Folks post pictures of items they are trying to sell, and people respond to them if interested. I’ve seen jewelry, bunk beds, sports equipment and clothing snapped up eagerly, and it’s tempting to try and unload some of our treasures this way. But so far I have not participated because I still have fresh recollections of many “real” yard sales we have had. We’ve had these every couple of years, because we have never learned.
It was such a good idea! Taking things we didn’t need and turning them into cash! We would spend the night before each sale dusting everything off, labeling and pricing to beat the band. We were sure everybody was going to LOVE the assortment of costumes that had been donated to us for our theater company and we couldn’t use. Think about it, who wouldn’t kill for a giant bear suit? My collection of second-string cookbooks, including The Canadiana Cookbook, (which, if memory serves, had rather too many recipes featuring maple syrup) was also up for sale. As the evening wore on, we always became greedy and started to price things higher and higher. My mother’s wedding gifts — sterling silver platters so heavy they could double as murder weapons? Ka-ching! Sterling is worth a fortune, isn’t it? The Madame Alexander dolls? $50 each! No, $75!! We went to bed with visions of dollar signs dancing in our heads.
In the cold light of dawn, we set out our card tables and arranged our bounty. Everything looked a bit shabbier than it had the night before, but we were optimistic!! The first hint of trouble came before 8 a.m. when the “early birds” arrived. These canny shoppers canvassed the area every Saturday morning looking for bargains. They usually had specific items they were seeking, from musical instruments to vintage LPs. Even when we offered hot coffee, they passed right by our little assortment of stuff.
As the hours crept along customerless, we were reminded of why we always did so poorly with yard sales — our stuff is either no good to begin with, or so badly maintained as to be almost worthless. In late afternoon, the giant bear suit would go out on a table marked “Free.” My Canadiana Cookbook found a home with my wonderful Canadian neighbor, who most likely purchased it out of pity. No one wanted the Madame Alexander dolls; NO ONE wanted the tarnished sterling silver platters. In the end, we’d wasted an entire day and made just enough money to get a takeout pizza (no extra toppings) after we lugged things back inside.
Like the pain of labor, the memories would eventually fade, and we’d find ourselves doing it all over again.
My sister Carolyn has always made a bundle at her yard sales, perhaps because EVERYTHING she and her hubby Rob own is in mint condition. Who wouldn’t do well selling a beautiful drum set and still-in-the-wrapper DVDs? It seems our daughter Julie is a chip off that block because she is registered on the Oreland yard sale page and is doing very well. The old rabbit pen, ill-fitting shoes, never-opened nail polish (yes!) — all have been claimed quickly. Julie urges me to sell online as well, so the other day I rounded up some odds and ends to photograph and post. Haven’t done it yet, though, because I’m sure our every knick-knack bears the Seyfried curse and will languish, embarrassingly unsold, forever.
Someday I’ll go for it and mark down the few items we have that are worth anything, just for the thrill of a successful transaction. And afterward, as we stand counting our cash in our empty dining room (table and 8 chairs! $20! Or Best Offer!), we will figure out if we made enough money to go out and buy back our own table and (8) chairs, which will no doubt have been marked way, way up by a savvy yard saler. We will not pay a penny more than $200! After all, we have our pride!
— Elise Seyfried
Elise Seyfried is the author of three books of humorous spiritual essays, a columnist for a Philadelphia newspaper and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis, Guideposts Magazine, Grown and Flown and many other publications. Elise is also a church worker, mom of five and grandma of two.