We recently were part of a neighborhood yard sale organized by our friend Jenn, who lives across the cul-de-sac.
It baffled me why she’d even create the event. This woman has nothing to sell. Trust me, I checked! Since everything in her house is in its proper place, it was easy to do.
Jenn’s cupboards are sparsely equipped with the perfect number of dishes. Unlike me, there’s no fifth pie plate you might possibly need next Thanksgiving or a growing crowd of coffee mugs because you never know which one you’ll feel like using tomorrow.
Even Jenn’s closets and drawers appear staged and ready for a photo shoot. They offer no excess items one could sell for 50 cents. Open my cupboards and it’s a regular Lucille Ball episode where things avalanche haphazardly, never to fit back in again.
I can only suspect Jenn cooked up this yard sale to enhance community. Everyone comes out of their house for the day and visits each other’s stuff for stories and connection. Rather brilliant idea, right? Yup, Jenn is just as lovely as she is neat. When I visit her house to see what bare countertops look like, she lovingly serves my favorite wine. Just try to hate her.
In preparation for the yard sale, I thoughtfully went through each room of my house, even daring to open those caverns of chaos called closets. Channeling my inner-Jenn, I’d ask myself the question that perfectly captures the current zeitgeist, “Does this spark joy?” I’d immediately think, “Who the hell cares!”
I mean, I get the whole Marie Kondo precept, that the feeling of joy is the measure of whether to keep something or not. But, it’s a stressful question, especially when I’m deciding to put something out in front of my house and strangers. Holding up one of 12 glass vases, I felt fondness and appreciation. Aren’t those components of joy? I was so confused!
Somehow, I managed to collect an assortment of items to sell, including an urn I used as a prop in one of my plays. My husband remarked, “Who the hell is going to buy an urn at a yard sale?” Admittedly, a good point, but it hurt my feelings because it took two hours to decide to sell it. Who knows? I might need that urn. But since I decided urns, in general, don’t “spark joy,” I eventually put a $3 price tag on it.
Then began the worst part of a yard sale — people. No, not the people themselves. I like people; I’m a people-person. It’s the people going through your stuff I don’t like. Intruders picking up your vase, going through your books, thinking, “Who the hell sells an urn at a yard sale?”
Furthermore, I never want to charge anyone anything. When we moved from our last house to a home half the size, we held a massive three-day yard sale with tons of furniture and household items. Back then, I’d had a great idea, one I tried to sell my husband on, “Let’s put everything on the front lawn with a huge free sign!” Come to think of it, he looked at me as if I were crazy, you know, as if I’m someone who would sell an urn at a yard sale.
Now that the big day has come and gone, I can report our recent neighborhood yard sale was a great success. I loved being with my neighbors. And, no, not because I am a people person, but because my neighbors are awesome. Jenn’s family even held a fundraiser that day for the local animal rescue. Yes, the whole lot of them are uncommonly wonderful.
And, to put a cap on that yard sale, I sold the urn. To a tenderhearted woman. Turns out, for a great and meaningful reason. Watching her leave, cradling that urn, I have to say, I saw it undeniably spark joy.
Carole Vasta Folley is an award-winning Vermont playwright and columnist. Visit carolevf.com.