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August 26th, 2005

Anybody want to buy a garage?

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Some people have asked me about my vacation. Well … I had one. Sometimes the best thing you can say about vacations is that you’re not at work – at least, not at your paying job.
Not having the money to go anywhere, I didn’t go anywhere. That’s the first rule of budgeting: Don’t pay for what you can’t afford. (The second rule is, don’t bother going on vacation.) As a responsible citizen, I’m very proud of myself for not having fun on my vacation. If we would all be miserable, this world would be a better place.
The biggest mistake I made was deciding to spend all that free time on still another garage sale, having apparently not learned my lesson from last time. Some people make good money on garage sales, or so I’ve heard. The best thing I can say about them is that it gives me a reason to clean my garage. I could have saved a lot of trouble by, oh, I don’t know – just cleaning my garage, without the accompanying job of cluttering it up again with stuff no one wants to buy.
That’s not really fair. I have no idea if people would have wanted to buy my assortment of books, clothes, and other junk (code name: Lightly used pre-owned merchandise). I have no idea, because no one showed up.
I’ve held about a half dozen garage sales over the years. In fact, after the town passed an ordinance requiring garage sell permits, I purchased Permit Number One, which I still have. The fact that still I have a ten year old paper garage sale permit, just because it was the first one, gives you an idea of why I had to have garage sales to begin with.
None of those sales have ever made much money. In fact, I’d come closer to breaking even if I spent a week sitting on my rear watching TV. That’s because a garage sale requires the purchase of an ad, printed flyers, posterboard, markers, pricing stickers, and Tylenol. It also requires the cost of operating a washer and drier for three days straight, if you’re one of those people who feels it necessary to keep the clothing you’re trying to sell clean. I suppose any sensible person is going to go right home and wash whatever they buy secondhand anyway, but better to wash twice than not at all.
You must then factor in how much money it costs to buy fast food for a week, because you’re too exhausted from setting the darn thing up, and have no time or energy for cooking. You must also feed anyone you manage to talk into helping. This is called “fool food”. Taking all that into consideration, I figure you need at least 75 bucks to break even on a garage sale, and that doesn’t count the amount of man-hours that goes into these things.
At a good garage sale, I might make enough to pay for the big Thank-goodness-it’s-over end of garage sale pizza dinner. This was a bad garage sale. Not only did nobody buy anything, nobody even showed up to look, even when it wasn’t raining.
Speaking of rain, this August was a particularly dry month in Indiana. We were well below our normal rainfall for the month, and in fact, it rained for only three days the entire month: It was a Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
I set up a sales counter, complete with a calculator and a box full of change that I’ll still have a heap of next year, under a large awning. This awning was on sale, but still sucked up the entire profit of my last garage sale. This awning, I’ve discovered, is not waterproof.
But it looked good.
It took a week to gather all these goods together, clean them, price them, sort them, and set them out on borrowed tables. There followed three days of garage sale, 9 hours a day. It took three more days to put all that stuff BACK into the boxes. Ordinarily, I would then stack it all up again, in the upstairs of my garage, but not this time. Something snapped.
There was stuff that I had unpacked, set out, packed, and stored through every one of my former sales. Do ‘ya think I should take a lesson from that? So do I. Look, a lot of these clothes weren’t in style the first time I tried to sell them. I had baby clothes … my youngest child is 14. Give it up, already.
But I have a pathological fear of just throwing stuff away, even powder blue leisure suits. So this time, I stuffed all those boxes into a vehicle, and drove to Goodwill. Poor people don’t care if they’re in style, right? I know I don’t, and I shop at Goodwill. And surely someone, somewhere, will pay a quarter for a 20 year old novel called “Love’s Final Fury”. Right? I’m just doing my civic duty. Right?
Well, that, and Goodwill donations net a nice little charitable tax deduction. That piece of paper for the IRS is worth more than everything I’ve made from every one of my garage sales.
Not that I won’t try again in a couple of years. I’ve got a lot of closets.

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