Commentary: Garage sale is transformative for Oklahoma City writer

BY TIM FALL Modified: November 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm •  Published: November 16, 2013

Fifteen years ago, sort of out of the blue, my wife, 3-year-old son and I moved from our home in California to Paris with my wife's parents.

The arrangement was open-ended: We'd be coming back eventually, but nobody was sure when. My wife would earn a culinary degree, and I would freelance however I could, my primary job basically to be a dad.

The challenge, once you seize a moment as we did that autumn, lies in the logistics.

We looked around our three-bedroom house and wondered: What are we going to do with all our stuff?

The answer, of course, was to foist it off on others.

We would rely on that classic forum, the garage sale: Spread your earthly possessions out on tables and blankets, invite the parade of humanity in, and watch your stuff vanish, cash and carry.

This past September I found myself facing a similar challenge: On short notice I had to empty out my house and move on to a new place.

This time it wasn't Paris, but foreign territory nonetheless. My marriage had dissolved, the house had to be sold, and my life once again packed into boxes.

I found myself asking the same question I asked before: What am I going to do with all this stuff?

Step one was a no-brainer. Garage sale.

To promote it, I made online visits to for a classified ad, and posted on Craigslist. I splurged on printed signs from the hardware store and planted them at strategic corners around my neighborhood.

I purchased a $7 garage sale permit from the city of Oklahoma City. The fee, tacked onto my water and sewer bill, beat the $200-plus-costs fine for noncompliance.

At 7:20 on the morning of my 8 a.m. sale, I went outside to set things up and was greeted by a dozen expectant faces milling around my driveway.

“Can I come on in?” a woman asked.

“I open at 8,” I told her, heaving a box of outgrown coats.

“I know, but can I just start now?”

One guy actually offered to help me haul things out of my house and set up.

For half an hour, they watched me from the other side of the chained gate, commenting on each load.

“More books? Ugh,” a 50ish man said. “Got any vintage ties?”

This was the wily garage sale early bird. I'd seen them before. California, Oklahoma, they're the same animal.

At 8, the crowd flooded in, and I was back in the swing of running a garage sale. Like riding a bike — a 21-speed midsize mountain bike barely ever ridden and yours for only 40 bucks.

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