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I’m not a huge fan of shopping at garage sales, but admittedly, I’ve gone to some sales with friends who are much more passionate about spending an entire Saturday morning driving around town looking for used items, many of which if bought new are relatively inexpensive. I’d describe myself as more of a lurker, interested in the sociology of who’s selling what. I’d say that some of my yard sale cohorts might be borderline hoarders, as periodically they need to host their own sales to get rid of all the extra stuff they thought they might have needed, but didn’t.

Yes, I’ve bought a few sale items that I’m rather proud of. Once in 1991, I found a small sailboat in good condition for only $35 that comfortably seated two of us for a few summers of fun at Clinton Lake and other nearby recreational areas. I was rather proud of myself when I sold it for considerably more than I paid, to someone who was equally as pleased with such a fine purchase.

In the mid-1990s, I found a pair of cross-country skis and poles for a good price at a sale, and then went to a sporting goods shop to buy the boots for them, as I’d never buy used footwear, no matter how I would use it.

A few years later, I was at a Friday night auction in Sadorus and bought a box of six bowling trophies for only a dollar. I brought them home and displayed them visibly in the living room where my guests congregate. Visitors’ eyes gravitated to these trophies, and I was periodically asked, “Are those your trophies?” I quickly responded that they were. Friends knew that bowling wasn’t really my thing, so I had to clarify that yes, they were in fact my trophies, but that I had not won them but had purchased them. That always brought a smile to people’s faces.

In the late 1990s when our youngest went off to college, I had a garage sale. It was a strategic time to unload household items. I spent the week prior to the sale going through stuff I wanted to sell, brought it out front, cleaned it, priced it and waited for the big day. I sat all day long and earned perhaps $100 for an awful lot of work, preparing for and hosting the actual sale.

One of the items I was selling was a wooden recorder, a musical instrument not unlike a small flute. I priced it as $5. I can’t tell you how many people came to the sale, put the recorder in their mouth and blew on it, and then put it down. At the end of the sale, it was one of the many remaining items that I needed to stuff into my car and haul to the resale shop, following the one and only garage sale I’ve ever had.

A few years ago, I had the daunting task of emptying our large family home of 38 years in anticipation of moving to a new and much smaller place across town, with limited storage space. Being the very organized person that I claim to be, I made lists of things to get rid of and where they might go, as I had promised myself never to have another yard sale. I opted instead to just give away my unwanted household items, as they had served me well and had generally been acquired inexpensively and, in some cases, free. I was amazed at someone’s joy at acquiring my old cassette tapes, and another’s at receiving my not-very-healthy looking houseplants. One woman brought over a truck to pick up the old bedroom furniture that had been mine growing up as a child in the 1950s and 1960s; it was exactly what she was looking for, she stated.

Much to my surprise, one of the most difficult items to get rid of was our old piano. One would think that a free piano would be a desirable item. But few people had either the room at their house to put it, or the manpower and vehicle to haul it away. Finally, a friend brought over his strong pals to transport it to his house, and was delighted that he would now be able to give his grandchildren piano lessons.

So, when the need to downsize presents itself, do know that there is true joy in finding a happy home for things that provided happy memories over their years.

Debra Karplus is an occupational therapist and freelance writer living in Urbana-Champaign. Learn more at