For the past few Saturdays this spring I have woken up and felt like there was something missing.
Now I know that anyone living in the world today can recite a mile long list of all of the obvious things that have been temporarily taken away. Some examples would be sending my kids to school, hugs from my parents, and celebrations for basically everyone and everything.
Yet as much as I yearn for those things and many others, I can rationalize the necessity for missing them. I know my duty right now is to hunker home with my family for the greater good of the human population. I know my kids will eventually go back to school, I will hug my parents again, and I will soon restart the task of juggling four different birthday parties every weekend.
However, as much as I know missing this one particular thing is irrational, it still is very real to me – because man oh man, do I miss yard sales!
For my family and me, springtime has become a standing tradition for yard sale hunting. Most Saturdays we would hit the road by 7:30 am, head to our favorite coffee shop, and then scour the internet for local garage sales, flea markets and church rummage sales.
After, we would drive from house to house admiring and examining the crap someone else does not want, all the while hoping to find something in their pile of crap that we do want. Then we would pay the 50 cents or the two whole dollars for their child’s first bike or great aunt’s vintage vase, and throw it (safely) into the back of our car.
I have found few things in life that compare to the feeling of getting a massive bargain at a yard sale. It mixes the feelings of happiness, success and accomplishment all in one. Finding the perfect living room rocking chair for $10.00 has absolutely no equivalent on the internet. That feeling cannot be replicated on Amazon or Facebook Marketplace or even eBay – because believe me, I have tried.
Plus, my kids love it too! Every week we give them a set amount of money and they are asked to spend it wisely. It forces them to think through their purchases, and learn the value of a dollar. We even make them donate old toys when the “new” toys are brought home, which as an added bonus makes them excited about giving other little kids new toys to play with.
And as many of my fellow yard sale shoppers know, it doesn’t end at just toys. I have bought furniture, jewelry, dinnerware, light fixtures, clothes and more. I even used to refurbish old chairs and turned a profit on them. It was literally a side business for me for a little while.
When my kids were babies, yards sales were where I got so many basic items at 1/100th of the retail cost. I scored a bouncy seat, a play mat, a pack-n-play, a baby slide, a train table, a ride-on tractor and a double stroller.
I once went to a community yard sale (which are typically the motherlode of finds), where a woman gave me her 10-year-old daughter’s entire life collection of shoes for $5.00. She just wanted them out of her house, and I was a willing shopper wanting to take them.
Yet my absolute favorite story was from last spring when my daughter was eyeballing a Razor Scooter, and a young girl (probably around 13) told her it was $15.00 – which unfortunately was way above her $5.00 budget.
Seeing my daughter’s hesitation and obvious disappointment, the girl’s Dad came over quickly and said, “We will take $2.00”.
Shocked, the man’s daughter turned and said, “But Dad, I have a lot of memories with that scooter.”
And his response was magical. He looked kindly at his daughter but sternly said, “The memories are in your head, not with the scooter. It will be $2.00”
You see, that is the beauty in yard sale shopping. You are taking something important that someone doesn’t have a use for anymore, and giving it new life. It is the epitome of re-use and recycle, with little money involved. Most, if not all, of my yard sale “shopping sprees” total less than the two lattes and muffins we would have before we ventured out.
Yet as much as it is about the find and the deal, it is also very much about the experience.
It’s the excitement my kids have on Saturday mornings, talking fast about how they want to spend their money. It’s our favorite coffee shop where the barista knows our drinks and the pastry chef in the back always refers to my kids by name. It’s the interacting with other families, and finding the diamond-in-the-rough treasures together.
I remember the story behind almost every yard sale item we have bought as family. They represent a time in our lives I will never get back.
So I guess deep down I know what I really miss … I miss the memories.
I miss our Saturday morning ritual. I miss the time outside my house spent with my kids and my community … and if I am being honest, I miss the cheap finds too.