Monday, April 18, 2016

Yard saling by the book

We had a three-generation yard-sale foray on Saturday; K-daughter brought her daughter, and N-son gamely tagged along.  We scored some good reading material -- in particular, the book that N-son bought is holographic and 3-d, and it absorbed his attention for hours.  Not bad for a 50¢ purchase!  Baby-A was the recipient of a few books herself, but she'll have to get a bit older to really appreciate them.

Me, I snagged a half-dozen books for 50¢ a pop.  I'll store them in my suitcase to take on airplanes with me; I read them on the plane and then leave them on top of a trash can at the next airport, hoping that some other traveller will pick them up and take them further.  As I travel, shedding my load of books as I go, I get lighter and lighter.  For me, bringing along these cheap-o reading materials wards off the crazy multiple $8.99 (or worse) purchases that used to plague me when I was bored to the point of paying to not be bored in some far-away airport.

When I'm at home, I tend to read library books instead.  I bring home a large pile, because I never know if the books I choose are going to be any good.  Right now I'm getting ready to return a stack of six books I got last week; I skimmed through the first five of these, disagreeing vehemently with the authors.  (You think you know frugality?  Or time management?  Hah!)  The sixth book kept my attention better, in spite of my granddaughter's best efforts to distract me.

And so imagine how strange it seems to me to be at yard sales, looking at vast collections of books that the people who are selling once purchased new. I can't quite wrap my head around the expense of buying and then storing so many books that you read only once and then sell.  At one house we visited, the woman had two tables full of pristine books --- almost all of them by Danielle Steele.  (Did that woman actually write that many books?  I guess so).  There were hundreds of books -- many hardback, all in excellent shape.  They weren't like my own dearly loved poetry books, thumbed through many times and tagged with multiple post-it notes, or like my copy of the Tightwad Gazette, purchased used and stained with coffee and food from readers who couldn't put the book down, not even while they were eating.  No, her books were beautiful and barely read.  Now they were selling (or, actually, not selling) for 50¢ for paperbacks, $1 for hardbacks.  Those two tables held thousands of dollars of money spent long ago, depreciated to tens of dollars, maybe hundreds of dollars, if lucky.

It is one of the amazing thing about yard sales -- not only that I can buy things for super cheap (ooh, man, I got a second apple-peeler-corer for only $1!), but also that yard sales inoculate me against a life of frivolous waste.  When fancy clothes cost $1 at a yard sale, stores that advertise $5 t-shirts become objects of scorn, not temptation.  Seeing wine glasses routinely offered for 10¢ made it easy for me to decide I can get rid of the ones I never used, because they'll be easily and cheaply replaceable if I ever change my mind.  And of course, airport bookstores have become like no-touch museums for me, a place to wander through where I can get ideas for my next library search -- but not where I get the actual books.

So the summer's season of yard sales has begun.  My favorite "store" has reopened for the year, and with it, the annual educational lessons on the taxonomy of excess and clutter.  The experience couldn't be more perfect if it came holographic and in 3-d.   (And sometimes, in fact, it does.)


  1. Yes! Having raised children frugally, they get sticker shock when they are grown and wander into a "regular" store to buy something, thinking that they must have missed out. Then it's back to the thrift store, or Craigslist, or holding out for the yard sale.

  2. I used to bring books to read and discard on trips, but my local library lets you check out e-books, so now I read library books on my Nook when I'm traveling.
    I'm sure the Nook takes a long time to pay for itself, if it ever does, but mine was a gift, and it has some other benefits: it's smaller and lighter than carrying paper books, and the screen light is very dim and only lights up the Nook, which makes it easier for my spouse to get to sleep while I'm reading in bed.

    1. I thought I would hate reading on a Kindle, but my husband had a Kindle story he wanted me to read, too, and I have to admit, it wasn't as annoying/impersonal as I thought it would be. I could totally understand getting used to that.

      But how to *choose* an ebook? My library method is to go to a book I've heard some good vibes about, and then grab books nearby on the shelf that seem interesting to me. And at yard sales, I think "hmm . . . "Thin Red Line": I've heard of that but haven't read it. . . . Patricia Cornwall; she's good for passing the time . . . " I'm choosing from a finite universe, but a quirky, unpredictable one. I don't know how I'd choose from an e-universe where there aren't accidents of geography to shape the choices. Is that an issue for you?