Like Most, We Have Too Much ‘Stuff’

by admin | June 7, 2012 6:20 pm

Years ago I vowed to never hold another garage sale, after a particularly time-consuming and low-profit sale. The amount of time and effort calculated out to less than minimum wage. Goodwill and other worthy charities have been the recipients of my excess stuff since that unhappy episode.

However, I learned long ago that “never” is a relative term. Thus I acquiesced to my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s request that we hold a garage sale once we moved under one roof and combined possessions — after a year of marriage spent living 260 miles apart. She forthrightly and accurately argued that we could use the money to pay for the usual house-breaking incidents (pool leaking, one AC unit on the blink, a few plumbing woes). Nothing occurred out of the ordinary — just the cost of once again embarking into home ownership.

We now own a big house, but there is no sense in owning four can openers, several sets of silverware, scads of unused table lamps, bookcases, desks, and so forth. Stuff. Too much danged stuff, truly a garage sale’s worth of unnecessary possessions whose sale could possibly cover the initial home repair bills. Besides, we will doubtless begin filling the new house with new stuff, so it is wise to start out with some empty drawers, closets and cabinets.

Holding a garage sale is not for the weak-at-heart. It is a major pain in the southern regions to price and display so much… stuff. At separate times, both my bride and I had moments of weakness where we nearly said, “Let’s call Newgate Bargain Center and get rid of this junk.” But we didn’t have these mental moments at the same time so the sale proceeded as scheduled.

This required us to get up at 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday and go back to the old place, where the landlord had been kind enough to give us a couple extra days to hold the sale. We sleepily pulled our possessions into the driveway, grateful that a weak cold front made it tolerable. June is a tricky month in East Texas. Sometimes the humidity will make it feel as if you could sip the air with a straw. Other times, a dry western breeze blows through and being outside is delightful. Last weekend was the latter.

My BMC and I had already made a pact that, except for a few high-dollar items, such as a futon sofa and some IKEA bookcases, we would be highly negotiable on everything else. This is de rigueur for garage sales, since folks arrive ready to haggle.

“Will you take a dollar?”


“How about I give you $5 for all of this?”


I have never been a major patron of garage sales. I fully realize that bargains are readily available, but the time, gasoline and effort is more than I am willing to make. My wife has convinced me that thrift-store shopping is worth the effort, since the store has already organized the merchandise, thus making the foray relatively painless.

We made a significant sale just after the sun rose, the extra washer and dryer and some recliners leaving the premises. After that, commerce trickled to a near-halt — a couple bucks here, 50 cents there. I was getting ready to call Newgate (proceeds go to fund a mission that feeds folks down-and-out) and get out of the garage sale business forever. Then we struck oil when a thrift shop owner showed up and commenced to loading up on items she clearly knew would draw at least twice as much in her store. She quickly doubled our proceeds and made this a garage sale well worth having.

By noon Saturday, it really was time to call Newgate, which sent two guys with a box truck and loaded up the considerable leftovers. So much stuff, unneeded, often unused. Why do so many of us accumulate so much detritus that we drag around from house to house, only to finally sell it for pennies on the dollar?

I vow to do better in this home, which I pray will be ours for a very long time. (Of course, for me, that is anything more than five years, which is the longest I have lived in any house since childhood.) I hope we both are more reflective about what we buy, the stuff we accumulate, what is needed and what isn’t.

We all carry around plenty of personal baggage, especially when well into middle age. I want to keep my load of real baggage as light as practicable heading down the road.

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