I haven’t been posting yard sale stuff for a while because I either haven’t been going or I haven’t been buying. Yard sales are few and far between this time of year. There have been some estate sales, because people die even in December. Sorry, was that too dark? In any case, I had a great day yesterday.
A few years ago, I went to a yard sale held by the Forsyth County School System. It was in a big warehouse, and they were selling all that stuff that was in your first grade classroom, as well as the stuff in the principal's office, the home ec classroom, and the cafeteria. I ended up buying a sewing machine and some wooden chairs for my sister-in-law. Since then, I've been on the lookout for a similar sale. There is a store in Raleigh where they sell all the hand-me-downs from the state-run facilities, and I pop in there any time I get a hankering for a chair with a “NC Dept. of Agriculture” stamp on it. While the store is fine, it’s only open Monday thru Friday, 8 – 5. You know, when I’m at work. And still, in my deepest heart of hearts, I was hoping to go to another school system sale, probably so I could buy something stupid that I don’t need, like a kiln.
Obviously, I’m only bringing this up because I finally found such a sale, a "warehouse sale" held by Durham Technical Community College. If I had a place to put a metal chair with desk attached, I would have come home with one. Instead, I came home with this lovely solid wood table. Josh has been looking for a desk for a while, but he didn't want one with convenient drawers. Instead he wanted a simple table. We had seen several tables that were close to what he wanted, but they were always too big, too small, too expensive, or too mass-produced. This one was absolutely perfect, and it was $5. It shows years of use and abuse, yet is still strong and sturdy. There were a lot of other tables in the warehouse which were also too big, too small, or too mass-produced, with this one sitting quietly among them (being a table, that's pretty much all it could do). In fact, I overlooked it on my first walk-through of the sale. I wonder where it came from, what sort of learning went on in that room. I even scraped some old gum off the bottom of it. Aw, old gum.
It’s funny, the table has lots of scratches and dings and even a beverage ring. While we might rub it down with some wood soap and polish, Josh doesn’t want to refinish it. We both like that it looks like it has a history, it has lived. So next time your mother tells you to use a coaster, tell her that you are just giving the furniture some life.
After I bought the table, a burly warehouse employee helped me carry it out to the car. Upon seeing my bright and shiny red compact car, he asked if I was sure it would fit. I assured him not to worry. And after we closed the hatch, having successfully gotten the table in the back with inches to spare, he shook his head in amazement and asked, "What kind of car is this? Does it get good mileage?" Another Fit convert.
This key thing is goofy and was a measly fifty cents. The little colored metal pieces have slots so they fit into the slots of the big whi te thing. I don't care much for the white thing, but the little keychains are neat. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this yet. I mean, there's a pretty obvious use printed right on the front of the white piece, but I hate to be like everyone else.
Speaking of things that I bought without having any idea what to do with them, I present for you these two cast iron sizzling plates. I know they are sizzling plates because I looked it up. Yes, they are shaped like cows, and yes, they do have rings through their noses. That’s what makes them awesome. They seem to be for serving hot items fresh off the grill, like when you order fajitas at a Mexican restaurant. But you could use one for anything, like a place to put your jewelry or even your keys, if perhaps you did not own a slotted metal box with matching keychains, you poor deprived fellow.
I've been trying, and mostly failing, to collect Christmas stuff at yard sales. I think I've bought a total of two ornaments so far. It's not that you can't find Christmas stuff. On the contrary, if you go to an estate sale, sometimes there is a whole table or two devoted to an old lady's collection of Santas (this being the South, there is usually another table for nativity sets). It's just that I usually skip those tables without a second glance, figuring that the kind of people who have that many Christmas decorations are the people who might have noticeable spikes in their electric bill for December, what with the inflatable musical snow globes and teddy bear ferris wheels in their yards. Now I realize that if you took everything that a perfectly reasonable person has to decorate a tree, it would probably fill a small table.
I managed to bring home four ornaments yesterday, and then I managed to hang them on the tree without taking pictures of them. Forget it, it’s too hard to take pictures of tiny, shiny things. I hate to tease you this way, but one of them is really beautiful: a thick ball with cracked glass and a reflective silver ball inside. It looks old and possibly valuable. I also got this tree, which I believe is an Advent tree. I got it in the hopes that some sister or sister-in-law of mine would see it and decide that she had been looking for an Advent calendar of some kind. I also picked up an ivory tablecloth for a round table. It has holly leaves embroidered on it, and is very classy. I was going to make it into a tree skirt, but then Josh pointed out that there was a reason tree-skirts were usually a dark color. So maybe not.
I picked up a pair of shoes, too. They're in great shape, were $2 and fit perfectly. I rarely get yard sale shoes, just because my feet are in the 98% percentile. Once I'd committed to buying these, the people at the sale tried to get me to buy the other shoes they had to offer, figuring that I probably was attached to the only pair of size 11's that were going to walk through their door today.
Finally, I bought a TV. I didn’t take a picture of it, because you’ve all seen this TV. Just picture the TV that was in everybody’s house in the mid-nineties and that’s it. It was the TV that all of my friends had while we still had that huge piece of furniture from the 70s.
The one I had already was giving signs that it was going to go soon. The picture would periodically fuzz up and then go back to clean lines. I'd bought it five years ago for $7.50, so maybe it was time. It started misbehaving about a month ago, and so I had added "TV" to my mental list of things I was generally looking for. The list looks something like this:
- wooden table for Josh
- small wooden chair for nephew
- Christmas stuff
- Corelle dishes
- random weird things I don’t need
I was a bit concerned that my old TV would go completely kaput before I could find a new one. Thrift store TVs are too expensive (most thrift store electronics are ridiculously overpriced), and the yard sale season had sort of petered out this year. Worst case scenario: I would have to watch movies on my computer until next spring.
I went to a sale that was benefitting a baby with tumors on her spine. There were pictures of the baby everywhere, which is why I felt like a dog asking them if they would take $15 for one of their half a dozen TVs lying around (each marked $30). A long time ago, I went to a cancer-benefit yard sale with my then-boyfriend. I offered $3 for a pair of items that would have totaled $5 by their marked prices. The seller agreed, and I handed over my money, but then my boyfriend cut in and admonished me, saying it was for a good cause. He then pulled out his own wallet and paid the extra $2.
Now, depending who you are, you're going to react to that story differently. My father would nod approvingly, because he's a very generous person. My mother would shake her head, because she raised me to believe that the consumer always has to fight for herself. At the time, I was pissed, because I had been publicly shamed. Now, though, I just don't know. Clearly, I will still try to negotiate at a benefit yard sale. After all, isn't having $15 for the TV better than having no one buy it at all? On the other hand, couldn't I see it as $15 for the TV, then an additional $15 donation for the very cute, very sick baby? I don't have any answers here. A yard sale can bring up quite a moral dilemma.
The funny thing is, when I offered $15, the lady looked relieved at the idea of not having to cart one more TV to the thrift store, and told me that they'd take $10. Um, lady? That is not a good way to raise money. C’mon, offer to sell it to me for $20, I probably would have done it! I told her to please accept $15, it was easily worth that to me. So there. I am $5 worth of a good person. But not $15, apparently. Considering that just a few years ago, I wasn’t even $2 worth of a good person, I think that’s good progress.
Anyway, moral quandaries aside, this TV is actually perfect. It just barely fits in my media cabinet that Josh gave me for my birthday; it's probably the biggest possible screen that would fit. And it was definitely in my target price range (after I negotiated the price down, that is).
So mark both the TV and the table off the list! The point here, and I’ve made this point before, is that when you shop secondhand, getting what you want/need sometimes takes extra time. While I’d only been looking for a TV for a month or so, I’ve been looking for that table since May. Most people, when they decide they need a table or a new TV, go out to the store immediately to go pick one out. They might look at several stores to see options and determine the best price, but generally they’re going to come home with it within a week. It might take months for me to find what I want, but it usually comes along eventually. Sometimes it doesn't, but in that case it turns out that I didn't need that thing after all. When I do finally find the perfect thing, it seems very serendipitous, almost like fate. I like living this way. It makes me feel more in control of my stuff, rather than the other way around.
So that was it, my excellent December yard sale day. I think it would have been a great day even in August.