A certainty of summer — garage sales

You can count on certain things happening every summer. Nature has a way of reminding you that the hot and humid days are on the way. There’s the return of fireflies in the back yard. The return of mosquitoes as the sun goes down. And, of course, the return of garage sales to your street.

Every year, garage sale signs start popping up like so many dandelions in your yard. It’s kind of like the caribou migrating across the Arctic or the buzzards coming back to Hinckley. For humans, garage sales are one of those natural, instinctive things we all do.

This year, my wife decided we needed to join the herd. I was skeptical at first, but when she said it was the motivation we needed to clean the attic, my ancient instincts kicked in. Our attic really needed to be cleaned out and whenever your wife says it’s time to get rid of a bunch of stuff, you have to take advantage of the opportunity.

The problem is, attics are not a pleasant place. In the winter, they are freezing cold. In the summer, they are only slightly cooler than the center of a stream of molten lava. Our plan worked like this: we would spread sheets out on the living room floor, and someone would go up and down the stairs, dragging all our junk down from the attic while someone else went through all the boxes. You get one guess who got the honor of working in the attic.

So there I was, pulling out boxes and dragging them down the stairs, dripping sweat like a human Niagara. There are boxes of our kids’ stuff from school. At some point it must have seemed like a good idea to save every scrap of paper and art project. It doesn’t seem like such a good idea now. We asked if they wanted any of their cherished memories, they looked at us like we were out of our minds, so most of the projects and “Good Job” certificates went into the recycling pile.

Old toys and clothes? Garage sale pile. Years of old bank statements? In the big bonfire file. What’s over there? Why, it’s the old crib. Our youngest son is now 30 years old. It’s time for the crib to go.

It’s hard to believe how many things were up there. Toys, baseball hats, books, beds, old basketball pictures from when I was in high school — wait, those might be important! The longer we worked, the more I was ready to trash it all. My wife clandestinely went back to check the trash bags I filled up to make sure I wasn’t throwing out something vital. Anything that anyone could conceivably want was set aside for the big sale.

Then there were the boxes. For some reason, we had about a bajillion empty boxes in our attic. Computer boxes. Appliance boxes. Empty boxes from our church. Empty boxes from my wife’s school. I guess if every person in the city of Troy ever moved on the same day we would have boxes for them. My son and I broke them all down and we are rationing them out to the recycling guy for the next year or so.

Finally, we had cleared out the attic. Then my wife got to work marking all the items going into the garage sale. I made signs on the computer. We put tables up in the garage and my wife arranged things in a way that would make Target look like a second-hand store.

I hadn’t worked this hard since — well, probably since forever. I would have lost weight working in that hot attic except for the ice cream and popsicles I ate to keep hydrated.

The big day arrived, and things went pretty well. You know how garage sales work — you could have a brand new Ferrari in the driveway marked $10 and the first guy there would say, “Will you take $5?” But it was more about getting items out of the house than it was striking it rich, so we were happy when anyone bought anything. We actually ended up making a couple hundred dollars, which probably works out to about $5 an hour for all our work, but for some reason we had a feeling of great accomplishment.

The day after the sale, we loaded up the van and my wife took what was left to Goodwill. The attic is clean. The garage is clean. I feel like a new man.

Except for one thing. Now the basement needs to be cleaned up. I have this fear that next year, when the fireflies and mosquitoes return, my wife will once again be feeling that primordial urge for another garage sale.