Friday, June 24, 2011

Everything is Free Over Here

This article contains practical how-to tips on doing your own free yard sale, as introduced in this previous post.

For those in the Utah County area, there will be a Free Sale on Saturday, June 25th, from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at 700 N & 400 W in Orem. This is open to anyone. Use this opportunity to clear out some clutter and/or shop for free.

Things to remember:
1. The number one rule: you have to be ready to give it away for FREE, with no conditions.
2. If you are interested in getting a tax write-off for an item, a free sale is not the appropriate venue.
3. Make it a neighborhood, church, or work group effort. More people = higher success rate.
4. There should NOT be ANY requirement for people to bring something in order to take something—no strings attached, everything should be free and clear.
5. Bring a chair/blanket, sunscreen, water, snacks and maybe a large umbrella or canopy (for both rain and sun).
6. Bring some empty boxes/plastic bags so that people can have an easier time loading up.
7. Though I make sure the clothes are washed and wipe most of the dust off other items, I don’t feel the need to do a detailed cleaning or extensive repairs.
8. If neighbors are contributing large, cumbersome items, ask them to check back at the end to see if those items were taken. You don’t want to be stuck trying to fit a table and 4 chairs into your sedan to drop off at the thrift store. Be upfront about it; most people will respect that rule.
9. If a customer wants to put something (i.e. a T.V.) on “layaway” in order to find appropriate transportation, agree to a deadline (30 minutes-1 hour, I would not recommend any longer than that). If anyone else shows interest, invite them to come back at the deadline to see if it is still available.
10. You would be surprised at the things that get taken. When in doubt, add it to the free sale. Most likely someone will take it.

Whether you’re trying to pare down, or you’re looking for that special something, a free sale is a great option for everyone. It fits the needs on both sides of the table. It fosters a sense of fellowship among community members.  And, frankly, it gives everyone involved a natural high, the influence of which can continue to spread throughout the day. Pay it forward and watch an ongoing ripple-effect of goodwill and neighborliness.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

GIVEAWAY!—Green Living Style

Who wants my old stuff?! I know you do. Tell you what—I normally don’t do this, but for YOU . . . for YOU I’ll do it. How ‘bout I throw in a recliner to sweeten the deal. Mint condition, I tell you. Just a few rips and only one missing bolt. Takers?


Six years ago I held my inaugural “free sale” and invited others in my extended neighborhood to participate if interested. I had originally called it a “Freecycle Event” (named after the online resource-- --where local community members offer anything from couches to fruit to theater tickets for free). After watching an angry couple walk away—because there was no free MOTORcycle—I stopped calling it that. So now I just write “Everything is Free.”

The fun part, though, goes like this:

Car slows down. The driver has seen the stuff and presumably the sign. Driver parks. Gets out and looks around. Zeros in on something. “How much is this?”

“It’s free. Everything is free.”

Eyes widen. “Free? Really?”

It’s like winning the lottery . . . well, sort of. (A toaster and some board games may not bring about the same level of elation that a million dollars might, but hey . . .) The customer browses some more and maybe calls a friend. It’s great fun. Some people are more reserved, silently searching through the books or clothes. And, some get to chatting about grandchildren or plans for the garden.

There is no money box to tend. No figuring out how to price the merchandise. And, no haggling.

Examples of items given away in previous years: nursery furniture, lawnmower, small kitchen appliances, clothes, yarn, books, ski boots and home d├ęcor.

A few stories have stood out over the years.

The first year, I remember my very first customer. She was checking out a couple of suitcases. She, like many others who would follow her over the years, asked, “How much for these?” She was getting ready for a trip to Samoa, you see, to visit her family. She needed some luggage. These would be perfect.

One year, the weather did not cooperate very well. It was chilly and drizzly. And yet, one young man was heartened by his finds. After browsing, he came up to me and a friend to share where he was headed with his two items: a random piece of red fabric and a sport water bottle. He explained that he was on his way to a Native American spiritual ceremony of some kind—the fabric and the water were to be integral to the ceremony.

And then.

One year things were wrapping up and a few items remained. I was conversing with a couple of energetic customers, chit-chatting about this and that. I saw in the corner of my eye two figures approaching from my left—a man and a young child. I didn’t register anything in particular, just wondered briefly if they were passing through or if they planned on looking through the dregs. My gaze returned to my conversation and we continued with our pleasant banter. I again took a quick glance at the man and the child. The man had picked up the last pair of pants on the table. The pants were two sizes too big for the boy and had a gaping, tattered hole in each knee. The man grabbed the pants and started to dress the boy, who, I now noticed, was wearing only a shirt and a diaper. He rolled up the pant legs, took the boy’s little hand and the two silently continued their journey.

That memory always chokes me up.

And so, as I gear up for this year’s free sale, I wonder about the people I will meet. What are their stories? From whence are they coming? Where are they going? How will our lives be touched during this brief intersection of storylines?