Showing posts with label Yard Sales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yard Sales. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time

Have you ever looked back on decisions you have made and asked yourself, "Self, what the hell?  Why did I do that?"

And Self replies, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Here are some of those for me.

Good Idea #1:  Let’s move to Seattle.  It’s lovely and green and has a better summer than we have.

Background:  We lived in the Monterey Peninsula area of California for over 30 years, but I never quite got California.  Not enough deciduous trees to suit my Michigan soul.  And where we lived should not be confused with sunny Southern California.  The weather on the Monterey Peninsula is very much the same as San Francisco - foggy and cold in the summer.  If you have ever stood out on the street in San Francisco in July waiting for a bus, you know what that's like.  So we became used to foggy, chilly Junes, Julys and Augusts. 

So here is what I thought about Seattle.  Yes, it rains. That’s why it’s green. Yes, it’s gray in Seattle, but I like gloom.  And darn it, for two months a year there is warmth and sun.  After a particularly sunny visit in February, I actually got this idea that Seattlites talked about how bad the weather was just so us Californians wouldn't move there.
Reality Check:  As I write this, we are having a lovely summer.  But there have been several Julys that were rainy and cold. If summer is defined as those minutes when the temperature is 80 or more, we had one summer where there was only 78 minutes of summer.  

We moved here in late September. Everything seemed fine until the time changed.  You know the drill, fall back?  As soon as the time changed, it was dark by 4pm and it rained and rained and rained.

So you people out there, especially you Californians who wish to escape the debacle that is the Golden State, it really does rain in Seattle.  But hey, it’s green.

Good Idea #2:  Let’s get a third dog.  Better yet, let’s make it a collie.
Background: We started out with Freddy, a miniature poodle, and Gemma, a German Shepherd. 

Freddy provided the one on one companionship poodles are so good at and Gemma did the fetching and protecting.  But when Gemma died unexpectedly, Freddy was left alone.  I wanted another dog so Freddy wouldn’t be lonely when we went to work, so along came Tarquin, a toy poodle. 

He likes to dress up.

All of that was a good idea.  But then I had another idea.  We need a big dog to take Gemma’s role.  I feel better with a big dog around.  So along came Mildred Pierce, the collie.  I got this brilliant idea because I had grown up with a beautiful collie who looked just like Lassie.  

Remember, “What’s the matter, girl?  Is Timmy in trouble?”  Anyway, the collie I grew up with, Echo, was a wonderful dog who roamed the neighborhood and did good deeds, just like Lassie (which dogs were able to do in the olden days). 

Reality Check: That was then.  This is now. 
And Mildred, you are no Echo.

I know, cute, isn’t she?


If you only knew.  

One thing about collies.  They shed.  Yes, I know that German Shepherds also shed but not like collies.  There is long collie hair everywhere she roams.  You just need to hang an article of clothing in the closet, shut the door and within minutes it is covered with dog hair. How does that happen? I know she plots her whereabouts depending on when I am getting ready to leave the house and whether or not I am wearing black pants.  As soon as I come downstairs, she suddenly appears and is all over me like a cheap suit. When I walk out the door I look like one of her relatives. 

And she barks. 

Not like Gemma who barked to alert us to intruders (OK, at the mailman and UPS man, too, but that was all).  Mildred barks just for the sheer joy of hearing herself.  And let me tell you, the neighbors do not share the joy.  So now, even though the poodles don’t bark, they all must be kept inside when we are gone. I don’t mean to belabor this, but I have to add that collies have long aristocratic noses and pea brains.  That little lump on top of their heads is the brain, I think.  When I found out that the breed originated from a cross between a Border Collie and a Borzoi, all became clear.  Yes, the Borzoi gives the collie a “noble head,” but not much room for what should be inside it. And Borzoi’s aren’t known for their smarts either.  

But Mildred’s breed notwithstanding, the main thing about getting that third dog?

Two dogs are companions for each other.  Three dogs are a pack.  When the pack mentality kicks in, don’t be making your way down the stairs in heels holding something in each hand.  You have been warned.

This is what a pack of dogs looks like.

Good Idea #3:  Let's spend Christmas in Paris.

Background: The first Christmas we spent alone, when our children spent Christmas with their other families, we decided, OK, we have to be alone?  Then we will fly off to Paris.  We will have Paris all to ourselves.  Who would want to be traveling at Christmas?  Doesn't everyone stay home with their families if they can?  I had visions of singing Christmas carols with the flight attendants on an empty plane and getting the royal treatment.

Reality Check: WRONG!!!!

Empty plane?  Packed to the gills and nary a bit of holiday cheer.

Royal treatment?  We know that never happens on a plane in economy, no matter what day it is.

Paris to ourselves?  Not!  Families everywhere and long lines for everything.  We took a whole day to get out to Versailles only to discover we were in the line to get into the line to get into the line to get tickets.  We slunk back to the hotel.

Everyone wants to stay home with their families at Christmas?  No, everyone wants to be in Paris when we are there.

And to add insult to injury, that damn "underwear bomber" was headed to the U.S. the day we were heading to Paris. Well, because of him, on the way home, we not only had to go through security, but they searched everyone's bags AT THE GATE!  When the security person was searching my purse and found my little box of Pop Rocks sour candies, she demanded to know what they were.  I nervously said, "Little sour candies."  She looked me in the eye and said, "Eat one!"  I guess if they were little bombs, it was better for me to blow up right then and there than on the plane.  The plane finally left three hours late. 

Merry Christmas! 

(Speaking of the "underwear bomber," remember the "shoe bomber?"  Because of the "shoe bomber," we have to remove our shoes to go through airport security.  Just think if we had had to take off our underwear that day!  Or since!)

Good Idea #4:  We should spend our summer vacation taking our son on a tour of Eastern colleges.

Background:  Our son was interested in going to college in the East.  He certainly had the academic chops for it and all kinds of other 17-year-old credentials. Why shouldn’t those highly rated schools be just waiting to meet him?


Reality Check:  Let me just say that I have this problem – when I get an idea, I think I am the only one who thought of it (See Idea #3 above).  So naturally I am surprised and sometimes horrified by the number of other people who thought it would be fun to tour houses on a Sunday in Seattle or attend the greased pig races or whatever cockamamie thing I think is an original idea.  I now know that if I get an idea, it’s one that everyone else gets too, except possibly coming to my garage sale.
So when the counselor at Dartmouth asked what number they were, I intelligently replied, “Huh?”  He rephrased his question.  “How many other colleges have you been to on your tour?” 

Tour? Like he knew that we were going to seven schools?  You mean, other families are spending their summer visiting the highly rated colleges of the East too?  Oh.  And then we saw them. The other hopeful mothers and fathers, their freshly scrubbed potential freshmen and the little brothers or sisters who have been dragged along, whining.  It was like a cattle call to try out for a Broadway show. 
I replied to the counselor, “You’re the first.”  He didn’t hear me.  He had already moved on to another family.

Good Idea #5.  I need a TIVO.
Background:  I know that I watch too much TV. 

It started when I was about 4 when I stood on a neighbor’s porch watching the only television in the neighborhood  through their front window.  When I was 5 my Dad bought our first TV and I was hooked. 

But being aware of my addiction and wanting to take steps to combat it, I reasoned that if I had a TIVO I wouldn’t watch so much TV, because I wouldn’t be a slave to the clock.  I could watch it when I wanted to instead of when the TV schedule dictated. I would be in control of my TV watching.

Reality Check:  My TIVOs are like monkeys on my back. 

Yes, that’s Tivo with an “s.”  I have three.  I am not proud of it.  And when I turn them on and see all of the programs my Season Pass has recorded, it’s like my inbox in my email.  I feel I have to do something about every one of them and get them out of that inbox before I can relax. And that doesn’t count the amount of time I spend rearranging my Season Passes, perusing my To Do list and searching for even more shows to add to my lists.  So if you are looking for me, you know where I am.

Good Idea #6:  Let's have a yard sale!

Background:  We have lots of junk, er, stuff and we can make some money.

Reality Check:  Let's not. 

But if you think it's a good idea, don't have one until you read my post "How To Have a Successful Yard Sale (with less trauma)."

So those are some things that seemed like good ideas at the time and turned out to be “What was I thinking?” moments.

But here is a really good idea.

Support your local library! (Shameless plug).
What really "great ideas" have you had?


See you Friday




"Cooking Conundrums
The Week in Reviews"
Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Have a Successful Yard Sale (with Less Trauma)

Yard sales.  Mmmm.  Let's see.

My first recommendation is that if you don't want any trauma, don't have a yard sale. 

You can only stand someone trying to talk you down from $5.00 for a Coach bag or from 25 cents for a cashmere scarf so many times.

And I know.  You have all of these lofty ambitions and ideas about why a yard sale is a good idea.

"It will force us to clean the garage."

"We will get rid of all of that junk we aren't using.  Remember:  One man's junk is another man's treasure (or something like that)."

"How hard can it be?  We put some stuff out and we sit in the sun while people cart it all away.  And they will pay us for it!"


Last Saturday, I went against every fiber of my being and had a yard sale.

Our neighborhood hosts a neighborhood-wide event every year and this year we thought we should participate. 

Other years we had been gone, and I now see that the powers that be were looking after us and telling us to get out of Dodge.

But I have had some successful yard sales. 

I have made as much as $1000, back when I was young and had clothes to die for.  Yes, clothes DO sell if they are cool clothes in smaller sizes that will give young men and women a thrill to find.  But it's also important to have some furniture, household items and tools. 

Oh, geez.  Tools.  I can't tell you how many times a guy will walk up and say, "Do you have any tools?"  You say no and off they go.  I wondered later if it mattered what tools they were.

Last Saturday, we made about $250, which sounds OK. 

But do you know how many items you have to sell for 25 cents each to make $250?  You can do the math.  And when I consider the number of hours I spent getting ready and then sitting out there smiling saying "Bye.  Have a nice day," when someone left an item because I wouldn't sell it for a dime, I figured I was making about $2.00 an hour.

The clichés and annoyances are too many to list, but, OK, you twisted my arm.

Let me mention a few.

The Early Bird.
This is the first person on the scene and I mean early (7am when the sale doesn't start until 9) who professes to either not know what time the sale was supposed to start or who says something lame like, "I get up early so hoping you did too!"  Yeah, right.  We saw you trolling by at 6am.

Do you have change for a twenty?
This person is also that same early bird, who is first on the scene and who buys one item for 25 cents and only has a 20 dollar bill.  Her response when you frown and say something about not having enough change? - "Sorry, but that's what you get out of the ATM."  Ahem, ever heard of preparing for your yard sale foray by going INSIDE the bank and getting change so as to not take all of the change from the people holding the yard sale and possibly provoking a yard sale murder at 7am?

Getting it for free.
The person has three items - one is $1.00, one is $2.00 and one is 50 cents - and says, how about $3.00 for all three, thus getting the 50 cent item for free.  Now I know it's only 50 cents, but if I wanted to GIVE AWAY my items, I wouldn't have had a yard sale, now would I?

Insulting your items.
This person disparages your items in order to get a better deal. 

"There is a small spot on this Hermes scarf.  How about selling it for 25 cents (instead of $100)?"

You pull out your magnifying glass (that you have on hand for just such an exchange) and see a speck the size of a louse and remember that it was when you were eating caviar and egg on toast points at The Ritz Hotel in Paris and a bit of egg fell onto your scarf, a spot that is easily dabbed off in a few seconds.

OK, I don't own any Hermes scarves and I haven't eaten caviar and egg on toast points at the Ritz in Paris, and I wouldn't put a scarf like that in a yard sale if I did, but you get my point.  It's hard enough to see the Coach bag go for $5.00 or the Ralph Lauren jeans for $2.00, but do they have to insult my items to make a deal?  And isn't the fun of yard sales and thrifting supposed to be finding that great item and resurrecting it?

So you see there is a great deal of suffering associated with yard sales and if I could talk you out of it, I would.

But if I can't talk you out of it, and you haven't decided to do something less painful than like, say, having your teeth drilled without novocaine instead, then here are some DO's and DON'Ts that might help make your yard sale less traumatic.

DO prepare.
A little preparation and running around the week before the fact will make your day much more enjoyable, or failing that, less soul destroying.  Get your posters to make signs, your price tags, change, tranquilizers...

DO have a yard sale, not a garage sale.
If you have a garage sale, everyone will want to buy what you have in the garage that is NOT for sale.  Trust me. Don't put yourself through that.

DO go to the bank.
Unlike the person who arrives first at your sale and wants you to break a twenty, prepare for the yard sale and just such a person by going to the bank.  Get a roll of quarters, a roll of dimes and a roll of nickels and at least $20 in ones.  You could make it easy on yourself by not pricing anything below 25 cents and everything else in 25 cent increments,  Then you won't need nickels.  It's up to you.  But be prepared to make change. 

I keep my coins in a muffin tin for easy access and the bills in an envelope.

DO Advertise.
Advertise your sale in whatever newspapers still exist and online - perhaps FB if you have many local friends or Craig's List, unless it is a neighborhood sale, where this element is handled by someone else.  But it never hurts to call attention to YOUR sale.

DO Price everything individually beforehand.
I know it's a pain in the butt, but I guarantee you, if you put things in boxes thinking you will remember what you wanted to ask for things, you won't.  Buy some labels and price, price, price.  For books, I put the price on the inside cover of each book in pencil.  Some of your books really will sell for $5.00, so don't just say they are all 50 cents or whatever one price you come up with just to save time.

DO have tables so you can display your items.
Don't just lay everything in your driveway or have piles of stuff in boxes.  Get some tables or even plywood over saw horses will work.
Display your items thematically if possible.  Think department store.

DO hang your clothes up for easy browsing.
So buy some wire hangers if you don't have enough on hand.  People won't find that great item if you have them in boxes or heaps on the ground.

This kind of a set up is a DON'T

DO Put up signs.
Put up signs at every turn near your house so you will not only get the people who have seen your ad but capture people from all directions who are just out driving around.

DO keep your garage door closed and anything you don't want to sell out of sight (unless it's raining).
Otherwise, people will wander in there and ask to buy everything that is NOT for sale.  Hubby had been in the process of setting up our hammock for the summer and had left it, all rolled up, leaning up against the car, well out of the range of the yard sale items.  I couldn't even really tell it was a hammock.   I can't tell you how many times someone asked how much for the hammock?

DO close up when you have had enough.
When you are about ready to let out the scream of the banshees, it's time to start cleaning up.  I guarantee you, people will still come and look through your boxes and you will make more sales, but you can get a start on clean-up while they are looking.

DO have a plan for what you will do with items that don't sell.
You do NOT want to put all of that stuff back in the garage.  Eyeball those items you can still make use of and then have a pact with your significant other that one of you will immediately load up the car to take whatever doesn't sell to Goodwill, books to Half Price Books (or something similar), etc.  You never want to see that stuff again, I promise you.

DO wear a sun hat with a strap if it's sunny out.
The strap will give you something to gnaw on to keep you from saying something you will regret when someone disparages your items or wants your Jimmy Choos for a buck.

DO have reading material for yourself
(some alcohol wouldn't hurt either, but that could go wrong fast so avoid the urge).  "You're offering me WHAT for that Birkin bag?!!!  Why I should..."

DON'T discount what you have.
Sell everything you think possible, even half empty bottles of perfume and parts of make-up kits, even if they aren't complete.  At my last sale, everything I had in that category sold.  It is true, one person's junk is another person's treasure, and you don't know what people are looking for so put it all out there.  I sold two Tupperware popsicle makers, one had the popsicle sticks, one didn't. Now is your chance.  You may never want to go through this ever again.

DON'T sell an item for less than you want. 
It's OK to say no and that you really want that $2.00 for the DVD player that still works (and that you figure you can still use in the den if it doesn't sell).

DON'T let people use your bathroom. 
It's bad enough supervising all of the browsers and ringing them up.  You don't want to have to try to remember how long someone has been in your house doing god knows what.

It's OK to say "I'm sorry, the outhouse is under renovation."

(The two exceptions to this are little children and pregnant women in dire need)

And one final "DON'T."
Long ago I heard a story about someone having a yard sale and at about 4pm a truck pulled up and the driver offered her $200 for everything she hadn't sold. 
He paid her, loaded up his truck and that was that.  It was all gone.  She made more money and no clean up.

DON'T count on that.  It won't happen.
I have come to the conclusion that was an urban legend

So don't hang around until 4pm when you have already gnawed the strap of your sun hat off from the pain.  Close up when you can't take it anymore.

So I hope I have taken the sting out of some of what can be one of the worst or boring days of your life, a day you will never have back ever, ever again ever.

As for me, I won't do another one of these until it's an estate sale and someone else is doing it, if you know what I mean.

Share your yard sale tips.

But also share your yard sale horror stories. 

C'mon, do it, it will be fun.

Thanks for reading!

Next Sunday is Father's Day so
See you Friday for my
Father's Day tribute to my Dad,
a quite extraordinary man.

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