My yard sale no-buy list

I told my wife that if she ever writes her memoirs (and there’s no reason to expect that she will), a good title would be “Yard Sales I Have Known.”

There would be at least one chapter about things I am no longer allowed to buy at yard sales, things like circular saws (I have eight), framing hammers (I have 12), dress shoes (I’m retired), 35mm film cameras (they’re obsolete) and bathroom scales (I don’t want to know what I weigh), but ladders and screwdrivers definitely head the list.

“Fred, you already have a thousand screwdrivers,” she says sternly when she sees me picking up screwdrivers from a yard sale table.

I could argue that the heads of Phillips screwdrivers become pitifully worn, or that a fellow needs a good variety of flathead sizes, but Honey and I are long past the discussion stage on this issue, and I put them back.

This past July, when yard sales were finally starting up again after the coronavirus pause, I picked up a nice set of screwdrivers for $5 at an estate sale. It was at a million-dollar house in a very toney subdivision, so new that the owners couldn’t have had time to grow old and die. I thought it must be a nasty divorce estate sale, a liquidate everything and go their own ways sale. Anyway, I paid for the screwdrivers, snuck outside and hid them in the car.

Unfortunately, Honey spotted them. She was so mad she said she wanted to go home, NOW, even though our Saturday yard sale trek had just begun.

“But Honey, dear, these are new, and nicer than any screwdrivers I ever had in my life,” I begged. “Look at this place. It’s new. Everything in it is new. These people never had to fix anything.”

“You have a screwdriver problem. Admit it,” she said, thoroughly disgusted.

She eventually relented after I promised to review every potential purchase with her first for the rest of the day.

TWO YARD SALES later – it was a community yard sale event, where we could walk to the next sale – I saw a dandy folding aluminum stepstool. I coveted it. It was a two-stepper, the kind you’d use to get something off a high shelf, and it had a handle for safety. For two dollars. Two dollars!

But I have a ladder problem, too, (as my wife has often reminded me, and has told the rest of the family so they can keep an eye on me, too) so reluctantly I passed it up . . . after showing it to Honey, and mentioning that we are getting older, and really should have several of these safe little ladders to use around the house.

She pointed out that we already have several of these safe little ladders around the house, so that was that, and we walked up the street and visited two or three more sales. I was sad and quiet, grieving for a little ladder that would never be mine.

I had only made it through the first two stages of grief when Honey had had enough.

“If you’re going to pout all day, go back and buy the stupid ladder,” she said.

“O-K!” I said, brightening instantly. I ran back, and though someone else had bought it in the meantime, I was happy because it validated my belief in that little ladder. And, I couldn’t stay sad because what she said was true. We do have plenty of them.

My theory on regular stepladders is that wherever I am in the house, I should never have to go further than 10 feet to lay my hands on one. For extension ladders, my standard is that I need one for every increment in height that I might ever want to reach, up to 40 feet.

“No more ladders!” Honey says when she sees me looking longingly an extension ladder. My only chance is to convince her that the one I already have of that length is unsafe.

WHAT I BUY at yard sales is mostly stuff for myself – tools, books, shoes, work clothes.

Honey, on the other hand, buys very little for herself personally. She fills orders for our children and grandchildren, or friends, or someone in need. Someone needs a kitchen appliance, or the boys have outgrown their baseball pants – those sorts of things.

Here’s a recent example: A woman she knows is expecting twins, and asked for gifts of either new or used baby clothes for the baby shower. We came upon a yard sale where a lady was just starting to lay out some very nice baby outfits.

“How much?” Honey asked.

“A dollar apiece,” the lady said, which was very reasonable, but I was eyeing two large bags and a big plastic tub of baby clothes, and thinking it was going to take all day to select a baby shower’s worth out of all that.

“How much for all of it?” I asked.

Moments later, for 30 bucks we were carrying away 50 outfits that any baby would be proud to wear, plus quantities of socks, shoes, tights, coats, headbands, blankets and swaddlers, whatever they are.

Honey was a hero, her pregnant friend was going be thrilled, and we could move on to the next yard sale, at which, I was thinking, there just might be a nice ladder or a primo screwdriver with my name on it.


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