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Lessons learned from hosting a yard sale

A yard sale typifies the Great American Dream like no other event. 


On one hand, you have the monetary objective of every red-blooded American and the retirement plan of some: That of finding something of great value for absolutely nothing. 


Conversely, you have the economic goal of every U.S. citizen, which is to unload something of little or no value onto some poor, unsuspecting soul for lots of cash, none of it reported to the IRS. 


There are strict guidelines you must meet before you are allowed to have a yard sale in Randolph County. You first must have a pile of junk too worthless to haul off. It will also help if it’s too hazardous to burn. 


Secondly, you must have the confidence that although you couldn’t pay anyone to haul it to the dump, someone will actually give you hard cash for the privilege of carrying it off.


Lastly, you must possess the will to be humiliated when the entire neighborhood finally gets a glimpse of the mess you’ve been hoarding all these years. 


Willard had brought up the idea, saying how much money he’d made on yard sales in the past.


“Don’t you have to have a yard?” I asked.


“Oh, I just park my truck and put everything on the tail gate,” he said. “The stuff sells faster than corn dogs.” 


Sandra was readily agreeable to the idea, seeing a chance to rid the house of some of my, well, less valuable possessions. And since we live right on Highway 49 in sight of one of Liberty’s three stop lights … and since the Liberty Antique Festival would be in town soon … what better place or time for a yard sale?


Not knowing where to start, although Willard seemed full of helpful advice, I purchased the handy book, “Holding a Yard Sale for Fun and Profit With Minimal Embarrassment.”


It was full of great tips such as how to make small signs in very fine print advertising your sale and how to nail them limply to telephone poles where they would blow all over the neighborhood. To be safe, I stuck a large “Yard Sale” sign in the front yard that night.


We figured we’d load everything on tables in the garage and start moving it out to the street around 7 a.m. Saturday morning. The book said to start early.


Willard came to help us get our merchandise together. It’s surprising how quickly junk becomes merchandise when you decide to sell it.


“I don’t think anyone would buy this stuff if Princess Di had owned it,” Willard said.


“But the book says, and I quote, “almost any kind of article will sell at a yard sale,’ ” I noted. 


“I don’t think they meant a clutch of nine old paint brushes bent almost double in the bottom of a rusty can,” he replied knowingly, “or a matching pair of rusted out garbage cans. Or a bald Barbie.”


Willard agreed to haul off the terminally unsaleable stuff to the dump. We loaded it on his pickup while we put the good stuff on the card tables. We priced everything with little stickers purchased at the Sav-a-Rama, just like the book said. That way all we had to do was open the garage door the next morning and drag our tables out to the yard. 


The next morning I was fixing my first cup of coffee when I heard a commotion outside. I flicked on the outside light and there, in the driveway, in the yard and all down Highway 49 was car after car and people milling around, tripping over flowers in the dark. 


I mentioned to Sandra that it wasn’t even light yet. She reminded me that the book had said to start early. 


I opened the garage door and there was Willard’s pickup and three guys who looked like they’d stepped off the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The big one, with the do-rag and earring, was purchasing, from Willard, I might add, the Barbie Doll that Jamie had cut the hair off years ago. 


They informed me that they’d already been to three yard sales and had almost passed mine by since it was getting so late. 


“You’ve got to start early," they reminded me.


The next several bunches of people wandered around, shaking their heads and making snide comments like, “I’d go naked before I wore that thing,” and “Who would have bought that in the first place?”


All in all, we sold just enough, a dime at a time, to barely pay for the book. The Sav-a-Rama stickers all popped off in the humidity and someone walked off without paying for a stack of well-used Carolina cups.


A steady stream of people and cars in the yard wore away most of the grass in front of the house.


Willard, on the other hand, ended up selling the stuff that he’d talked us out of, including the paint brushes, for $15. 


Late in the afternoon, I placed everything else in a pile beside the highway and stuck a “Free” sign on top. In a few minutes, the Queen Anne’s Revenge Bonneville stopped. One of the hands loaded everything on board, even the “Free” sign.


It was a fitting end to yet another successful yard sale. The Great American Dream had once again come true.