For sale: neighbourhood stories

A young girl munching on a toffee apple visited us this week.

Countless middle-aged women visited us too, wearing three-quarter length pants, clutching handbags and usually arriving in pairs.

An Asian father who has given up drinking and wishes his children would give up – he also visited us.Garage sale signs all ready to go!

We listened to stories from a portly  gentleman who has six children. He used to drive sports cars, now he says he drives ‘a bus’. He wore a huge smile and joked about wanting to buy the kite stuck into the tree on the verge in front of our home (one of our advertising tactics).

In between, we had family and friends visit, as well as the Greek widow across the street, who came bearing a bowl of sweet little biscuits and apologising because the hot weather had made the biscuits drier than usual.

Throughout the day, we must have had at least 100 people saunter down our driveway, tentatively sharing our greetings and then chatting about their day.

This all happened because we decided to have a garage sale.

And by some huge coincidence, the day we chose for our sale turned out to be national Garage Sale Trail day in Australia!

We were in desperate need of a sale – our sheds and storage rooms were overflowing after a house redevelopment where we moved unneeded items out of the way, and rejected old furniture from the house in favour of new models.

We weren’t looking forward to the work involved in a garage sale and had heard those dreaded stories of people arriving at the crack of dawn, or haggling over an item priced at 20c. But at the end of the day, my husband David and I agreed, “it’s the people that make it”.

A man in a check hat extracted a bread knife
from a box and asked “does this still work?”

We didn’t have any penny-pinching customers (and perhaps you could argue that our prices must have been too low – but we sincerely wanted to see our belongings repurposed and taken away).

Nobody arrived at an uncivilised hour.

Our visitors were polite, quiet, and in most cases happy to have a chat, especially about children and how they grow out of things (our garage sale featured an incredible amount of toys). We had conversations that were both funny and wistful. We saw many people who wanted to talk about their how children’s habits changed over the years, or share their feeling of nostalgia over a toy they came across.Garage sale collection

We saw the joy of two young girls who came sprinting down the driveway in search of our Littlest Pets display shelves. A beefy young Islander raced up and down the driveway trying out one of our old scooters.

An older woman unpacked one of our ‘assorted items’ boxes and arranged them to her satisfaction on a table.

Garage sale rest periodA man in a check hat extracted a bread knife from a box and asked “does this still work?” (Yes sir, you simply move your elbow back and forth in a bread-slicing motion). One young man later bought that knife – as well as another – plus a fake SWAT vest that was once part of our sons’ dress up collection. “This looks bad, doesn’t it?” he laughed.

A hipster couple grabbed a beach skim board and declared they were going to hang it on a wall.

At least half of our visitors complimented us on the Star Jasmine vine that rampages over our driveway fence, up over a brick archway and onto the house. It is the best time of year for the jasmine, showered with pretty white flowers and perfume.

Finally, our treasured old white cupboard, which has served us well over the years, was purchased by a woman who lives around the corner from us. My husband delivered it with a sack truck, happily ambling down the street with her.

A hipster couple grabbed a beach skim board
and declared they were going to hang it on a wall.

According to the official Garage Sale Trail people, the event is about “sustainability, community, commerce and fun … (that) enable new neighbourly connections”. In this era where we have so many devices and networks to enable us to communicate, I often hear people moaning that we don’t talk to our neighbours anymore, that we’re living in disconnected communities where we barely recognise the people who live next door to us.

An older woman unpacked one of our ‘assorted items’ boxes
and arranged them to her satisfaction on a table.

Goodbye to our white cupboardWe certainly made a lot of connections on the national Garage Sale Trail day, and we were delighted by people’s relentless willingness to open up and talk to complete strangers.

We haven’t lost the art of socialising.

We haven’t lost the art of community. I feel like it’s around us more than ever before.

Whether our garage sale customers spent $30 or they walked away with nothing – we  thanked them all for visiting. It was a fascinating, warming, hilarious and surprising day.

Do you have any great garage sale tales – or horror stories? I’d love to hear them.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ah! I love garage sales, both visiting and hosting 🙂
    As we are avid garage salers and live in a regional area, we kind of get to know some of the others so it is always fun to host one. Great conversations, always cheap prices, if it doesn’t get sold it will be donated so easier to sell it!
    Glad your day was enjoyable 🙂

  2. Jeremy Boylen says:

    A lovely piece, Michelle: delightful, insightful, observant and touching. As a long-time fan of garage sales, I enjoyed how you so beautifully captured the peculiar social interactions of an event which is so much more than just an economic transaction. Now, about that bread knife…

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