Sunday, June 6, 2010


My sister said it best when, at the learned age of five, she informed our grandmother that "Some people's trash is other people's treasures." These wise words convinced Gramma to U-turn the pickup, head back to the dump and collect that football-shaped plastic trunk Jaci had fallen in love with. To this day it sits in our basement, housing pipe cleaners and broken camcorders. The point is, Jaci nailed the central tenet of my favorite suburban institution, the Yard Sale. Trash, treasures, and more importantly, the prospect of getting rich make yard sales every crafty kid's dream.

For starters, there's the sheer popularity factor of yard sales. For that one special Saturday, between the hours of 7:00am-noon, your house is the buzzing social capital of the neighborhood. Friends, family, neighbors, and hungry-looking strangers flock to your lawn and admiringly paw through your belongings. As a child I would, of course, hawk lemonade, luring in customers with my hand-painted signs and my "I'm the Big Sister!" t-shirt. I would also display my artwork, which included woven potholders, Jazzy Jewelry, and construction paper cut into snowflakes. I charged people coins for lemonade and bills for artwork.

And my enterprising little self didn't stop there. As I grew older and more persuasive, I commandeered the kids in the neighborhood to aid me in planning carnivals, plays, and concerts for profit. These events rarely panned out, because some people don't understand the necessity of rehearsal and can't take direction to save their lives. But my venturesome spirit lives on: when entertaining, I always set up a Bargain Table and cover it with household stuff I don't want any more. I charge party guests 50 cents for each item they take, thereby effortlessly (and shamelessly) ridding my house of unnecessary debris and making enough extra money to cover my library fines.

Visiting yard sales was equally thrilling in a less-entrepreneur, more-voyeur kind of way. I loved sifting through old toy collections, drawing conclusions from them about the sullen teenager inevitably peering out onto the lawn from her bedroom window. Play-Doh Spaghetti Factory- hardly touched, I would observe. But the Suzie-Pees-A-Lot doll was missing an eye and a clump of blonde curls from so much handling. I would don discarded dance recital costumes and test-drive Barbie cars while my parents weighed the merits of a chipped vanity versus an air hockey table.

Yardsales are totally kid-friendly because it is every kid's dream to run around a stranger's property and touch all their stuff. However, the yardsale's uppity cousin, the Estate Sale, is definitively NOT. While I would leap out of bed at 6:00am, wake my parents, and demand we set out for a yard sale on any given Saturday, I would throw a shit-fit at the mention of an estate sale. Unlike my parents, I had no interest in "finally seeing the inside of that big old farmhouse with all the land at the edge of town." The hosts of estate sales hate children and want to cut off their fingers even before they reach for Grandma's diamond clip-on earrings. And try hosting a mini-tea party with Aunt Edna's carnival glass china, just to see how it feels, before you start convincing your parents to buy it. Never have I been thrown out of a stranger's dining room so quickly. The words "silent auction" still make sweat with boredom.

Look, if you're into old-looking junk (and believe me, I am), skip the estate sale and head to the Pickens County Flea Market. On Wednesday mornings in the summer this place becomes a veritable nation of goods and services. In addition to estate sale-type crap, you might just leave the flea market with a clap-on, clap-off dolphin lamp, a peach tree, five pounds of okra, a handmade bird house-mailbox-sprinkler, some Third Reich paraphernalia, and a large Styrofoam cup of boiled peanuts! Livestock available includes free kittens, cockatiels, bunnies, rottweiler puppies, and peacocks, and most vendors accept Confederate money.

The real lesson to be gleaned from yard sales, estate sales, and flea markets is that most of the time, some people's trash is just destined to become other people's trash. When it's acquired in style, though- say, with a reluctant offering of petty cash, outdoors, on a 90° summer morning- I'd definitely qualify that as treasure material.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the Confederate money part! I just visited the flea market today, and I think I got some Confederate change. I also saw a gun-toting man, a Gospel group with a 90 year old bearded sweetheart playing a butter churn, and a topless man with a Dixie flag tattoo! I filled the car with plants, ate the boiled peanuts with ice cold lemonade, and reluctantly headed back to civilization.