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Such a deal

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Annice Moses photo

I decided to have a yard sale. I have never done this before. When I began thinking about it, I was on a (albeit brief) cleaning rampage and found boxes and boxes full of tchotchkes. I wondered why and by whom had they been so tenderly wrapped when they would never, ever see the light of day in my house? Why were we keeping these and, even more puzzling, when had my husband, (who shuns all things materialistic and fancy), begun a collection of crystal desk clocks, Royal Crown Derby figurines and cloisonné? But I digress. The yard sale seemed like a fun idea – grab a whole bunch of stuff, price it to sell and donate all the money to charity. No biggie, right? Right.

First, I spent hours on the computer researching how to have a successful yard sale. I printed out a woman’s 16-page musings on the “art” of it – signage, theft, sorting, pricing, sticker switching, weather, having a manicured lawn the day of the sale, etc. It was then I realized that a yard sale might be kind of a big deal – as in a lot of work. But I pushed on, spending several more hours on eBay looking for pricing of matching items that had actually sold, not what the items were listed for. I had learned after countless hours of watching “Pawn Stars” with my kids, that on eBay you can ask for whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it. My husband’s pre-me things took up the most time. It was tedious and frustrating. And frankly, I got tired of looking at the ugly crap. But forward I went.

Sorting through our mutual things – things my husband and I had gotten together, or mainly, the things we had bought when we had children – proved to be a different kind of difficult for me. The baby bumper, the board books, the mobile that hung over the crib, the baby backpack that carried our firstborn all over the Utah mountains – things that had been put away for years, and yet when they saw daylight, I panicked at the prospect of our parting ways. I turned to my husband. “What about this stuff for the grandchildren?” I whined. He rolled his eyes, “By then that stuff will be old and gross. Pass it on.” And so I did.

Following my mom’s advice – (she’s in the yard sale/garage sale/estate sale scene) – our yard sale ad read, “No early birds please.” It was two days before the sale. I was in the shower. I heard the phone ring. When I got out of the shower, I played the message. It was an older sounding gentleman saying that he was in town having lunch with some lady friends and they had seen my ad. Would I mind, since they just happened to be in town, if they popped by and took a peek? I called him back fully intending on saying very politely that the sale was on Friday and Saturday and NOT on Wednesday. However, since he sounded so grandfatherly on the phone and was so polite, I instead ended up telling him that yes, he could come by, that I had just showered, and would he mind giving me 10 minutes to get dressed? How’s that for setting boundaries? Not only would I let a strange stalker man into my house with his “lady friends” but I would also inform him that I was currently naked! Well, all I can say in my defense, is that he bought 3 expensive things and paid full price. (And yes I found out later from my mom that this guy and his two “lady friends” are dealers, and they pull this crap all the time. This heads up was left out of that 16-page “Have a perfect yard sale!” article.)

The day of the yard sale came. It was hot. There were very early early birds. People came with magnifying glasses searching for all important stamps and signatures under the tushies of my husband’s animal collectables. People furrowed their brows at a $5 dollar price for a brand new calculator. It came with two pens! And pen holders! A woman almost spat on me when I told her she could buy two jean jackets for $10 dollars! (One was from the GAP! Granted the other was from Chico’s – but still!) She said she’d give me $2. I told her to take a hike. My friends told me I needed to work on both my people skills as well as my sales technique.

But not all of the sale folks were chazers and spitters. A man who initially haggled with me over a pair of collectible ducks that were priced insanely low – two for $20 – and reluctantly got me down to $15, returned an hour later with an impassioned speech: “I realize you’re doing this for charity – for a camp for kids with cancer. I was wrong. Your price was a fair price. There are some things that just aren’t OK. I’m sorry I did what I did.” And he handed me a five dollar bill with a bowed head. There were little boys and girls clawing through the $1 stuffed animals finding love. There was the man who bought two $1 CDs and paid with a $5 and told me to keep the change. And there was the little girl who showed up with her family an hour after the sale was over. We were boxing the leftovers to donate when she saw a Leapster IMAX with a bunch of games on the edge of a table. “How much is this?” she asked. I looked at the $20 price tag. “Two bucks.” She was so excited she actually started jumping up and down for joy.

The yard sale was a success. With the help of the friends, family and neighbors, we raised lots of money. I effectively cleaned out my basement. I met new and er, interesting people. I passed on sentimental things with good ju-ju for others to enjoy. I sold the Chico’s jacket! It was a very cool journey I’d say, that I did not anticipate taking when I decided to just sell a few things. But you know what they say: You never know what kind of gem you’re going to unearth in a bin at a yard sale. Happy treasure hunting!

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