The North Carolina humidity moved in overnight and squelched any lingering traces of a mild, early summer morning. Perfect, I thought. Just in time for us to haul our lives out from rooms and attics and closets and drawers and onto the front lawn for a yard sale.
I hate yard sales. People come out from who knows where to rummage through your belongings and make grunting noises if they don’t find what they’re looking for. They look at you like it's your fault that you're not selling a purple paper stretcher, or a cordless juice frother for their kitchen gadget collection. If you don't have those items, the rest of your stuff is just junk.
(By the way, I can tell which readers are yard sale enthusiasts because right now, some of you are thinking, yea, I could totally use a purple paper stretcher. Or, I should get a cordless juice frother for my kitchen. Both of these items are completely fictional, but they sound like something useful to hunt for at yard sales, don't they?)
If the die-hard-yard-sale-elites somehow do find what they’re looking for, they try to talk you down on price until you’re practically paying them to take something off your hands. They often could care less about why you’re having to sell everything you own. The only thing they care about is making a deal.
But after moving in with my parents in anticipation of our move to Uganda, a yard sale became a necessity. Renting a storage unit for a few years is a luxury we don’t have.
People keep asking us what it is like to move back in with my parents? My involuntary response is what 27- or 34-year-old is excited to move back in with their parents?
But I know their question is genuine and I appreciate the concern when it is posed. For those fortunate enough to know my parents, they’re aware that I come from two pretty awesome people. My in-laws are equally as awesome and we could just as easily have moved in with them.
No, the most difficult part about moving back home is not being under the same roof as Bruce and Tammy. The hardest part has been the transition from downtown life to suburbia.
No more walking to restaurants and breweries and avoiding downtown parking. No more bicycling to work. No more walking across the street to the market to grab a forgotten ingredient needed for dinner. And heaven forbid I make a habit of forgetting my glasses at home or work — we’re now at least 20 minutes from anything (other than the neighbors’) and a 50-minute-during-rush-hour-traffic drive from my office.
The first Saturday after our move (the first week in June, and the one when the humidity struck), has been the most trying yet. That’s when adjustment #1 (suburbia life) collided with the second most difficult part about moving back home: finding a place for all of our stuff.
A few boxes went to my in-laws. A few boxes came with us to my parents. But the majority of boxes were going out on the front lawn for the bargain-dealing-hunters that circle suburbia on Saturday mornings like vultures searching out their next meal.
Saturday mornings downtown were arguably the most quiet time during the week (except, perhaps Sunday mornings). Before 10 am? Those were my peaceful hours to catch up on writing projects. Few cars ever went by. If pedestrians did wander past our window, they usually did so quietly (in most cases, attempting to bring as little attention to their “walk of shame” as possible).
But weekend mornings in suburbia? Quite the opposite.
We originally planned for the yard sale to start at 7 am. This meant waking up at 5 am to haul everything outside and price with stickers (after of course, making a large pot of coffee). By 6 am, cars were creeping past and mini-vans were sliding their doors open to dump entire families of bargain-hunters at our driveway. I watched as one blue mini-van didn’t even stop (it just came to a crawling roll) and its passengers hopped out. People hovered over our still-boxed-up stuff and peered over my shoulder as I attempted to unpack and price items.
A very dangerous and risky move on their part, considering I had yet to drink any of the coffee made.
By 6:30 am — 30 minutes before “opening” time — I made my first sell. It was a bittersweet sell: my Yamaha keyboard. My parents bought it for me during my freshmen year of college, as I was worried I would forget how to play piano without something to practice on. It was a way for me to unwind during finals, and a sweet reminder of home. With two brothers more musically-gifted than myself, music is home at times.
As soon as the exchange was finished, I started second-guessing myself. How could I give away a gift from my parents? And one that meant so much during a season of my life?
I started to look around at our other belongings, all priced to sell. On one table sat my coffee mugs (the ones that spent hours attached to my lips as I conversed with close friends about some of the happiest and most difficult times in our lives). A little to the right sat our couch, where Gabriel and I spent many evenings reading, watching movies, or simply talking while lounging across its cream-colored fabric. And towards the front of the yard lay over half my wardrobe (the winter half) — clothes that I love but will serve no purpose where we are going.
So many memories, just strewn haplessly about. Can’t these yard sale hounds sniff them out? They’re more than glasses and desks — they’re dinner parties, and inspirational seats where I spent hours writing…
Gabriel came up and hugged me from behind, pulling me out of the rabbit hole before I went in too deep.
“Remember, that keyboard just bought you 40 tanks of gas for your piki** once we arrive in Uganda. And selling everything else will help us get there.”
**What is a piki, you ask? You’ll have to find out, once we land on the ground. I’m beyond excited to write that blog post**
I returned his hug as I thought about his words and knew he was right. After all, it’s just stuff. The memories I have associated with our belongings can stay with me — they do not have to be sold, too.
I thought about the children awaiting our arrival in Uganda. I thought about how little they have. I thought about how little we actually need.
Moving abroad (whether it is for a fun adventure in Asia or to serve the needy and orphaned at a school in Africa), is hard. It’s hard to even make the decision to go. And once the decision is made, sacrifices are required to get there. Selling everything you own is just Step #1.
When we arrive and see their faces and learn their names and passions, it will all be worth it. I love each of them already…
We eventually unpacked and priced the rest of our boxes (and by 7 am, as planned). We made a small profit, although it could have been much larger. I was hoping the large banner we displayed — the one that noted our upcoming move, with the promise that all profits would go directly to our mission in Uganda — would deter some from bartering (especially since everything was truly priced to sell).
It did not. When the final yard sale vulture started asking 25¢ for large, never opened, new-condition hardback books priced at 50¢ (ones on gardening and cooking and other life skills that cost USD 40+ when originally purchased), my patience reached its end and we closed shop.
Some of the buyers left with smug looks on their faces, thinking their haggling skills won them a deal (yes, that final vulture made off with the books for 25¢ apiece). They didn’t realize I can hold my own when it comes to knowing how to haggle. They didn’t know about the deals I’ve wagered in Nicaragua, where I couldn’t speak the language, or the treasures I brought home from Kenya when I only had a few coins in my pocket.
They didn’t realize that every piece of silverware they didn’t purchase was just another item we had to haul off and donate at the Goodwill (oh, and you want that prom dress that’s only been worn for five hours? And you want it for USD 1? Sure. Take it. One less thing for me to move).
They didn’t realize that every quarter, dime and penny they spent helped us get one step closer to Africa. Regardless, we’re thankful.
A note from the author: To my yard-sale-loving-friends, this is not a grumpy attack against all yard sales or yard-sale-hobbyists. I have sweet childhood memories of going to yard sales on Saturday mornings with my Grandma. Unless you were there to witness the recent killer-yard-sale-vultures of which I speak, you might think I'm being cruel. If you were there to witness them... then you'll know I'm being graciously kind in my descriptions above.
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