One man’s trash is another man’s garbage

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Jim Mullen Con­tact Jim Mullen at

You have never seen such a col­lec­tion of ab­so­lute junk in your en­tire life.

“Why would peo­ple buy such ugly, use­less stuff?” I ask my­self over and over, as I carry it out of our house and put it on the ta­bles we’ve set up in the drive­way.

We’re hav­ing a garage sale. And it’s not just us: The neigh­bors have all got­ten to­gether for a mul­ti­fam­ily sale, and their stuff doesn’t look much bet­ter. Where did it all come from? It looks like the world’s big­gest jum­ble shop ex­ploded in our drive­way. Thank good­ness no one was injured by fly­ing pieces of 8-track tapes.

No one is sell­ing this stuff to make money; they’re sell­ing it to get rid of it. English needs a word for stuff that is too use­less to keep, but too ex­pen­sive to throw out.

“There is a word for it,” Sue said. “Col­lectibles.”

Close, but no cigar. It doesn’t cover gad­gets that we’ve never used, like the ver­ti­cal chicken broiler or 12-in-1 screw­driver. Who col­lects pic­ture frames? Judg­ing by the stash I just hauled out of the base­ment, we do. Why do I have a pair of work boots? As Sue likes to tell everyone she meets, I’ve never done a lick of work in my life. They do look as if they just came out of the box. What was I think­ing when I bought them?

Look at all these records! Whoops, I mean “vinyl.” The kids love vinyl, and I’ve got plenty of it. Surely some young au­dio­phile will pay me a dol­lar for the chance to lis­ten to a scratchy copy of “Ray Con­niff’s Hawai­ian Al­bum.” Maybe it will be the same per­son who will buy my 45-year-old turntable. Good luck find­ing a needle for that baby. If your vinyl dis­cov­er­ies don’t sound like static on an AM ra­dio dur­ing a thun­der­storm, I haven’t done my job right.

A lot of what I’m sell­ing are parts of things that used to work, but don’t any longer.

“Who’s go­ing to buy a bro­ken clock?” Sue asked.

“It’s not com­pletely bro­ken,” I said. “It’s still right twice a day.”

“That joke is so old Henny Young­man wouldn’t use it,” she said. She was hav­ing a hard time get­ting into the spirit of the thing. So I grabbed a plas­tic fish on a wall plaque and pushed the but­ton that makes it sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” She sud­denly re­mem­bered she had things to do in the house.

What kind of fool would buy this junk? Oh yeah. Me. I’m al­ways buy­ing stuff at garage sales, be­cause things are such bar­gains. At the store, I have to pay full-price for things I don’t need, but the same stuff I don’t need is half­price at a lawn sale. I’m sav­ing hun­dreds of dol­lars by buy­ing your junk.

But where am I go­ing to find enough peo­ple just like me to make my sale work? Or, as Sue put it, “Where are you go­ing to find a sucker as big as you?”

No prob­lem. What she didn’t know was that I had added “Sale starts at 9 a.m., no early birds” to the sale an­nounce­ment. Sure enough, 10 peo­ple showed up at 6 a.m. with their hag­gling hats on.

Would I take five dol­lars for this bi­cy­cle pump for which I no longer have the bi­cy­cle? Let me think — yes! Yes I would. I would have taken 50 cents not to have to take that thing back into the house. Will I take a dol­lar for this corkscrew with wings? Sure. I never fig­ured out how it works. It would be eas­ier to open our wine with a power drill, ex­cept all our wine comes in boxes, so we don’t even need a corkscrew. I be­lieve they call it Card­boar­den­nay.

Maybe this is how War­ren Buf­fett got his start: buy­ing things for 10 and 20 dol­lars and sell­ing them for pen­nies. Sure, I lose money on each sale, but that’s OK. I’ll make it up on the vol­ume.

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