You either love them or hate them. In giving one, I think I now do both. I love going to garage sales, and I enjoy the selling part, but I absolutely hate preparing for it. I don't like figuring out prices, I don't like sorting through things I am getting rid of, and I don't like moving things to a new location (which was a requirement because of where we live). I only like the day of the garage sale, so long as it is good weather unlike the iffy weather we had, though it wasn't too hot. I guess overall, it turned out well.
I can see how there is a technique and skill to this all-American activity. People can become very good at buying at garage sales and very good at giving them. In fact, these "pros" often have nice homes and do not struggle with money as some critics believe. There is a persistent view among non-garage sale shoppers that these events are frequented by poor pack-rats who buy junk that litters their yards. This is not true. In fact the truth is quite the opposite. The major spenders tend to be well-dressed, purposeful individuals seeking specific items of value. My mom once went to a woman's house whose husband had a six digit salary and exclaimed over the beauty she saw. The house was filled with rose patterned collectibles and finely crafted antiques. The house was quite luxurious, at the same time tasteful and comfortable. The woman told my mom she bought everything at either garage sales or estate auctions. She didn't buy a single thing new.
These "pro" garage sale shoppers are the ones who check the newspaper on Friday and hit the garage sales right when they are supposed to start. They have a plan and a budget. They will look carefully through piles of stuff for treasures and some, mostly of Hispanic decent, will haggle for an even better deal (I can say this since I am part Hispanic).
The "hagglers" can and did drive some people crazy, but I find it interesting. Who cares if I marked something too high, these people will get a great deal no matter what, and at the same time I get rid of stuff and make a little money. I also like the game of haggling. It, from my side, is seeing how much can I charge someone before they walk away, while they are thinking, "What combination of items can I purchase to get the lowest price and best deal?" Some of the hagglers were very good and I was in awe of their creativity and guts. I felt like I had a lot to learn about haggling. Perhaps if we get a chance to go to a country in which that is the norm, I will be able to hold my own.
Now these "pro" garage sale shoppers and "hagglers" are not the only kind of people which frequent these events. Some of these other people I will call the "scammers". These people try to get thing for free, steal, or exchange money until you are paying them. They make garage sales a dangerous enterprise financially. These are not enjoyable except when you can squash their attempt in swindling you. Somehow defeating an enemy does give some satisfaction. We luckily had almost none of these at our garage sale. In Florida, I remember having a fair share of problems with them.
In general, though, most people are just "browsers." I have always fit into this category. I tend to show up at a garage sale because I was driving by. Then, I only buy something if it is something I have been wanting for a while or it is next to free. I and my family have bought quite a few things this way. I have bought some of my favorite (and nicest) clothes at garage sales. My high school bedroom set was purchased at a garage sale, and I even acquired a Christmas tree at one of these events.
The thing that everyone has to be aware of with garage sales or any kind of shopping is the tendency to buy something just because it is cheap or on sale. When I got home after the garage sale, I experienced a strange sense of relief to get rid of things. This relief was profound because I didn't realize how much time it had required to maintain everything. The cleaning, organizing, and fixing of items takes up so much of our lives. We buy junk just because we want more junk. People bought the strangest mixture of junk from the garage sale. Things that I thought were nice did not sell, and things that were next to trash did sell. Why? I really don't know, but I was
glad it was gone.
I think that I am going to conform after our time in Scotland and become a "pro" garage sale shopper. I looked over the collection of things I was selling and saw how little things were going for even though they were nearly brand new or very nice, and I wondered why I bothered to buy some of these things new at all. Bookshelves and some furniture really seem silly to buy new. Designer clothes and and kitchen ware also seemed to be ideal items to buy at a garage sale. Even books and decorative pieces can cost as low as a tenth of its original price. You only need to be willing to work and dig and haggle to find valuable treasure and barely-used designer items.
When we finally settle down after Kerry gets his PhD, I am going to refurnish our house with barely-used garage sale treasures and underpriced country-styled antiques. This way I might have beautiful things I never could have afforded new and maybe even rare items not made anymore. Who knows?
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