Our family had a yard sale on Saturday. The main focus wasn't making money, but clearing out excess clutter and "stuff" that we have accumulated. Jim Yih of Canadian Finance Blog also talks about the extra benefits of yard/garage sales besides the cash.
Let me first say that this is not going to be a post about applying the strategic and philosophical tactics contained in Sun Tzu's classic work to actually running a yard sale. Nothing about considering the customers as your opponents in a complex chess game of directing them towards and then convincing them to buy discount items at inflated prices. No tips on how to effectively deflect the attacks of legions of early birds, either. That might make a good how-to post some time, but this is more about what's in your house to be put up for sale.
At dinner yesterday I was talking about what a yard sale was with my boys. Without really thinking about it I described it thus: "We can sell our stuff to get money and then buy more stuff". Yikes. North American culture today seems to be a lot about accumulating Stuff. Better stuff, bigger stuff, stuffPad2, you name it. Whether we need it or not – whether we can afford it or not – mainstream society seems to put a lot of value on getting the newest, bestest thing.
Maybe I can keep just this one…
Our family is trying to simplify. Our house isn't that large, and if you have kids you know how quickly toys, clothes and accessories can accumulate. We realize we have more Stuff than we really need, and in addition to just buying and living with less in general, we're also going to have a yard sale to help clear out the clutter.
Here's where The Art of War comes in. As I was collecting items to sell in the sale, I was somewhat reluctantly taking books off my bookshelf. I really like the books on my shelf. Over time I've collected quite a few. I knew I wanted to clear out as much as I could, though, so I started filling a box.
In the course of this I found a receipt in one of the books. To my surprise I saw that it was for four books that were on my shelf and I was considering selling! Dated from December 29th, 1998, when I bought The Art of War, Dave Barry is From Mars and Venus, The Iliad, and Foucalt's Pendulum. I bought them at Chapters in Kitchener. Clearly I had been given a gift card for Christmas.
1998. That means I have had these books for over 12 years. During those 12 years I have moved four times and had at least three yard sales. And through it all I kept my Stuff. This, despite only ever reading two of the books in their entirety.
Seeing that receipt made me realize how crazy my obsession with Stuff is. Just to have a full, cool looking bookshelf I had carted these books around for a decade rather than give Stuff up. Well, this time they're going to get sold (or given away – my wife has assured me that nothing that goes to the yard to sell will be returning upstairs). I hope the next person who gets them enjoys them as books that don't become just a part of their Stuff.
What is your weakness when it comes to Stuff? Do you agree that our culture places too high a priority on Stuff? If so do you see this as a trend that's increasing or decreasing these days?
(Note: If you happen to be reading this blog on the day of posting, and it's before noon, swing by my place and see if there's any good deals left. Blog followers get a discount! Click on one of the buttons on the right to Follow whichever way works best for you.)