Every year my parish holds a garage sale to raise funds for the VBS and Preschool programs. It has fast become one of my favorite events and helping at every stage, in my mind anyway, absolves me from taking part in the actual VBS. Anyhow, a sale of this size is a huge undertaking. Like crazy huge involving weeks and many, many, many hours from lots of people. But it's so worth it, and apart from the usual reasons about helping others and serving the community, here's why…
1 Going all Marie Kondo (KonMari) on my hoard.
How do I accumulate so much stuff? I go through my clothes, hubby's clothes, kid clothes, doll clothes, dolls, stuffed animals, toys, housewares and, hey, wait a second, why am I packing up so much of the stuff I bought at last year's garage sale? I have a truck-load. By the time the kids reclaim all the toys they suddenly remember they own, it's half a truck load. Over the next several Sundays we'll drop off bits and pieces, whatever we can carry along with the diaper bags and baby carriers and magic blankets we need to make it through the morning.
If we're super lucky, one of our donations will become the Visual Aid when the Garage Sale Announcement is made during the service. “This Tickle Me Elmo could be YOURS! Just come to the garage sale on April…”
2 Playing like I’m trapped in an episode of Hoarders.
For weeks the piles of black garbage bags, preciously stacked boxes grow in an unused classroom. For weeks the carpet and walls inch by inch disappear, until finally items spill into the halls. It's now the week of the sale. The first task, the most terrifying task, pull everything out, open all the bags and boxes, and pretend for the briefest moment that this is how I'd have to live for the rest of my life.
That evening I go home and fill another box. Meanwhile, the sorting crew is doing the KonMari in reverse. Each item must be held, its energy felt, and it must be put somewhere. A place where it belongs, where it finds purpose and other items of like energy.
3 Finding my organizational bliss.
The slightly (ahem) obsessive compulsive organizer in me is now in Nirvana. I'll organize the women's clothing by size, folding each item neatly and arranging them on sixteen square tables. When I'm done I'll move on to the baby gear. My little oases of pristine tidiness will be breathtaking … Until someone drops off a box of maternity bras and infant toys. Damn them.
I'll move on to the puzzles. F@ck the baby gear. My skills are needed elsewhere.
By the final day of sorting, sometime around 11am, I hold a medium shirt in one hand, the leg of a Barbie in the other, and I cannot remember what to do. I've frozen, my capacity to make even the simplest decision gone. It's time to go. In the parking lot the kids will ask me what's for lunch, and I'll cry. They decide I need Chipotle. I agree. I do need it, we all do.
4 Seeing what crazy sh@t people buy, and what they don't.
The sale opens at five pm on a Friday night. By 4pm, there's a line like it's a sold-out rock concert or a Black Friday Sale. Ah ha! All my Craigslist advertising must have paid off (I tell myself).
5pm, customers surge in. Soon their chosen treasures are lugged to the check-out station. Surely someone will buy the play kitchen set? The antique little red wagon? The big screen tv? The awesome boho skirt I've had my eye on since pulling it from a bag three days earlier?
No. But the maternity bras are a hot commodity, as is the little garden elf with the evil eyes, and the Styrofoam Easter egg that flakes glitter on everything, and the roller blades I swear are growing some sort of fungus.
The next day I browse the dwindling piles and wait for the final Feeding Frenzy - the HALF PRICE SALE! Which, I have to warn you, garage sale folk take very, very seriously. They scout their goodies in advance, leave for the requisite half hour, and return to grab-and-dash as if the items they want might be lost somehow in those moments between picking up and checking out.
The pre-lit four foot Christmas tree, speakers and a turntable, two leather club chairs, bags upon bags of clothes, laundry baskets full of toys all walk out the door. One woman points out that there are are several Little People missing from the Bus (which may be an understatement), and asks if I can knock something off the price. I look at the red sticker, the price chart. “Well it's only one dollar, and it's half off.”
“So you can't then?”
“Um. How's fifty cents sound?”
She leaves happy. I learn quickly that the year I spent working at a coffee shop where the owner disabled the “auto change making function” (whatever it's called) and forced her employees to learn to count back change, was more useful than Algebra. So there, Mr. Warners.
5 Getting to pick through the leftovers to find the awesome stuff nobody else wanted.
One year I found a sterling silver fortune cookie (seen here). Another year a parking garage for matchbox cars. This year's treasure tops them all.
World, meet Vanessa. I buy her for one dollar. I can hardly wait to set her up in the corner of my son's bedroom.
Question though, where would you keep a doll like this?
I'm kinda scared to put her in my closet...