A lighter view…Turning trash into cash

A lighter view…Turning trash into cash

By Karen Morris

By Karen M. Morris

Freelance Writer

How do you know when it’s time to have a rummage sale? If a crowd gathers every time you open your garage door and starts fighting over your weedwhacker or hoseboy, it’s time.

My neighbor, Nette Grabowski, has perfected the garage sale to an art. She sets up tables, ties balloons to her mailbox, and then shamelessly hawks a menagerie of unwanted belongings. Afterward, Nette throws all the rejects in the garbage. By the next morning, her trash has been completely stolen. That’s how I got my waffle iron and three legged tray table.

Her philosophy is: “If you haven’t used it since the Hoover administration or you don’t remember what it’s for; set it free, and pray it doesn’t come back.” She’s made enough money to redecorate her rec room and get her air ducts cleaned.

My family had collected enough items to fill a four-bedroom home with a three-car garage and finished basement. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a house with those dimensions.

We owned a miniature solar system made out of styrofoam balls; lamp shades without lamps; a globe missing the western hemisphere; a dozen bottles of nail polish half empty; and dried flower arrangements that had more dust than flowers. And, this was just in the entryway. We were sitting on a gold mine.

Preparation is a must. Wayne prepared to park his car on the street for the next two weeks because I needed his space to set up our treasures. I prepared to dine out since my kitchen table was being used to display our vast array of materialist wealth. And when an overstuffed couch and a hunk of orange shag carpeting were unceremoniously dumped on the driveway, my neighbors prepared with a collective gasp.

I tried to be objective about what got sold. If I objected to something, I sold it. This included Leo’s tennis shoes. They were wrapped in duct tape to keep his feet in and the water out. When I asked for the embarrassing footwear, Leo returned with his dress shoes and a pair of earth clogs some kid had left here.

Leslie contributed several boxes labeled special memories. They were filled with ball-point pens that leaked and dried-out markers. I figured special memories were worth about 50 cents. Wayne produced a rusted saw blade and dared me to find a buyer. And, poor Morry, Jr. was confused by the whole thing and showed up with his dirty laundry.

On opening day, my garage looked like Wal-Mart. It had everything you could ever want and more. Cars, trucks and minivans lined both sides of the street. Some had out of state license plates. Others had bumper stickers that said “I brake for garage sales”. And one had bags of grass clippings–they mistook us for a recycling center.

People stampeded my yard like a cattle drive. Two small boys started swatting each other with a set of whiffle bats while their moms tried on dresses over their jeans. And an older gent mounted the riding lawn mower and started making engine sounds.

“The mower isn’t for sale,” I smiled.

“How about that ladder?”


“Storm window?”


“Garbage cans?”


“You don’t have much of a garage sale.”

“Get out of my garage.”

“How much for the saw blade?”

“Twenty dolllars!”

“I’ll take it.”

This sale transformed the Doubting Wayne into the Donald Trump of trash, and he began emptying out the basement. Broken snorkel masks, tree clippers that fell apart when you closed them, an electric saw with the power cord sawed off, but I stopped him when he tried to sell our bedroom set.

A lady driving a Cadillac bought our wooden potty chair. I told her it was an avant-garde planter. I sold clip-on earrings as decorative memo holders, vinyl record albums as wind chime kits, and Morry’s mouth guard as a headband for poodles. Even my old underwear with the blown-out elastic in the legs sold like hot cakes. Leo had labeled them as tomato plant cover-ups.

It wasn’t an easy day. The dog next door was trotting around the neighborhood, modeling my underwear as a vest. (I’m positive Leo was behind this and, one of these days, I’m going to push that boy right off the family tree.) Someone stole the balloons on my mailbox. And a woman dropped my coffee maker, and then asked for a price reduction since the carafe was broken.

Clothes had been rifled through and tossed around like food in a blender without the lid. Leo sold our grill with the house key taped underneath. And someone tried to buy Morry, Jr. when they found him sleeping in the “free” box.

After paying my expenses, I cleared $52, which I had to give to Nette. She called and asked for her son’s earth clogs back.

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