My husband and I held a garage sale yesterday. A month ago, we moved my dear, hard-working and accomplished mother, age 87, into an assisted-living residence. It was time. She had declined mentally over the last couple of years. She is physically healthy but no longer capable of caring for herself. The place to which she has moved is glorious; staffed with lovely young people trained to care for our elderly. They are angels! They keep her and her fellow residents busy all day, see that they eat well, are clean, comfortable and treated with the kindness, every moment of the day, we all wish for our aging parents.
She is thriving in her new environment, beyond our wildest dreams. Still, we are left with the responsibility of closing her home and disposing of her lifetime of things: patiently collected Danish figurines, lovingly used French copper cookware, books, china, glassware...the things we all acquire without realizing the sheer volume of it all.
So yesterday we had a garage/estate sale. We advertised, listed major things to be sold, priced the big items, left the price of the small ones to the discretion of the three of us manning the sale. I learned a lot about garage sales, about selling, and about human nature.
One thing stood out above all: no one, and I mean no one, accepts a marked price as legitimate. It didn't matter if the item was priced at $400. Or $1.00; they expected it for less. And the buyer always has more stamina than the seller. Without exception, we acquiesced. We need to empty the house and they know it. The unshakable persistence of such buyers' resolve was astonishing. They seemed to feel that by showing up, they were entitled to a hefty discount, no matter how fairly an item was priced. A CD for $.50...."will you take $.25?" Of course.
The day ended well enough until we realized that the personal items of our estate sale expert/helper had been stolen. Her hairbrush, her make-up, etc. The few items she had left out because she was staying at the home had been lifted.
Who does this? We were virtually giving things away, certainly the household items; we asked no more than two or three dollars for small collections of once-loved things. We wanted to recycle her possessions, not to get rich or even break even. I was happy to see my mother's carefully maintained furniture -- most of it purchased when my parents married in 1946 -- go to young and younger people who were thrilled to find such lovely things at easily affordable prices. One couple bought her four-poster bed and said it would be their first night sleeping on a bed!
Stories like that made my day. But then to discover insignificant but personal items, had been stolen almost spoiled my day. Such is life. Such is human nature I guess. Why do I write this? If you have such a sale, there will be joy and sadness and aggravation and to remind you all, put away your personal things. There will always be people who feel entitled to it.