On value

This Memorial Day weekend we had to forego poolside festivities to host a garage sale. I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the people-watching, but was rewarded with an interesting lesson in value. As my fiancée and I were placing colored stickers on each item, we tossed back and forth estimates on how much each was worth. We thought we’d priced the picture frames and paintings at a bargain, but knew we wanted top dollar for some of the tools and yard equipment. As an afterthought we threw out some old clothes which had been earmarked for Goodwill. We rose at 4:30 am on Saturday morning for some last minute staging in preparation for the hordes of early goers we expected to snatch up the furniture and big ticket items, and then we waited.

And waited.

Where were the circling sharks? The 5:45 eager beavers? Where were the pickup trucks and the do-it-yourselfers?

They never came. We proceeded to spend most of the day collecting $3-$5 at a time. The big hits were items which we’d collected for free. Much to our surprise, the old clothing for $1 an item was the biggest hit. Two Abita Brewing t-shirts which were a freebie at a local running club were snatched up eagerly. Gas cans for $1 each were greedily coveted. Old towels and sheets, a bunch of hodge podge spoons and forks (the knives received no love) were among the first to go.

At first I was baffled, but as I started thinking more, the items which were going quickly were the ones which you could actually use. For someone whose profession is painting and who comes home each day spattered in shades of beige and blue, a bunch of gently used shirts mean a more presentable appearance when they arrive to work each day. For a mother of four, a bunch of spoons are invaluable when every day and every packed lunch means another missing spoon. Yes, maybe some of the items were of little to no value to us, but in this scenario it was circumstance rather than retail price which defined value.

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