13 Things I Learned about Humanity from Hosting a Garage Sale

Exactly two years ago, we were smack in the middle of processing a move abroad. Around the world. Literally. Emotionally we had all accepted the idea and were busy organizing and purging and planning and preparing. In reality, we wouldn’t move for a few more months. But at the time, selling off half our earthly belongings in one of the most epic single household garage sales EVER seemed the right thing to do.

If you have hosted a garage sale, yard sale, estate sale, loppemarked or the like – you too may have encountered the same sorts of characters. Something about picking through someone else’s property gives you license to be somewhat insane. Forget common courtesy and be darn right ridiculous. Yep. It’s true. I hadn’t gotten that memo. So without further ado, may I present to you the 13 things I learned about humanity (and maybe myself) while hosting a garage sale over two days a few summers back.


1. People are strange. Garage sale people can be stranger.

2. What sells and what doesn’t is always interesting. Giant books about dogs were a huge hit. Sold out fast. Slightly worn Pottery Barn leather couches for $5 – not so much. Finally gave that thing away. Seriously – take it away.

3. Creating zones for stuff that is not actually for sale does not matter. Even when said not-for-sale stuff is no where near the actual stuff that IS for sale. People will go through EVERYTHING. Including, but not limited to, opening your tents and pulling out your sleeping bags. Really? That is NOT for sale! How did you get back there? It wasn’t even IN the garage!

4. As soon as you mark an item SOLD that generally means that EVERYONE immediately wants it and will continue asking “Is that REALLY sold?” ALL DAY.

5. Things like your almost brand new BBQ grill that you marked “SOLD” so as to try and avoid said question will especially push people into asking “Is that really sold?” with the almost certain requisite follow-up question – “How much did it go for?” You know, just so they can feel like they didn’t miss out on the deal of the century, because truth be told, it might be the nicest item out here. And then you may have to admit that you didn’t actually sell it – but simply wanted to avoid their question. (Usually followed by a forced smile and nod. Umm hmm. Move along. Buy a giant dog book. Sold out? How about a used leather couch? Not the tent – it’s NOT for sale either.)

6. I do not enjoy haggling. I never have. I’m a terrible bargainer and am generally a huge pushover. But when a 70+ year old woman in polyester shorts, folded over white socks inside her Keds and side-shielding sunglasses says to me “You are going to let me win” when working me down from $3 to $2.25 for I can’t even remember what item – it is game on!

7. And when same polyester shorts (circa 1973 with the tab over button action) asks if she can have these four pairs of earrings for $1 and then proceeds to take ALL the watches, vintage earrings as WELL AS the originally denoted four earrings – she may see the inner SCORPIO in me come out. Back off BluBlockers!

8. Children as sales people with access to pocket money become very motivated to move merchandise. Even when that merchandise is the bulk of their own pink plastic Barbie accessory collection that only a day ago was not even allowed to be out for sale. Over her dead body. Ooooh! Money. What else can I sell?

9. People apparently have x-ray vision and the remarkable ability, from their cars, to assess every item you have for sale and deem it unworthy. Not once, but multiple times, cars screamed into driveway (across it, mind you, not in it) surveyed the lot and screamed off. No need for a three point turn.  No time, no time.

10. On the other side of the coin, you never know what people are going to want/need. I almost recycled all the old glass spice jar bottles that my wee lass used in her “kitchen” set when some gentleman came in looking for ONE very specific thing. “Do you have any spice jars?” YES!! Yes, I do. Here you go. Win and win. Who knew?

11. Driving the expensive car to the garage sale does not mean that you will pay the slightly higher price I wanted for my antique wooden phone booth. Quite the opposite, it may mean that you are the cheapest S.O.B. at the sale (besides polyester shorts).

12. And on the other end of the spectrum, hard-working, straight from their last lawn-service job of the day people who just need some extra pants to work in may pay you MORE than you asked for said pants because they felt like that was what they were worth. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Here – take all the pants. Seriously. Please do.

13. 20 hours of garage-sale-ing is EXHAUSTING. Phew. I am exhausted thinking about how much merch we moved that weekend in August. 

Have you held your own sale? Meet some of this cast of characters? Others? Please share in the comments. Does moving make you purge? Or pack it all up? I’m a little of both and if you asked my mom – she’ll say I didn’t sell enough as her attic is full of our boxed goods. Shoutout to mom! Thanks for that.

Cheers from Copenhagen!  Erin