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The Social Life of the Garage Sale

Creative Commons Image Courtesy of Eastlaketimes

The weather is finally changing, the sun is out more and more (depending on where you are, I suppose). But regardless of where you are, the seasons have officially changed. It is now garage sale season. To some, perusing garage sales is a big deal – a sacred weekly ritual, even. To others, it’s more of a sport of happenstance. Like any market, big or small, garage sales double as a social space, and with that come various expectations for how the sale should be conducted, and how shoppers and browsers should conduct themselves. There are also sometimes special quirks that mark a garage sale, which vary from place to place.

As a youngster growing up in Suburban, Ontario, I have vague memories of being dragged to garage sales by my Dad on summer weekends. All of the toys that I still remember having were garage sale purchases. I even still have an old board game under my bed that I got at a garage sale. I think it was loosely based on paleontology and had dinosaur fact cards but no instructions (more evidence that I am still the exact same person I was when I was 8 years old, since given the chance I would probably still find this appealing and buy it again). I never figured out how to play it, and I still to this day have never seen another copy of this game. I also remember running back and forth from the neighbour’s garage sale to my house acting as a middleman-haggler and begging my Dad for money so I could buy a pink space station complete with a chubby plastic alien in a dress and heavy eye make-up. But I digress.

What was common about Mississauga garage sales in the 1990s, and probably is still true today, was opportunistic children. Every garage sale has at least one kid set up with a lemonade stand. Variations include freezie-stand, timbit-stand, or kool-aid-stand; or combinations of these.

As some of you know, our Winnipeg Community Angel, Marc, went garage sale-ing last weekend and I asked him about the social life of garage sales in Winnipeg. Here’s what he said:

Winnipegers are very community oriented and love to help each other out.  Garage sales usually involve multi-family or whole communities.  We start out early and that always involves getting things going with fresh Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. The hope is to get rid of all our extra stuff so we don’t have to bring it back into the house.  Any buyers coming at end of day are guaranteed to get the best deal.  At the end of a long day, sharing laughs with friends and family, garage sale earnings are usually used to buy your favorite take out meal to celebrate.

Some other garage sale features that were mentioned on our Facebook wall and were new to me included accepting Canadian Tire money as currency, providing free refreshments as reverse psychology, and putting up colourful balloons to attract people! Are there any unique garage sale customs where you are from?

is a Social Media and Community Coordinator at Twitter, Facebook, the Blog and the phone are her domains.

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