What I Learned About Life From Garage Sales

Garage Sales.

Those annual events that, in Ottawa at least, start in May and keep right on going until the end of September. (Longer if the weather is good.)

People haul their junk out of their basements, storage cupboards, and of course, garages, and spread it out on the lawn for the world to see, poke through, and make offers on.

I hate Garage Sales.

(Or as my friend Sam calls them, GARBAGE Sales with "garbage" pronounced to rhyme with "garage.")

When we were kids, my parents used to drag my brother and I out on Saturday mornings and we would spend the better part of the day in the car, stopping anywhere and everywhere people had bothered to set-up folding tables in order to display the useless stuff they no longer wanted.

I also grew up with most of my clothes coming from the Salvation Army, so I've been there, done that, and bought the (used) shirt on the purchase of second-hand goods.

(My parents went through a financial rough patch when I was very young, and even when they had recovered, my father thought that since everyone had adapted - or so he thought - to getting all of their clothes second-hand, there was never a need to buy anything new.)

All that to say, I don't do Garage Sales. I don't need more stuff. None of us need more stuff. However, I am all in favour of participating for the purpose of getting rid of said stuff.

Now, it has to be the right type of Garage Sale. I refuse to haul my used goods onto my own lawn, and peddle to the few passers-by that might stop.

No, if I'm going to sell my things, it has to be the right venue.

Enter: the Great Glebe Garage Sale.

This is the biggest Garage Sale I've ever seen, and it takes place annually in Ottawa. A radius of about 20 city blocks - in an affluent area called the Glebe - take part in this event.

And it is an EVENT. Music, food trucks, independent business owners, church ladies selling baked goods, antique dealers, you name it, they've got it. Of course this includes the people who've hauled the contents of their basements onto the curb.

Now, for those of us who don't happen to own curbs in the Gleb, space is available for rent through the local schools, churches, and community centres. They cordon off parts of their lawns and parking lots and rent the lots to the non-locals.

It's a lot of work. Pre-booking the space and picking and paying for the lot. Finding tables, chairs, clothes racks, etc, to display the items. Pricing and packing the items, and then on the day of the sale, hauling it all on site by 6:00 AM to set-up.

It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. The amount of foot traffic you can get is nowhere near that of a regular curb-side sale. Literally thousands of people will pass by in the span of an 8-hour day (the show, as they say, is pretty much over by 3:00 PM).

If you actually want to get rid of most of your stuff, this is the place to do it. This is what I do, if I find myself with such a large accumulation of stuff that it's too much to simply give away, and too tedious and time consuming to list on e-Bay.

Let's be clear about one thing: I don't sell knick-knacks and worthless trinkets. I sell GOOD STUFF. Nice hand bags, sunglasses, shoes, clothes, jewellery. Things that I've barely used and shouldn't have bought in the first place.

I don't bother selling the really used up looking stuff - that's for the garbage, or if there's a bit of wear left in the item, then it goes to the Salvation Army.

The stuff I sell could be in a second-hand designer shop.

Which is why I am offended when people try to low-ball me.

I mean, I expect negotiations; it is the nature of the beast. But I don't accept unreasonable offers. I know what my things are worth based on what I paid for them, the quality of the materials, and the nearly mint condition and current relevance of the items. (i.e. things which are in demand like Lululemon sportswear, Apple electronics, etc.)

The last time I participated was 2017. I had five large Rubbermaid bins of things that I really had to get rid of.

So I rented a space, and with my brother in tow (who decided to come along for shits and giggles), I set-up shop that May weekend.

I sold about 80% of my stuff. And I sold 90% of it at exactly the price I was asking for it.

By the end of the day, my brother had a respectful admiration for my unwillingness to negotiate.

"Hey lady, how much for this iPhone?"

"Price is on it - $40."

"How about $20?"

"How about $40."

"Come on, this is for my family in (insert third world country)."

"It's an iPhone in perfect condition. It has all the cables and the original box. $40."

Man turns over the phone in his hand 20 times, reluctantly pulls out his wallet and hands me two twenties.

"You drive a hard bargain lady."

I smile.

"It's a pleasure doing business with you."

I don't remember how much money I made that day. I think not counting what I had paid for the table, it was around $400. (#hustle) Not to mention the fact that I now owned less stuff, which was the whole point. Not bad for a simple yard sale huh?
So what's my secret?

How did I do it?

And what the hell does this have to do with you and your life?

So glad you asked.

What's my secret:
  1. Know what the item is worth. Make a genuinely fair assessment of all aspects of the item, as mentioned above: current state of wear, relevance, what you initially paid for it, etc.
  2. Set a price. The price has to be one where you'll feel good about parting with the item, and that there won't be any regrets or thoughts of "well I should have asked for more."
  3. Make peace with the fact that at the price you have set, it may take you longer to find a buyer, or you may not find one at all in which case you will need to take the item home with you. Be 100% ok with this. John F. Kennedy said "Let us never negotiate out of fear." The only way you will get your price is if you aren't afraid to ask for it, and if you aren't afraid not to get that price right away, or even at all.
How I did it:

I stayed firm in the resolve that my items were worth a certain price, and I wouldn't accept less. And I got what I wanted 90% of the time (I blame my brother for the other 10%. I inevitably had to take pee breaks, and while I was in line for the porta-potties, he was manning the tables and giving people discounts!)

And finally: what the HELL does this have to do with you and your life?

Absolutely EVERYTHING.

In the scenario I am about to present, we (you and me) are the goods. Life is the Garage Sale.
  1. Know what the item is worth BECOMES Know what YOU are worth. Make a genuinely fair assessment of all aspects of who you are: your personality, your character, your real and emotional baggage, your assets, your liabilities, as well as any time, money, and energy you have invested into yourself: your education, the maintenance of your health, the maintenance of your appearance, of your intellect, of your life, of your home, of your skills, etc, because that is ALL PART OF THE PACKAGE called YOU.
  2. Set a price BECOMES Know what you want. What are you willing to trade yourself for? Your time and energy for? Is this type of job at that salary the price you are willing to be bought for? Is that man or woman and how they treat you and make you feel, is that the right price based on the worth of your time and love? We get what we settle for. If you aren't happy with what you're getting, raise your price (but make sure that the price you have set is equivalent to the goods you are offering. If it's not, find ways raise your value.)
  3. Make peace with the fact that at the price you have set, it may take you longer to find a buyer BECOMES Make peace with the fact that if you have high standards - that is that you've decided not to negotiate on the price of what you are worth - it might take you longer to find someone who is willing and able to meet those standards.
Listen, at a Garage Sale, there are TONS of people running around with their change purses and Mason jars full of quarters. The people who've emptied their piggy banks and offer you 25-cents for everything regardless of the price you've listed. And you think "Man that guy is out to lunch! As if I would ever sell this for that price."

But how often do we short change ourselves in life and allow those with a Mason jar full of coins to buy a piece of our precious selves?

Wait for the people who've come to the garage sale with their billfolds. There are less of them, but they are there.

The best thing about life is that we get to set the price. And based on the price we set, we will attract those types of buyers.

I did not have Mason jar people at my table.


Because there was nothing for sale at my table that was worth less than $5. Because I didn't think putting an item on the table that was worth less than that was even worthy of taking up space on the table because my space was limited.

Our time and energy is limited. Let's get rid of the Mason jar people, the Mason jar jobs, the Mason jar friends.

Let them rattle their coins elsewhere, but not in our lives, and not in our hearts.

While I was on vacation in London, on Valentine's day, a guy who I had gone on one date with before leaving sent me a text message saying that if I was still interested in getting together when I got back from my vacation, he'd like to go out.

This guy had had the opportunity before I left. He's the one who dropped the ball. He's the one who made me feel as though I wasn't worth his effort. He's the one who didn't answer my last text.

So when I saw that message, I got a sour taste in my mouth. I thought about answering, even to say no thanks...but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I kept hearing a chorus in my head chanting"I deserve better, I deserve better, I deserve better."

So I kept not answering. I kept looking at the message, and thinking, BELIEVING, that I did deserve better.

And then I met someone on the plane home.

A kind intelligent man who kept me company on and off during that 8-hour flight.

A man who offered to drive me home (as long as I didn't think it was weird that he was offering).

A man who carried my incredibly heavy suitcases up icy steps for me.

A man who dug my car out of the snow when no one - and I mean NO ONE - else would.

I don't know what's going to happen here; it's way too early to tell.

But my point is: I said "I deserve better" and that's what I got. How much better? And is this better but still not good enough? I don't know yet. And it doesn't matter.

I said I deserved better.

I believed I deserved better.

And I got better.

You may have read a recent post about how I lost my job. But everything happens for a reason my darlings.

You know what they say about coincidence don't you?

The Universe is rarely so lazy.

The job I lost was one where I was undervalued, not respected for my skills, not acknowledged, and not made to feel as though I was part of the team.

The new job I have comes with a better title, a bit more money (there's room to negotiate and I will as soon as they are hooked on the Jasmin charm...!), my opinions are valued, and I'm an important member of a newer and smaller team.

I spent the entire fall saying to myself (and to my former boss), about my old job "I could be doing so much more than this. I am capable of more. Give me the opportunities to do more, and I will do it."

I said I deserved better.

I believed I deserved better.

And I got better.

We get what we settle for.

This is the truth of life.

If you are settling for something right now, ask yourself WHY? Why are you trying to be ok with less than what you know you want?

For me the answer to that question often stems back to worthiness: on some level, I feel that I don't deserve more than whatever I've got.

And in that case, my lovelies, no amount of saying "I deserve better" will change our life situation.
Before we can get that which we think we deserve, we have to truly believe we deserve to get it.
The path to getting what we want in life always, always - BUT ALWAYS - begins at the place of believing we deserve to get it.

I deserve a beautiful life. I deserve the best. I deserve to be loved, to live in abundance and perfect health.

And so do you too deserve all of those things and whatever else your heart desires. You just have to really believe that you do. And if you don't believe it, do whatever you need to in order to begin believing it. Whatever that looks like for you. Whatever it takes to make you see and acknowledge your own worth, do it. Do it and then NEVER look back.

We must believe in ourselves my lovelies, for when we believe in ourselves, the world will believe in us too.


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