Neighborhood Garage Sales

Summer to me means the rubbery taste of hot dogs, the whir of room fans, the smell of cut grass and gasoline…and the chaos of our annual HOA garage sale.

I live in a house that’s part of a Home Owner’s Association, and have been on the board and on the social committee. Back in the early days of our HOA some of the stuffier home owners complained about garage sales. They hated the traffic, the signs, and the junk, all of which offended their delicate little constitutions. (I can make fun of them because these were the very same homeowners who petitioned the Board to fine any houses with children’s toys left in plain site. We’re in a subdivision designed for families that’s within walking distance of a grade school, and the vast numbers of kids who live in our neighborhood tend to be normal kids who leave their bikes/balls/dolls piled on the lawn when something else catches their attention, so yeah, toys are in plain site a lot. I didn’t tell my former Board members but if that one had passed I was planning to buy out the toy department at Goodwill and blanket the entire HOA every single night until it was repealed.)

Thankfully our Board members had a fix that corralled the garage sale chaos enough to shut up the whiners: we’d have a weekend-long all-HOA garage sale so our neighborhoods would be free from signs and tables of junk the rest of the summer.

This year is somewhere around year 15 if I’m remembering correctly. It could be year 10, or year 20, actually, because it’s all a blur after so many years of shopping. All I know for sure is that my assignment is to hit the bank three days prior to the weekend and make sure we’re loaded with cash. Because we’ve never yet had a single HOA sale weekend where we didn’t come back home hot, sweaty, and loaded with other people’s junk (aka OPJ). Even now, when hubby and I are leaning toward minimalism in our buying habits it turns out the OPJ is just too darned good to pass up.

This year was no different. Although it didn’t top the year of the rug ($20, still in our living room) or the year of the big table (another $20 with chairs, and it barely fit in our car), we still scored. Three new pieces of art, a fancy metal desk organizer for the accounting files, a hardback copy of The Hobbit, a nearly-complete set of Corelle plates and bowls (to replace the ones 20+ years old that keep chipping), and an $8 Blu Ray player for the back room. Oh, and the requisite $20 purchase: a rolling organizer filled with rubber stamps that I got specifically to help me pare down my hoard of craft supplies (if it fits in the organizer I get to keep it, otherwise it’s outta here).

After spending $13 on an HDMI cable to plug in the DVD player (and $20 on the two Harry Potter movies we somehow didn’t already own) we spent our garage sale evening watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione while I sorted through some papers (they fit in the organizer, thankfully). The weekend also included hanging our new art, and eating dinner off the newly-washed plates. The accounting file organizer is just waiting for this week’s incoming bills and statements. And I spent some time thinking about our neighbors.

Our garage sale is more than a way to keep the signs, traffic, and driveways of OPJ limited to a single weekend. It’s a homeowner’s view into their neighbors’ lives. We saw what they were selling to make room in their lives for something new.

Most houses were selling a pile of well-read religious novels and nearly-new conservative biographies. Several sold large totes filled with craft supplies (Scrapbooking seems to be long out of style considering the musty smell of the paper in those totes, and it looks like beading is nearing death as a hobby). A few houses had lace tablecloths and fancy crocheted doilies that seemed to have been in a cupboard for 20+ years waiting for a family event. Many had one single nice chair for sale, leading me to wonder if the rest of a set of chairs was still in use and what this one had done to deserve banishment. And almost every sale had a box or two of empty mason jars, shining and new.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s garage sale. Maybe it’s time for me to sell a few things, but to be honest I’m not sure I want my neighbors to understand me that well.

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