main banner

Monday, July 30, 2018

Misery by the yard

By Robert Schwaninger

There are many times in our lives when we will open a drawer and pull out an object that is wholly foreign to us. At first, we may not be able to identify its use. We certainly can’t pinpoint its origin.

And we know that we haven’t used it for at least ten years and cannot possibly concoct a scenario where we will use it in the following decade unless E.T. shows up and needs a left-handed oboe cleaner.

Any rational person might donate the object to charity or throw it away. But now, that little hoarder voice in your head says, “wel-l-l, who knows. It might come in hand for something.” Then we take that object and tuck it right back where we found it, employing the perfect solution for this problem commonly known as “out of sight, out of mind.”

Except that solution only works a limited number of times. When you are confronted with dozens or hundreds of such objects tucked in every cabinet, drawer, and closet in your house, constantly reminding you a hoarder’s anonymous group session may be in your future, you may reconsider your options.

After all, how many times can you shovel the contents of a hall closet back onto a groaning shelf until one day you are buried alive in hat boxes, velvet hangers, and the odd vice grip that someone put there “just in case.”

So, with reluctance that is normally only seen on the bottom steps of the gallows, you make the decision to finally rid your house of all of this stuff. With great courage you convince yourself that your life will be better, organized, efficient and the envy of every closet snooper in the neighborhood after you rid your domicile of the detritus.

Having made that decision, you move on to the next question which is, sell or give or trash?  Since none of us wants to believe that everything we’ve been stashing is really trash, that narrows the decision to sell or give. So let’s decide that we want to do both which is sell what we can and donate what we can’t.  Once that decision is made, you have now plunged your peaceful existence into YARD SALE HELL.

Having spent the past two months preparing for and holding a yard sale, let me relate a few take-aways: (1) no one gives a rat’s rump what you paid for something; (2) no one gives a rat’s rump if it’s an heirloom; (3) no one gives a rat’s rump about sentimental value; (4) no one gives a rat’s rump about what the object would bring retail; and (5) no one gives a rat’s rump about the time you said the sale would start. So, it falls on you to select and price objects in accord with the foregoing.

Having collected all of the things for sale, including that hideous porcelain piece that your spouse keeps pulling out of the pile and rehiding, and priced each thing with care, you come to realize that if you sell the whole lot for the prices asked, you have been working for a wage unseen by anyone other than migrant, Somali farmworker in Guatemala. In fact, you could trade half of your inventory for a Happy Meal.

On the day of the sale you will find shoppers hiding in the bushes before dawn. These diehard bargain hunters don’t care if you said the sale would start at 8 or 9. They are ready to pick through your stuff with the first ray of sunshine or before. And if you aren’t careful, you will find them in your living room asking, “how much for the recliner?” To them, everything is for sale no matter where it is.

If you advertise the sale on all of the internet sites, you will be inviting inquiries regarding what you have to sell. I am telling you the truth when I say that one person wanted to know the model number of a sewing machine which was being sold for $5. It’s five bucks! Roll the friggin’ dice! Another wanted to know if I was selling Polish pottery. I must admit that I am not familiar with Polish pottery but I fear it involves introducing kielbasa into the firing process.

And throughout the entire day you will have to deal with the question that starts with, “will you take. . .?”  You can have the Hope Diamond, a Jaguar XKE in cherry condition, and Super Bowl tickets in a single lot going for $7 dollars and someone will ask, “will you take 5?” That’s when you want to take five and relax instead of responding, “you penny-pinching, half-witted haggler!!”

After the sale, there is always stuff left that, for reasons that cannot be explained, no one wanted. It can be perfectly good stuff that simply did not find a taker (a complete set of china for $15) or stuff that was questionable to begin with (lightly used underwear).

At this point you can pull it back into the house, which is a great admission of defeat and contrary to your original goal. If you donate it to charity which you will discover will not come and pick it up, you have to run 18 trips to their dropoff. Or if you toss it in the trash and if there’s a lot of it, you’ll pay a hauling fee that may be greater than your entire take.

Having barely survived a yard sale and all of the pain, frustration, aggravation, and stress associated therewith, I have come to believe that there is a better way. A way that avoids all of the work and hassle of a yard sale and one that I believe will be ultimately more satisfying: Sell your house and make sure all of your personal property conveys as part of the deal. Then start all over again.

Robert Schwaninger is an Annandale resident who occasionally contributes humor pieces to the Annandale Blog.


  1. Awesome piece! Well done.

  2. I love this! My last yard sale was 2 years ago and what was left was trashed mostly! I actually laughed that someone would buy some of my junk! Now gradually weeding out to take to my church's monthly giveaways, which is a modest contribution on my tax return!