Tulips. Sunshine. Afternoons at the park. There are so many things to love about Spring. At the top of my list – the Garage Sale. I have a not-so-secret love of the Garage Sale. As May comes around, my calendar is marked with local sales and the best Saturday mornings involve a stroll in the neighbourhood hunting for second-hand treasures. I have fond memories of our family garage sales as a kid (my brother’s memories, not so fond – he’s still regretting letting his Transformer collection and the original Millenium Falcon go), and while this passion lay dormant for many years, now, as a parent, my love of the Garage Sale has been reawakened.
That’s why this year, I decided to organize a neighbourhood yard sale as our family volunteer initiative for last month’s National Volunteer Week. At-home volunteer projects can be the best way to introduce young kids to the idea of volunteering and giving back in their communities. When you’re working with your own timelines, deadlines, and tasks, it’s easier to involve kids in engaging ways in a pressure-free environment. The Garage Sale is a perfect vehicle for kids to get involved and learn lots of valuable lessons along the way. There were tons of opportunities for my 4-year old daughter to contribute - from delivering invitations to putting up flyers to choosing things to sell and donate.
Our sale took place last weekend and was a hit! A street full of households participating, perfect weather, lots of old treasures passed on, and some great lessons learned along the way, making not only the day but our whole project a success. Here are some of the highlights and reasons this will become an annual tradition in our home:
Building community and knowing your neighbours
The first things on our to-do list to get ready for the sale was to invite neighbours to participate. We designed an invitation and for a week, en route to school, my daughter would deliver them to each house on the street. Next came designing a poster, and putting them up all over the neighbourhood - another perfectly age-appropriate task. Through both of these jobs, we ended up chatting with friends and neighbours, some we know well and others who despite living only houses away, we’ve never had a conversation with. Building a strong community benefits everyone. Who doesn’t want to live in a vibrant and friendly community where kids play outside safely and happily, where neighbours know and look out for each other’s property and families? Something as simple as a Garage Sale on our street, and inviting our neighbours to unite and socialize after a long and cold winter, has a part in building that community.
Learning to share and pass it on
The next task on our hit list was to find things to part with. For my husband and I, this was easy! It’s amazing how many things can accumulate over the years (and how many things are still in boxes since we moved 7 years ago…) But for kids, this can be harder. Kids are smart and their memories, sharp as can be. My daughter gets particularly attached to things, and can tell you with accuracy the origins of almost every toy or treasure she has, whether it’s a current favourite or hasn’t been touched in months. The exercise of going through old toys and clothes that are no longer age appropriate is a great exercise to involve kids in. It gives them independence and responsibility as they help decide what stays and what goes.
And it helps them to exercise that sharing muscle. By helping my daughter to understand that someone else would enjoy and/or news the items much more than we do, we were able to clear out lots of closet and shelf space. And a Yard Sale is a particularly effective way to build this sharing muscle, since out with the old often means in with the new! The idea of combing through other people’s old treasures was great motivation to find some things of our own to part with. A little extra motivation never hurts!
The benefits of buying second hand
Being a parent, in so many ways, challenges you to be and do better, for the sake of your kids and the example you are setting for them. Buying and selling second hand is one way that I’ve stepped up as a parent. The list of benefits to second hand shopping is a long one. Save money and resources. Avoid production pollution, product packaging, landfills, and over consumption. We talk about each of these things when we shop second hand, and it’s something my daughter will start to understand early. When we extend the life cycle of clothing and items, everyone wins.
For kids especially, it makes so much sense. They outgrow clothes so quickly, wear through them with active and messy play, and as they grow up, develop ever-changing style and preferences for toys and passtimes. Getting a bag of hand-me-downs for your kids feels like Christmas morning for any parent, and we’ve found my daughter’s favourite dresses (which she has literally worn to threads!) at neighbourhood garage sales.
And since shopping second hand for my kiddos, I’ve discovered the joy of shopping second hand for myself! My favourite summer dress, t-shirt and jacket are all yard sale finds and I just love them. Not only for the style and the price, but for the ease of shopping at a neighbour’s house instead of in an overwhelming and busy store which is always more stressful than enjoyable with two kids in tow.
Learning about charity
There were a few great ways to incorporate a charitable element into our sale. Garage Selling 101 - have a treats table. My daughter’s first lesson in entrepreneurship was how to attract customers to our house, and homemade cookies is a guaranteed win. (Lesson two - diversification, so we made fruit kabobs as a second and healthy option!) Baking together is another favourite pastime, and so the addition of a bake sale was another easy and age-appropriate way to get her involved. The deal was that half of her proceeds would go to the charity of her choice, and half to her directly to spend at the sale. After sharing how excited she was to find new dolls at the sale, she decided to find a charity that helped kids in need get things that they wanted too, which led us to Make A Wish Canada - an amazing organization. It's easy for kids to understand the value of giving when they can see themselves, their peers or their experiences reflected, and so giving other kids the chance to experience joy on a day where she was having that chance too was an easy connection to make and conversation to have.
The other way we incorporated a charitable element was by organizing a pick-up by The Canadian Diabetes Association for all unsold items at the end of day. Another great way to extend the impact and the conversation about giving.