I found myself at a charity yard sale this weekend with time to spare.
Usually I don’t pay too much attention to weekend sales in yards and driveways. They’ve never held much interest for me although I do know, for many people, they’re a weekend highlight. I can breeze through a yard sale in under 3 minutes usually. I I just don’t need to spend money on other people’s giveaways.
I take a quick overview walk around, similar to how I browse an antique store. It can be fun to rekindle vintage home memories, but I rarely find anything to spend a dollar or 50 cents on. I like new stuff.
For a different reason today however, I stayed. I sat on the concrete stairs outside a home in a sub division miles from my home, and watched the people who come and go. A huge variety of amusement, as each new eager treasure hunter arrived with the excitement of the search. Each showing me a story, and occasionally I get to overhear just enough to fill in the blanks. A good yard sale truly is a cross section of assorted weirdness, both on the ground, and in the patrons.
I had a fun time watching and listening, as people struggle with tough purchase decisions, and bicker over whether to spend 50 cents for that plastic catsup bottle or not.
“Uncle Jack would like this”, and “oh look mom, a Golfer mug! Daddy would love this!”
It occurs to me that even fans of the yard sale are shopping for somebody else half the time. I understand that the joy is in the search, rather than the find. People are not here looking for anything specific, they’re looking to find anything they like, or can gift, and pay only $3… or talk them down to $1. Kids especially seem to love digging looking for lost wonders, especially when anything could be cool. You never know. Like treasure hunting without knowing what is in the vault.
I discover from conversations with the yard owners, that early on the yard is filled with a different type of shopper. Before 8am we see mostly the professional yard scavengers. The shop owners and Ebayers. They’re here when it opens to rummage through everything and find the good deals. Anything that could sell in a store or online for a price, is worth buying for $1. Occasionally they may even find things worth hundreds or thousands. Inside our head, we all think; just maybe we’ll find something wonderful that nobody noticed.
Another distinct group of yard sale fan, coming at any time of day, often passing from one yard sale to another through the whole neighbourhood. I call them the Questers. These experienced yard salers are looking for more specific things. It may be the last piece to a doll collection or perhaps they need that last missing fork. I’ve witnessed them arrive in small family packs, with a determination to find that game piece they’re missing, or the a Robin Hood mug. It clear they know what they need, and have been to many sales. They wisk through the whole yard faster than anybody else, overturning boxes and sifting through trunks. They come and go almost as quickly as I used to.
“I FOUND ANOTHER PIG” shouts one child across the driveway. It’s clear they’re looking for pigs like a pig looks for truffles. I know a lot of people who have animal collections and I can imagine that their friends and family would always be on the lookout for a pig ornament, or an owl statue, or whatever the specialty. When I go to a sale like this, I’ll be on the look out for any My Little Ponies, because a friend of mine has instructed me to do so. I’ve never found one yet, but I always look. For such a specific find however, I suspect the EBayers bought it at 8:14am.
I’m learning it’s a fun family adventure, much like hunting for Easter eggs, except these finds are all just laying there on the lawn. The hardest hiding spot is under the flap of an open box. The real challenge is to search and find what you need or perhaps, need what you find. You may have a lot of possible wins at a good yard sale. A coffee mug with a sports team Daddy likes, anything pink for Sarah, a cow for Jennifer.
Jennifer likes cows. She is a school teacher friend of mine who one day somehow let her Grade 2 students know that she liked cows. From that moment on, Jennifer received something cow related on every holiday for the next several years. Her house was literally overflowing with cow related trinkets, curtains, pictures and dolls.
It is clear however, that the most popular exclamation I hear by far is; “oh wow, we used to have one of these!”
The recognition of a product or article from our your youth. Yard sales are filled more with memories than any other item. People come to them and have fun. They get excited over refreshed memories, opportunities to relive the past, and buy cool stuff for less than a dollar. It’s a culture I never really knew about. I’d been entertained watching young kids get super excited in a Dollar Store when their parent would say they could have any three items from the whole store. The kids go crazy… but discounts are only part of the enjoyment. It’s the whole thing. Even people watching is part of the fun. I almost laughed out loud when people ask questions about one dollar items.
When one lady asked; “Do you know if this cordless phone works?”, the answer she received was very polite. I would have said; “Lady… it’s a Dollar”.
The funniest thing I watched, was a woman get so excited to have found an only slightly dusty empty wedding guestbook. I had to wonder to myself, how sad it was that somebody threw a wedding, and nobody signed the book. Or perhaps a wedding in this family was planned and paid for, but didn’t go though. An empty wedding book at a yard sale is a sad thing.
The lady cheered; Woo Woo. This’ll save me $40.
I think to myself, someboidy will object to using a wedding book that looks used, she’ll agree, and it’ll find it’s way into somebody elses’s yard sale. If this has happened before, that wedding book could be 200 years old. The Ebayers missed it.
You can find all kinds at the yard sale.
P.S. I bought two scrabble sets for a friend that makes crafts and a rainbow plastic slinky, which I’ve never owned. I saw the slinky in a photo of the yard sale posted to Facebook and rushed to get it. I paid $3.
Photo Credit by Elisa Applebaum… Charity: Urban Cat Relief.