Our First Garage Sale | An Ode To Our House

May 25, 2011 2 Comments by afamilyinmotion


A Family In Motion | Garage Sale | Moving To Thailand

A Family In Motion | Garage Sale | Moving To Thailand | Photo by The O'Donnell Group


Memories Tangled Up In This Garage Sale

I am sort of a pack rat, and my husband is a minimalist, so there have been more than a few battles over what we keep and what gets discarded in our house.  I err on the side of sentimentality, and my husband, an engineer at heart, cannot understand why I would want to keep photo albums and cards from people I don’t even like (I just found a handmade card from a girl in my 5th grade class who wrote in silver sharpie, “You are so cool/you and Alex should totally go out/he is so cute”.  We had a falling out in 6th grade, and haven’t spoken in 20+ years, yet up until a few days ago I still had her erudite letter).  It’s no surprise, then, that having a garage sale would be tough for me.  I was surprised to find, however, that my husband was more than a little reluctant to part with his beloved record collection.  I’m glad he eventually relented because those vinyls were a huge hit with the handful of old punk rockers that stopped by.  In fact, the garage sale was a ridiculous success overall.  We got rid of so much stuff, I couldn’t believe how spacious our property felt afterwards.  We had one guy walk away with a bike, a commercial espresso machine, a table and a lamp.  And he came back two days later for more stuff!  Not all of our customers were so generous with their funds, though.  I had a guy haggle with me over a $50 cookbook that I was selling for a dollar.  The cover was ripped so he wanted a better price…better than $1?

The psychology of garage sales is very interesting.  I watched with fascination all the different people who crossed the threshold into our private lives.  Some walked with timid trepidation, respectful of our space and our belongings and careful not to intrude.  Other people barged in with a single-minded determination to seek out the best bargains and hidden gems among our piles of garbage.  There were professional garage sale trawlers, people whose sole weekend purpose is to fill the void in their lives with trinkets and knick-knacks.  We had numerous people poke their heads into our basement and inquire into items that were not for sale (but that might be, for the right price).  It’s a funny feeling to have strangers sifting through your things.  I was amazed at the things people bought, and even more surprised by the things people didn’t buy.

Throughout the two days that we held our garage sale, we interacted with many people.  Some people stopped to talk, and we found out that one couple owned a cafe on the same street as our restaurant.  We enjoyed commiserating over the food industry and sharing a common bond.  I couldn’t help but feel more than a twinge of nostalgia as I sat there talking with this couple.  Our neighborhood and community is so close.  I love where we live.  I love our neighbors, our neighborhood, our current lifestyle (life is great when not running a restaurant!) and our house.  And all that is familiar is about to end.

A Garage Full Of Nostalgia

These days I find my mind returning to the first month when we moved in to our house.  I remember exploring the neighborhood, jogging with our sweet dog, Luna, and inevitably ending up lost somewhere and having to rely on her doggy intuition to steer us home.  I think about meeting our neighbors and the first dinner we had together.  We were initiated quickly into a group of four couples who were serious foodies, and for the next several years we took turns hosting fabulous dinners where we served way too much wine and always ended up talking politics.  Over the course of seven years in our neighborhood, a lot has changed.  Neighbors have come and gone; we have witnessed several births and one death; there has been tragedy and there has been triumph.  And our neighbors have been there to support each other through the tough times, a true test of their integrity and friendship.

The Transformation Of Our House (And Our Lives) Over The Years

Our house itself has undergone quite a transformation since 2004.  The kitchen has seen a complete remodel, appropriate for the owners of a restaurant.  Goodbye to the fluorescent lights, linoleum and green wallpaper.  Hello to hardwood floors, granite countertops, a Viking stove and a dishwasher (thank goodness for dishwashers!)  We love to entertain, and the kitchen is always the focal point of our parties.  Paul insisted on an open floor plan for the kitchen, which spills seamlessly into the dining room, and flows effortlessly onto our gorgeous deck that we designed.  It really is the perfect place for guests.  Yet, there are still so many ambitious projects that haven’t been realized.  We never made it to the upstairs bathroom where we had plans for a clawfoot tub and new tile; or the windows that I wanted to replace in our bedroom.  It makes me sad to think of all the unfinished plans.  Some new family will take over where we left off.  What will they do to our house–will they have good taste?  Will they become friends with our neighbors–will they become better friends with them?  Will we drive by years later and see them outside, comfortable and content in their home, and be filled with regret that we let go of this wonderful house and said goodbye to this community that has embraced us so lovingly?

The woman from whom we bought this house still comes by occasionally to check in.  She asked to come inside once a few years ago, and I think she was dismayed to see what we had done (the house didn’t look so great a few years ago, admittedly).  I always got the impression that she had been reluctant to sell her house.  She and her family had lived here for nearly 30 years.  She had raised her daughters here, and it will always be a special place for her.  On the day she moved out, she left us a letter that her daughter had written over 20 years ago.  It said something like “Alex was here” with some drawings of rainbows.  I kept that letter in a drawer in the kitchen for five years (pack rat mentality?) out of respect and homage to the families who lived in our house before.  It’s a special house.  Built in 1934, it’s only ever had five families inhabit its walls.  The people who lived here made this house a home.  They settled in and stayed a while.  I wonder what the original owners of the house were like.  How much of what remains in the house today still bears their imprint?  Could they ever have imagined that so many different people would pass through (and the exorbitant prices they would pay for this house)?  I will encourage our daughter to write a letter to the new family and hide it somewhere for them to find later.  Will they keep it for years like I did, a constant reminder that we are only inhabiting this space temporarily, aware that many have dwelt here before us, and many more will come to stay after?

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  1. Minnie
    9 years ago

    I truly enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing.



    • afamilyinmotion
      9 years ago

      Thanks Minnie! Are you living in Thailand currently? I’ve seen your name floating around Luk Kreung. I’ve been having a lot of fun on that FB group and reading about everyone’s interesting experiences. Thanks for reading and take care!


      Paul, Adrienne and Ingrid.


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