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Published: Sunday, 5/6/2012

Garage sale season blooms

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
BLADE COLUMNIST

Even as I write and you read this, things are happening behind garage doors, in basements, closets, and cupboards.

If we could see and overhear the annual tradition in motion, it would be a jamboree of sorting clothes, pots and pans being slammed into boxes, family disagreements, and maybe downright crying.

Getting ready for a garage sale is nothing short of a nightmare and it is often a neighborhood secret until the signs go up. Are we surprised one morning to wake up and find the neighbor is having a sale and that already their driveway is a display of baby furniture, old lawn furniture, a broken bicycle, door frames, and a push lawn mower?

Yes, we are surprised and a little disgusted. Had we known they were getting ready to go into business we could have had a preview and picked out some goodies, maybe at a lower price. Or better yet, we could have added our own outstanding merchandise to the sale.

If done properly, getting ready for a garage sale is gradual and deliberate. If you go through the house hurriedly to gather things, chances are good you will overlook something. And who wants to have a second sale?

Checking out the contents of one closet at a time at a leisurely pace is the best way to sort clothes. Don't try anything on because if it fits, chances are you will find a reason to keep it.

As for the stuff in the cupboards, the evaluation could be a year-round project. The same goes for the linen closet. How many sets of sheets do we really need? And once you count the number of times you use tablecloths and napkins, it's less painful to start a stack of discards destined for the sale.

Don't tell anyone the plan. If you do, they are apt to say something like "Oh, no, you made the best stew in that dutch oven" or "I can't believe you would get rid of your Thanksgiving tablecloth." Such input can easily provoke guilt, which is one reason for getting things ready for the sale in secret and springing it on friends all at once.

Garage sales are not the place to shop if you are looking for something specific. They are inviting open-air venues to buy something you don't need or particularly want, but spending a dollar or two here and there makes it OK. Some people shop garage sales for bargains they can mark up to sell at their own sale the same season or the next year. No doubt they are the same customers who have the guts to ask you to take less for something that is already cheap.

So you have a $1 price tag on a pair of new shoes that were worn only long enough to decide they hurt your feet. A customer tries them, struts around, and wants to buy them, but only if you would take 75 cents. Then it's your call. How badly do you need 75 cents or does it make you disgusted enough to take the shoes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill?

And that brings up another issue. Just how do you price garage sale merchandise? Nobody really knows. It seems to depend on how much the sellers want to get the stuff out of the house or if they hope to make a little money. And that's just one more reason those intriguing signs will be popping up from now until the first frost in November.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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