Rich people have as much crap as anyone else. Some of it is actually very good crap.
Think stuff such as designer clothes, shoes, and furniture, if you go in for that sort of thing. And just like people in lower socio-economic suburbs, they like to get rid of it from time to time, to make way for more.
Personal taste aside, this is particularly handy when you need to furnish a room, kitchen cupboard, or wardrobe on a limited budget.
A friend of mine once purchased a fabulously comfortable, plump, classy couch with beautiful silk Jacquard covers for a hundred dollars, at a garage sale in an affluent area. Buying this new from a shop would have set her back over a thousand dollars plus antimacassars and plastic covers. Several years later, she had it steam-cleaned for seventy dollars. At a garage sale we held in our flat, even though it was packaged with a bookcase and television set, she sold it for two hundred dollars – DOUBLE what she had paid for it nearly ten years ago!
The first time I went to a garage sale in an affluent waterside suburb of Sydney I had accidentally moved to post-devastated-but-relieved break-up, I made the mistake of picking the only house lived in by hippies. Hippies are great – I’m a lentil-eating, sarong-wearing, incense-burning hippy – but some of their stuff is downright cruddy. Same goes for students – their stuff, that is.
Students can often only afford to buy crap to begin with, so by the time they have finished abusing it, it is quite possibly in the next to worst possible (slight exaggeration) state you could expect to assault your eyeballs on a bright and breezy Saturday morning. I should know. I was a student myself once…and again. And no, that’s not a degree in anything, that’s a state of fiscal reality.
Who else would pay six dollars for an old vinyl kitchen chair, and lug it home over her shoulder and a bridge for a couple of kilometres? Or buy a second-hand fruitcake tin to make the world’s most expensive Christmas cake?
Anyway, so I moved to this affluent suburb, quite by chance; the future brother-in-law of an old school friend had a fantastic room to sublet, very much like the one I had fantasised about. I had never been to a garage sale before, and had visions of rich people’s junk being acquired for insidiously pocket-friendly sums. Well, the house belonged to these hippies. Or maybe it didn’t belong. Maybe they found it or it found them. From having walked past their place on several occasions, I concluded that candlelight was more of a turn-on for the mysterious inhabitants of this grungy-looking house, than electricity. If they weren’t squatters, they were the next best thing.
It was a very chilled-out scene in the overgrown front yard (which Posh Neighbours had clearly neglected to report to the Posh Council).
Their stuff was not only old, it smelt old, and musty, and full of incense. I had enough old whiffy, emotionally-charged clothes with attachment issues (them, not me of course) from my student days, without adding one more dead person’s dodgy coat to my collection. I think one or two of the best-loved ones may have been dragged out of coffins. Their taste in alternative music was good of course. But if it was good, it would have been played to death in some neo-Nirvanic moment, so I didn’t need any scratched tapes or CDs to add to my meagre collection, all of which had to survive the tape-mangling antics of the radio Santa Claus gave me for Christmas in 1985.
So I left the hippies sitting in their cruddy old dilapidated armchairs in varying shades of turd-brown and toilet moss green, and wandered home in a state of disappointed reality.
For three years I lived in that posh eastern suburb, a broken woman (not), and not once did I ever darken the driveway of any garage sales, although I sobbed silently after their homemade advertisements sticky-taped to telegraph poles.
The hippies have gone, and their old house torn down to make way for an ugly set of cement-rendered luxury apartments, the edifice of which has about as much character as the grey dish cloth I saw on the counter at a Newtown café I once harassed my friends to share lunch in with me. Don’t get me started on other people’s dirty dishcloths. It might lead to other people’s crap.
Of course, the best bargain was the pile of crockery I espied on the back seat of a mate’s car. He had found it on the side of the road, and brought it home to a sweetheart who looked at her beloved dinner set on the shelves, and said no way Jose. So he offered it to me.
I do hope that my early naive foray into garage sales in posh areas inspires you to get out of bed next Saturday morning.
c. Kylie Lawrence 2012.