JENKINS: Yard sales are no exercise in self-esteem building

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

Funny thing about a yard sale: You never really see your own junk until you see it through someone else's eyes. And then you realize ... it really is junk.

That verdict is confirmed repeatedly throughout the day, as people stop by, browse through the collected detritus of your life, and then announce unequivocally with their feet that it's basically worthless.

Even worse are the ones who don't even stop. They just drive by slowly, looking things over, then speed up as if they might somehow become infected by the sheer insignificance of the rubbish spread out on your lawn.

Needless to say, we didn't sell much at our yard sale last weekend.

Look, I've been married 27 years. We've owned five different homes and redecorated 38 separate times, not counting the abortive "Purple Rain" bathroom makeover of 1984.

We also have four kids, two of whom are adults. During his or her lifetime, each child has owned approximately 4,000 toys, 3,000 sports-related items and 6,000 articles of clothing.

We also redecorated each child's room at least three times, as he or she grew older, which often meant buying new furniture. OK, it usually meant repainting the old stuff, but still.

To make matters worse, both my wife and I are keepers, which probably explains why we're still married and why we still have four kids and not just one or two.

But we also tend to keep stuff, either because it has sentimental value or because we "might need it someday" or because it "might come back in style" (case in point: skinny ties) or because we just don't know what to do with it. How, exactly, does one dispose of a family of country blue porcelain ducks?

In short, we have a lot of junk.

But that doesn't mean it's worthless. Take that braided rug. My two older kids and I used to lie on it every Saturday morning and watch Looney Toons. Now the kids are grown, and even with 9,785 channels I can't find Bugs Bunny on Saturday morning. Clearly, we no longer have any need for the rug. You can have it for $3.

And how about those nice wicker-bottomed bar stools? A previous home had a breakfast bar, but the current one doesn't. And even if it did, we wouldn't need four stools. They're still in great shape, though. Like new. I'll let them go for $15 each. No, you can't have the whole set for $5. They cost 60 bucks apiece brand new. In 1991. Without the finger paint embellishments.

And so it went. Apparently everything we own is divided into two categories: stuff we can't bear to get rid of for what someone might be willing to pay, and stuff we can't seem to sell at any price.

Oh, well. I guess there's always eBay.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of The Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.