Saturday, May 28, 2011

Having a ball (at yard sales)

Today we left 20 minutes early for my college reunion, leaving a bit of time to stop at yard sales we might find along the way.  It was not an intense hunt.  The haul for today:  a white button-down school shirt for my son, two bread pans so I can make several more loaves at once, a cheese slicer to replace one that broke, and a much-coveted bag of super-balls.  Total time, about 15 minutes.  Total money, $2.

People who don't do yard sales tease those who do, saying they go around buying other people's junk.  To me, one of the most interesting educational experiences of yard-saling is seeing what exactly IS junk to us nowadays.  It's the things that do NOT get sold that are the junk.

Many of the things people sell at yard sales are "another man's treasure", goods that get snapped up quickly: nice clothes that children grow out of, an extra television set, large furniture.  If you show up to a  yard sale with only seedy-looking piles of stuff at 11 a.m. and the owners tell you "the good stuff went early", they're not delusional.

It's what's left over that is so telling -- to me, this is a lesson in what NEVER to buy new.  Christmas decorations (sometimes in the original packaging) are ubiquitous; other holiday decorations aren't far behind.  Cheap glass flower vases are everywhere.  Videos and DVDs get picked over and put back.  (You could claim that you actually enjoyed watching that movie, but paying $20 each for 10 movies that you're going to struggle to sell for a quarter each seems like an expensive way to rent.)

Gender differences abound.  When I was young, I often went into the boy's section of a department store to get cheaper shirts for myself.  But the used market is just the opposite:  boy's clothing goes quickly; girls and women's clothing lie in heaps on tables and ground cloths.  In fact, once I needed several turtlenecks for my sons, and yard sale season was long-gone, so I had no choice but to go to a thrift store.  I couldn't find ANY decent shirts for my son in the boy's section, but I had an inspiration and went to the women's section.  Voila!  Three great turtlenecks, just their sizes.

Most skeptics I've taken yard-saling with me don't pay much attention to the junk.  They're amazed at the stylish clothes, the nice kitchen appliances. the cute knick-knacks that they see.  They become converts quickly, ready to buy cheaply the same things they would have bought for more at the mall.  But when you yard-sale regularly and get used to seeing what sellers can not get rid of, it changes the kinds of things you're willing to buy at all.  A bag of balls might just be enough to make you happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment