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March 8, 2008

reduce, reuse, recycle...resell!

when T.T. & i got married, thus not only adding our lives to one another, but also our worldly goods, we tried to pare down all the Stuff we'd accumulated. we thought we'd done a pretty good job of it, but the garage was still pretty full. this began a saga of three years of being embarrassed by our garage and then talking about Having a Big Yard Sale. the key word here was Talking.
T.T.: we should just have a yard sale and get rid of this Stuff.
Hadashi: great idea!
T.T.: maybe next weekend?
Hadashi: no, i'm working. how about the weekend after that?
T.T.: i have a huge deadline.
(silence)
Hadashi: well, you're right! we should have a yard sale!

eventually, as time passed, this conversation would degenerate into:
T.T.: we have to have that yard sale soon!
Hadashi: um, i have to wash my hair.

-or-
Hadashi: we need to have that yard sale!
T.T. um, i have to organise my DVDs.

then we would generally moan about our accumulated Stuff and sometimes make a pathetic attempt to sort it some more. in a massive effort, we got plastic bins to "organise" everything, but that basically meant the garage stayed full of Stuff in Plastic Bins, as opposed to Stuff in Random Cardboard Boxes.

now, my big excuse is that since i don't have a childhood house intact anywhere, all my tangible history lives with me -- this includes the baby scrapbook, those handprints on construction paper projects from age 5, old report cards and schoolwork -- you know, all that Stuff one's mother saves, thinking "someday my grandkids will want to see this!" however, most people i know have all that Stuff, along with the stuffed animals, speech trophies, yearbooks, etc. stashed at their parents' house. my parents have had about a squillion houses since i left home at age 17, so this option has never existed for me. in fact, since i'm the one family member with a semi-permanent garage, i've accumulated quite a bit of family history.
but i digress. the History of Hadashi section of the garage notwithstanding, there was still way too much -- dare i say it? -- total crap cluttering the place. okay, not total crap, because then we'd just recycle or throw it away. no, this is that special class of crap that We Might Someday Use, or worse, is Potentially Useful to someone else. you know, an old CD player (we're all iPod, all the time now). a pair of rollerblades (going to the beach now means surfing). a toolbelt that T.T. will never, ever use (we don't think his skill set will extend to contracting work). nice picture frames (enough artwork on the walls already). a hookah pipe (no wait, that was the neighbours).
ah yes, the neighbours. thank God for them. we've had dinner a few times with our fairly new next-door neighbours -- we'll call them the NDNs -- and consider them friends. we were rather surprised, however, to get a call from them saying they were having a yard sale This Very Weekend and did we want to join them? yes, they'd already put ads on craigslist and in the Pennysaver and gotten neon posterboard for signs and yes, even a permit from the city. what? why yes, you have to get a yard sale permit from the police department...
thanks, NDNs, for the kick in our sorry pants! now we had no excuse. T.T. managed to do all the heavy lifting of assembling the Stuff to get rid of towards the front of garage, and i spent a long afternoon pricing and cleaning it. i was vaguely aware of the ridiculous nature of some of these objects -- why had we held onto a jellybean dispenser for so long? -- but it wasn't until Saturday morning, setting up in the yard, that i was fully aware of the absurdity of what we'd been keeping.
for those of you yard sale veterans, you know that the first hour is the busiest, when the True Yard Sale Believers swoop upon you and scrutinise your offerings for the choicest deals. some bargain, some don't -- i think the ones that don't, see your low low ignoramus price and just grab & go before you realise you just sold a bazillion-dollar angel figurine for a dollar. (eh, whatever; it was ugly beyond kitsch.) T.T. had pulled an all-nighter -- literally; he hadn't slept at all -- for someone who needed a rendering at the TED conference (yes, i'm client-name-dropping), so he was sort of wandering around in a dense fog of sleep deprivation. this left me to handle the swarm of buyers who seemed unnaturally interested in our enormous collection of USB hubs. cash exchanged hands, items went into strange cars, cries of pleasure upon spotting the black-and-white Nintendo GameBoy still loaded with SuperMario filled the air.
when the proverbial dust settled, i felt strangely exhilarated. i had an almost-empty yard, a box of cash, and a seriously loopy husband. i made the husband go to bed, took the two small boxes (!!!) of unsold items plus some clothing straight to Salvation Army, and came home to count the loot.
i was utterly stunned. we'd made almost (drum roll please) $250 in a few hours, selling things that literally had no value to us anymore. now, you yard sale vets are probably pooh-poohing our take - i bet you guys rake in the cash -- but to us newbies, this felt like winning the lottery. i mean, all this Stuff that started the morning as Special Crap was suddenly now someone's new Special Treasure. and i realised: this is sort of the ultimate recycle. the guy who bought the CD player now has no need to go to Best Buy. the woman who was so overjoyed to take all our unused picture frames won't need to hit that Aaron Brothers sale. only hours ago, the jellybean dispenser was collecting dust; now it was bringing a lot of joy and a serious sugar high to a couple of excited kids.
there's a big empty clean space now where boxes of Random Special Crap used to be. it's the perfect size for parking my bicycle and stashing the spare chairs we only pull out for parties. it feels like a new land to discover, this blessedly-almost-clean garage. it makes me seriously consider the objects i still own: do i really need it? do i really need to acquire another one? can i reduce my Stash O' Stuff? reuse something instead of purchasing a new one? our yard sale, i think, is making me a much more thoughtful consumer. which is a good thing.
and by the way, if my parents are reading this: don't worry -- i didn't sell the family silver. at least, not yet...

Posted by hadashi at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)