even if I hadn’t come home with anything. We had a lot of fun.

Note: Kris and I look forward to this sale every year. I wrote about it in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I’m sure I’ll write about it next year, too.

Dishwasher full of jarsKris came home with enough old canning jars to fill the dishwasher. The total cost for 31 jars? $7.25.

This evening, Kris and I chatted about the things I bought. “You realize that the things you bought today are just Stuff, right?” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I know.” I keep trying to tell myself that — except for the decanter, which Kris looks upon with disdain (”There’s nothing special about that!”) — none of this is Stuff. I have a purpose in mind for each item. (I have a purpose in mind for the decanter, too, but Kris really doesn’t like it, so it may not live long in this house.)

“It may not seem like Stuff now because they’re all things you intend to use,” Kris said. “But it’s still Stuff, or soon will be. It’s still gooing to clutter your life. I think you should consider purging some your old Stuff to make room for this new Stuff.”

As usual, my wife is right.

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