Will You Take a Quarter for This?

“That’s the meaning of life isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff… That’s all your house is. It’s a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

“Have you noticed that everybody else’s stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?”

 – George Carlin

If you haven’t already seen it, you should
watch Stuff on Youtube now.

Stuff is devious. It pretends to be something that will make your life easier or more pleasurable but often ends up being a burden – something you’re tied to and can’t get rid of. Suddenly, pleasure becomes a responsibility. Better not get rid of this stuff. It might be useful again one day. You might be unhappy if it were gone. You might never find stuff like it.

So you relegate it to the garage or the basement or the attic where it fills boxes and makes homes for spiders and becomes forgotten. Even there it creates work. It needs to be moved about so you can get to other stuff, shoved aside so you can get to the Christmas decorations or the summer water toys or the Halloween costumes. It’s in the way, taking up space – in your home and in your brain. Just what was in those boxes, you wonder. Or, why do I still have those lamps or an antique cookie press I’ll never use or boxes of toys the boys outgrew years ago? So I decided it was time to liberate my family from the tyranny of owning too much stuff – by having a yard sale.

Before we moved to our present home, we lived in a neighborhood that had collective yard sales every May. It worked out really well. It became habit once a year to rid ourselves of excess stuff. But four years ago, we moved. Fortunately, I did a pretty thorough job of thinning our stuff then, because ownership is not nearly so attractive when you have to pack all your stuff in boxes, carry it up the basement steps, and load it in a U-Haul. So we trimmed down. Way down. In terms of stuff, we were positively svelte by the time we took up residence in our new home. But that was four years ago.

Some of you may have noticed a series of posts I did about cool stuff I’ve found at thrift stores. (See thrift pick)  I frequent them regularly and drag home odd, old or unusual items that have only one thing in common – we have absolutely no use for any of it. I admit it. I am a collector. A junk store junkie. (See Confession of a Thrift Store Junkie) I regularly troll second hand stores and drag home whatever cast-off catches my fancy – a globe, a green glass jar, 800 Scrabble tiles. Four years is a long time for someone like me to go without thinning out the stuff.

It was time. So it’s a good thing for me that you can haul all your stuff out on the front lawn and put a sticker on it and chances are, someone will come along and buy it. (Unless it’s badly broken or extraordinarily ugly, it which case you put a sign that says “FREE” and it will disappear. American magic.)

So last Saturday, I did just that. After 4 hours of standing in my drive way with nothing better to do than to study the people who stopped to look at our stuff, I was able to identify several types of yard salers:

  1. Saturday morning pleasure shoppers – I like these kind. They’re the type who figure yard saling just means a drive on a pleasant morning, a cheap way to spend time with friends, and the off chance you might stumble on something you think is really cool.
  2. Antique Roadshow wannabees – These are fairly annoying. They’re just hoping to rip off some poor schmuck who’s selling his great granddaddy’s ugly old painting for $5 that’s actually an authentic Picasso. They’re not looking to find treasure. They’re looking to take it from some one else.
  3. Junk dealers – Only slightly less annoying than the Roadshow trollers. They tend to come early and drive big pick-ups with stuff piled in the back. They don’t expect to find treasure, but they want to pay dirt for your stuff.
  4. Grandparents – These can be fun because they’re always looking for something for their grandkids. Some of them will pinch a penny until it screams though and will haggle over a quarter.
  5. Young couples with cute little children – These are my favorite. They often don’t have a lot of money so they really appreciate cheap stuff (especially toys and kid clothes which we always have).  And it’s always fun to give the kids more toys than their parents are willing to buy.

All in all, having a yard sale isn’t nearly fun (for me) as going to one. But I have to do it, right? I try to think of it as the ultimate recycling. Just doing my bit to keep my stuff out of the landfills.

And how else would I get to have fun conversations like this:

“Will you take $5 for this?”

“Uh…I don’t think so.”

“But it’s old and ugly.”

“Yes, but I don’t think the neighbors want to sell their cat.”


“Do you have a dining room table?”

“Yes, it’s in the dining room.”

“How much?”

“It’s not for sale. That’s why it’s not out here. In the driveway. Where we’re selling stuff.”

He looked at me like I had just spit on him and stalked back to his car.


“Hey, can I get a cup of coffee, too?”

“Uh, I’m not serving…What do you mean ‘too’?!” I spun around. “Alright, who took my cup?”

Okay, I made up one of those. I’ll let you figure out which.

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  1. As someone who tends to collect lots of stuff and doesn’t like to get rid of it, I LOVE this post. Plus, I love garage sales–as well as, the “types”you’ve identified! Well done, Tori!

  2. I love George Carlin! We’ve had a few yard sales over the years and I think we met a few of the people that came to yours. My favourite is always the dealers that want to buy my cashbox (its an antique). And they offer $2 for it, every time.

    • I’d love to see your cash box. I just used one of the kids old plastic pencil boxes and it’s probably the one thing no one tried to buy.

  3. Great post. I do estate sales for a living, so I get to have this kind of fun all the time. And I’m not even completely insane yet!

    • Cool! I bet you see interesting stuff all the time. How do you keep from buying too much stuff and taking it home? Is your house full?

      • My house IS pretty full, but not hoarderisly full for a few reasons: my father was a bit of a hoarder, so I learned my lesson; because I spend so much time with the stuff while setting up sales, I feel fairly satiated by my temporary ownership; I like money more than things, so I sell instead of buy for myself.

  4. Very nice. My wife enjoys selling our crap to others, and the proceeds are used to benefit some charity, usually one for animals. I loathe the hagglers who pick up something priced for a quarter and say “Will you take a dime for it?” Really?

    • Exactly! And then they give you a dirty look if you say no. Good for your wife, by the way. Our proceeds just went to benefit our sons’ wallets.

  5. Amusing and honest-love it!

  6. Anita Gallagher

     /  June 28, 2012

    Love it!

  7. I occasionally think that I miss the days when I could move with everything I owned in my Sunfire. But then, I love my stuff! It now fills a house big enough for a small family. Oh well.

    • I was like that too! When I was young and single. Never wanted to own more than I could fit in my car. Funny how things change.

      • well, i guess he’s from a different league… but that need not prevent the others, the less significant ones, from trying every now and then, huh? ^^ your piece above? i could imagine your garage and yard and the Dorthy Parker in you while i was reading… haha, you’re kinda bad, hehe. ^_^ happy Sunday to you and your dear ones! 😉

  8. haha, you’re being bad and funny. i mean, naughty. 😉 hello and regards…

  9. “Yes, but I don’t think the neighbors want to sell their cat.” — Ha! Just Ha! Love it.

    We have an association junk sale where you pay $10 for a spot to sell. People want to buy yer crap, but they will seriously offer like a nickel! Come on people! We sold my daughter’s bike (Hello Kitty) for like $5, but that at least was worth it to see the little girl who got the bike, I did once buy a really scary clown painting there (the kind of clown that eats souls).

    • My partner hates clowns and thinks they’re all scary. And I guess she has a point. There must be a reason they show up in so many horror stories. So I have to know, what did you do with the soul-eater painting?

      • For a while I would use it to terrorize my daughter. Now it’s hanging in my bedroom. Heehee.

  10. TimCC

     /  June 30, 2012

    You’ve got to laugh at some of the antics. I always have a jibe with those who came early and then came late – yeah right.

    • Oooh, I really hate the early birds. It doesn’t matter what time you put in the ad, people will start showing up as soon as the sun’s up.

  11. HAHAHAH! Thanks for the Monday-morning laugh. I dared to host a sale once…ONCE. With my personality, I simply stared in awe at very similar questions until it became so awkward, they left. Or I replied with a “WHAT?” (“Can I have a coke?” — “Do you have chairs for sale inside?”) or a simple “Dear lord.” All pretense of civility or wit seemed to escape me in their presence.

  12. Oh, please! I laughed out loud at your “Our crap could be your crap” line. Did you get much action with that? It would certainly make me curious to drive by. I loved your yard sale ‘types”, and definitely can identify some. We’ve encountered ones who work their way into our garage and offer to buy the suitcases that we’d brought down from the attic for the next week’s vacation. REALLY?? One I didn’t see mentioned is very well-known in these parts. They come at the very end of your sale and pick up everything and try to bottom price you – 5 cents? ten cents? Are you kidding? I’d rather donate to a thrift shop than let them have that working blender, Grandma’s wood mirror, etc. Its not the price, its the method that drives me mad.

  13. I love to walk with my husband on weekend mornings. We just meander around the neighborhood (sometimes for hours) and follow the garage sale signs. It gives us a chance to get out and talk with the neighbors and get stuff we never knew we wanted or needed! Bikes, rocking chairs and wagons for the grankids are the best finds. We are your Saturday morning pleasure shoppers. But -as for us… we haul our stuff to the local thrift stores and let them deal with the other types. I never haggle over prices and don’t care to have others haggle with me!

  14. Funny post. Thanks. And the last Carlin quote? It explains so much about life in America today. The bottom half intelligence-wise is somehow on top. (Perhaps something happened with gravity?)

    My husband and I have a lot of stuff. We take it with us when we move because somebody else always pays for it. And so we buy a bigger house each time. Your way is better!


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