Adventures in Anti-Materialism II – The Last Garage Sale

January 12th, 2007

My last post about garage sales was also my inaugural Muse - Adventures in Anti-materialism I. I ended the post fairly confused about the best way to put one’s physical possessions back into circulation. Sell them? Give them away for free? Sell the things you bought, but give away the things you were given? Give things away to nice customers, but when a customer is mean, break the thing they want in half and throw it in the dumpster? Light a match and toss it over your shoulder as you’re walking out the front door?

After a week of sneak-previews, and two days of strangers wandering into and out of our home, we decided that garage sales are not for us. We managed to sell a few things and give the rest away, but the money we earned came no where near covering what we’d spent to buy everything – and no where near the psychological toll of deconstructing something as invaluable as a home, and listening to strangers debate whether or not it’s worth five dollars. Sam summed it up when he said with a sad face “I tried to make it more fun by decorating our house with my balloons, but it didn’t work…”

In an attempt to split the cosmic difference, we had most things up for sale, but filled the garage with items that people could have for whatever they could donate. The garage emptied out pretty quickly, but no one donated. The worst moment came when a guy asked how much for Sam’s “Frankenbike” – a bicycle he had assembled from discarded parts collected around town. Sam loved his “Frankenbike”; it was a testament to the power of inspired creativity and the ability to assemble something truly useful from other people’s cast-offs. In any case the guy, upon learning that Frankenbike was available for a donation of his choosing, said “Cool!” and walked off with the bike – leaving nothing. That was when Sam took the balloons down.

By the end, we were sleeping on yoga mats on the floor, and I felt like the Rock Biter in The Neverending Story, with bits and pieces of our identity being sucked away into The Nothing. “I used to have a home, but The Nothing took it away… now it’s all… gone…”

There were a couple of bright moments. We packed up our entire kitchen, for example, and gave it all away to a lovely girl who had just moved to town and needed everything. I was still sad to give away my perfect tea pot, infuser, and mugs, but her heartfelt gratitude and the joy of knowing that we were making her life easier did more than enough to ameliorate the pain.

In the end we discovered that, for us, garage sales are bad. Emotionally, it feels far better to give much-loved things away for free to good people than it does to sell them for a fraction of their value to disinterested strangers. But how, without a garage sale, would we have met the good strangers who had a real need for some of the things we had to give?

Entry Filed under: Anti-Materialism

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