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Check 'yard sale' off the must-do list

Aug 15, 2013 - By Clair McFarland

Ours went well, thanks to lots -- and lots -- of string cheese

While there are certain endeavors in adult life which are entirely optional -- like riding a purple scooter, developing an obsession with Sherlock Holmes, and trying on perpetual pregnancy -- there is yet one endeavor that is a must: having a yard sale.

Until a few Saturdays ago, I had never had a yard sale of my own -- unless you count the time I tried to peddle some excess shoes before college, and people took them from my lawn, then paid the lady next door for them. But, as my previous column was on its way to press, I was running around with a roll of yellow tags and a sense of material detachment, determined to do it right this time.

By Monday of that week, I had filled The Husband's man-cave (that's right: man-cave) with misfit clothes, odd furniture, and remnants of a slower life. By Tuesday, I had resolved to go through with it, and by Wednesday I had purchased the "garage sale" ad in the paper.

On Thursday, however, The Husband (regretfully) informed me that events that could not be delayed would compel him to leave town the following morning, and stay away through the weekend.

I would be selling our stuff on my own.

Before the reader gets down on The Husband, allow me to say that his imminent departure was in my best interests as well, and that I'd have had it no other way. So I stuck out my chin (that Thursday) and said "That's OK. The children and I can do this."

He laughed. Then, he reminded me of my inability to move heavy oak furniture (his own contribution to the yard sale), as well as his unwillingness for me to make our older boy go "potty" in the flower bed while I guarded 10-cent treasures.

Well put.

So, once I surrendered the lone wolf attitude I sometimes grow when he goes away, he called one of the handful of people who has passed the background check, personality evaluation, and mental examination required of potential babysitters. His mom agreed to babysit the boys.

After that, he stayed up late with me to set up for the sale, and to get heavy movables in place. One of the coolest things he did was rig a clothing display from two ladders and a pole. The effect was pleasing, aesthetically, but -- as I'd find later -- confused people into thinking that the ladders, and not the clothes between them, were a dollar. I kind of surrendered to sarcastic indignation after multiple people tried to take off with my ladders.

Having a yard sale does require a detached perspective, especially when you think that your things are still pretty decent (as we all do), you remember how much you paid for them, and you know how much they're going for on eBay. But we can't fall into that trap: eBay is inefficient, higher price tags be darned. You modernized sellers still can't improve upon the practice of hawking your stuff in the driveway.

That Thursday night I learned that The Husband is a modernized seller. Let's just say you could tell which of us had priced what. In some cases, he was so right to stick an eBay price tag on a piece of yard sale swag, and in other cases he was... less right. Either way, he was always right to remind me that my mom's nickel sales of the 1990s are over, and we won't feel rich if we sell our "toys" that cheap, regardless of how I felt about nickels when I had bangs in my eyes and wore floral stirrup tights.

Friday came, he left, and the children and I spent the day tying up loose ends -- like setting up "Garage Sale" signs on the three most popular intersections near our house, and coloring "Garage Sale" signs with a red marker to make them look "fancy." Three-year-olds are great at marketing.

Then came Saturday. It was a hurricane of people -- early birds, bargainers and one-uppers. I survived by eating an indigestible amount of string cheese when I thought no one was looking.

And the yard sale was a success.

There wasn't really a lot to learn except this: Man-stuff sells better than woman-stuff, and you never know who is going to come out of the woodwork and fall in love with what. So put all your stuff out there, and you can really show eBay how it's done.

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