I was so proud of myself. Our recent yard sale had but a major dent in the household clutter, and we’d sold tons of all that stuff that sort of accumulates and nobody in the family knows why or where it came from or why somebody had to have it in the first place. Such as sure-I-can-knit-eight-Christmas-stockings supplies. And I-know-I’ll-use-these-purple-silk-flowers someday. And gotta-have cookbooks. Well … actually … we know where all those come from. Raising hand guiltily. I am a cookbook junkie. I admit it. I’m easily seduced by pretty pictures and promises of attainable culinary delight. I’m eternally optimistic, even though deep down I know I’ll never make all … uh … most … okay… any of the recipes. But somehow having the book in my possession makes it maybe perhaps possibly likely that I might someday make Peppercorn Roasted Pork with Vermouth Pan Sauce and Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream-Cheese Frosting for dessert. Maybe. Anyway, everybody — husband, children, friends — commented on how well I’d cleaned out my cookbook stash, and I was starting to believe that maybe I could be trusted to wander through a cookbook aisle once again. However, the very next weekend after our yard sale (The. Very. Next. Weekend.), we went to a friend’s yard sale and because of course the rule is that you HAVE to buy something at a friend’s yard sale, I naturally gravitated to her Table O’Books — and found these cookbook treasures. Oh, I should mention that my friend is a newspaper cookbook editor, so it’s possible that in the back of mind I thought maybe I’d find something interesting. Maybe. I mean, “Boy Eats World?” How cool is that? And “The Real Woman Cookbook” is a hoot — all feisty and sassy in the manner of Peg Bracken and Erma Bombeck. “The Fearless Chef” has some wonderful-sounding recipes, and the “Layers of Flavors” and the book about flavored oils have gorgeous inspiring photos. And I got them all for only $5. “I’ve just got to clean out all my cookbooks,” my friend said. My husband just shook his head. But the minute I create a gourmet feast from one of my new cookbooks, he’ll thank me. And I’ll sure let you know when that happens. The cooking part, I mean.
Oh my cookies! Yup, these are actual pieces of clothing that I wore in the 1980s. And what’s worse is that I actually made them myself. When I was cleaning out closets for a yard sale recently, I found these stashed away … probably in an effort to forget. But it’s not my fault. As stay-at-home moms in the 1980s, my friends and I perfected our uniform of Laura Ashley jumpers, black stretchy stirrup pants and oversized Bedazzled T-shirts gathered on the side with hair scrunchies. Painful but true. And for some reason — I am not creative or crafty or in any way remotely talented artistic-wise — I became addicted to sewing. I made clothes for myself and my two daughters. I made clothes for their dolls. I made pillows and curtains and Halloween costumes. I think I convinced myself I was saving money, although anyone who’s ever wandered into a fabric store and come out minus the grocery-budget for the month recognizes that big fat lie. The collar has little bunnies on it, and I think I work it for Easter over a white blouse. The sweatshirt I have no excuse for. Why I would want to bedeck myself in a huge hot-pink sweatshirt decorated with buttons, bows and spools of thread, I have no idea. Please tell me some of y’all went through this phase, too.
Success! Our yard sale this weekend was great fun. Plus, we sold a bunch of stuff. I mean, our garage has not been this clean and uncluttered since we moved in. This is all we have left. Compared to what we started with, it’s amazing. Yup, it was hot. Yup, it was miserable. Yup, folks thought we were crazy for having a yard sale in 101 degree heat and threats of thunderstorms. But the rain held off and, really, once you’ve sweated so much your T-shirt has become one with your skin and your hair has no resemblance to anything human, then you get sort of used to it. The most popular items at the sale that people asked about and I had to pry out of folks’ hand? Our bottle of hand sanitizer and our table fan. I know exactly what to stock up on for next time.
Tomorrow, this mess is going to be all organized into the Best Yard Sale Ever. Or, if it rains — a garage sale. We’re flexible that way. I’ve called in all the troops: Husband, Younger Daughter, Older Daughter and 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable to provide plenty of abundant adorableness. In addition, we’re having Bargains Galore. I promise — things you will not be able to resist. Also: I am not hauling this stuff back into the house. You have been warned. If you’re anywhere near northwest Alabama Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, c’mon over. We’ve got clothes, books, jewelry, home decor — tons of things that would look wonderful in your house!!!
Okay, all y’all antiques detectives. I need help! As much as I love a good bargain and the thrill of the hunt, I’m not one to get all googly-eyed over yard sales. Some people are. Some people get up on Saturday morning while it’s still dark and gather their yard-sale tools (measuring tape, hand wipes, bottled water, coffee) and then set off to discover treasures. I only do that in extreme circumstances — such as when the bed-and-breakfast in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Dear Husband and I stayed after our wedding is cleaning out the linen closets and hosting a yard sale with profits benefiting the church next door where Dear Husband and I got married. Now, that is worth it. The folks who owned Byrn-Roberts Inn, a gorgeous 1903 house on Main Street just a block or so away from Murfreesboro’s downtown, had closed the inn several years ago and were simply living in the house as normal people. But apparently they decided they didn’t need dozens of water pitchers and hand towels after all and decided to declutter and help out Central Christian Church at the same time. My mom and Younger Daughter were all up for the adventure, and we planned so well that we got there even before the sale started. And we all scored. My mom, with her usual impeccable eye for gems among junk, made some great buys. And YD and I didn’t do so badly either. For less than $45, I bought a wicker towel rack, a metal wall mirror, a wine carrier I’m going to use for flowers or silverware, three adorable square glass flower vases, a restaurant-style ice bucket with tongs, a fun breads cookbook and some … I don’t know what you call them … cute things on metal stakes that you stick in your garden or landscaping — including an adorable metal ladybug for Capt. Adorable (he calls them “Grouchy B Bugs” from a favorite Eric Carle book). And then I also bought this stainless-steel Mystery Pitcher. It’s about 5 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter, with a brass-colored handle and hinge on the lid. I would guess it was for warm maple syrup or something else breakfast-in-a-quaint-Victorian-inn-like except for the holes in the lid near the spout area. I forgot to ask the inn’s owners what it was when I bought, so now I’m hoping y’all can help. Any ideas?
Okay, Easter’s over, and if you didn’t get your spring cleaning done already, don’t panic. There’s still time. Step No. 1? Declutter! Get all that junk out of your house. I promise that you’ll feel as if you put your house on a diet — it will feel that much lighter and sleeker. And the best way to declutter? A yard sale. Look, it’s win-win. You clean house, you make some money, you help the economy by offering folks some bargains and you further the cause of reduce-reuse-recycle. What’s not to like? Oh, yes: The hard and boring work of putting a yard sale together. But you’re in luck, because I talked to some yard-sale veterans who passed along some no-fail yard-sale tips for a newspaper article I wrote on how to have a successful yard sale. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025007 and get ready to have the best yard-sale ever.
And while you’re at the TimesDaily Web site, read my weekly column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100402/ARTICLES/4025004, where you’ll discover the question that goes with this answer: “If your veins showing through the rip are as dark as the denim.” I promise you, this is fashion advice you will not get in Vogue.
We had our first yard sale this past weekend. The verdict? Success! And here’s the key: Have lots of help and have lots of fun. That’s my advice — even though I’ve only had one yard sale. I dithered back and forth about doing it but when my two daughters said they’d help when I offered them a a 50/50 split of the profits — anything to get their junk out of the house! — we were on. And I’m here to tell you that you cannot do yard sales alone. Do not even try it. Everybody — children, in-laws, parents, friends — lent advice and (literally) helping hands. Plus, we all had fun. Made it a party, even. Might as well. Read more in my past two weekly newspaper columns for the TimesDaily: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090710/ARTICLES/907105000 and http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090717/ARTICLES/907175001
No, Tasha the White Cat won’t get sold along with the rest of the stuff slated for our upcoming yard sale, but sometimes I’m tempted. She can be the most annoying, whiny, aggravating little thing — and then she curls up right beside you and tucks her head under and goes to sleep and looks so sweet that you forgive her for the 3 a.m. wakeup calls. Even my husband John Pitts overlooks her irritating determination to get on the other side of any — every? — door, no matter what time of day or night and her overwhelming jump-in-your-lap need to have some of whatever anybody else is eating. Too bad she doesn’t have thumbs and can’t help with yard-sale pricing. We usually donate stuff we accumulate and don’t want to a local church-run thrift store, but somehow we still had tons of stuff taking up prime space. We pretty much have an empty nest now with Older Daughter off and married and Younger Daughter off at college — I always tell them that I don’t mind keeping/storing their stuff, as long as it’s stuff they know they want to keep/store. If not, let’s let it be somebody else’s junk. We haven’t had a yard sale for years and years, and I sweetened the deal by offering each of the daughters half of the proceeds if they’d help declutter. You can see the response here — and this is just part of what we’ve got to sell. Except for the kitty. She stays. I guess.
My mom and dad recently had their Super Incredible Mega Yard Sale in Manchester, Tenn. They do a massive cleanout every year or so and sell the results at the Ponderosa, their farm on nearby Old Tullahoma Highway where my dad grows nursery stock and my mom has her antique “shed” — it’s smaller than a shop.” They did most of the toting and packing and moving things around, but I helped a little bit — mainly by telling customers, “I’m not sure what that is. Let’s ask my mom!” Anyway, the weather was perfect and we had so much fun, especially when my daughter and son-in-law brought Cutest Baby Ever up from Huntsville, Ala., for a visit. And I loved watching my parents in action! My mom knows her antiques, and she arranges things so creatively: Linens in an old suitcase, plates in a dish drainer. Everything in the sale had a story, from the wooden lobster trap they brought back from Maine (“They don’t make them like this anymore,” my mom said. “They’re all plastic now.”) to my grandmother’s decades-old mixer — which my mom sold to a young woman who seemed to appreciate it. But it wasn’t all selling. My dad met a couple tractor collectors, which led to deep conversations about … well, tractor stuff. And he also ended up giving away some bed railings that weren’t even in the sale to a woman who was helping a disabled friend of hers set up housekeeping. Profits from the two-day sale were only about $250, but I took away much more than the $15 I got for some pots and pans.
This is where I was when I found out my younger daughter had mono — and I had shared her soup and sandwich at lunch earlier that week. Yikes! She already was feeling better by the time she got her diagnosis but of course I convinced myself that I was feeling worse. Read about the happy ending at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20081010/ARTICLES/810100302