To dump or to sell? Do both

Sunday, June 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:11 a.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

It’s been more than a decade since I had a garage sale. So when my daughter-in-law called and asked if I would help with theirs, I readily agreed, thinking I would include the bags of stuff that had been accumulating in the garage for two years.

On Friday, right after noon, I threw my bags in the back of my car. I hadn’t marked any of my items. I figured I’d have time after we had priced all of the things she wanted to sell.

When I arrived at her garage my daughter-in-law was hard at work with her mother at her side. I noticed that she had rented four long tables, so we had plenty of room to display all of her wares. Her mother had an exasperated look on her face, which I didn’t understand at first until she kept nodding her head to the left. I followed her nodding and discovered large packing boxes stacked to the side of the garage.

Gulping I asked, “What are in those boxes?”

“Stuff I’ve been saving for the garage sale,” my daughter-in-law responded sweetly.

“There must be more than a dozen boxes,” I said, my heart beating faster.

“I’ve never had a garage sale,” she said, not having a clue as to the amount of work ahead. “There is stuff in there from when I was in college.”

Then she added the dreaded words.

“Mostly clothes.”

The three of us worked through the afternoon piling clothes on top of clothes. We had mountains of clothing. The tables were groaning from the weight. We had three rolling racks filled to the point that I couldn’t fit another hanger. We had enough inventory to open a second-hand shop. My daughter-in-law had thrown nothing out. There were maternity clothes, baby clothes, evening gowns and even lingerie. And there were several items with the tags still hanging from the sleeve. Most of those items I recognized because I had purchased them.

Seeing me holding up a two-piece boy’s toddler shorts set my daughter-in-law became defensive.

“You bought that when there was still snow on the ground. By the time it was warm enough to wear it, it was too small,” she said.

“And this?” I said holding up a darling red velvet dress with lace around the Peter Pan collar and sleeves.

“I couldn’t get her to wear it,” she announced.

“You couldn’t get a 4-year-old to wear this dress?” I said incredulously.

“She has a stubborn streak.”

“I wonder where she got that,” I muttered under my breath.

By 6:30 p.m. I could barely move. We had emptied all but two boxes, and I hadn’t touched the stuff I had in my car. We called it a night, and I promised to return at dawn.

“But the sale doesn’t begin until 7:30,” my daughter-in-law protested.

I just chuckled and left.

I woke my son and daughter-in-law when I knocked on their door at 6 a.m.

My son opened the garage door and helped me move the tables out to the driveway. By 6:15 we had sold $10 worth of stuff. By 7 a.m. the place was crawling with people picking through the piles.

One woman asked if I would take $2 for a $3 item. I responded with a firm NO (that item never sold).

We priced all of the clothes on the tables at $1 each. All of the hanging clothes were $2.

People left with armloads of clothing, but the piles never seemed to diminish.

I hadn’t been to a garage sale in years, and I was fascinated with the shoppers. There is a whole subculture of garage sale junkies. There are groups of women, coffee mugs in hand, who stroll around the garage while having their own coffee klatch. Others seem to be on a mission. Another group takes great pleasure in haggling down the price. One woman took 10 minutes examining an evening gown that must have cost my daughter-in-law $200. I wanted to scream “It’s only two bucks, lady. You can make it a throw pillow if it doesn’t fit!”

By 10 a.m. my son had had it with the whole affair. He yelled out, “Everything is half price.”

And another group of people left with armloads of clothing, yet it had barely made a dent.

Driving home, I realized I never got the sack of stuff out of my car. My son called later that day. He said he had taken two truckloads to charity and another truckload to the dump. When all was said and done, he and his wife had made $600.

I took my sack of stuff and some of my clothing to charity, too. I got to write off $650.

If you have a comment or want a green bean peeler that never sold, please e-mail me at

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