The Emotional Side of Garage Sales

For the last five Saturdays we have had a garage sale from our 10×20 storage shed. Four of those Saturdays it rained. Last Saturday it was beautiful. By then we had sold most of the big stuff. So we were getting $1-2 for what was left…everything except for the few “good” items that remained. Still, it is such a good feeling to open that door and see this:
last view

I learned a lot observing the process of buying and selling, collecting and purging. It seemed like half the people who came to our sales didn’t have anything particular in mind. They were just looking…for treasure? Some just didn’t want to miss anything. There seemed to be a yard salers’ club milling around every week. People knew each other by name and sometimes whispered about other yard sales they had just been to, as if we would be upset by this. Most looked at and touched everything remotely interesting and most went away unfulfilled. Although one lonely looking guy ended up with an armful of free history books. His face seemed a bit less dark when he walked out.

Over and over again I heard this: “I have a storage shed too. I don’t even know what’s there. I just keep putting more stuff in. Will you take a quarter for this roll of tape?”

Or this: “My wife/husband has two storage sheds, one with our stuff and one with her/his mother’s stuff. I doubt if we’ll ever do anything with it.”

I saw a lot of pained faces, like they knew they should let go of some stuff, but they just weren’t ready. I get it.

They’re right. Yard sales are a lot of work—hard physical work, but more importantly, deep emotional work. There were a series of shows on tv recently about “hoarders,” or “yard sale treasures,” where some professional comes into a person’s house and helps them get rid of most of their stuff. Letting go is extremely difficult. When you let go of mom’s vanity or dad’s tools, are you really letting go of mom or dad? When you sell your child’s size 10 dresses are you finally letting go of her as a child? And when you let go of your own half finished projects are you really letting go of that motivation to create?

This is too much for most people to deal with so they just let their stuff sit safely in a garage or storage shed, knowing that one day they will have to face it or leave it for their children to deal with after they are peacefully oblivious. It’s a chronic problem with Americans these days. We’ve made it to whatever dream we conjured up when we were young, satisfied ourselves with things, and realized that one earthquake, one super storm, one divorce or death can take it all away in the blink of an eye.

I’m happy to be in this letting go process now and although it feels like it has taken too long, it seems necessary. It gives me time to grieve properly. With each thing that I let go, I feel my heart healing. I feel myself emerging as a different person, a person with fewer needs and bigger perspective. Maybe it would have been easier if I had been through a tsunami or an earthquake and all of this stuff just went away. But I don’t think so.

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