Mid-Life Crisis Trip

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Entry 25.1
Entry 25.2
Entry 26

Entry 1: Garage Sale

Part of the preparation for our mid-life crisis is getting rid of some of the mountain of crap that we've managed to accumulate in the last 50 years. (No kidding--we still have stuff from when we were babies.)

We experimented with eBay ("America's Garage Sale") for a while to see if that would work as a way to get rid of stuff. Here's what we found out:

bullet If it has an actual use, nobody will buy it
bullet If you are about to throw it away, somebody will pay you for it

Practical things (clamps, electronics, tools) went without a bid. Impractical things (MST3K underwear, stacks of old magazines) went for lots of money ($100 for the magazines). Unfortunately, even we hadn't managed to accumulate much in the way of impractical crap (our crap is practical!).

So we decided to have a local garage sale. The first problem was that we don't have a garage (we live in an apartment). Fortunately, our friend Elizabeth did have a garage that was full of crap (most of it not actually hers, but belonging to various relatives).

So we decided to have a joint garage sale to try and de-crapify both our lives. Several months ago, we picked the dates of March 3 through 5 for the garage sale.

At first, it's pretty hard to decide to throw things away. There's sort of an inertia that stuff has. "I can't throw that away because I've always had that" is a phrase that leaps to your mind every time you pick something up. When you realize that you haven't actually used it for 20 years, you begin to wonder if you actually need it, or if you're keeping it just because you own it.

Once we got past that phase, though, it was fun to get rid of things. "Pitch that chemistry book from the class with the lousy professor! Ahahaha!" We go overboard a couple of times, and have to pull a few things from the trash ("I was actually drinking coffee from that mug...").

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

First off, we have to admit that Robert was all ready to mock Elizabeth for deciding to start the garage sale on Friday.

"Friday?!? Who in the world would show up for a garage sale on Friday???" he was ready to say in a mocking tone.

The answer turns out to be: a whole bunch of people! Starting an hour before the dang thing is even open!

We are scheduled to open at 9:00 am, but people start showing up about 8:00 am. We manage to fend them off ("No! You can't buy our stuff! Go away!") but we finally give up about 8:45 and let the lions loose. On the plus side, some of the early shoppers help us unpack and put things out.

The weather? Well, it's supposed to rain, but it holds off, and actually gets sunnier as the day goes along.

One of the early attenders is a dealer who has an auction house. He's been going through withdrawal because there're not a lot of garage sales in the winter in the Seattle area. We're among the first and he's ready (he's driven up from Federal Way--about 20 miles south-- just to get his garage sale fix). He prowls through our stuff with a wad of hundred dollar bills wheeling and dealing.

Then he sees the old VW bug in the garage. It wasn't for sale, but-- well, this guy was waving around a wad of $100 bills, and before you know it, he's overpaid for the bug (as we found out later).

So, here's a tip for you spouses with old cars cluttering up your garage: Have a garage sale and leave the garage door up so people can see the old car. Then act innocent when someone offers to buy it...

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

Another day that's supposed to be rainy, but starts out only cloudy and then gets totally sunny. Man, did we luck out!

We discover that the coolest thing about having a garage sale is watching your stuff go off to a good home:


The two darling little girls who bought the two wizard hats and were giggling and laughing the whole time they had them on.


The little girl hugging her new stuffed velociraptor.


The four-year old boy who found Robert's 6-inch replica heavy metal guitar and promptly started playing a 10 minute guitar solo (and he wasn't half bad--he knew exactly what he wanted to play). We predicted a very long car trip home for his Mom...


The dinosaur nut lady who showed up early and mentioned that she liked dinosaurs (and left with pretty much our whole collection of dinosaur models, plus a box of rocks with pre-Cambrian fossil shale).


The two neighborhood boys who carefully examined every toy gun in Robert's toy gun box before selecting the best four guns. And, of course, watching Robert confer with them ("For your real Nerf dart firepower, it's hard to beat the gatling gun--watch this!" "Cool!").

bullet A neighborhood girl of about 10 who came back five (!) times getting various things. A football helmet for her dad ("He likes football!"). Toys for herself. A chili spreader for her mom. The last time she showed up, she brought her Dad, to show him the toy bag with Gumby and Pokey ("He really likes Gumby!").

Poor Dad had to pay with nickels because his girls had cleaned him out and his bank was closed. The little girl then asked about our "Toobers & Zots" (one of the coolest toys ever made). Robert then announced that it was FREE for customers who bought five things ("And, oh look--you've bought five things!"). But--she had to promise to play with it. "I promise," she solemnly vowed.

About half an hour later she came back to show Robert the animal she had made with the Toobers & Zots (it was way better than anything we'd ever made with them).

bullet Another neighborhood boy desperately wanted our eight-foot tall fabric palm tree (What? You don't have an eight-foot tall fabric palm tree in your house? Philistine!). His Mom was adamant. No giant palm trees, fabric or not, in our house. He left dejected but turned up grinning about half-an-hour later to proudly purchase the palm tree. It was last seen being carried down the street to its new cozy home.

Also, white people: learn to bargain!

Almost every white person who bought something paid the price we asked for it. Almost no Latino or Asian person paid full price.

There was this group of Vietnamese ladies in particular--they could have bought Manhattan for two necklaces and a silver dollar. They were incredible bargainers--once you sold them one $5 thing for $3, EVERY $5 thing suddenly started out priced at $3 ("Why should I pay $5 for that? I only paid $3 for this!").

It never hurts to make a counter-offer when buying something. Worst case is you'll have to pay the asking price. In most cases, we were so sick of looking at it (and contemplating the possiblity of having to drag it back into the garage at the end of the day) we were happy to let it go for half the marked price.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

We were supposed to be open today, when we were going to SLASH prices ("Everything must go!").

Unfortunately, all that bad weather that held off the last two days decided to gang up on Sunday and this morning we're looking at wind, and rain, and tree branches blowing sideways.

We confer with the Sinclairs and decide that:

  1. We're not stupid enough to try and set up a tarp in this wind and watch it blow away and then watch pouring rain ruin our stuff.

  2. The general public isn't that stupid, either. Nobody's going to show up.

The final decision is to shut down the store and call it good. We've contacted the blind people to come and get the leftovers (they send out sighted people to load the boxes, but when it's sold, it benefits the blind), and we'll make a dump run with the stuff that even the blind people don't want.

So, our apartment is much emptier than it was, but there's still a fair amount of crap. It's getting easier to spot the crap and even easier to let it go.

More news when we have some,

Robert & Laura
Mid-life Crisis Trip Log