Memoirs of a Yard Sale

I can’t put my finger on how long it has actually been that I have been trying to clean out the house. This is probably due to the fact that the housework around here uses very little punctuation. Run-on sentences are our game. When one might have reached a semi-colon in the laundry tale, there is always a parenthetical remark about the state of the fridge shelves. But in spite of all that, I carry on. One piece of punctuation in my housekeeping life for the past several years has been the summer yard sale. It is the time of year when I start deciding that no one needs the purple snow pants anymore. I decide that I will not save all the maternity clothes from last time because I never want to see them again, and because if there is a next pregnancy I will buy new shirts to make baggy.

I can be a merciless purger, and we have enough children to produce a mighty load of cast offs. But that is not all – we go in with friends. We advertise our sale with the number of children represented in clothing from infant to grade school. It is usually in the thirties. We always have furniture and baby gear and home decor, and the yard sale has grown in song and legend. I have had checkers at the local grocery store ask me if it was coming soon. It has a reputation.

Traditionally, I begin sorting and pricing and purging and cleaning the whole house out mercilessly weeks ahead of this event. I try (and have had various levels of success) to have the house all clean and together by the time the actual sale rolls around. Last year I didn’t. We had moved into our house not long before – there were whole rooms that had no furniture and no destiny. There was a lot of muddle. As I recall I failed to price anything in advance. I somehow lost all grip on the housework around this time. And as the house deteriorated, the yard filled up with all the cast offs of all the land. The garage was end-to-end children’s clothing tables, and whenever I looked out the window, I would see the husbands of friends pulling up in pickups to unload the things that had been haunting their houses. It was shaping up to be a great sale, and everything was fine except the interior of our house. I had done some purging, but it had left a mark.

In the heat of all this yard-sale prep, my children were revving up enthusiasm for a bake sale. So somewhere between all the last-minute pricing in the darkness, and the walking over broken hangers in the living room, I fired up a batch of cinnamon rolls. I think I put the dough in the fridge so it could proof overnight, and when I got up in the early dawn to join the ladies with sharpies in the front lawn, I threw them in the oven. There was some running in and out and spilling frosting on the counter, and the kids were all up by then and spilling cereal and milk on the table and floor. But the cinnamon rolls were done! And they were going to sell them!

My sister-in-law brought over a little card table, cash box, and chairs for the cousins to sit at and sell their goods to the line of customers waiting to cash out. There were a lot of people in the yard, and the kids were turning quite a profit. The goods were flying off the table. But what this foolish mother did not realize was that the children were spending their money as fast as they got it. They wheeled and they dealed.

When I discovered the dark deed, it was too late. I came in our front door for something and lo! Scattered about the entryway was a doll with a wide assortment of pilly acrylic clothing. When I inquired, I found that this doll was already named Fatty, and she was already much beloved. She had been purchased with the bake-sale profit. She was ours. As I realized that the short people had been buying and selling as fast as the big people, the nightmare became a reality. Heather barely caught Lucy trying to purchase herself a run-down old bridesmaid dress. Titus had laid out money for a broken plastic electric guitar toy. Chloe had bought a white stuffed pony with a Wells Fargo bandana. We had some new beanie babies. And we had so many clothes for Fatty the doll. There were other purchases too, but I can’t remember them all.

This year we didn’t do a yard sale, although I’m sure we will be back at it next year. Maybe next year Fatty will be available once again, to bring her acrylic pills to someone else’s home. Next year, when the yard sale rolls around, we will have an even bigger problem on our hands. Because now the people who can’t wait for the yard sale are the short people. It has gone down in their book as the day of all days – when the selling and the buying were at their finest.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0

23 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Yard Sale

  1. Hilarious. 🙂

    I’ve been thinking of you the last couple of weeks – and praying your delivery will go smoothly and Baby will be here strong and healthy!

  2. Nearly spit out my tea laughing! Sounds so much like my kids, not just buying stuff but they are really little hoarders at heart. Thanks for a fun start to the morning.

  3. Hilarious. I’d probably be “that mom” and talk to my kids about not just spending money willy nilly…I know, I’m not so much fun sometimes!

    That picture of the jelly beans reminds me of when my oldest was about two. She found a bag of cough drops (the cherry kind that at least give you the hopes of it actually tasting like candy), unwrapped one, sucked on it for a bit, set it on the edge of the bathroom sink, then repeated…about thirty times. We have lots of good pictures of that event.

  4. Ahhh! The white Wells Fargo pony with bandana- one of my 6-year-old’s favorite toys to play with! (obtained via grandma!) I’ve been trying to snatch it for a while to add to our Goodwill pile (I don’t do yard sales anymore or at least not for right now), but, alas, I can’t manage to sneak it away unnoticed!

  5. This is so cute! What a fun experience that must have been for your kids.

    I can really relate with your first paragraph. Cleaning at our house definitely feels like a run on sentence. I have 4 kiddos, all under the age of 6, and we are constantly making and cleaning up messes. I would love to know what guidelines you’ve found helpful in balancing the cleaning of your home with everything else. If I wanted to, I could keep myself fully occupied with cleaning/organizing. I have to purposefully pull myself away from these tasks – even if they’re not completed – in order to make the other important things happen as well. I’m talking about things like hospitality and paying visits to friends and family, or just simply taking a break for some playtime spent with the kids. I often find myself feeling guilty when I choose to set aside the housework to make time for something else. I value a clean and organized home…and so does my husband! But I also feel guilty when I focus on my housework to the point that I never take time for other things that I think are very important as well. How do you find balance in this area?

  6. We do the same thing around here! Our school has a Garage Sale fundraiser every summer and from the kids’ perspective you’d think it was Disneyland. After the first couple of years, though, we woke up to the fact that they were all buying and selling each others’ toys, mostly stuffed animals. Every year the same stuffed animals were showing up at the sale and just shifted between houses. The moment you thought you cleaned out all the animals, the kids came home with twice the number! We’ve since wised up and etched in stone some commandments regarding the buying and selling of garage sale toys.

  7. Jessica, Just as you yourself said, you must purposely pull yourself away from those tasks that you apparently are good at doing and in which you find fulfillment in doing.(And these tasks are important and definitely have a place in the running of a smooth and happy home.) You must prioritize regularly the interacting with friends and family (including elderly family members who need to see the children) and remind yourself that is every bit as important as the clean and organized house is. Have you ever heard the poem, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow, but babies grow up we learn to our sorrow. So settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.” This applies in many areas where we have to learn how to set our priorities. It takes practice to tear oneself away from what SEEMS to be of utmost importance. I am 60 years old so you can be assured I’ve had a lot of time to work on this.

  8. I like to go to yard sales, but sometimes you have to watch out for the people selling things. Sometimes ladies will hand my kids a bunch of stuffed animals and say they are for free, a gift. I try to intercept and say, “No thank you, REALLY,” before they become immediately beloved. Thanks for sharing, I needed a good laugh,
    A Fellow Purger

  9. I consider purging as an art form. Just this afternoon I was asking myself if we really need more than 1 bath towel per person. I once gave away our coffee maker because I thought it was taking up too much room. I had a hard time explaining that one to my husband. But when I’m in purge mode, I can barely restrain myself from setting the kids out by the curb with a “FREE” sign on them. In my defense, I come from a long line of purgers. My mom once donated my winter wardrobe to destitute children in Romania. She used to throw away our homework before we had turned it in!

  10. Here! here! I so hear you Jessica & would love to hear how Lizzie handles the house! I have 3 littles and its busy, crazy, wild!

  11. Thanks for the story! I laughed so hard that my husband wanted to know what I was reading. I read him the part about Fatty and he totally cracked up.
    I’m expecting my first baby in August and I have no clue how you do all that you do. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  12. “She used to throw away our homework before we had turned it in!”


    Thanks for the smile on my face. I bribed my kids to give me the authority to select things that can be sold (otherwise we never ever get rid of stuff) – they get a few euros to buy things themselves. I hope they won’t be able to buy as much as we sell!

  13. Heather Linn still has things in her basement pulled off the table at garage sales/flea markets from years past!

  14. I am happy to report we were the proud former owners of Fatty. She came to us from a yardsale and, I am sorry to say, was never properly loved here. Believe me when I tell you we are SO happy she found such a doting set of owners…..

  15. Great story!! We’ve been having a summer yard sale every year as well; it’s been a lot of fun. Too bad I don’t live n Moscow, so I could stop by and make some purchases. 🙂

  16. Hi
    We did this every year when we were kids. The minister next door came back from America with the yard sale concept so we (all the neighbourhood kids) decided to start one. It mushroomed over the years, to by the end (I was 8 when we started and 15 at the end) encompass leafleting a half-mile radius from our street advertising it (we did the leg work) and requesting donations, then my poor mother driving to pick up said donations. We had a tombola, a hook a duck from the paddling pool stall, teas and cake , a putting green in our front garden, and a cake and plant sale as well as books and records, toys and general junk (these were set up in our garden and the neighbours gardens). One year we were donated a carpet…! The rule was the money raised went to charity (over £400 on our best year), the kids had first refusal on the unsold junk (no idea what my Mum thought!)and not allowed to buy the stuff presale. The leftover pickings were pretty good and the leftover leftovers went to the local oxfam. Now I think my parents and the other parents were saints!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *