And furthermore

Never say never . . . especially if you’re talking about a yard sale

By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.

A daughter moves home to Rhode Island after more than a decade of living 1,500 miles away in Florida. Before leaving Sarasota she takes part in a cooperative yard sale with her neighbor and several of the neighbor’s friends. She sells a fair number of things, but she doesn’t get to fully sort through all the stuff she is shipping home.

So, having another yard sale back here seems like a fine idea. She reasons that getting family and friends involved will make it a giant event and increase the likelihood it will be worth the effort.

Initially, some of us are skeptical. It has been something like 25 years since the last one and that ended with the words “never again” echoing and re-echoing through the air. After all, yard sales are a lot of work for comparatively little return, and the worst part is figuring out what to do with the left over items that don’t sell.

She was determined, though, and little by little her enthusiasm began to grow infectious. The fact that her plan coincided with a long overdue cleanout of the farm house basement only made it all seem more logical, if not inevitable.

Things that had been stored in that cellar since the family came to the farm in 1925 were suddenly being flung into a dumpster that was rented for their disposal.

Being able to include some selected treasures from the farm in the sale would make the act of parting with previous generations’ possessions less difficult, less guilt-producing. That was the clincher. Now, all of a sudden the fever came upon us. A yard sale seemed like a brilliant concept. Game on!

And so the challenges began. The first hurdle was sifting through the cardboard boxes and brittle paper bags that had gone unexamined for decades. Trying to decide what might sell and what should go directly in the trash was tricky. Would anyone want authentic antique oil lamps and classic glass canning jars with metal bales? Might it be better to throw away the rugged chair frame with no seat that didn’t sell back in the early nineties at the last yard sale? Why even put it out for consideration? Maybe BECAUSE it didn’t sell 25 years ago. Such deliberations continued for several days as eight people winnowed through hundreds of pieces making countless calculations, not the least of which were figuring out what price to put on each object and then affixing tiny color-coded stickers with the amount on every one. The color-coding was to differentiate the sellers from each other during the sale.

Next came making signs and flyers and publicizing the date of the big event. This proved to be more difficult than it might seem at first. Nothing helped less than having a local weekly publication that lots of people look to for yard sale listings somehow fail to print the ad you sent them and paid for.

Fortunately, the internet and social media offered other platforms that reached area residents and friends, and there was the certitude with those methods that you are able to control the posting yourself.

As for the signs, there was no other way to distribute them than to schlep them around to nearby intersections. The same is true for the handouts which went to coffee shops and restaurants and the like which offer community bulletin boards.

The evening before the big day, the empty lot where the sale extravaganza was to happen had to be mowed, and seven or eight large (six foot) folding tables had to be obtained and readied for use. More schlepping. More wrangling.

During the grass cutting, the dead carcass of a wild animal, too mangled to identify, was discovered right about in the center of the field where customers were expected to congregate the next morning. Of, course, it had to be shoveled up from the spot and, with mumbled murmurs of empathy, the poor thing was carried off into the woods. Hopefully, the green bottle flies that were gathering around it would disperse and follow.

When the day at last arrived, the sellers rose with the sun and began hauling their troves of hopefully irresistible goods to where it all would happen. Methodically and painstakingly all four or five hundred items were set out by category with a goal of creating a pleasing display and ensuring as much strategic placement as possible.

All of the publicity stated “no early birds.” Of course the early birds arrived while things were still being arranged, and there began one of the longer days any of the intrepid hosts could remember in a long, long while.

There were the expected moments: absurd haggling. Cursory browsers who circled the tables so fast they couldn’t be focusing on anything but getting back in their vehicles, as well as sudden thrills of elation as when someone from miles and miles away in Massachusetts showed up in response to the on-line posting that mentioned a particular kind of Christmas figurine. One of the sellers was offering a large collection of them by the piece and the Bay State buyer was there to acquire as many as she could afford.

Then there were the interminable gaps between groups of browsers, the feeling that no-one else was coming, only to have two or three cars drive up as hope was ebbing away. There were trips to donut and sandwich shops and trips to the bathroom, and there were queries among the band of roadside sellers.

“Do I look like I’m getting a sunburn?”

“What time is it?”

“Should we reduce all the prices by half?”

Finally, mercifully, unbelievably it was over. Well the public part was over. The clean-up was about to begin. More than half of the geegaws and dust catchers, antique kitchen tools and curiosities were left unsold. What to do with them?

Masterfully, the daughter and her mother had planned ahead. Nothing would be retained, they declared. Arrangements had been made with a local flea market that benefits a charity initiative for animals. All that would be necessary was to load everything up into several cars and make five trips to drop the stuff off, pack up the empty tables, divvy up the money, what there was of it, and drop exhausted into the recliner.

Yet, despite the fatigue and disappointments, the miscalculations and the unrealistic expectations, there was a feeling of camaraderie and a strange, shared satisfaction at having stayed the course. Nevertheless, someone uttered the fateful words: “This is it! Never again!”

“But there’s still the attic and the garage,” came a whispered response from out of the twilight shadows.