Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Garage sales not just a girl thing

May 7, 2008

You'd think that after living seven decades, I would know enough to keep my mouth shut. Well, just recently I again proved that I can be a slow learner and I probably have talked myself into more work.

It all started simply enough. I was putting together some ideas for future columns and I asked Jean if I had ever written about garage sales.

"No," she said. "I don't believe that you ever have."

I continued my research into the history of garage sales and that afternoon, I found Jean in the garage with an analytical look. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I was just checking to see if we could have our garage sale up here this year rather than in the basement," she answered.

"No, no, no," I said. "I thought that last year was our last-ever garage sale." What I got in return was the "yeah, right" look which means that planning is under way for yet another garage sale.

"Besides," she pointed out, "you brought up the subject."

One of the problems that I have with garage sales is that they are held in our basement and in conjunction with our daughters. This means that I have to get the mowers out of sight and set up tables, etc., for the event. Of course, our daughters bring stuff to sell and what doesn't leave with buyers remains forever. This means that the stacks of stuff in the corners grow faster than snow in a mountain avalanche. It seems that what comes to the basement stays in the basement.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against garage sales. In fact, when I was in the newspaper business, I really liked garage sales since they brought in advertising revenue.

Jean, on the other hand, has never seen a garage sale that wasn't worth checking out. I have stopped at sales throughout the metro area and I will tell you honestly that I have never bought a thing. That, of course, isn't true with Jean. She has a vision of what she can do with some treasure that others want to get rid of while I have a vision of a growing pile of stuff we don't need. I will admit that she has a use for almost anything she buys.

Garage sales aren't just a "girl thing." I know of a number of men who enjoy the sales and in the old days they were at the Chieftain at 8 a.m. on Wednesday to get their paper and head out to the sale sites. One person said he really didn't buy much, but enjoyed getting to visit with people.

When the weather starts to warm up, garage sale signs spring up faster than dandelions. I used to joke about the fact that spring had arrived when we got the first garage sale ad. Sometimes, my statements were premature since we had garage sales as early as February. There were years when the last garage sales were conducted at Thanksgiving.

I discovered that garage sales may have had the origination in the horrible days of the Great Depression. It seems that some folks started selling off their property to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. While there may be some of that now, I firmly believe that garage sales are now more of a social function.

Probably the biggest event is the Highway 127 Corridor which encourages garage sales along a 630-mile corridor spanning five states on the same date. Garage sales are so popular that they were featured in a documentary film in 2006.

Maybe the biggest problem has been commercial firms who use never ending garage sales. This practice has led to some communities licensing garage sales. Fortunately, residents in Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Basehor don't have to purchase a license to conduct a garage sale. Here, all you have to do is set out your stuff, put up your signs and hope for dry weather.

I understand a few states require licenses so they can collect sales taxes on items sold. I hope that is never the case in our communities or our state.

As far as we are concerned, I am sure that sometime between now and fall, I will be called on to clean out the basement or the garage and set up tables and help put out the signs.

And, what is my job when the sale starts? Actually, my task is to simply be invisible and to keep my mouth shut concerning my opinion of garage sales. No, I never get a cut of the profits either.

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