Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Since we are moving to LA next week, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic and also like I need to document things that we'll miss. One thing we will decidedly not miss, but that is document-worthy, is the most heinous carpet imaginable, that graces the 2nd floor of our otherwise-fairly-nice Binghamton rental.

This is obviously very embarrassing for me, to publicly post the disgusting state of our flooring, but it's not mine, right? I just had to suffer with it for 3 1/2 years. In fact, when we first rented the place, I approached the landlord and offered to split the cost of new carpet. Pretty generous for a short-term renter, right? She was having none of it. The old carpet was perfectly serviceable, she assured me.

Not only is it horrifically ugly to look at, it's even worn out, beaten down and not the cleanest. There are three flavors of awfulness to sample, variously in the master bedroom (yellow), the hallway (the brown marbleized stuff) and the two additional bedrooms (the dark blue/aqua/light blue stuff).

The yellow carpet, which I alternately refer to as "the rice-a-roni carpet" or "the surface of the sun" because it is blindingly bright yellow, is in our bedroom. When we first moved in, I was at a loss as to how to minimize its nastiness, so I painted the walls a light yellow. But I was only fooling myself to think that that would distract from the heinousity that was the carpet. Really, I think the surface-of-the-sun burned a hole into my retina so that I no longer saw it.

But maybe the best part is that, when we move out, the landlady's first order of business is not to have a housekeeper come in or have the place painted. No sirree, the day after we move out, she's having the carpets cleaned!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tales from the Moving Sale

Today is Sunday and we are taking the day off. Yesterday's Moving Sale was a smashing success. I would have been happy if all I got out of it was the experience; some good stories and something to blog about. We got that, 95% of our unwanted stuff was taken away by willing participants, and we made a wad of cash, to boot. Win/win/win/win! I am a convert to the whole notion. Here are some highlights:

The Early Birds

The ads (CraigsList, the newspaper, and an angelic friend/neighbor who made beautifully eye-catching signs and even got pink helium balloons to draw people in) indicated that we'd be starting at 8 am, as local custom prescribed. We got started hauling stuff outside a bit after 6 am and we expected "early birds" but I didn't really expect how aggressive they'd be, nor that we'd have a gaggle of them (all men, for some reason) lined up by 7:30 am. Some people would pull up and ask questions to assess our offerings: "You got any archery or hunting?" asked one man. "Any vintage Christmas?" asked another. "Jewelry?" "Buttons?" "Fragrances?" (that last one sort of grossed me out- who sells used perfume? or old perfume? more to the point, who buys it?)

Shoo! Bird, Shoo!
We tried to tell people politely, but firmly, that we were not open for business until 8 am. One lady came a bit after 7 am, was shooed off, and came back with some old-lady friends a few minutes later. Her unwanted return coincided with John and me trying to lug out a heavy piece of furniture and she and her buddies were totally in our way. My super-nice husband surprised with a stern, "Ladies, please, move aside!" The response? "Come on, mom, let's go." Hilarious. Game on.

We had a friend of John's on-hand starting at 7 am and thank God we did because we needed the help. We must have had 20 people there by 8:30 am. At one point, baby strapped to me, I looked at my watch, convinced it was 10:30 am. Ugh. Only 9:05!

I didn't do much of the money-transacting, actually. It seemed like they sought out the men for this activity. Or maybe I wasn't making myself available. I have to admit, I got confused, and it probably showed, every time someone handed me money to take my unwanted stuff away. I realized that, although I'm in "sales" as a lawyer, people don't buy my services of their own volition. It's a necessity. So it just felt so odd for people to be excited about handing me cash for what I had to offer. A lawyer's lesson in capitalism, to be sure.

(Please note, in the above photo, the two men who appear to be racing each other up the steps to check out our "electronics section." I recognized the guy in the jeans shorts on the left: he is a neighbor from whom I acquired my most-prized garage sale haul: a stack of about 20 vintage Playboy Magazines!)

John's First "Art Show"
John's photography is quite good, and I had about 30 of his photos, mostly from our travels to Europe, that I had framed and up in my office at one point or another. They were in cheap frames, and it's easy to re-order the photos, so I decided to see if we could sell any of them at the sale, at the same time fulfilling John's long-standing goal of organizing a show of his work. A two-fer! We laid them out on the sloped, grassy front lawn and sold 2/3 of them ($9 each, 2 for $16, 3 for $20!) People loved them. Not the Early Birds, though. Interestingly, all the art photos sold to the afternoon crowd, the people not so on-a-mission that their radar was not up for the really good stuff, like this.

That's not totally true. We did sell one of John's artsy photos to a woman in the 8 am hour. It was a dramatic, black and white photo that I had not intended to even put out for sale. She had her pick of any of the 30 photos at that point, but she said she really liked this one because of the movie star in it. Guess what the photo was of? ME. Better yet, me in Berlin, standing in the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. As I stood there, sweaty and draped in a baby, wearing maternity-capris from Target, I confessed that the "movie star" in the photo was me. Sensing I was queering the sale, I did not mention the "murdered Jews" part.

Moving the Product

The above photo was taken at the end of the day, after we consolidated all the tables and the porch. We were left with about 5% of what we started out with. I was shocked. I thought we'd have half of it left. Instead, people would practically have bought the paint off the house. Recession-busters, we are!

My favorite customer was the Mayor. He and his fiance apparently just moved in a block down our street. In addition to one of John's ski jackets and a stereo system (for his campaign headquarters, he said), he bought an air mattress. I don't know why I find this so funny, but I do. He also tried to pay with a check, which so confused me that I actually accepted it. Clearly he does not understand the "buy now, pay now" nature of these things. When he returned to pick up his substantial purchases, I gave him a hard enough time ("I'm good for it," he protested. I know, I don't care. I don't want another errand to have to do next week!) that he handed me 3 twenties. Thank you!

At the end of the day, the experience exceeded our wildest expectations. We moved 95% of our unwanted stuff, made tons of people happy with their found-treasures, and made a wad of cash (probably 4 times more money than either of us estimated, in fact), a happy bonus.

We'd do it again, but it would take years to accumulate that much stuff again. As I sit here typing this, someone just wrapped on our door. NO LATE BIRDS!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009


When I first moved here and did a lot of garage-saleing, we thought it was hysterical that the newspaper ads would often say "No Early Birds!" What, pray tell, was this rare breed? Well, we found out. First, a bit of background . . .

We live at 51 1/2 ____ Street. Our landlords live at 51 ___ Street. When I went to place the ad for the Moving Sale, the space was so narrow that the "1/2" really threw off the lines. It just looked sooo much better when it read "51 ___ Street." I called John, "Would it be terrible if I listed the address for the Moving Sale at 51?" His response, "You've got to be an idiot if you show up at our side-by-side two-family house and can't figure out where the sale is." OK, I thought, I'll do it. I ordered the ad with the landlord's address (technically). But still, it didn't feel right to put someone else's address in the newspaper, no matter how tiny the ad is. But John said it was OK, right?

The same night I ordered the ad, my friend came over to help me price stuff. She told me of her experience in having a garage sale nearby, on a prestigious street where people really get psyched about attending these things. She told me she had people banging on her door the day before the sale.

My eyes almost popped out of my head. It had never occurred to me that people would arrive outside of the prescribed Saturday, 8am-4pm hours! It was too late in the day to call the newspaper and get the ad corrected. I vowed to call first thing in the morning to Stop The Presses!

And thank God I did. Friday morning, as I went to the door to leave for work, I thought I heard a faint knocking. As I opened the door, I found a woman standing on my porch, looking sheepish. She smiled, "Are you the ones having a garage sale?" MOVING sale, lady. And you and I both know that it starts tomorrow at 8 am. NO EARLY BIRDS! I get it now.

I am told that, even though we are starting the sale at what I consider to be the crack of dawn on a Saturday (8 am), people are going to arrive at like 6 am to try and beat the cherry-picking masses. We have a friend coming over at 7 am, ostensibly to help with the babies, but we are thinking that his primary duty might be "greeter." Or, more accurately, "deflector." Someone to firmly tell all the early-birds, while John and I are hustling to get everything set out, that the party don't start 'till 8!

There will surely be good blog-fodder emanating from tomorrow's sale. Stay tuned . . .

The Beauty of the Garage Sale. No, MOVING Sale.

Today was my last day of work and we are moving in only 10(!!) days. Yesterday, a PODS (a beautiful invention) showed up at our house. This week, we've been barreling toward our long-awaited Garage Sale. I've been mentally wrestling with the idea for, literally, years. Is it too tacky to put your crap out on the lawn for the neighbors to pick through? Well, yes, of course it is. But that's neither here nor there. It's all about framing it for yourself. Me? I like to think that my possessions are having a party in the sun. And maybe someone will pay me to take them out for a spin. And keep them. Win/win, right?

But the real genius of the garage, er, Moving Sale, is that it makes it OK for you to part with stuff that you wouldn't otherwise part with. It's like you're finding a good home for an old friend. We haven't actually talked about how much money we'd make until a couple days ago. If we made $200, I'd probably be happy, because that's just gravy. The beauty is that it gives you an end-game for cleaning your house, like when you have a party and it makes you fluff up the inside. Anyway, I'm pretty tired after this long week, and also out-of-practice with writing, so this isn't my best work. Just trust me on this one: the Moving Sale is a thing of beauty, for many reasons.

p.s. Not only is the POD a genius idea for moving (it shows up at your house, you pack it at your leisure, you lock it, then they take it away and it shows up at your new house in a week or so), but we are using it as a staging area for the garage, I mean Moving Sale. We don't actually have a garage.