Garage sales prove truth of adage: One person's trash is another's treasure

Reaping return on odds and ends

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

Nice weather and unwanted goods make strange bedfellows, one would think. This is the formula that is finding families digging through old articles of clothing, books, household items and more to sell to someone with greater need or desire for them. And it's all usually available at bargain prices.

A three-man tent for $20. A grocery bag full of clothes for $1. A microwave oven for $25. These are the types of sales one can expect to find at neighborhood yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales and moving sales.

"We moved up here from Washington three years ago, and this is how we decorated our house," said Heather Watts at a Mother's Day garage sale in Soldotna.

She was out with her family perusing area sales, but only picked up a pair of shoes at this particular one. She said she was off to another sale with no particular item in mind.

With so much in store, it is difficult to limit oneself to just one place to shop. Photography equipment, bikes, hunting gear, linens, furniture. Everything but the kitchen sink -- and in some cases, even that can go.

"The oven and refrigerator unit work on it, but I don't know about the sink," Soldotna resident Tom Cullen told an interested buyer about the oven-stove-refrigerator-sink combination unit he was asking $400 for.

The buyer, who had stopped at the Sterling Highway roadside sale, took a long, pensive look at the unit before promising to return with cash if Cullen would hold it for him.

"I've got to run home," the buyer said. "I live in Kasilof, and I don't have any money with me."

Beyond just the values to be had from rummage retail, is the relief those who have these sales find. And the cash. Clearing out old odds and ends for a monetary return has double the benefit.

"We're unloading a bunch of stuff," said Jeff Nelson, who had signs out on Kalifornsky Beach Road directing traffic back to his Soldotna home off Skyline Road. "If it sits around for about a year, we move it."

Moving everything from books and video game cartridges to skis and a mountain bike, Nelson said his Friday-through-Sunday sale easily eclipsed the $1,000 mark. And the big-ticket items were still waiting to be bought by Sunday.

Nelson said his 14-year-old son Nate got enthusiastic about the sale because he had a specific goal in mind himself.

"He wants to buy a new bass guitar," Nelson said.

He said his son was selling two older guitars, among other items, to come up with the money for the newer bass, and considered selling a video game system.

"He asked me if I thought he should let it go, and I told him it was his call," he said. "He's real close, without having sold any of that."

The Kenai Senior Center is among several area organizations holding a yard sale during the spring. One of the volunteers, Betty Paynter, said the center holds a spring and a fall sale -- along with a bake sale -- to raise money for some of the center's projects. Any items remaining after the sale, she said, would find homes through charitable organizations.

"We're trying to get a new van," Paynter said. "Whatever's left we donate to the Women's Resource (and Crisis) Center or to the Salvation Army."

Another volunteer, Anna Wheeler, said catering to people's interests, in her opinion, often splits along gender lines.

"Men are usually looking for specific items," she said. "Women generally look for bargains."

Kenai resident Sherry Sharp offered a motivation that might confirm Wheeler's assessment.

"If there's a sign, I go," she said. "Even if I'm broke. With 11 grandchildren, I need to look all the time."

At a sale off Ciechanski Road, J.W. Harrison, of Kenai, said this is the perfect time to find good deals, because so many people are moving Outside.

"I generally expect to find some decent equipment," he said. "A lot of people move out of Alaska in the springtime."

Confirming Wheeler's belief, Harrison said he knew what he was looking for trolling through the sales.

"I'm looking for hunting stuff. Fishing stuff," he said. "Guy stuff."

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