Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Observations on the Church Garage Sale

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

A couple of weeks ago, my church had a huge garage sale, which netted us $6000. I worked Friday putting toys out and pricing them and Saturday afternoon as the sale was winding down, increasingly slashing prices in order to unload the rest of the items before the end of the sale when the Salvation Army truck would swoop down and take the remainder away.

On Friday, while I was pricing toys, I was almost weak in the knees when a truck pulled up with trash bag after trash bag of the nicest toys you can imagine. The woman who was unloading them explained that they were from her daughter’s house. Her daughter has four girls and three sets of grandparents, and apparently every single one of them buys, buys, buys. Her daughter, bless her, had carefully put all the pieces of all the toys together and wrapped them in plastic so they’d stay together. So many very, very nice toys, most of which were in like-new condition and many of which were almost identical.

We were also inundated with stuffed animals. There is no reason for anyone to ever buy a new stuffed animals, as far as I can tell. I’m sure there were more than 100, many of which were obviously new and most of which looked like they’re hardest life task had been to adorn a shelf. (Virtually any stuffed animal can be machine washed, but they do need to be lined dried. It’s the drier that will cause the fake fur to loose its softness.)

My husband observed that people hang onto things too long, so long that they lose their appeal and attractiveness to others. He noticed that lots of the decor items were quite out-of-date, and he had plenty to say about the electronics. We had a large number of TVs, big beautiful TVs, but ones that weren’t HD compatible. Dan pointed out that when HD became the US standard, a converter box for a TV such as these could easily be purchased for $20. Now, several years later, converter boxes are $80, the same price as a smaller flat screen TV. These TVs started out being priced at $25. In the end, those that sold only fetched $5. Yes, $5 for a TV that originally cost over $500. Talk about something losing value because it sat around too long!

Someone was hoping that the church would sell his very fancy but old Macintosh computer for $250, which is more than similar units were selling for on eBay. Dan pointed out that the processor was made by IBM, which hasn’t worked with Apple in more than 5 years. The operating system is out of date, and the computer will not be able to run newer programs. Because the owner had let it sit around, it had increasingly lost value.

While Dan was surprised at the number of very aged items for sale, I was surprised by the number of brand new items, as you can see by my list of true confession purchases below. Why would someone get rid of an unopened package of baby wipes? Why would someone buy fancy lights for a party and never put them up, never return them? Did someone really believe that Beanie Babies were so collectible that they should stay in their packages? Why, why, why?

My last observation is about purchasing at the sale. I didn’t start working until 11:00, and it was soon afterwards that we started marking things down: lamps for $1, a bag of children’s clothes for $1, a bag of stuffed animals for $1. Then later, everything you could put in a smallish box for $2 or a large box for $5. I saw one man load up several books, a quilt, and a HP flat scanner for $5! People filled their boxes with stuff they really didn’t need or even especially want, because there was still space in the box.

The next day, I was teaching the 3rd to 5th grade Sunday school class. I asked all the kids if they’d gone to the sale and what they’d purchased. Several of them could name their items specifically, but a lot of them could name a couple of items and then concluded with “and some other stuff. I forgot what.” Clearly, the new treasures had been unloaded in their rooms (or maybe not even unloaded yet) and were already so insignificant that they’d been forgotten. One girl had purchased a bag of stuffed animals. When someone else expressed surprise that she’d gotten animals (usually by her age, they’re decluttering their animals), she shrugged and said, “Why not? They were only a dollar.” Clearly this girls was only thinking in terms of the bargain she got, not the cost of having yet another 10 stuffed animals in her room, being stored, collecting dust, and eventually returning to this very same sale.

In the name of full disclosure, I purchased:

  • 2 (new) boogie boards (body boards) for the girls to play at the beach
  • a (new) pack of 10 pencils
  • 2 (new) packs of notebook paper
  • a (new) package of baby wipes (Yes, I still carry these in my purse)
  • a (used) boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia
  • a (new) Scrabble Apples games (already played)
  • a (used) game of Boggle
  • a (used) purple beaded curtain (for Clara’s purple room)
  • a (used) pair of shoes for Clara
  • a (used) sundress for Audra
  • a (used) pair of jeans for Clara that fit neither her nor her friend Grace. They’ve already gone to the thrift store.
  • and Dan would like to point out the he bought nothing

Today’s Declutter Item

I listed this old TV on Freecyle it took a while and a couple of no shows but someone finally picked up. Actually it’s not that old but it no longer fit into my son’s bedroom after we bought him a much needed larger bed. There was nowhere else in the house for it. I never watch TV during the day so there is plenty of time for Liam to play his playstation in the living room on our only TV.

Television Freecycled

Something I Am Grateful For Today

The one day of the year that all of Australia comes to a stop for at least five minute is Melbourne cup day. A horse race unites the nation. I am not one for gambling but if I am invited to a cup do I don’t mind entering a sweep. Today I won and went home $20 richer. Actually it cost me about that for the plate of cheese and crackers and the bottle of wine I took with me. So I broke even but had a great time with some lovely ladies. Win Win!!

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. I’m always surprised when people do not return items! My sister is a big offender of this. She buys most of her items online, and when she doesn’t like them or they don’t fit, she just holds onto them. The worst part is that she could just return the items to the associated store instead of shipping them back!

    However, we have donated new, in package items before. There was a package of hangers that weren’t worth the less than a dollar they cost to return. There are also the abundance of toys our kids receive that we immediately donate.

    • I don’t buy from catalogs or on-line because of the cost of returning unless I know exactly what the item is – No clothes or home decor items for me – because I don’t want the hassle or expense of returning.

  2. Our church recently had a yard sale too. I was amazed at some of the things they had that were new, never opened and being sold for so much less than they paid when they were bought. We had a school bring us 100 TV’s and 50 computers that were still usable but not up-to-date. They sold for $10 each. I was amazed when they all sold.

    At a recent garage sale a friend of mine went to the sellers had 100’s of toys, children’s clothes and childrens furniture. The sellers told my friend that their kids had way too many things thanks to over indulgant grandparents, aunts and uncles. So they were getting rid of all but the few things the children really liked. All the money they made was then going to go to a charity for children. My friend said that the stuff fully covered the driveway in front of a 3 stall garage and the big front yard of a 4000 sq ft home.

    • Based on our experiences, I think it’s amazing you were able to unload all those TVs and computers. Fantastic! As far as the other sale, well I’m almost speechless. I simple cannot believe how much stuff people own sometimes.

  3. Wow good job on the $6000!!

    A couple of things here i would like to pick up on, the mum with the 4 girls and all the toys 🙁 i don’t like to judge, but if that was me ( i have 4 kids, 3 boys, 1 girl) i would (and have done) asked for either one gift that everybody puts money towards or the cash to be put into a trust for when they get to 18 and are in further education. This happened to me one year (When they were small) my house looked like a toy shop on christmas morning, but the bigger problem was the wingey overwhelmed children. I told all my very well meaning family, enough, and since everyone respects our way of doing christmas.

    The other thing that actually made me laugh was the ‘it’s only a dollar’, i can just hear my mum saying ‘they know the price of everything, and the value of nothing’, i really do think that the treadmill of purchasing over and over is fuelled by dollar stores (or the pound dhops here in the uk) and other cheap merchandise that ultimatly ends up at landfill. I really can’t see how us as a planet can sustain this level of consumerism 🙁 I wish i knew the answer.

    Great thought provoking post Cindy, we learn best when we learn from each other.

    Sharron x

    • Sharron: the answer to your last “can’t see” is, of course, that our planet can’t sustain this level of consumerism – it’s already starting to struggle (with its 7 billion humans and the richest 1 billion’s greed}, and, by the time our children are our age, unless we’ve all changed our lifestyles, (by then about 9 billion), life as we know it will be impossibly bad.

  4. Buying for the sake of getting something cheap, isn’t that how most of us got in this mess in the first place. Cindy, you must have felt torn at times between making money for the church and allowing these people to buy that potential clutter without warning them about the perils of excess stuff. I feel that way in the thrift store at times.

    And good for you Dan, well done mate.

    • I must say, there was one woman that we really loaded up on little plastic Dora the Explorer junk, and I thought, “You’re gonna be sorry.” I also thought that since we nearly gave it away (a HUGE box of Dora items for $2), that they’ll probably have very little value to her. It made me sad to think they’ll likely end up in the trash, rather than the thrift store just because they cost her almost nothing. (Of course, I am making an assumption here and would be happy to be wrong.)

      • Yes Cindy let’s hope you are wrong. And you never know they may turn out to be her favourite things that she choses to save for her children when she grows up. Once again lets hope she limits that habit too.

  5. Hi all.
    Great post Cindy, honestly if the planet situation wasn’t so dire (landfil etc) this whole situation would be laughable. Tragic (for the environment) as it may be in the long run, at least Cindy’s Church has $6000 to use hopefully for clutter-less projects! I am amazed everytime we raise funds for our Dance Studio via a Swap Meet, Car Boot Sale, Garage Sale, firstly at the amount of stuff we get and secondly at the huge amount of money we make. It’s great to see the dollars roll in but I hate seeing people buying ‘Stuff’ for the sake of getting ‘Stuff’. Such a vicious circle. 🙁 🙁 🙁
    If only everything that was manufactured could either be completely broken down in the earth or made in such a way that it is always going to be recycled completely…. oh I do like to dream! Wouldn’t it be lovely if most things would just turn to dust on their use by date ‘Poof’ gone and think twice before you buy another hahaha.
    Just one thing that may make you laugh, my sister went to Target to purchase new tops for work to be embroidered. Although she didn’t purchase a huge amount of stuff it was still awkward to carry so at the checkout she bought one of the compostable bags for 20c. Feeling like she had done her bit for the re-cycling she proceeded to walk back to the train station for the trip home. Let me tell you those bags are worth the 20c, it had started to degrade on the way to the train, the handles sort of melted so she scrunched it up and carried it like that, by the time she got home the bag was in tatters! I howled with laughter when she told me and I said at least we know they break down. So later it went straight into the compost and died about a week later! My point here is why don’t all the manufacturers of ‘Plastic’ bags make them the same as Targets’ bags, okay they die quickly but at least they die, how long does it take for others to degrade properly, I shudder to think. Better yet why can’t we just go back to brown paper sacks & bags, they are sturdy enough for a few uses and then they can be composted! I personally take a bag with me but I do love seeing paper bags out there!
    I remember when I was on holiday in England being quite shocked, then pleased that I had to pay for the plastic bags that the shopping was packed in, it was a great way to get people to re-use bags. Some stores charged 20p for their store plastic bags. It was amazing to see just how many people actually took the time to re-use what they had!
    I’m with Sharron, I wish I knew the answer, I don’t but until then I shall do my very best to do the best I can! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Well done Dan and thanks again Cindy for a fabulous post. 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Sorry for venting again but hey I’m sure we all think about it!
    Have a beautiful day 🙂

    • Hi am with you Dizzy, all stores should do like taget does and charge for their bags it would make people think twice about bringing their own. I was however surprised that the bag your sister got started to fall apart so quickly. Was it a humid day of something. Weird! I imagine that is why they don’t use them at the grocery stores. In America they still have paper bags for groceries, they give you a choice for paper of plastic.

      • The best shopping bag is the kind you bring from home. Paper bags actually cost more in terms of environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping, and they literally cost the stores more. Plastic bags are less expensive, but of course, they last virtually forever. (The price difference that I read was 10 cents for paper bags v. 3 cents for plastic. That’s really quite a bit.)

        In our community, all the grocery stores have bins for bringing your plastic bags back to recycle them (a solution with its downsides of course), and we are in the middle of a hot debate banning plastic bags altogether. It stuns me that there are people outside of store owners and plastic bag sales people who are arguing for keeping plastic bags, as if it is their RIGHT to receive a free plastic bag each time they shop. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to carry plastic bags????

        • Cindy I so understand what you say here. The bag you bring yourself and use over and over again is the best sort. And oh how I wish they would ban plastic bags and limit new product packaging as well. All that seems to matter these days is that some polluting company may go out of business. It is a shame that their employees will lose their jobs but the world has to evolve into a more sustainable way of life. Let’s weigh it up ~ a few out of date polluting manufacturers going out of business or destroy the planet, it’s not hard to figure out. Those businesses need to evolve with everyone else and if they can’t adapt then that is their problem. Why is it that we have come to a point in time where we are more “evolved” than we ever have been as a human race and yet suddenly we want to put the brakes on and not make the next necessary change. You don’t see a saddler or a farrier or blacksmith in every suburb any more and that is because they became pretty much redundant well now plastic bags shopping should be redundant so people and makers had just better get used to the idea. I really am ranting now aren’t I. Oh well, thanks for listening. 😉

          • I think this change is coming gradually. Ten years ago I would go to the grocery store with cloth bags and they looked at me like I was from Mars. Department stores insisted on stapling your bag closed with bill attached (to limit shoplifting). Now our major grocery charges for bags, most stores at least ASK if you want a bag, and nobody looks twice if you use your own. The grocery stores have figured out that it saves them money so they encourage it. I’m actually not in favor of banning bags because I believe changes made in positive ways are best.

            • Hi Wendy B,
              you are right the change is certainly coming gradually. The question is is it happening quick enough. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day but it did fall pretty quickly in the end. That being said I also do not like the idea of banning things because we will all end up living in nanny states that way but it worries me that if we don’t turn things around soon it will be too late.

      • Yep it was a warmish day and we were just chatting about them again and apparently they are designed to self destruct with heat, they are weird! Could you imagine getting a few bits from the shop, buying one of these bags and walking home on hot day! Shopping would meet ground very quickly I think! 🙂

  6. Cindy,
    Well done on your $6,000 – I know how much work it takes. We had our church fair in September – I wasn’t working at it this year (first time in many years) – but I attended and bought (cakes only!!). I am always amazed at the very real rubbish that gets “donated” – all they donated was for us to pay to drop it at the city dump. And I am always amazed at how all the “cute but nothing really” things seem to sell, and not only to the young girls, either! Having said that, one year I picked up a ‘so nearly new that the knees weren’t yet scuffed’ dungarees for my (then) four-year old daughter for :…… 50 cents.

    • I saw very little merchandise that was obvious “direct to trash” worthy, thank goodness. I think we won’t do clothes again next year. I don’t think they were worth the time and effort that went into displaying and monitoring them, especially the adult clothes.

  7. We have our garage sale soon – already getting things organised and priced up! We are just hoping that people do come and buy – being a small town – you just never know if anyone will actually purchase.

    I always think : if you sell 100 or 200 items for even just $1each – then it’s at least $100 or $200 in your pocket and the clutter to someone else.

    Interesting point with people who purchase and if something doesn’t fit etc.. instead of exchanging or getting a refund they just hold onto it. My mum does this. I recently purchased a book and a pair of pants for summer. The pants didn’t fit and the book l already had (grabbed the wrong number in a series) so l went back to both stores and got a refund on both items.

    It felt good to get them out of my hands, as l couldn’t use them, and my money back into my hands!

    • I was going through the girls’ box of uniforms, hoping that there might be some school pants that would fit Audra (alas, no), and I found a sweater vest that I bought for Clara, which I now realize will never fit her. (As an aside, in the year before she was diagnosed with diabetes, she got quite heavy. At that time, it seemed perfectly reasonable that this vest would soon fit her. However, she lost 15% of her body weight at disgnosis, which took her to a healthy weight, and she’s stayed on the right track since.) Anyway, I had purchased the vest from Lands End, and it still had the tag on it. I called them, and they were perfectly happy to take it back – even though I purchased it in Aug. of 2009! – and I could return it to Sears. Now THAT was a sweet, sweet deal. Of course, it also helps to assure Lands End that I will purchase future uniforms pieces from them. Good business practice for them and for me. (After checking in the free uniform exchange closet at school, of course!)

  8. Wow, $6000! That’s awesome! Garage/yard sales are a grand way to re-purpose stuff to other folks and make some $$$ in the process (hopefully $$$ for a good cause!). I love to walk through garage/yard sales (must be the ‘hunt’). Where is the will power to just STAY away from even going to those (and thrift stores)? I’ve done a grand job of staying away from the mall stores (new stuff); it’s harder to stay away from garage sales. There might be clothing items for kids at a way low price that I’d rather purchase at gar-sale/thrift than at a retail store, etc.

    The other challenge is that those sales (garage/yard/thrift) are right then and there. Walk away and probably the item I’m interested in will be gone (like an impulse buy). Two weeks ago I found these amazing light fixtures at a thrift store. I walked away (initially I thought way too expensive for a thrift store). Went back several days later and looked at them, price had been reduced, thought about it, again walked away. Then I kept thinking that I really wanted those (Freud would have a field day here). So I went back (another two days later) they were gone. And I was initially dissappointed, kinda sad, had already hung them (in my mind, saw them in my house and really liked them there). Eventually I was relieved.

    Those weren’t special trips to the store just for the light fixtures, they were errands I was out and about doing and near that store. I don’t know, for me, that’s the hard part, buy it now or forget it… any advice? (I know, unless it’s kids clothing or an ITEM I am SPECIFICALLY looking for, FORGET IT!!!). Again, easier said than done.

    • Well done Annabelle, you answered your own question there almost perfectly. In addition I would say don’t even buy the kis clothing unless you need it either. Teaching kids to have too much of anything is not a good lesson even if it is just clothes. My son has this thing for t-shirts with pockets at the moment, I won’t buy them for him because he has enough T-shirts so if he wants them badly enough he has to pay for them himself. Opening up his own wallet is quite is feat for him let me tell you. He must have really wanted them because he bought them anyway. I did chastise him for bringing one home in a plastic bags though.

      • Annabelle, one of my shopping rules is if I see something that I wasn’t shopping for or for some reason am just not sure about, I leave it. If I continue to think and think about it, then I give myself permission to return and purchase it. Most of the time, I’ve forgotten about it by the next morning or no longer care. Obviously, thrift stores can be a bit more iffy because the item might not be there, but still, I think restraint is better than abandon.

    • Something that helps me is to ask myself: “Do I really really need this?” or “Could someone need it more than I do”?

      In August I was desperately looking for a swimsuit for my son (his did not last the whole summer after so many hours everyday at the pool), and I found 2 new GAP swimsuits, just his size, for $1 each at a thrift store. I bought one, and only one. I had a hard time picking which one though, since they both look great! I just hope the person who bought the other one really needed it and did not buy it just because it was such a good deal to add to her/his child endless collection of swimwear.

  9. This post reminds me of the book I’m currently re-reading (it’s that good!): “Enough” by John Naish. I used to love op shopping and rummaging around at church/garage sales, but now I just find it depressing, seeing all the stuff that people are getting rid of, because they have more than enough. However, I was very pleased to find a pair of nearly new Gap cargo pants for my son at the local op shop yesterday, so I can’t complain too much 🙂

    • I’m with you Loretta. I enjoy shopping at the thrift store, particularly with my girlfriends Holly and Natalie. We have a routine of shopping and then having lunch at Sarah’s, a yummy Mediteranian place afterwards. (I KNOW I did not spell that right. Sorry Sarah.) But, sometimes seeing all that stuff makes me feel sad and sick. On the other hand, it certainly shouldn’t make us feel any more blue than going to the mall, which is also chock-a-block full of stuff that didn’t need to be manufactured in the first place. Too much is too much.

      • Cindy, I’ve been really good about keeping out of the mall/shopping centres (we have two HUGE ones 10 minutes from my house!) all year. However, last week, I was feeling particularly low (house on market, not selling), and headed for the mall and yep, bought 3 items of clothing I didn’t NEED (but wanted). Hmmm, it was a bit humbling as I thought I’d evolved beyond ‘shopping as therapy’! Hopefully I’ll learn from this, and avoid doing it in future.

  10. I’ll share with you a big eye roll I got at the garage sale. Someone brought us at least a dozen still in their package Happy Meal toys. In the Happy Meal boxes even! McDonald’s was my first job, and I’m ceratinly not going to tell people not to eat there, but if you don’t want the toys – and I hope you don’t – just use this phrase, which always works for me: “No toy please.” And I always check to make sure that they remember and leave it on the counter if my message was forgotten. There hasn’t been a Happy Meal toy in this house in at least 5 years because of that one little sentence.

  11. So interesting that you noticed the newer items while your hubby was focused on the older ones. He is so right, we hang onto things long past the time that anyone would find them useful. I think we feel that we need to keep things “just in case”. Perhaps we bought a newer version of the item but neglected to get rid of the old one, thinking that if the newer one broke, we’d be able to use the older one. However, I don’t know anyone who would use, say a 512mb RAM desktop computer when their newer laptop was in for repairs!
    Sometimes, I think people hang onto things because somehow they think they will increase in value-but that is hardly ever true. The Beanie Babies craze is long over. There is a certain point in time when these things had any “value” at all and that time is long gone. Our parents generation was a great one for hanging onto things thinking they would become more valuable but every decade has their own “junk”. Just because something is old, doesn’t make it valuable. Stores were selling “junk” in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond!
    As far as the “newer” things in your sale-my mom was a great one for bringing home “bargains”. She would often say “how could you go wrong when it was so cheap”.(I would say “how could you go right”)
    She’d bring things home and proceed to find homes for these things that she felt other people could use. Unfortunately she died before she could give all these things away. Better to buy only the things that we need.

    • Some great points here Amy in NY. Have you noticed how companies latched on to the idea of collectables and turned it almost into gambling and the worst part is they aimed it a children. Pokemon cards, beanie babies and the like, when you look at the way these are marketed you can see what a gamble they are. Children hoping to get the one with low production numbers so they can sell it off at a higher price to someone else. Disgusting I think.