The 2nd Worst Garage Sale Of My LIFE

Last weekend was our neighborhood garage sale event. A local church hosts it, and a few houses on every block join in to get in on the foot traffic. As much as I love shopping at Goodwill and resale shops, I HATE garage sales. 

from twindraggonflydesigns.com
I hate them like dogs hate storms, like cats hate being reasonable, like Shakespeare hates happy endings, like Vee hates Red. 

You get the idea.

I hate the intimacy of it, invading someone’s territory, their home, and looking at their personal items of their life.

Right in front of them

They watch for your reaction, you can hear them thinking:
Do they like my crap? 
Are they going to buy my crap? 
Why? Why not?
I LOVED this thing, this insignificant thing that has so many memories, why would anyone not want to have this?

I also have a touch of PTSD from the garage sale I had to help my father with. That’s a long story, I started to write about it until the shaking overcame my ability to operate a keyboard. 

Mayhaps with enough time and the right medications I will be able to finish that story, but the moral of that story: 
It was a terrifying day and has left me scarred for life hating garage sales, and in mortal fear of certain garage sailers.

I previously didn't know these were a thing.
The Early Birds. 
They come BEFORE it even opens. Sometimes hours before your POSTED SIGN says you're going to open. They don't care, they need to look NOW.

The Negotiators. 
Working lamp for a dollar? Oh no, honey, I can do better than that. Just so I can brag about it later to people who don't give a shit. Nothing like The Priceline Negotiator, who is delightful.

Slay Daddy. from allwomenstalk.com
The Bullies. They don't follow rules, it's their world. They're the worst. They are why I hate garage sales so hard. Also people.

Okay, I can't think about that, let's just get right to the story.

Last weekend, the neighborhood sale. 

We usually take the kids in the stroller and will look over at least a few. We need a lot of things for the house, the kids will always need clothes, bikes, etc., that we would rather get used. I don't enjoy enduring these home-hosted flea and potentially bedbug markets, but I suffer quietly, as my dad taught me to do.

We happened upon a garage sale 2 blocks away, with items laid all up the driveway and in the garage. Then I noticed a 2nd smattering of items on the opposite end in the lawn. That initially didn't strike me as odd. I'm not a logistics person.

A double camping chair, WITH DRINK HOLDERS (as all good camping chairs should have) caught my husband’s eye, and I started chatting with the homeowner as he took it out of the box to see how hard it was to operate.

Meanwhile, she was really trying to push an old fashioned Pepsi cooler, which was very interesting but not a thing we can realistically have, or store. We don’t have room to store large non-essential items. 
This was the size and SHAPE, the picture above, but it had the old logo from the 60's or 70's I guess. I tried to find one and got lost in a Pepsi logo tangent. I can't believe how many different logos they've had.
from pepsiman.50megs.com
from famouslogos.us
FYI, below is the logo circa 1900.
from huntersproject.weebly.com
Fun fact: Caleb Bradham was a pharmacist that made up the Pepsi formula in his drug store. He later renamed his drink to Pepsi-Cola because of the pepsin and cola nuts. Five years later Pepsi-Cola received it's first logo.

Look, how 80's-tastic is this one? Radical.
from blog.signalnoise.com
Reminded me of Crystal Clear Pepsi, remember that? When that came out, Saturday Night Live did a "Crystal Clear Gravy" commercial that was hysterical.
from howtobeawesome.org
Okay, tangent Pepsi logo trip over. 

Bringing back in.

We do not have room for this cooler and frankly if I were going to spend any money on a giant cooler, it better look like R2D2. 
I want a PBR from R2's head
If I were crafty I might have painted the Pepsi one, but it may be a collector item, and as my sister often says: If your aunt had balls she’d be your uncle so why talk about IFs.

The point is, I REALLY did not want this giant-ass soda cooler, and for some reason I started to feel guilty about it. 

Something in her face and her sense of urgency was making me feel an inexplicable sadness. 

I explained that our house is not really a “party house,” we just knew we wanted a house in my son’s school district, and we had X budget and the only house we could afford in the area with 2 bathrooms is not exactly a house to have big parties in. We had hoped to move up North by now, closer to my husband's work.

She explained that’s why they bought the cooler, for parties. They used it ONE TIME when they first got it, but never had a party with it. Now she has to move to a ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENT, so she has to get rid of most of her things. That’s the way she said it, I have no issue w/living in something of that size.

Like the awkward idiot I am, I filled the following uncomfortable silence with that information. 

“I lived in a small apartment for almost a year, it was SO EASY to clean that whole place. Sometimes I really miss that. And no yardwork, no weeds!” 

She gave me a half-smile that said 'Thanks I guess,' and added that it's not her choice to move out, they're getting divorced. I started babbling something between an apology and "Shit Happens" when my my husband brought the camping chair over and said we would take it. She explained they NEVER used it, tags were still on it, they were supposed to go camping and never got the chance, and my husband wisely asked about another item. 

That other item, whatever it was, was also NEW in the package, they never did use it. My husband asked something from the other pile. She told us that the other side of the lawn was a whole separate sale. 

She used broad sweeping movements to show us how everything on this side was hers, and everything on that side should be paid separately to the girls on that side.

I started to put this together. His And Her Divorce Garage Sale.

I just stared at her. I tried to stop the train of Stupid that was chugging up my throat, but it had boarded, picked up steam from somewhere and it was too powerful to stop. 

Out they came.
"You're having a combined garage sale?"

She nodded: Yes. 

Again my mouth vomited words before my brain could do anything about it:
"You're a better woman than I."

She looked at me, wiped her face slowly with a wet napkin she took from her pocket and added:
"Not my idea."

I looked at her, commanding my body not to say anything. For once, please, just shut up for a beat.

She filled the silence this time thankfully, with:
"It's okay. I'm okay with it."

Now I couldn't even make myself talk. 

WTF, Brain? Where are all those stupid non-conversation words and lame jokes you're always spewing out all the time? Where are they now?

She added, sagely:
"What can you do?"

I stood there for about seven hours, speechless. Well, it felt like 7 hours anyway. 

I just could NOT stop imagining the horror that would be a garage sale with my ex-husband. Sweet baby Jesus in the manger, you could not force me to have that day. There is not any item, or any amount of money, that would make that day worth living. 

I would give up every material item I have ever possessed, and just walk away. As I did from my first marriage, with only a bag of clothing for me and for my son.

I couldn't even force myself to have that day of:
"Is this mine or yours?
Do you want this CD?"

I just left all of it. Nothing is worth that. NO-THING. Take it, take all the things.

I would rather be homeless and live in a dumpster behind a pet store. 

I would rather sleep in the middle of Lake Shore Drive during rush hour traffic. And other elaborate thoughts about what I would rather do than stand among a yardfull of my failed marriage's items and try to negotiate with people to buy them, filled my head and would not leave.

Can you even imagine?

Eventually I found some words, but had no idea what to say to this stranger. 

"What indeed," I lamely whispered.

I suck at these situations. I am about the least comforting person in the world. I am usually trying so hard not to say something awful, or make a terrible joke, that I lose all ability to talk like one person speaks to another person. 

I know that my oldest sister could have handled this with tact and compassion, she would have put an arm around her, and called her "Honey" and made her feel better. I swear to blog I tried to think of something, anything, to say that might make her feel better. For the life of me, I just drew a blank with words.

I tried to change the subject, but I think we've already established I'm an idiot, so I asked about a fancy, elaborate picnic basket with room for 2 wine bottles. 

Yes, this is what I chose to change the subject with. A romantic-looking picnic basket. 

To ask the hostess of a Divorce Garage Sale. 

Jesus, Joy, why don't you just ask if they have any condoms they're not going to be using now?

She mentioned they were given this basket as a gift, for picnics and she gave an involuntary *shrug* when she said 'picnics' and added, but didn't have to, that they never used it.

My children started fussing a few seconds later, blissful timing, and I tended to them dramatically until my husband eventually returned from the other (dark) side with whatever item he purchased from that side, a small rolling shelf and a small stuffed horse, which my 2 yr old proudly held up for the woman to see. 

"Oh, you have a horsie! Sorry I don't have toys on my side, I never did have children. They have toys on that side, he had children. And toys...." 
her voice just faded away, and I imagined she was thinking about her ovaries.... just another thing they never did use in this marriage, and my husband looked at me confusedly. 

He had not heard the whole 'his side/her side' explanation, and for some weird reason I panicked, saw a sled with a Bears logo and jumped up to grab it before my traitorous mouth could betray me again. 

"Oh look, a sled!" We have used sleds before. 

My teenager asked about sleds one time. Ever. But oh yeah, we need a sled, sure, we will DEFINITELY NEED this damn sled, that she obviously NEVER USED (tag was on it) so I need to pay her for this sled. Right now. And these 2 umbrellas, I mean when you see an umbrella for a dollar you buy the damn umbrella. 

I have a whole theory about umbrellas. To me they're like books, you don't own them, you just borrow them from the universe for awhile until you, or more likely your children, leave them somewhere for the next person. I have purchased probably 50 umbrellas from Goodwill, resale shops and garage sales. We now only have THE TWO I just bought at this Divorce Garage Sale. Until the next time my teenager has to walk to the bus or to work in the rain. Then, they'll be gone, on their way to another adventure with another family. Farewell.

And farewell to the renters of the house 2 blocks away, who are getting divorced. The soon-to-be-ex-wife will be moving into a 1-bedroom apartment, never having used any of the fun items she & her soon-to-be-ex-husband intended for their marriage.
Our hasty retreat. That's the Bears sled, which I will MAKE SURE we use at least once.
Maybe just maybe, said my husband on the walk home, if they HAD used any of these fun, romantic, non-essential items in their marriage.....they might still be married?
Who knows, thankfully I managed not to ask before we left.

We had a picnic later that same day at a park. 

No fancy basket, no wine, just snacks and us and kids and smiles and laughs.
and tangerine flowers

Lesson: Have the fun, do the things, go on the picnics. 

Forget about all the STUFF of life, and focus on the fun. The Love. The Laughs.

Because you might not have the chance. 

And for frick's sake, do NOT have a joint yard sale with someone you're ending a relationship with. Craig's list, e-Bay, phone a friend, sell some dru---I mean, I can tell you better ways to make a couple hundo. 
*fingerphone* Call me.


  1. A divorce garage sale is probably one of the most depressing things in which one can be involved. "Oh, there's happy future I planned to have strewn across the lawn to be picked apart by strangers & sold off for a dollar apiece."

    1. RIGHT? I can barely even imagine any situation that would be worse. Negotiating body parts for transplants for my children, that is literally the ONLY thing I can come up with. UGH.

  2. Replies
    1. To say the least! I could not think of a single thing to say that wouldn't be AWFUL.

  3. This was hilariously awkward and I equal parts cringed and laughed through it. Not quite on the same scale, but my neighbor was having a garage sale a few months ago because she lost her job and had to sell whatever she could just to pay off this month's rent before she was getting kicked out and had to go live with her mother. She was even selling household items that she still needed because money was so tight. This I found out after walking by and simply asking "Hey, what's up?"

    This all, of course, was followed by a very awkward, "So is there anything you want to buy?" Ugh.

    1. UGH! *THAT* is why I hate garage sales! It's just too personal. Especially when people tell you, "This belonged to my Grandfather. He's dead now." I don't know if I SHOULD or SHOULD NOT take this item now!

  4. This whole post made me laugh like a hyena but I laughed the hardest at this brilliant line -- "I tried to stop the train of Stupid that was chugging up my throat, but it had boarded, picked up steam from somewhere and it was too powerful to stop."

    1. Ha! When I re-read it I pictured a big dorky train w me as the conductor and a sign "All Aboard The Stupid Train" but I can't draw so it would have been very confusing. Glad you got a laugh!

    2. That was my favorite line, too!

  5. Yikes! Awkward!
    P.S. Cool Pepsi logos!

    1. Definitely. Aren't they cool? I never thought about how often they changed their logo.

  6. OMG - I just love this post. The part about the umbrellas - that could be a dissertation on it's own! Wow!

    1. Thank you! I have found since originally posting this thought, over a year ago, that not everyone agrees about the umbrellas. It turns out very organized people CAN actually purchase a full-priced umbrella and actually KEEP it for years, but those people usually don't have kids :) Thanks for reading, glad you liked it!

  7. Wow. When my ex-husband and I split we were already living apart. He was too much of a snob then to move into an apartment so I just had my own place. Our marriage was doomed from day 1! Thankfully, six years later, we're now great friends and can laugh at such stupid shit.

    Divorce garage sale? Yeeeaa, no. Only if really desperate and hard up for cash.

    1. Wait, you were married but not living together??? I have heard a few stories like this that actually worked for people. Interesting. There's a whole experiment and possibly a novel behind this.
      Glad you're still friends, that's an awesome thing. I'm with you, I would NEVER host a garage sale or anything else w/my ex-husband. We can barely make it through a meal when we have to discuss my son. Not enough money in the world!

  8. Really unnerving when they stare at you the entire time you shop. Almost as bad as shoppers that switch tags at your garage sale. I learned that if you keep a baseball bat on your checkout table with a sticker that says,"not for sale," that doesn't happen. When a shopper starts acting shifty, stroke the handle and stare at it lovingly and they will scram.

    1. YES! I LOVE the baseball bat idea! Al REALLY wants to have a garage sale someday, of course he keeps getting RID of everything so I'm not sure what we would have to sell, broken kids toys are the only thing we would have left!

  9. How terribly sad for that lady. But you made me laugh regardless of the sad situation. Especially when you asked yourself about asking about unused condoms...bahahahahaha.

    1. hahaha thanks. I'm so awkward in these situations. I used to wonder WHY my husband would sometimes just NOT talk at all, and I'd tell him: "Just say SOMETHING." now I'm glad he didn't, because like me on this day, he was probably just trying really hard not to say the wrong thing!

  10. Wow, that's totally awkward. I love garage sales because I like getting deals - I'm one of those annoying people. I used to pay whatever is on the tag, but if I think it's a ridiculous price then I negotiate. I annoy myself with how I've become…because I can't stand when people do that to me. Ugh, what am I doing??? It just dawned on me when I wrote it out that I actually do this. Ugh.

    1. Ha! I've done that, too, and everyone does because sometimes people just have no idea that the concept behind yard sales is CHEAP! They only remember how much they paid, how much they liked it, etc., and over-price things.
      One lady said she priced things on e-Bay, but some of THAT stuff is new and hers was all OLD! If it's stuff you want to get rid of, price it low, it's sure to go!

  11. Oh my word, how horribly awkward! And bizarre. Can't say I've ever heard of a divorce sale!

    1. I had never heard of it either, probably because it's a horrible idea.

  12. Holy crap on a cracker... I can't even.

    You wrote this well, but I kind of want to go to your neighbourhood and somehow make it better for her...ouch!

    1. Thank you, and ME TOO. I keep thinking about it. I wish I were more comforting to her. The whole thing caught me off guard. When she said "I'm okay with it" she sounded genuine. I took it to mean the WHOLE thing, not just this silly garage sale. And like she said "What can you do?" Life is a mystery.

    2. She was a warrior. But my heart still hurts.

    3. Because you're made of sugar and spice and errrrythang nice!

  13. yeah what is it with the umbrellas?? We HAD three. Now we have zero.

    1. Some people say it's KIDS, but really when I was single I couldn't keep track of an umbrella to save my life. I would just look through "Lost and Found" boxes everywhere and get one when I needed it. Sometimes the Universe provides. Thanks for reading!

  14. Seriously just all kinds of awkward. Oh man. I cannot even imagine. I would probably be super passive-aggressive in that situation, like making all kinds of comments about "his" stuff. Yikes.-Ashley

    1. I totally STAYED AWAY from his side, like I felt like I was taking HER SIDE and in solidarity, I would not even LOOK. I know, that's stupid, but it was the ONE thing I could offer, just standing there talking to HER, not THEM. My husband didn't hear the whole deal, so I don't consider his buying a shelf an act of treason.

  15. Now, see. I GET THIS!

    My husband wanted to have a stupid garage sale after we married and I moved in. I didn't want to jack with it. Why do I want idiots pilfering through my stuff and wrinkling their nose up at those shoes I don't want to sell anyway??

    Plus, why do I want morning breath of strangers ringing my doorbell at 6:00 am?

    Why do I want people I don't know asking if I'll take .12 for that blouse I love so much?

    I waited him out. He finally took it all to a thrift store.

    1. Right?! I knew I loved you, you sassy redhead!
      There were even WORSE things at my father's garage sale, worse people with WORSE manners (or lack of) and I hope one day I can laugh about that day again.
      I feel like you did the right thing. For all that's worth ;)

  16. Look how late I am....again! This is so awkward. I have no idea how I would have reacted to something like this. Probably by buying things I really didn't need or want.
    I hate garage sales even though I have a closet full of stuff that needs to be peddled away in my driveway sometime soon. I dislike garage salers...I'm not a negotiator. I've had two in my lifetime and I mark the price down as far as I'm willing to go. Take it or leave it. It amuses me to watch people walk down the driveway thinking I'll yell, "Stop! Wait! Yes, okay, you can have these brand new Chuck Taylors, never worn by my picky ass daughter for a quarter. I only paid $45 dollars for them...no big! Please, come back!"
    Yeah...keep walking...
    I like this....the way you write even about hard stuff and put just the right touch of humor in it.

  17. Oh god this sounds to terrible. The tax write off from donating all that crap would have been way better than spending a day in awkward garage sale hell.

    Also, when my husband and I first started dating he texted me super excited to tell me about a pic he just HAD TO show me. It was of a 7-11 with an R2D2 cooler left out front to drain. The drain was placed perfectly so that it looked like R2 was out in front of the 7-11 peeing. I nearly died. OMG.

    1. Agreed! I saw a picture like that on Facebook I think it was, loved it!

  18. LOL at that Dead Peoples sign! It's kind of creepy but true!

    When my parents lived in the scary suburbs there would always be garage sales on our block in the summer. It was funny when a gift or two they gave out ended up in these sales. It's just people trying to seel their junk to their neighbors!

  19. I DESPISE garage sales! I also think it's strange to watch people go through your stuff and the whole time I'm thinking "Please love it and buy it....please love it and give me a quarter for the blanket I slobbered on for years. You want it...I know you want it...."

    And I'm disappointed you didn't get the Pepsi Cooler, although that Bears sled is pretty sweet.

    1. The cooler was pretty cool, during summer I never feel like we have enough coolers.

  20. The bizarre things we say to fill awkward silences! These garage sales don't sound like much fun. I've never been to one and, after reading your vivid account of your own experience, I will continue to avoid.

    1. Well if you can find a lawn mower or some power tools cheap it's worth it.

  21. hahahahaha I laughed so hard at this I made noises and the dog looked at me weird. I cannot even IMAGINE how awkward that was, but sooooo funny! I love your sense of humor so much, Joy. Your writing style reminds me a bit of Michelle from rubber shoes in hell, which I hope is a compliment to both of you, because you're both incredibly talented and hilarious writers.
    Also? I HATE GARAGE SALES TOO! The hubs is always setting aside items in the garage "for our next garage sale". Uhhh...no. I take all the shit to the goodwill lady when he's at work. I don't do garage sales. So freaking awkward on so many levels. *shudder*

    1. That is a huge compliment to ME, probably.not to her ;) you are smart to donate"

  22. Funny- i've been wanting to crash someone's garage sale so I can sell some of my own marital items post divorce! Glad you survived the awkwardness…. kind of.

    1. That is a more intelligent plan, let someone else sell it!
      Like Lizzi I.was more worried for the woman, but she seemed to have a pretty strong spirit. I mean, you would have to right?!

  23. This is hilarious...

    I LOVE garage sales...but I get the anxiety. I always have a little anxiety going through people's things. That being said..I'm going to have a garage sale in the Fall..because I want people to judge my stuff and then pay me

    1. I have gone to many, I appreciate when the people don't hover. I can't wait to read your post on your garage sale, I'm sure it will be hilarious.

  24. You husband's remark was spot on---it probably IS why they got a divorce! But wow--how odd that they did this garage sale together….can you say, "AKWARD"????

    1. I was thinking that SAME thing. It was totally awkward.

  25. Well that's...something. Just goes to show you that you never find anything good at garage sales!

    1. Well, our double camping chair with TWO drink holders is pretty effing sweet!