And the Decluttering Pays Off…Sort of


So I got up at 5 a.m. Saturday and got dressed…thinking this garage sale I had planned was a very, very bad idea.

At 5:20 a.m. I let Sadie outside. To keep her from barking so early in the morning, I stepped outside with her. The air wrapped around me like quilt batting. It was already a stifling and humid 89 degrees (according to the barometer in my brain).

This is going to be a very long day, I thought, wearily.

After Sadie relieved herself, I let her back into the air-conditioned house to spend the next six hours (lucky dog). Then I threw an English Muffin in the oven to toast and pulled out my only two portable tables, which were used to display my wares.

I began the schlepping of years of crap from the five-foot high pile in my dining room to my darkened driveway out in front of the house. By the time I came in for my third load of clutter, my glasses were slipping down my sweaty nose and my shirt was sticking to my drenched back. I wanted to curse, but instead said a prayer for strength to get me through the following hours.

My friend (who had brought her stuff over the night before) wasn’t supposed to show up until 6 a.m. Our sale was to begin at 6:30 a.m., but I could tell by the snail’s pace of my transporting items from dining room to driveway…it was going to take every bit of the next hour to haul and arrange everything. I wish I had told her 5:30 a.m., I thought to myself.

I took everything outside except my friend’s cabinets…I figured it’d be easier if we moved them together instead of me pulling my back out by trying to move them on my own.

By 6 a.m. I was completely drenched and already starving. I took a break and went in to eat my muffin (with strawberry jam, thank you very much) and have some milk and water.

I finished eating just as my friend pulled up and we, together, moved her cabinet outside. No sooner did we set to work on arranging our pitiful little store, the first customers arrived at 6:15 a.m. The man and woman were with my neighborhood security patrol. They got out of their little patrol wagon and started perusing the goods.

The woman remembered me as the person from whom she bought a pair of 5 lb. dumbells at a garage sale two years ago. She smiled and asked if I have anymore weights.

I want to point to my ginormous ass and say, “Seriously, do I look like I have anymore dumbells? Can’t you tell I ate the last pair? They went straight to my hips.”

Instead I laughed and said, “Sorry. No.”

Since the sports equipment department was sorely lacking in…well…existence, she instead focused on my old television…yes…the Goldstar. I finally decided to get rid of it when sweet little Bama gave me her television during the Monkbot Convention.

The woman was elated when she saw that the Goldstar was only $5 (yes, I priced to sell). I told her I hope she’d enjoy watching it and she said, “Oh, it’s not for me. It’s for my dog, Vito.”

“Well, Vito’s a lucky dog,” I said back, laughing again.

The line of colorful customers kept this pace all day.

There was the Hispanic family of four women and one man. He was the only one who spoke English and had to interpret for me when I tried to explain to one of his family members how much a bottle of nail polish was (this was after the girl had opened three bottles and painted her nails, each a different color). Curious though, this family bought all my Smallville memorabilia for their son. (Sorry, to my friend who bought all of this for me over the years…it was time to say good-bye to Lana, Lex, and Clark. You’ll be happy to know it will now make a young little Hispanic boy happy.)

There was the woman who wanted to talk me down on everything she touched.

“This Edwardian gilded crystal chandelier is marked for a quarter…will you take a dime?”

I haggled with her a bit and then ended up meeting all her demands. Mainly because I didn’t want to haul anything back inside…but also because she scared me a little (her name had to have been Lola…because she wore a shirt cut down to there…and instead of yellow feathers in her hair…she had a yellow rose tattooed on her right breast…and let’s just say, it was quite a wilted rose). When she asked how much I’d take for the Darryl Hall “Dreamtime” record album that was clearly marked .o5…I told her just to take it. It seemed like a stinging slap in the face to Darryl to take anything less than a nickel and, this way, I feel like it was, instead, an added bonus.

Oh…and to Long Island Rose’s husband, I sold four CDs…each for a quarter…one was my Season 5 AI CD of the top 12 contestants and one was Taylor Hicks’ “Do I Make You Proud?” single. It was very liberating for me.

Another charming customer was the lady who walked through the whole sale, picked up .25 worth of items and yelled from the end of my driveway, “Do I have to walk back up there?”

Why, of course not, sweetie. For your two bits, you get curbside service. So I scurried on down the drive like a hungry rat…my hand outstretched to collect my money.

The day was long and incredibly hot and, though our signs said 6:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., we began packing things up at 10 a.m. My friend still had some good items left, as did I…but we were both determined to never let any of those items darken our doorways again.

So we loaded up our little cars and drove them to a resale shop. I managed to earn $15 for a Mexican ceramic planter, two antique typewriters, a miniature tea set, and some hand towels. My friend also faired well.

But we weren’t done. Still with items in our cars, we drove across the street to the Good Will and each filled up a large cart of items for donation. Neither of us took a receipt. I can’t speak for my friend, but for me, I didn’t want a receipt because I feared that, as soon as the Good Will saw what I was donating…they’d make me put it back in my car. I couldn’t bear that thought.

After some quick good-byes, my friend jumped in her car and I in mine and we headed our separate ways…her saying, “The next time we do this…” and me thinking, “I will never do this again.”

And for my six hours of labor, sweaty brow (and back and butt and neck…), and dirty hands…I raked in a grand total of $52.46.

Not too shabby for a load of crap.


25 Responses to “And the Decluttering Pays Off…Sort of”

  1. leejolem Says:

    Shelley, I got hot just reading about the garage sale. $52.46 ain’t shabby. The last garage sale we had (appx 2 yrs ago) we made about $150, which I thought was great. My sister, who is the master de-clutterer made around $500 at hers. How does she do it? I abhor garage sales, but they are a necessary evil. I don’t enjoy shopping at them, and my dh forbids my daughters and I to go around to other people’s houses on our cul-de-sac when we have a neighborhood garage sale and “bring home more junk”. I’m always amazed at people trying to haggle over a 25cent item. I just don’t have the energy for that. Professional garage-salers are dog-eat-dog!
    Yay for Shelley–decluttering and making some money!

  2. taywatch Says:

    My flea market experience. First of all, my daughter lives on a cul-de-sac and it would be an ideal location for a yard sale but she steadfastly refuses to do that. She doesn’t want “strangers coming to my home and poking around…” Despite my begging, she wouldn’t give in.

    So we loaded up and went to the flea market at an old drive-in theatre. They don’t open the gates until 6:00AM and the sale starts at 6:30. Since I’d never been before, we were told “get there early for a good spot”. You pay extra for a corner, so we got there at 5:00AM and were shocked to see a huge line already–cars, SUVs, trucks, u-hauls..piled up with furniture, produce, plants, you-name-it. (I guess there must have been some produce farmers in the line.) Many people were sleeping, others were staggering around with deer in the headlights expressions carrying coffee. (We opted not to have coffee because I didn’t want to hike to the concession where the only bathroom facilities were.) It was also very cold before daylight (typical California weather) and we wrapped up in a douvet that we were selling. The gates opened..we found a great corner location, unloaded two folding tables, a hanging rack for clothing which we just found in our garage, plus we had our whizbang camping chairs and an umbrella so we could lounge in comfort. I had even gone to office supply and bought pre-printed stickers/price tags for everything.

    Unfortunately my daughter also volunteered to sell some items for friends so bookeeping fell to me since so we could track sales and split the $$. There was a feeding frenzy from opening until around 11:00. By then the “good stuff” was gone, the sun was high and it was very hot and uncomfortable so we packed up and left. We made about $300 but I would never do it again. I thought it would be “fun” because we had packed a cooler with food and drinks, and I had the stupid idea it would be like a picnic. WRONG! Hot, dusty, dirty and crowded, no trees for shade and overall an exhausting venture. I completely relate to what Shelley went through lifting, hauling, sweating and dealing with people who want to haggle down a 25 cent item. Live and learn! At the end I left some things I simply did not want to load in the car and bring back.

  3. texastaylorfan Says:

    Shelley, you ALWAYS crack me up. You are so funny. Loved reading about your garage sale.

    I HATE having or going to garage sales. I can’t BELIEVE people will ask you to come down from 25 cents!!! It just appalls me. I will never have another one.

    I do have an accumulation of stuff that I think should be worth something to someone though…. I’m thinking of starting to sell things on ebay. I’ll let you know how that goes. 😉

  4. AmyMc Says:

    I hate having yardsales. One time we did like over $300 worth and one time we only made $23. Heh!

    Glad you got all the crap out of your house!!!

  5. Dr. Bob Says:

    Shelley, thanks for confirming that I am never, ever, EVER doing another garage sale. I have done it about three times, and although we make some money, it is never worth the hassle. After getting out at Odarkthirty and getting hot and filthy, it is not worth the hundred or so bucks that I get. I have decided to itemize and call the Good Will truck around. I would be better off using that time to work an extra day in air conditioned splendor.

    I had to laugh at your description of the people who came to your garage sale. It reminded me of Homesar Runner — Strong Bad’s description of a the people at a garage sale. It sounds like you had a Haggler.

  6. Dr. Bob Says:


    try this link. Stupid internets.

  7. Shelley Says:



    p.s. i LERVE homestarrunner…it’s DOT COM!!!!!

  8. Dr. Bob Says:

    Homesarrunner — a classic. Sigh. I remember, with fondness, my dos prompt.

    I start to glare at the hagglers, because, like you, at about an hour before we are done, I am ready to put out a sign that says “free”. Or worse yet, I am willing to pay people to haul the stuff away…

  9. texan Says:

    During my LAST AND FINAL garage sale, I had the typical attic and closet rejects scattered around mydriveway and yard. I did have a cooler of drinks for my customers,but forgot to fry eggs on the smoldering concrete driveway!

    I divorced organizing garage sales when two men nearly broke out in a fist fight over buying rights to the ugliest fake Christmas tree in the whole, wide world. The thing was a pitiful sculpture with scraggly bottle brushes looking branches! I dashed up to the attic to look for a second tree and ended up selling one that I used at the time just to keep the peace! So much for profit!

    Thank you for the reminder Shelley!

  10. Julie Says:

    I hate having yard sales with a passion. Ever since I decided to sell my flute from junior high school in a desperate sale one particularly lean year right after college, which was a hasty and dumb decision that I have always regretted, I have sworn off having them. Although I’ve had several since, of course.

    one was Taylor Hicks’ “Do I Make You Proud?” single. It was very liberating for me.

    Brava, Shelley! Even more liberating is having never bought one in the first place. 😉

  11. Connie8 Says:

    I’ve decided to eliminate the first eight hours and go directly to sticking the “free stuff” sign on my pile. After dark my next door neighbor will take everything and it will show up in a month or so at his garage sale, and he can have the $20. (It’s ok -I didn’t even know I had any of that stuff anyway).

  12. double d Says:

    I know this is a preferred Taylor free zone now, but is it really THAT terrible to own Taylor music now? That sure was quick.

    Garage sales suck. I learned years ago that Goodwill makes better use out of it and I get a tax deduction.

  13. Sunny Says:

    I’m getting ready to have another one – this will make #5. #3 sale, I made enough to buy new patio furniture and a kitchen table set. Yes, we are major pack-rats. I have an entire room of my house piled deep with crap for this next one. We affectionately have named that room (formerly the dining room) the junk room. My goal, to get rid of everything one way or another and reclaim my dining room. Not that we’ll actually ‘dine’ in there, except of course when my Mother and Dad come into town…

    Last sale I did like you, practically gave stuff away, I just wanted it all gone. It is an interesting study of the human mind, the colorful characters that will come to call.

  14. Shelley Says:

    i didn’t say i got rid of his albums…just his single…which i have an mp3 of.

    however…the AI album is one i never wanted in the first place.

  15. leejolem Says:

    Shelley, I couldn’t part with my AI cd because where else am I ever gonna hear Kevin Covais again? (unless I buy the Paris Bennett cd &
    listen to him rap–lol). I only wish it had Tobacco Road on it!

    DD, I still actually listen to DIMYP–I probably enjoy it more than TH does himself. You know me and corny ballads–lerve them.

    I love all the comments–everyone hates garage/yard sales but is compelled to have them. I think Connie8 has a great idea–just mark it all free. My toughest stuff to get rid of is old toys, barbies, baby dolls, etc… They all have memories attached to them of my girls playing with them, and I hate to let them go. Then I worry that I might want them for grandchildren one day (even though that’s years away)–my sister would disown me for such non-de-cluttering thoughts!

  16. Mall Rabbit Says:

    I too hate going to or having garage/yard sales. I can quickly be beaten down by hagglers and have no skill in haggling to purchase. I had one garage sale about 3 years ago that brought in about $135. Since then, I watch for the post card in my mail that lets me know when the charity truck will be in my neighborhood. I put my goods out front and leave for work. When I get home, it is gone. Last November, I used Freecycle to donate a couple good aritificial Christmas trees to local families that were in need. I also used it to get rid of a patio set with deteriorating seat mesh on the chairs. I needed to quickly make room for a new set. I am constantly needing to let go and get rid of stuff.

  17. leejolem Says:

    Just wanted to check in and let y’all know I’m gonna be out of town next week (have to go to a pharmacy manager meeting in Orlando). We’re gonna be at the Hard Rock Hotel, but I just can’t muster up much excitement. We have very little free time, and it’s gonna be hot!!!!! I’ll miss all my monkbot buddies, but will think of you while they make us do a team building event at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios. I’m sweating bullets that it’s gonna be some horrible obstacle course where we have to climb a 10 foot wall, and I’ll be the fat chick who can’t get over it. Everybody pray for me–really seriously, I’m a nervous wreck.

    Have a good week and don’t miss me too much!

  18. Dr. Bob Says:

    I will pray for you. My team prefers to go to a nice lunch for team building. We do it once a week or so. I would haaaattte to be climbing rock walls, and I hate mandatory self-disclosure. I flunked employee orientation because I would not share … : )

    Good luck, Lee!

  19. leejolem Says:

    Thanks Dr. Bob–I’m fine on anything emotional, mental, intellectual–I’ll share my little heart out. It’s the physical stuff that kills me. Even way back in elementary school (when I was not fat) I got nervous about team events cuz I sucked! Do you think I need intensive therapy?

  20. Shelley Says:

    Isn’t WORKING together a team building effort?

    Seriously, stuff like that irritates me.

    Sorry, Lee. Be careful…and try to have fun.

  21. justwatchin Says:

    lol…the real purpose of garage sales, I’ve found, is at the end of them, you are totally guiltless bringing all the remaining stuff (which is usually more than half) to the Goodwill!

    A lot of work…actually, 52.46 is not bad!

  22. jenfera Says:

    Chiming in to share my garage sale story. Around here, we call them tag sales. And at the time, I didn’t have a garage. I found my post about it on my old blog:

    I have to say that I am impressed with the early hours of your sale, Shelley! Is that typical down south, a measure to beat the heat, perhaps? Some people around here have sales for three days in a row! Can you imagine? I’d run away screaming by the end of day two for sure.

  23. Dr. Bob Says:

    Lee, intensive therapy? No. I think that reluctance to climb rock walls is a sign of mental health. Shelley — I hate all things pseudo-corporate-chummy. I say that we do team building by going out to lunch, because the psychiatrist pays and the team feels happy. But I guess that is not reeeaaaal team building.

  24. Quossum Says:

    Your garage sale story had me giggling my butt off!

    Now, my mom and sister, they’re the garage sale queens–seems they’re always having one and cackling over their $23.47 profit. James and I wait for the inevitable charity solicitation and happily set boxes out on the porch for ’em.

    I still have tons of sentimental crap that I just can’t seem to part with, though. 😦


  25. Karen Says:

    Shelley: I enjoyed your humor in relating the garage sale experience. The best garage sale I ever had was one where my daughter-in-law brought the kids and they had made brownies to sell. I had tons of brownie mix in the house (Sam’s Club) and baked brownie cookies all day for them to sell. People were enchanted and bought all of them. The kids were so happy.

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