Monday, May 23, 2005


I'll give you a dollar for the lot

Garage saling has become a verb. It is now the thing to do on a Saturday morning in my end of suburbia. You don't go to garage sales, you go garage saling.

Garage sales fascinate me. I love to look at what people are selling, and especially what people are buying.

I'm particular about what I'll buy - it truly grosses me out that people buy other people's sheets and flatware for example. But the combination of the thrill of acquisition and the even bigger thrill of a good deal is too much for me to resist.

It's a ritualistic behaviour. Load the kids into the car early on Saturday morning (and it has to be early, much to Beloved's chagrin. It's the only thing that can lure him out of the house before noon on the weekend.) Fortify everyone with drive-thru coffee and timbits, and you're off on the chase. It's like following a modern-day treasure map.

You spot a sign, and you turn down an unfamiliar street. You peer ahead, looking for the next marker, and you make another turn. Up ahead, you see the cluster of cars parked haphazzardly in the street. You slow to a crawl, rubbernecking the goods while trying not to run over the lady crossing the street with the birdcage in one hand and the bread maker in the other hand, cord trailing behind her like a puppy.

You never know what you'll find. Sometimes big fancy signs lead to paltry little sales with a few broken teacups and some 8 track cassettes. Sometimes a puny, don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it sign leads to a multi-family extravaganza.

We're usually on the lookout for kids' stuff, especially outdoor toys. This past weekend, we scored a Little Tykes dumptruck perfect for the park, a ride-on Megablocks train, plus a deacon's bench in need of paint but otherwise in good shape, and carpet steam cleaner -- all for $20.

When we got home, I put the deacon's bench in the garage until we decide on a more permanent home for it. I had to move the oak spice rack I bought at a garage sale last summer but never got around to hanging, and shift the old-fashioned school desk that was totally free and only needs a little bit of work to clean it up back into the corner.

On average, I'd say about a third of the stuff we've bought at garage sales has been something truly useful and really a great deal, like the weed whacker we got for $5. (Digression: our lawn mower was an even better deal. It was sitting at the end of someone's driveway with a "FREE" sign on it, so I snagged it. Unfortunately, at the time I was pushing Tristan and Simon in the double stroller and walking the dog. We were a motley parade, with me pushing 60 pounds of babies in the double and holding the leash with one hand and dragging the lawn mower behind us with the other. We got a lot of funny looks, but free is free and two years later that lawn mower still does a fine job.)

Granted, not all our acquisitions have been gems. There was the lego set that did not lose its eau de cat piss even after an overnight soaking in bleach, and the fireplace poker set that was a really great deal at $6, even though it has been sitting in our garage ever since because it didn't occur to me at the time that a house with two young boys has use for neither fire nor iron hand tools in the living room. But maybe some day I'll use them.