Last weekend our town held its city-wide garage sales and I was struck by how the event has gone from a highlight of the spring to something barely noticeable. It used to be that hoards of people would walk the main streets, going from house to house hunting for treasures. This year we practically had to drive between sales because they were so few and far between and the buyers were even more sparse. It was a bust.
I hypothesize that eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other sites have diminished the allure of a garage sale. Families no longer need to rely on the annual event to unload their unwanted items; they can post them daily and garner some pocket change without the work required to host a weekend-long sale. I was talking with one of the lonely sellers about the phenomenon and she had two other thoughts on why the enthusiasm around sales had dulled: 1) people today are minimalists who don’t want shelves of knickknacks or lots of possessions without a purpose and 2) people are much more mobile, thus purge with each new move instead of accumulating generations of possessions in the family attic. They just have less to sell and have a waning interest in buying something that isn’t the latest and greatest.
Whatever the reason, it is sad that another community-building event seeming has reverted to an online transaction with no personal connections involved. While it may be more efficient to buy and sell via an e-commerce site, there is joy in spending a spring day wandering the neighborhood gathering bargains and treasures for a quarter here and a dollar there.
When you think of “shopping small” think of your local garage sales in that vein. You’ll keep someone’s castaways out of the landfill and amass your own eclectic collection of treasures for a bargain.